Class of 2017 Top Five Earn Donald A. Morris Academic Excellence Award

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Left to right: (back row) Ethan Sylvester, Katherine Pestun;  (middle row) President Corey, Cecil Drake; (front row) Devon Mayse, Allyson Schultz

The University of Olivet recognized nearly 200 graduates during Commencement ceremonies today, May 20 at The Cutler Event Center. Prior to the ceremony, a reception was held to honor the top five graduating seniors. Each graduate received the Donald A. Morris Award Academic Excellence Award and the professor whom each student deemed the most influential in his or her academic career were also honored.

The Class of 2017 top five graduates are:

Cecil Drake, a biology major with environment science and criminal justice minors, who plans to use her degree as a conservation officer or educator. She selected Leah Knapp, D.V.M., professor of biology, as her most influential professor, explaining she has been a supporter, motivator and even reliable friend. “Dr. Knapp has gotten me out of my shell and helped me find myself, and she has always made me proud of what I’m doing and where I’m going,” said Cecil. “She’s really made me see myself and the world in a whole new light, and I wouldn’t be who I am today without her guiding me through my college years. Olivet has really been my home and family for the last four years.”

Devon Mayse, a history major with political science minor, will attend law school in the fall of 2018 with the ultimate goal to work in government. She honored Craig Kropela, Ph.D., associate professor of history and political science, as her most influential professor for his dedication to challenging Devon and encouraging her to be present in the classroom. “Dr. Korpela believed in me more than I believed in myself, and gave me confidence not only academically, but in making goals for my future,” Devon said. “Outside of the classroom, Dr. Korpela always made sure I was doing okay in all aspects of my life: academic, athletic and personal. While I worked hard my entire time at Olivet, I don’t think my experience would be as fulfilling or vibrant without Dr. Kropela in it. The classes, people and events I had the opportunity to experience at Olivet really changed my views and outlook as a person, challenging me to leave better than I came in.”

Katherine Pestun, a biology major with a pre-medical concentration and biochemistry minor, plans to become a doctor of osteopathic medicine. She also chose Dr. Knapp as her most influential professor for her willingness and help to customize Katherine’s educational path for her unique ambitions. “Dr. Knapp is one of the amazing professors at Olivet who truly cares about the success of her students and will do as much as she can to help them,” explained Katherine. “I am very grateful to have gotten to know her, and I see us keeping in touch. I will always remember the moment I decided to pursue osteopathic medicine. I was waiting for one of my biology class on the first floor of Mott when I saw a flier on osteopathic medicine. It was my first exposure to what I now consider my future career.”

Allyson Schultz, an actuarial science major, is furthering her education in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program at Grand Valley State University. Upon her graduation in 2020, she will be a licensed physical therapist. Allyson selected Matt Wait ’99, J.D., associate professor of interdisciplinary studies, as her most influential professor for his guidance, as both a coach and friend. “What I will remember most about The University of Olivet are the relationships I have made with peers and professors,” Allyson said. “I am immensely thankful for the lifelong friends I have made here.”

Ethan Sylvester, a sociology and anthology major with minors in religion and ethics and environmental science, is applying to graduate programs and writing a novel. He chose Kirk Hendershott-Kraetzer, Ph.D., professor of humanities, as his most influential professor for helping Ethan discover his inner voice in his writing and the encouragement never to lose that. “I owe Dr. Hendershott-Kraetzer more than I can say and I am thankful that I had the privilege to learn under him at The University of Olivet,” Ethan said. “I will always remember how tight-knit the college community felt. Teachers knew everyone by name after a few weeks in class, and there was always a willingness among them to talk with their students about their concerns.”

The Donald A. Morris Award was named after a former president of the college. Morris served Olivet from 1977-92.


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