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URI Foundation announces 2008 Excellence Award winners

Media Contact: Tracey Manni, 401-874-2145

KINGSTON, RI -- May 5, 2008 -- Glen R. Kerkian, President of the University of Rhode Island Foundation today announced the winners of the Foundation’s 2008 Excellence Awards. The awards were established in 1974 to recognize members of the staff or faculty of the University who go above and beyond their responsibilities to enhance the objectives of a particular department as well as the University as a whole.

Winners, who were chosen for each of the four categories of awards, will be recognized at an official ceremony in the fall and will also receive a framed citation and a $2,000 cash award.

The 2008 Excellence Award winners and their respective categories are:

Linda A. Acciardo, of Smithfield, Director of Communications and Marketing for the University is the winner of the 2008 URI Foundation Administrative Excellence Award. A 1977 graduate of URI, Linda is a trusted and talented member of the administration credited with implementing the expansion of the news bureau into a more broad-based strategic marketing and communications operation. Highly respected on campus as well as within the media community, she has been most recently involved, as a co-chair, in the University–wide Branding Steering Committee with Professor Ruby Dholakia. This major initiative will help define and distinguish URI in the higher education marketplace. Linda has been called a facilitator, leader, motivator, partner, mediator and cheerleader by her staff and colleagues campus wide. She is known for her integrity and deep commitment to the University.

Mohammad Faghri, of East Greenwich, professor of engineering, is the winner of the 2008 URI Foundation Scholarly Excellence Award. He has established a remarkable record of scholarly activities since joining the Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mathematics Department in 1983, developing and securing funding for numerous research programs that have been supported by national agencies and corporations including NASA, the US Army, Ford Motor Company, IBM and most recently, a $2.5 million National Science Foundation grant. Mohammad’s scholarly activities, according to a fellow professor, have been “extensive, significant and continuous” and have garnered regional, national and international recognition. He is the winner of numerous professional awards and is highly regarded on campus, as well as in his field.

Ronda Hammond, of West Kingston, administrative assistant in the Division of Academic Affairs for many years, is the recipient of the 2008 URI Foundation Staff Excellence Award. Ronda is known for her efficiency, intelligence, professionalism and humor. Working in a highly visible and extremely active office, and reporting, until very recently, to M. Beverly Swan, who stepped down several months ago as Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Ronda is able to deal with a variety of issues and individuals and was instrumental in the smooth operations of that office. Ronda has brought all of these attributes with her to her new position in the Division of Student Affairs and has already proven to be a tremendous asset in this office, reporting to Vice President Tom Dougan. Called a “problem solver” who helps many people navigate their way through crises, she has worked at URI for over 30 years and is held in high regard by her peers, colleagues and students.

Gerry Tyler, Ph.D., of Saunderstown, professor and chair of the Political Science Department, has been named the winner of the 2008 URI Foundation Teaching Excellence Award. Widely regarded as a committed, creative and passionate educator, Gerry inspires her students and is a valued mentor who succeeds at engaging her students fully. A major highlight of her teaching career was the acclaimed Honors Colloquium she coordinated with Don Kunz, Professor Emeritus of English and Film Media, on Legacies of the Vietnam War. This series was extremely successful and some students noted that it had transformed their views of war, peace and international relations. Gerry has recently become involved with supporting the Confucius Institute and encourages her students to participate in academic and cultural programming outside of the classroom. She has also been involved with creating the Pre-law Center and supervises students for the Model UN program. She has been with the University since 1966 and has served as an Associate Dean of Arts and Sciences and Interim Associate Dean.

Kerkian congratulated the winners, who were personally notified of their award by University President Robert Carothers recently, and also thanked URI Foundation Executive Board member Blanche Murray, who represents the Board as the Excellence Awards Committee Chair. He also recognized the 2006 & 2007 award winners, including Elizabeth C. Connors, Kathryn S. Meier, Thomas N. Mather, Candace A. Oviatt, Denise P. Gorenski, Michael P. McDonald, Galen A. Johnson and Damon Rarick, each of whom chaired or co-chaired a subcommittee for the 2008 awards, facilitating the selection of this year’s winners.

For more information on the Excellence Awards, please visit www.urifoundation.org/awards.