MORGANTOWN , W.Va.West Virginia University seniors Tricia Cesarino and Natalie Committee have received the 2009 Kenneth D. Gray Leadership Award based on their demonstration of strong problem-solving skills, inspirational guidance and a high level of commitment to student programs.

Named in honor of Vice President for Student Affairs Kenneth D. Gray, the award is one of the Universitys most prestigious student honors and spotlights those who demonstrate exemplary critical-thinking, creativity and positive leadership.

A native of Excelsior, W.Va., Gray received his law degree from WVU College of Law in 1969 and entered active duty in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps. He joined WVU as vice president of student affairs in 1996 after serving for three years as the first African-American general in the Judge Advocate Generals Corps.

Cesarino and Committee were each presented with a plaque for the Kenneth D. Gray Leadership Award during the WVU Student Government Association inauguration on April 20 at the Waterfront Place Hotel.

A senior public relations major from Farmington, Pa., Cesarino was named WVU Outstanding Senior by the Division of Student Affairs. She will graduate in the top one percent of her 2009 class with a 4.0 GPA .

Cesarino emerged as a natural leader throughout her programming internship with the Mountainlair administrative offices where she assisted with many special projects and programs.

Selected as the 2008 Mountaineer Week Co-Chairperson, Cesarino spearheaded a committee of about 50 students and fostered collaborative, creative thinking among the group. Through her fundraising efforts, a corporate donation from MedExpress was secured and Mountaineer Week was rated one of the top 20 events in the southeast from the Southeast Tourism Society.

Other areas where she has demonstrated strong leadership include serving on WVU Panhellenic Council and coordinatingMeet the Greeks,a promotional event for about 800 people, and acting as overall director for the WVU Dance Marathon, which raised more than $40,000 for WVU Childrens Hospital.

Cesarino, who worked with Gray during her Mountainlair event-planning internship, has decided upon a career in student affairs. In August, she will attend the University of Florida to pursue a master’s degree in student personnel in higher education.

Before I even knew this award existed, I always joked with everyone in my office that I was going to come back from Florida and take Ken Gray’s job,Cesarino said.So, to get an award named for a person, who has had such a direct impact on my life, is quite a privilege.

Committee, a senior public relations major from Wheeling, has dedicated much of her young life to serving others through charitable public relations work with groups such as Amnesty International and Safe Kids Buckle Up.

Last December, Committee took part in a Rotary International exchange program where she spent Christmas break doing public relations work for a hospital in Iquique, Chile instead of visiting her family at home.

Committee has been active in many student groups serving as president and social coordinator of the Newman Club, president of Stalnaker Hall Council, vice president of the Diversity in Media Associate, treasurer of the Public Relations Student Society of America, advertising chairperson for Mountaineer Week and public relations coordinator for the National Society of Collegiate Scholars.

One of Committees proudest achievements is helping the WVU Diversity in Media Association flourish again. Before Committee became active in the group, there were only four members, but now they meet regularly and plan various events to educate the public about issues of diversity.

Ken Gray has shown incredible leadership, integrity and dedication throughout his life,Committee said.After serving as a student leader in many organizations throughout my time at WVU , if I have ended up being anything like him, then that is an incredible honor.

After graduation, Committee plans to attend WVU for a masters degree in business administration and pursue a career in international business.