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Frist Awards Recognize Exceptional Service to Students

Editor’s Note: To nominate a faculty or staff member for a Frist award, please follow this link.

With so many college students away from home for the first time, it’s no wonder that many encounter challenges, hardships or times when they simply need a friendly smile or bit of encouragement. But at the University of Mississippi, faculty and staff members often step in to lend a helping hand or words of advice.

These efforts often go unacknowledged, other than the students’ gratitude and success. But students, parents, alumni, faculty and staff can formally recognize those who have truly “gone the extra mile” to help students by nominating them for the Thomas Frist Student Service Award.

Cindy May (center), associate director of financial aid at the University of Mississippi, receives one of the 2019 Frist Awards at the university’s 2019 Commencement ceremonies. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services.

“Over the years, the Frist Award has recognized many of our campus’s most dedicated faculty and staff for their commitment to students,” said Ryan Upshaw, assistant dean for student services in the School of Engineering and a 2018 Frist recipient. “Many of these individuals never seek recognition for their work.

“I remember feeling shocked to receive a call from then-Chancellor Vitter informing me of my selection for the award.”

Students, alumni, friends, faculty and staff can submit nominations for the annual awards online through 5 p.m. April 6. Any full-time faculty or staff member, except previous winners, is eligible for the award, which includes a $1,000 prize and a plaque.

“We have so many amazing colleagues here at UM who are excellent at their jobs,” said Kerri Scott, an instructional associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry and another 2018 Frist honoree. “Some are seen by students every day, while others rarely get the opportunity to interact with students.

“But all of them want the students to succeed, and they work hard every day to help students do just that.”

Nominations, which can be entered at http://www.olemiss.edu/frist_award/, should not focus on classroom teaching or tutoring efforts. Letters that cite only teaching-related activities may not be considered for the award.

The Elsie M. Hood Outstanding Teaching Award, announced at the annual Honors Day convocation, recognizes excellence in that area.

The nomination narrative should differentiate between obligation and service by citing specific examples in which the person being nominated has gone beyond the call of duty to help a student or group of students.

“If you ever reflected on what a faculty or staff member did for you and had the thought, ‘Wow! They really went above and beyond just doing their job,’ then you should nominate that person for the Frist Award,” Scott said.

Besides students and campus employees, parents, alumni and community members are welcome to submit nominations for deserving faculty and staff members, Upshaw said.

“Ole Miss feels like home, and the reason it feels like home is because of the countless caring, selfless individuals who compose our faculty and staff,” Chancellor Glenn Boyce said. “We are very fortunate to have an opportunity to recognize these individuals through the Frist Award.

“I urge all members of the community to take a moment to nominate anyone they recognize as going beyond expectations to make a difference in the lives of our students.”

All nominees are notified that they have been so honored, and a campus committee appointed by the chancellor chooses the winners. Awards will be presented May 9 at the university’s annual Commencement ceremonies.

The 2019 Frist winners were Michael Barnett, chair and associate professor in the Department of Theatre and Film, and Cindy May, the university’s associate director of financial aid.

Previous recipients include faculty members Aileen Ajootian, Luca Bombelli, Robert Brown, Brett Cantrell, Donald Dyer, Denis Goulet, Ken Sufka and Eric Weber; and staff members Carol Forsythe, Ginger Patterson, Valeria Ross, Amy Saxton, Marc Showalter and Linda Spargo.

The Frist Student Service Awards were established with a $50,000 gift from the late Dr. Thomas F. Frist of Nashville, a 1930 UM graduate.

For more information or to submit a nomination, visit http://www.olemiss.edu/frist_award/.

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