Eight of West Virginia Universitys top graduating seniors will be awarded the Order of Augusta, WVU s most prestigious student honor, during WVU Commencement Honors Convocation at 7 p.m. Friday, May 11, at the Coliseum.
The WVU Foundation established the Order of Augusta in 1995 to recognize a highly select group of students based on their superior scholarship, demonstrated leadership and record of community and public service. A private, nonprofit corporation, the foundation generates, receives and administers private gifts for the benefit of the university.
The 2007 recipients are Samuel Blatt of New Martinsville; Elizabeth Gebhard of Moon Township, Pa.; Rebecca McCauley of Morgantown; Tirzah Mills of Morgantown; Matthew Schessler of Charleston; Aaron Stonebraker of Ridgeley; Justin Stover of Maben; and Brandon Stump of Kingwood.
The Order of Augusta is the most significant honor a WVU senior can attain,said the WVU Foundations Chairman of the Board and Interim President David Hamstead.During their undergraduate years, these remarkable students have demonstrated the universitys highest ideals through their hard work and contributions to the campus community. These exceptional students are our future, and the Foundation is proud to honor them.
WVU President David C. Hardesty Jr. will present each of the honorees with the Augusta medallion. In addition, each students name will be engraved on a plaque.
The Order of Augusta was named for its historical significance in the state. Augusta was among the original names considered by the Legislature when the state seceded from Virginia in 1863. The District of Augusta was the original name for the northern region of West Virginia, including Monongalia County.
Recipients of the Order of Augusta are chosen from 30 WVU Foundation Outstanding Seniorsalso to be recognized Fridayfor their achievements in scholarship, leadership and service.
Brief bios of Order of Augusta recipients follow:
Samuel Blatt lives by the motto,Dare to be different, and most importantly, dare to be yourself.A petroleum and natural gas engineering major, Blatt maintains a 4.0 grade-point average. He believes his individualism sets him apart.
Sam Ameri, chair of the College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, wrote,Sam Blatt is a dedicated individual who achieves his success through qualities of commitment, enthusiasm, good judgment, motivation and resourcefulness.
Named the Outstanding Junior Student, Blatt has interned for Dominion Exploration and Production in Houston, Texas, and has already been hired as an associate engineer, starting June 1.
In addition to his academic and professional achievements, Blatt has been involved in the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE), where he served as vice president, student recruiter and participated in the North American SPE Conference Petro Bowl Team competition, advancing into the quarterfinal round.
He also served as a teaching assistant for Forestry 140, played flag football intramurals, participated in Relay for Life, volunteered at Ruby Memorial Hospital and was a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and Pi Epsilon Tau, the petroleum and natural gas engineering honorary.
He is the son of Joe and Janet Blatt.
Elizabeth Gebhard always wanted to be a veterinarian and care for small and exotic animals. Gebhard will graduate with a bachelors degree in animal and veterinary science and be well on her way toward that goal.
While I came to West Virginia University knowing what I wanted, it was the professors, faculty and students that helped me make my mark,Gebhard wrote.The true value of WVU is that it gave me all the parts to make something great.
Gebhard was the first WVU student to receive an internship with the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, where she was responsible for working with a baby sea lion and training two river otters. She has also worked for the Moon Veterinary Hospital. Gebhard has also worked with many service agencies, including Paws With A Cause and the LSU Animal Relief Fund.
She maintains a 3.9 grade-point average and has been honored with the following scholarships and awards: Presidential Award for Excellence in Scholarship, Davis Michael Scholarship, Mortar Board Seniors Honor Society, American Society of Animal Science, Davis College of Agriculture, Forestry and Consumer Sciences Honors for Outstanding Scholarship and Leadership Award, First Place James Paul Brawner Award, Honors College and Blue and Gold Level 1 Scholarship.
She is the daughter of Robert and Patricia Gebhard.
Rebecca McCauley can boast of a resume that is out of this world. Her impressive credentials and academic achievements have blasted her into a NASA scholarship and a potential future career with the space agency.
A first-generation college student, McCauley plants to graduate with 4.0 grade-point average and two bachelors degrees in chemistry and biology, along with a minor in geology. She has set her sights on a future track that includes graduate school and pursuit of a doctoral degree in astrobiology with the ultimate goal of joining NASA as a research scientist or an astronaut.
