A faculty member and Extension specialist whose work has improved the quality of life for thousands of West Virginians of all ages has been honored by West Virginia University for service to the community and state.

Associate Professor Richard L. Fleisher is the recipient of this years Ethel and Gerry Heebink Award for Distinguished State Service.

With a WVU career that spans three decades, Fleisher is described by colleagues asan extraordinary professional and individual.

His previous roles at the Universitys Extension Service include director of the West Virginia Council of International Programs (1985-98), special assistant to the associate vice president (1985-87) and division leader of the Division for Continuing Education (1979-85).

Fleishers outreachwhich focuses on youth development, social justice and global educationhas taken him to every corner of the state. He is co-principal investigator of the West Virginia Children, Youth and Families at Risk (CYFAR) Afterschool Project, an initiative that brings information and strategies in nontraditional ways to those who can offer services to this population.

Fleishers serviceparticularly in the areas of poverty, the Hispanic child and family, and integrating international student into the communityhave made a difference for people in West Virginia, especially those less fortunate, said Victoria Dillon, retired school principal and longtime colleague.

As president of the board of the Mark Dillon Endowment, Fleisher helped with the education of many children in the coalfields of West Virginia. And in response to the growing Hispanic communities in the state, he founded and helped nurture the CHISPA program, a unique, Spanish-language immersion experience offering students a taste of Spanish culture and opportunities to practice their foreign language skills.

Fleisher has also helped integrate international students into West Virginia culture through organizations such as International 4-H Youth Exchange and Community Educational Outreach Service. He served as chair of the WVU Cultural Attaches Committee for Latin America and the WVU Mexico Area Study Group, and has been a member of the WVU Office of International Programs Advisory Committee, MorgantownGuanajuato Sister Cities Planning Committee and West Virginia International Higher Education Commission.

Fleishers work is so highly regarded, he was chosen to speak before the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Subcommittee on the importance of supporting international exchange a number of years ago. He has received numerous honors for his efforts.

In my 23 years here at West Virginia University, I have never met a more dedicated faculty member and West Virginia resident who was more dedicated to serving the people of his state,said Sandra Dixon, WVU assistant professor of Spanish.His tireless work in reaching out to every county in the state has earned him respect andI believehas garnered a high level of recognition for the University.

Fleishers leadership positions at the WVU Extension Service have included co-leader of the Global Education Team and member of the Social Justice Team. In addition, he has been a member of the board of directors of the West Virginia Alliance for Sustainable Families and part of a statewide group pushing for creation of a State Earned Income Tax Credit to supplement the federal EITC .

Working through Extension, Fleisher developed a series of multicultural educational camps that grew from weekend to weeklong events. He designed and taught programs that fostered understanding and appreciation of diversity and different cultures. Over a period of 12 years, he was responsible for about 20 camps, reaching more than 2,000 youth.

Much of Fleishers work has been done beyond the traditional classroom setting. He has conducted distance learning and extended learning classes and workshops for educators in Berkeley, Hardy, Jefferson, Marion, Mineral, Ohio and Wyoming counties, among many others. He regularly offers nontraditional classes to social work students, nurses, medical students, teachers, social agency employees and other groups.

In my numerous conversations with him, I marveled at Professor Fleishers knowledge of West Virginias geography, history, social structure, politics andabove allpeople,Dixon said.He knows this state well. He has served this state well and will continue to do so.

Fleisher earned his bachelors degree in speech communication from the State University of New York at Buffalo and his masters degree in speech communication from the University of Illinois. He completed additional graduate work in speech communication at the universities of Illinois and Pittsburgh and in education administration at WVU .

Fleisher was recognized for his service at WVU s Commencement Honors Convocation.

The late David Heebink created the Heebink Awards in memory of his parents Ethel, a longtime WVU English professor, and Gerry, an Extension dairyman in the Davis College of Agriculture, Forestry and Consumer Sciences from 1935-56.