Eight of West Virginia Universitys top graduating seniors were conferred the Order of Augusta, the Universitys most prestigious student award, during a Weekend of Honors convocation ceremony today (April 6).

The Order of Augusta was established by the WVU Foundation in 1995 to recognize a highly select group of students for superior scholarship, demonstrated leadership and record of community and public service. A private non-profit organization, the WVU Foundation is the designated agency to receive and administer gifts from private individuals and organizations for the benefit of WVU .

Selected as 2001 recipients are Jacque Bland of New Martinsville; Michael De Fede and Amanda Walker, both of Follansbee; Marisa La Forgia of Dover, N.J.; Michael Mastromichalis of Weirton; Christopher Platania of Wellsville, N.Y.; Gretchen Shaffer of Weston; and Joshua Whitehair of Clarksburg.

“The Order of Augusta is the most significant honor a West Virginia University senior can attain,”said F. Duke Perry, president of the WVU Foundation.”During their undergraduate years at WVU , these eight remarkable students have demonstrated the Universitys highest ideals through their hard work and contributions to the campus community. We are proud to recognize them for their many achievements.”

WVU President David C. Hardesty Jr. presented each student with the Augusta medallion. In addition, each honorees name will be inscribed on a plaque at the Ernest L. Hogan Scholars Walk on campus.

They also become members of WVU s Honor Roll, a compilation of student, faculty, staff and alumni award winners being honored during traditional Weekend of Honors activities.

The Order of Augusta was so named for its historical significance in the state. Augusta was among the original names considered by the Legislature for the state. Also, the District of Augusta was the original name for a large area of what is now the northern region of West Virginia, including MonongaliaCounty.

The Order of Augusta recipients are selected from the 30 WVU Foundation Outstanding Seniors, who also were recognized today for their achievements in scholarship, leadership and service.

Order of Augusta honorees

Jacque J. Bland of New Martinsville says that her crowning achievement as an undergraduate came when she was asked to teach at the Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism. She notes that there are no words to express how much the school has given her, and to have the chance to give something back is priceless.

“I am beyond satisfied with the academic training I have gotten here at West VirginiaUniversity, and I feel more than prepared to face the world when I leave in May,”she said.”There is honestly no finer institution in West Virginia �€or the nation, for that matter �€to help students along in reaching their goal.”

Bland carries a 3.94 grade point average and will graduate with a bachelors degree in journalism with a minor in political science. She has interned with The Syracuse Newspapers, Clarksburg Publishing Co. and Wheeling News-Register .

A member of the Honors Program, Bland has received the Habig/UA Memorial Scholarship, R. Robert Dale Moose Scholarship, West Virginia Governor’s Honors Academy Scholarship, Roy G. Owens Memorial Scholarship, Paul Atkins Scholarship and Ogden Newspapers Scholarship.

In addition to teaching desktop publishing, she is president of the Society of Professional Journalists, editor of The Daily Athenaeum , and a member of Kappa Tau Alpha National Journalism Honorary and Golden Key. She has been named to the Deans and Presidents lists every semester and also won The Daily Athenaeum Publishers Teammate Award for 2000.

She is the daughter of John and Patricia Bland of New Martinsville.

When asked to summarize his undergraduate experience, Michael De Fede of Follansbee says,”In the last four years, I have had every opportunity imaginable. I toured Europe, managed a $150,000 software project for Glencoe/McGraw-Hill, became friends with people from dozens of countries, won election to the student legislature, pledged a service and social fraternity, and I am about to get a degree. I did it all.”

De Fede acknowledges that nothing could have lured him away from his major. He carries a 4.0 grade point average and will graduate with a bachelors degree in computer engineering.

“I am very lucky,”he said.”I have gotten to explore every question and concern an engineer may encounter. Plus, I have seen how each class fits together to build a professional computer engineer. Conversely, I see seniors in other majors still confused by what professional life will entail. Nevertheless, I have no doubt they will succeed, but it is comforting to have a glimpse beyond college before I take the huge step into the world. Today, I have gained a distinct grasp on professionalism and know exactly where I am going to use all of this.”

A WVU Presidential Scholar and Honors Program student, De Fede has received the John Peluso Italian American Scholarship, Homer Nutter Engineering Scholarship, John W. Mason Engineering Scholarship, and Phi Sigma Kappa Delta Foundation Leadership and Academic Achievement scholarships. He has been named to the Presidents List each semester.