Last year, she was the only student in the United States to earn these two prestigious, national scholarshipsthe Harry S. Truman Scholarship and Barry Goldwater Scholarship.
McCauley has also been a NASA Space Consortium Scholar, Eberly College of Arts and Sciences Scholar, PROMISE Scholar, Phi Kappa Phi Collegiate Honor Society Outstanding Freshman Scholar and recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Scholarship.
She has been involved in the Department of Chemistry at WVU , taking on the responsibilities of managing the Chemistry Learning Center and helping recruit other honors chemistry students for tutoring. McCauley also served as president of the local chapter of the American Chemical Society Student Affiliates. And, in 2004, she won the Whitehill Award for Outstanding Freshman Chemistry Student, sponsored by the WVU Department of Chemistry.
Her parents are Robert and Kathy McCauley.
Tirzah Mills has balanced her academic pursuits and those of outreach and education of female, minority and disabled students. She will graduate with a bachelors degree in chemical engineering, maintaining a 3.9 grade-point average.
Her plans include attending the University of Colorado in Boulder to pursue her Ph.D. in chemical and biological engineering with the goal of developing renewable fuels through the use of microorganisms for efficient fuel production.
Mills spent all three summers of college working on research programs to develop her skills and broaden her knowledge. Her first summer was spent at the University of Wisconsin working with biostatistics and the last two summers were spent at the University of Colorado working on a research experience for undergraduates.
A member of the WVU Honors College, her most significant academic achievement has been her senior thesis, which is based on a topic that has required significant research and learning in and out of the classroomModeling the Expansion of CD4 + T Cells in the Lung.
While serving as president in the Society for Women Engineers (SWE), Mills organized a highly successful Eighth Grade Learning Day to introduce young students to engineering, which has doubled in size each year. Under her leadership in SWE , the student chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and other organizations, she helped organize many events for young students, raise funds and provide outreach to other community agencies.
Her numerous list of honors and recognitions includes being awarded the PROMISE Scholarship, Presidential Scholarship and the ChE Distinguished Alumni Academy Scholarship.
Mills has also represented WVU at the CU Chemical and Biological Engineering REU Poster competitiongetting perfect scores on the biostatistics exams and first and third place finishes.
She has been actively involved in tutoring and mentoring other students as an Academic Sponsor and through serving on the Student Advisory Council.
She is the daughter of Robert and Susan Mills.
Matthew Schessler has maintained a 4.0 grade-point average and will graduate with two degrees, chemistry and biochemistry. Schessler hopes to be an orthopedic surgeon.
Schessler wrote in his application statement,When I was 7, I told my second-grade teacher that I wanted to �€~cut up peoples brains when I grow up-neurosurgery in 7-year-old English.
He added that his experiences at WVU have gone beyond any expectations or goals he had previously. His most significant academic experience was in the animal physiology lab, observing the physiological and biochemical processes that were textbook diagrams to him before. Schessler also pointed to a chemistry seminar he prepared on anticancer drugs.
Schessler was a Mr. Mountaineer finalist, Phi Kappa Phi Collegiate Honor Society Outstanding Freshman Scholar and won third place in the White Hill chemistry exam.
He has received a WVU Foundation Scholarship, a PROMISE Scholarship, a Davis College Farm Credit Scholarship and a Kanawha County Distinguished Scholarship. In addition, he has volunteered as a tutor for the Chemistry Learning Center, been president of both the Dadisman and Stalnaker Hall Councils and a member of the Student Government Association Judicial Board and Chimes Juniors Honor Society.
He is the son of Michael and Susan Schessler
Aaron Stonebraker will graduate with a bachelors degree in political science, and following three years of law school, plans to stay and work in West Virginia.
Stonebraker, who maintains a 3.9 grade-point average, has received the following scholarships, the DiClerico Scholarship for Democratic Institutions and Public Leadership, the Irvin Stewart Memorial Scholarship and the PROMISE Scholarship.
Stonebraker has been involved in a variety of campus organizations, including Phi Sigma Pi National Honors Fraternity, Student Government Association, National Society of Collegiate Scholars, University Parking and Transportation Committee, Honors College, National Exemplary Scholars in Service and Mountaineer Maniacs.
Karen Johnson, executive director of the Western Maryland Health System, wrote in a letter of recommendation,Its difficult to do justice to any outstanding person within the confines of the written word. How is this particular individualAaron Stonebrakeroutstanding among the outstanding? Let me just say that knowing Aaron gives me hope for our future.
