Celebration of Excellence returns in-person, highlights academic achievement of students and faculty


After two years of celebrating virtually, Illinois College recognized academic achievement during the 12th annual Celebration of Excellence and Honors Convocation on April 22, including the announcement of the College’s newest Phi Beta Kappa members who were inducted in a ceremony on May 12.

The daylong celebration allowed students and faculty to take part in activities that commend academic excellence, a hallmark of the college since its founding in 1829.

The Honors Convocation, the ceremonial portion of the day’s activities, was held in Sherman Gymnasium in Bruner Fitness and Recreation Center. Catharine O’Connell, provost and dean of the college, offered remarks on the subject of excellence, after which five major awards for academic excellence, service and teaching were awarded to Illinois College students and faculty. The student marshals for the 2021-2022 academic year were named, graduates slated for induction into Phi Beta Kappa were recognized, and the Julian Monson Sturtevant Campus Leadership Award winners were announced. The Harry Joy Dunbaugh Distinguished Professor Award and the Don P. Filson Faculty Award for Vision for the Future were also presented.

Dane Wendell, assistant professor of political science, was presented the Harry Joy Dunbaugh Distinguished Professor Award during the convocation. This prize is considered the greatest honor bestowed upon an Illinois College faculty member. A student committee, with oversight from the dean of the college, selects the recipient each academic year. The selection process and identity of the winner is kept secret until the honors convocation.

Kendall McCalla ’23 and Gunner Spivey ’23 were chosen as student marshals for the next academic year. Marshals are chosen based on demonstrated academic excellence and campus leadership and will lead academic processionals held on campus throughout the year. This designation is considered one of the highest honors a member of the incoming senior class can receive.

Phi Beta Kappa is the nation’s oldest and most distinguished honor society. One of only 11 colleges in the state to offer membership into this distinguished society, the Illinois College Epsilon chapter was founded by Charles Rammelkamp in 1931. Those inducted into Phi Beta Kappa on May 12 were Ellie Abell ’22, Andrew Blue ’22, Brooke Brinkman ’22, Emma Chapman ’22, Kyle Corley ’22, Senaf Fayissa ’22, Myles Genrich ’22, Colin Gwillim ’22, Savannah Henson ’22, Jessamy Hintz ’22, Christian Lopez ’22, Madison Niederer ’22, Kendra Ostermeier ’22, Adam Reed ’22, Steven Schnake ’22, Lauren Sgambelluri ’22 and Abigail Weisner ’22.

The Julian M. Sturtevant Campus Leadership and Service Award calls attention to a select group of students who demonstrate active campus service and leadership throughout their college careers. Those honored were Senaf Fayissa ’22, Abby Garrett ’22, Myles Genrich ’22, Ethan Leitschuh ’22, Bri Lockwood ’22, Marzell Norris ’22, Ace Robinson ’22, Sophia Roth ’22, McKenna Servis ’22, Lauren Sgambelluri ’22, Faith Stallard ’22, Nick Thurston ’22 and Madisyn Webster ’22.

The Don P. Filson Faculty Award for Vision for the Future was awarded to Gwendolyn Gillson, assistant professor of asian studies, and Kacie Wills, assistant professor of English. This honor is awarded to faculty members who see beyond the scope of the status quo to further develop or implement a vision which can move the college forward. This faculty award was established by 1970 Illinois College graduate Darlene Nelson ’70 in memory of Dr. Filson’s vision which was for Illinois College to have a computer science department. 

Jenny Barker-Devine, department chair and professor of history, received the Enkyklios Award for exhibited excellence in the three areas the College considers in reviews: teaching, professional engagement and service. The award honors the rare ability of an individual to demonstrate excellence in all three areas within a single year. Recipients are nominated by faculty colleagues. 

The Celebration of Excellence featured more than 70 students presenting recent research efforts and demonstrating excellence in the arts covering a wide range of the liberal arts curriculum throughout the day. For more photos taken throughout the day, visit the Illinois College Facebook page.

About Illinois College

Founded in 1829, Illinois College is a residential liberal arts college fostering academic excellence rooted in opportunities for experiential learning while preparing students for lifelong success. The college is located in Jacksonville, Illinois. With an enrollment of more than 1,000 students, the college offers over 50 undergraduate programs. In 1932, the society of Phi Beta Kappa established a chapter at Illinois College, and it remains one of only 11 in the state.

Illinois College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association.

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