De Fede is a member of the Phi Kappa Phi, Helvetia, Golden Key, Alpha Phi Omega. Phi Sigma Kappa, Interfraternity Council, Greek Programming Committee, Mountaineer Maniacs, and was on the selection committee for WVU s director of computer service.

He is the son of David and Linda Leavitt of Follansbee.

Marisa La Forgia of Dover, N.J., says,”West Virginia University is an institution �€~Where Greatness is Learned.According to me, greatness is a combination of ones learned knowledge, academic experiences and personal successes.”

This Honors Program student has achieved success in many ways. Not only did she study abroad in Italy, she carries a 3.9 grade point average and will graduate with a bachelors degree in international affairs and Spanish.

“During my stay in Italy, I had two special advantages over the other students,”La Forgia said.”First, I speak Italian and Spanish fluently, which enabled me to interact more closely with the people. Secondly, my Italian professor from West VirginiaUniversity lives in Italy and was able to give me a tour of the local corporations, factories and small businesses. Also, I visited various cultural, historic and educational sites throughout Europe. I traveled throughout Italy, the Vatican, Germany, France, Monaco, Austria and England during my repose. This educational and cultural experience is clearly an asset to my life, studies and career.”

She has been named to the Presidents List three times and Deans List six times, was a Truman Scholar nominee and a Phi Kappa Phi Outstanding Freshman Scholar. She also received the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences Certificate for Academic Excellence, the Global Education Opportunity Grant and the Eberly College Study Abroad Grant.

In addition, she is a current member of Gamma Beta Phi, Golden Key and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. She was vice president of membership for Alpha Kappa Psi and is current president of Sigma Delta Pi. She also attended the 51st Annual Student Convention on United States Affairs.

La Forgia is the daughter of Anthony and Sylvia La Forgia of Dover, N.J.

Michael Mastromichalis of Weirton says WVU helped prepare him for the medical college admissions test.”I look forward to continuing my education here at the West Virginia University School of Medicine with hopes of practicing medicine in the state of West Virginia,”he said.

A member of WVU s Honors Program, Mastromichalis carries a 3.97 grade point average and will graduate with a bachelors degree in biology.

A Mountaineer Scholar, he has taken actions to help future pre-medical and pre-dental students.”A classmate and I designed a Pre-Health Sciences program that planned study routes for pre-medical and pre-dental students,”Mastromichalis said.”We constructed a curriculum that, if adhered to, would significantly increase a students chance of entrance into dentistry or medical school; ultimately, this handbook was designed to serve as a guide in our Pre-Health Sciences course of study.

“After the project was complete, my partner and I decided we wanted to continue the project outside the classroom,”he added.”We were granted a copyright, but more importantly, I was able to design a project to which I was entirely devoted, and I was given the opportunity to devise a program that I hope will benefit students in the future.”

Mastromichalis has been named to the Presidents List and selected as a Phi Kappa Phi Outstanding Scholar. He received the Presidential Award for Academic Excellence, two certificates of achievement from the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences for Academic Excellence, the Eberly College and the A.H.E.P.A.College Student scholarships, and the Lloyd R. Gribble Award.

He also is an active member of Mountain Honorary, Golden Key, National Society of Collegiate Scholars and Alpha Epsilon Delta Pre-Medical Honorary. He is the attorney general of WVU Student Government and has produced newsletters for the Beta Beta Beta Biology Honorary.

He is the son of Gary and Harriet Mastromichalis.

Christopher Platania of Wellsville, N.Y. , wants to be known as a well-rounded person who always has a smile on his face and could put a smile on yours if the need arose.

“At WVU I learned how to budget my time, budget my money, get good grades and always have fun,”Platania said.”I was able to do this because of numerous opportunities that this university allows. I really became a well-rounded person because it was possible to take hard classes, join a fraternity and train in the martial arts.

“If it had not been for the opportunities that I have been presented with, I would not have been able to achieve what I have,”he added.”What I feel I have achieved is a first-rate education and all of the social and personal skills I will ever need.”

Platania carries a 4.0 grade point average and will graduate with a bachelors degree in mathematics and statistics. His honors include: Deans List, seven times; Eberly College of Arts and Sciences Certificate of Achievement, three times; WVU Presidential Award for Academic Excellence, seven times; Phi Kappa Phi Outstanding Freshman Award, Pi Kappa Phi Order of the Lamp and Rose Award; and Eberly College Scholar, twice.

An Honors Program student, he also received the WVU Presidential Scholarship and the McKay-Coast Scholarship for Arts and Sciences.