Stonebraker is the charter president for the Institute of Human Dignity. Through this organization, he helped raise more than $1,000 for victims of Hurricane Katrina and an additional $4,000 for victims of the blinding disease Trachoma in Sub-Sahara Africa.
He has been active in community service volunteering through WVU Childrens Hospital, Hurricane Katrina Benefit Concert, Relay for Life, Salvation Army, Bartlett House, Adopt-A-Street and the Ronald McDonald House.
He is the son of David and Candice Stonebraker.
Justin Stover has maintained a 4.0 grade-point average and will graduate with a bachelors degree in chemical engineering. As a young boy, Stover dreamed of making a voyage to Mars. Today, he wants to become a researcher focusing on regenerative medicine.
Stover plans to enter the WVU School of Medicine this fall and pursue a combined M.D./Ph.D. degree.I believe that my dreams changed because I harbor a desire to give back to humanity,he wrote in his application.Traveling to Mars may yield great scientific secrets; however, practicing medicine and studying new techniques to regrow limbs will have a more immediate impact on the world.
Stover served as senior class, student chief engineer as the leader of the design for a mock company.
In addition, he is a SCUBA certified lifeguard, and his extra-curricular activities include being a 4-H club counselor, park clean-up, reading to underprivileged children and volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House.
He has also received many scholarships, including the PROMISE Scholarship, Academy of Chemical Engineers Scholarship, Bjornson Scholarship, Mountaineer Scholarship Equivalent and been inducted into numerous honor societies, such as Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honorary, and Omega Chi Epsilon, the chemical engineering honorary.
Stover is the son of David Stover and Jenell Decker.
Brandon Stump will graduate with a bachelors degree in journalism and plans to go to law school to focus his attention on public interest and human advocacy law, primarily dealing with childrens issues, poverty and minority rights.
He has interned at USA Today and was credited with scooping other major daily newspapers that a missing boy scout had been found alive. He has also interned in Sen. Jay Rockefellers office in Washington, D.C., and served as a journalism intern at the state Legislature in Charleston.
In addition, he has written for The Times West Virginian, The Daily Athenaeum, the Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register and The Dominion Post. Stump has also participated in the Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism mentorship program, classroom internship fair and high school journalism day.
He has volunteered at Ronald McDonald House, the Windy Hill Manor Assisted Living Facility, AmeriCorps Service Project and helped raise money for Hurricane Katrina victims through the Diversity in the Media Association. He has also been involved in several play productions at the Wesley United Methodist Church, Albright Baptist Church Bible School, Preston High School Summer Community Theater and Murder Mystery Dinner Theater Benefit for Big Brothers/Big Sisters.
He is an Eagle Scout and member of Kappa Tau Alpha, the journalism honorary fraternity. He received a PROMISE scholarship and the HERF Scholarship and maintains a 3.9 grade-point average.
One of Stumps best experiences at WVU was his senior capstone course when he wrote a story for the Wheeling newspaper after following President David C. Hardesty Jr. for a day.
I will never be able to give a quantifiable value to the conversations that President Hardesty and I had that dayfrom where my life was going, what it meant to be a son whose father fought in a war, tips for law school and achieving my life goals,Stump wrote in his application.
He is the son of Michael and Cheryl Stump.
This years WVU s Outstanding Seniors come from West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Oklahoma, North Carolina and Maryland.
The other Outstanding Seniors are: Carrie Cecil, New Martinsville; Amy Jo Christy, Ravenswood; Wesley Crouser, Charleston; Daniel Funk, Hedgesville; Jeffrey Genda, Berryville, Va.; Andrew Gentilin, Charleston; Jay Henry, Tulsa, Okla.; Dirk Kelley; Brownsville, Pa.; Catherine Koontz, Lexington, N.C.; Emily Lapisardi, Brownsville, Pa.; Allison Lastinger, Morgantown; Nathaniel Lee, Elkins; Brian McMillan, Princeton; Ryan Murphy, Philippi; Molly Rakes, Fayetteville; Jennifer Riggie, Westover; Britni Schoonover, Procious; Hannah Swecker, Beverly; Rachael Warden, Vienna; Anna Warner, Manchester, Md.; Brian Watkins, Morgantown; and Carmella Wright, Parkersburg.