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U.Va. Announces Winners of Awards for Service to Humanity

April 28, 2000 -- The University of Virginia will bestow three Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards at Valediction Exercises on May 20. The annual awards, which recognize excellence of character and service to humanity, will be presented to Annette Gibbs, a long-time administrator who was instrumental in transforming the University into a coeducational institution, and two graduating fourth-year students, Leslie Williams and Pooja V. Sukhwani.

Annette Gibbs, professor of education and director of the Center for the Study of Higher Education at the Curry School of Education, joined the U.Va. faculty in 1970, the first year the University officially admitted women as undergraduates. As associate dean of students and assistant professor of higher education, Gibbs played a major role in smoothing the road for female students, in ways large and small. Her distinguished career combines teaching, research, administration and service on numerous committees both within the University and in her profession.

In a letter nominating her for the honor, a supporter wrote that as soon as she arrived on Grounds "it was clear that Dr. Gibbs was willing to tackle difficult and controversial issues and to stand on the side of right despite formidable opposition." Another noted: "She is a model of a ‘servant-leader,' one who has done a remarkable job for nearly 30 years in serving her school, her students, her University and her profession with distinction."

Leslie H. Williams Jr., of Alexandria, is the living definition of a well-rounded student. He's majoring in mechanical engineering and is a Rodman Scholar. Last year, he won the Junior Mechanical Engineering Chairperson's Award and this spring the Virginia Engineering Foundation recognized him with its Outstanding Student Award. Last fall he was nominated for a Rhodes Scholarship and inducted into the Raven Society. In other activities, Williams has served as a peer advisor for first-year minority students and helped found BUCKS, Brothers United Celebrating Knowledge and Success, a service organization designed to strengthen black male community leadership. He also enjoys acting and was cast as Mercutio in a multicultural version of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. He has accepted an engineering job with the Ford Motor Co. after graduation.

"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," said Sylvia Terry, associate dean in the Office of African-American Affairs and director of the Peer Advisors program. "Les enjoys making a difference."

Pooja V. Sukhwani, of Miami, Fla., cares deeply about people and plans to express that caring through a career in medicine. She's already well on her way. Sukhwani served as an emergency room technician at the Baptist Hospital of Miami in the summer of 1998 and the next 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. In Charlottesville, she co-founded the March of Dimes Collegiate Council to promote that organization's mission of raising funds to prevent birth defects and 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 is currently serving as an ethics intern with the U.Va. Teen Health Center and as a research assistant for the Institute for Practical Ethics. She has deferred her acceptance into Tulane University Medical School for a year to spend some time on service projects, including helping children in the Dominican Republic learn to read.

"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 Jim 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,' and 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.'"

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. Recipients receive medallions, certificates and books on Algernon Sydney Sullivan.

For more information about Annette Gibbs, call Christina Mingle, graduate student and member of the selection committee, at (804) 245-5122. For more information about Les Williams, call Sylvia Terry, associate dean and selection committee member, at (804) 924-7923. For more information about Pooja Sukhwani, call Jim Childress, professor of religious studies and head of the selection committee, at (804) 924-6724.

Contact: Charlotte Crystal, (804) 924-6858

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: please contact the Office of University Relations at (804) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (804) 924-7550.
SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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