He is a member of Golden Key, Gamma Beta Phi, Eberly College Undergraduate Advisory Board, National Society of Collegiate Scholars and Phi Kappa Phi. He is also scholarship chairman of Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity and vice president of WVU s Tae Kwon Do Club.

He is the son of Daniel and Veronica Platania of Wellsville, N.Y.

Gretchen Shaffer of Weston says,”As a freshman I quickly learned that many of my classmates were struggling to pass Math 3 (college algebra). I found this problem to be very bothersome, and even though I had already fulfilled my math requirements, I decided that something needed to be done to alleviate the problem. Three years later, I still teach the math review program that I researched and developed, and I take pride in the accomplishments that my students have made.”

Along with this achievement, she carries a 4.0 grade point average and will graduate with a bachelors degree in speech pathology and audiology.

“Achieving a 4.0 grade point average has been an incredible academic experience,”Shaffer said.”Although I have worked hard the past four years, I accredit much of my academic success to my professors because so many of them are excellent teachers. Most of my professors love both their field of study and teaching, which consequently makes learning challenging but fun.”

A Ms. Mountaineer finalist, she was WVU Student Support Services Tutor of the Year, Phi Kappa Phi Outstanding Freshman Scholar, and has been named to the Presidents and Deans lists every semester. She also received the WVU Governors Honors Academy Academic Scholarship and Golden Key Sophomore Recognition Award.

Shaffer is a member of Mortar Board; National Student Speech, Language and Hearing Association; Phi Kappa Phi; Golden Key; National Society of Collegiate Scholars; Gamma Beta Phi; and Chimes.

She is the daughter of David and Linda Shaffer of Weston.

Amanda Walker of Follansbee says,”Within the University community, I have discovered nothing more refreshing than meeting individuals who exude a passion for something in their lives. It is in light of exposure to such enthusiasm that I have shaped new goals, most significantly my decision to attend law school with an intention to study international law.

“Although it is my nature to always seek inspiration in others, I have developed a desire to become a hero in my own right,”she adds.”I have never shied away from the path less traveled, but as I prepare to graduate, I realize that there is most likely no path leading directly to where I want to go in life. I am therefore thankful that experiences in college have afforded me a diversity of knowledge with which I will approach the unfamiliar, a resilient spirit with which I will encounter setbacks and a sensible confidence with which I will handle risks.”

A Foundation Scholar, Walker carries a 3.91 grade point average and will graduate with a bachelors degree in biology and French.

She was a state winner and regional finalist in the Rhodes Scholar competition, a White House Presidential Scholar, a Robert C. Byrd Scholar, National Merit Scholar, Alpha Xi Delta Slaymaker-Kinsey Scholar and a member of the Honors Program. She participated in the WVU -Vendee (France) Study Abroad Program and the Building Greatness capital campaign kickoff program and video.

Walker also served as Student Body vice president, president of Pi Delta Phi, a member of the Health Services Task Force and search committees for the associate director of Campus Recreation and assistant vice president for Enrollment Management/Services, and worked with the Mountaineer Maniacs. In addition, she is a member of Mountain Honorary, Chimes, Mortar Board, Phi Kappa Phi, Alpha Phi Omega, and Alpha Xi Delta.

She is the daughter of Dave and Peggy Walker of Follansbee.

Joshua Whitehair of Clarksburg says,”I came to WVU on a mission; I was only going to learn about the topic I was most interested in �€political science. In the end, it appears as though I failed my mission, but succeeded in my education.

“College did not by any means quench my thirst for knowledge,”he adds.”On the contrary, it increased my appetite to learn. The courses I have taken here have opened my eyes to a world of misfortune and injustice that I hope to change by defending the rights of the disadvantaged.”

WVU s most recent Truman Scholara national award for students committed to public serviceWhitehair carries a 4.0 grade point average and will graduate with a bachelors degree in political science and philosophy.

A member of the Honors Program, he is an eight-time recipient of the WVU Presidential Award for perfect GPA and 10-time recipient of debate tournament awards, including two for national tournaments.

In addition, he received the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences Academic Excellence Award, Phi Kappa Phi Outstanding Freshman Certificate of Achievement, Golden Key National Honor Societys Outstanding Sophomore Award, WVU Scholarship for Debate, WVU Leadership Scholarship, and the Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation Scholarship for Academic Excellence, Leadership and Community Service.

He is president of Pi Sigma Alpha, Pre-Law Society and ACLU of WVU , captain of the WVU Debate and Forensics Association, treasurer of Pi Sigma Sigma, and a member of Mountain Honorary and Golden Key.

He is the son of Marie Whitehair of Clarksburg.