May 19-25, 2000
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IN THIS ISSUE
Sullivan Award winners show deep commitment to caring
Here's the youngest 'Hoo
Wagner exemplifies value of mentoring

Rector unearths love for human evolution

Dyslexia forced graduate to create own path for success
Boiler passes a special test
Already a pioneering online journalist, graduate plans to take on TV reporting
Student's mentoring program takes root
Medical student with passion for public health earns second master's degree
Groundskeeper has watched U.Va. and its landscape grow
Help wanted: not just for high-tech fields, but for teaching jobs, too
BUCKS' vision to give back to community will continue
Watson discovers teaching and takes history to the Web
Seeing double
Heard's degree painted with broad strokes
May graduate's dream shows how education transforms lives
TOP NEWS
Stephanie Gross
Pooja V. Sukhwani

Sullivan Award winners show deep commitment to caring

By Charlotte Crystal and Katherine Jackson

The University will bestow three Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards at Valediction Exercises May 20. The awards, which recognize excellence of character and service to humanity, will be presented to Annette Gibbs, a long-time University administrator who was instrumental in transforming U.Va. into a coeducational institution, and two graduating fourth-year students, Pooja V. Sukhwani and Leslie H. Williams Jr.

Pooja V. Sukhwani

Pooja V. Sukhwani of Miami, Fla., plans to express her caring for people through a career in medicine. She's already well on her way.

While at the University, she co-founded the March of Dimes Collegiate Council to promote that organization's mission of raising funds to prevent birth defects. She also helped organize the recent National Bioethics Conference, which U.Va. students hosted.

Supplementing her course work -- a major in bioethics and a minor in biology -- Sukhwani served as an ethics intern with the U.Va. Teen Health Center and as a research assistant for the Institute for Practical Ethics.

In Florida, Sukhwani served as an emergency room technician at the Baptist Hospital of Miami in the summer of 1998 and last summer worked as a liaison with parents and children from low-income households for the University of Miami's Pediatric Mobile Clinic. She also served as a cabin counselor for the Boggy Creek Gang Camp in Eustis, Fla., a summer camp for chronically ill children.

"Students, faculty and administrators express their amazement at and admiration for all that Pooja Sukhwani does to help others, both individually and in organizations, and the wonderful, caring spirit in which she does it," said James Childress, the Edwin B. Kyle Professor of Religious Studies and Professor of Medical Education. "She does so much but always with a smile and a sense of joy that is infectious. As one student put it, Pooja 'has a heart of gold and a dedication to all that she is involved with.' She invests her time, energy and leadership in various organizations 'because she truly cares about what they stand for and wants to help them achieve all that they are capable of achieving,'" he said.

Sukhwani has deferred her acceptance into Tulane University Medical School for a year to spend some time on service projects, one of which is going to the Dominican Republic to help children learn to read.

Leslie H. Williams Jr.
Stephanie Gross
Leslie H. Williams Jr.

Leslie H. Williams Jr.

Leslie H. Williams Jr., an honor student from Alexandria, is the living definition of a well-rounded student. A Rodman Scholar, he majored in mechanical engineering, while acting in plays and mentoring others.

Despite the Engineering School's rigorous program, Williams strived for fulfilling experiences outside the classroom. "I think engineers should be well-rounded individuals with the ability to interact with anyone," he said.

Williams helped found BUCKS, Brothers United Celebrating Knowledge and Success, a service organization designed to strengthen black male community leadership. [See BUCKS' vision to give back to community will continue.] In addition, he served as a peer adviser for first-year minority students.

"Les is a role model to advisees," said Sylvia Terry, associate dean in the Office of African-American Affairs and director of the Peer Advisors Program. "We talk a lot about building community at U.Va. and Les does just that. He does it with his presence, his creativity, and, as corny as it sounds, his love for humanity," Terry said.

He infused his acting roles with the same characteristics. During his toughest semester, while carrying 18 hours, Williams played Mercutio in the highly acclaimed Spectrum Theatre production of "Romeo and Juliet." The multicultural student production kept Shakespeare's dialogue, but focused on campus issues such as interracial dating and self-segregation. For his dramatic performance, Williams was featured on "CBS News: Eye on America with Dan Rather." For his academic performance, he ended the semester with a 3.3 grade point average.

Williams also performed in the production, "Voices of the Class," which brought to life a selection of essays written by entering first-year students. He used his own example as an African-American student at the mostly white Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Northern Virginia to reflect the feelings of alienation experienced by many black first-year students.

Among his many honors, Williams won the Virginia Engineering Foundation's Outstanding Student Award this spring. Last fall he was nominated for a Rhodes Scholarship and inducted into the Raven Society, the IMP Society and the National Society of Black Engineers.

After graduation, Williams will begin his engineering career at Ford Motor Co. in Detroit, but plans to stay involved with theater. Whether he goes on as an engineer or as an actor, one thing is certain -- Les Williams will continue his role helping people.

See press release on U.Va. Engineering Graduate Les Williams: A Technology Leader With a Flair for Helping People


The Algernon Sydney Sullivan awards were established by the New York Southern Society in 1925 to honor its first president. The awards are presented annually at U.Va. and at about a dozen other universities in the United States to two undergraduate degree candidates, a man and a woman, and a member of the university community.

 


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