Ann Chester, recognizable by the distinctive white streak in her hair, has been a fixture at West Virginia University for three decades, making a difference in thousands of lives.
Claire St. Peter has taken her research out of the lab and into Monongalia County schools, bettering the lives of children who have difficulties in the classroom.
Together, they epitomize the land-grant mantra of teaching, research and service and are the recipients of WVU’s 2015 Heebink Awards for Distinguished Service to West Virginia.
“The Heebink Awards recognize and celebrate something quite unique and valuable,” Provost Joyce McConnell. “The work that both of these women are doing in our community is not just beneficial – it’s transformational. I’m so proud to have them both here at WVU.”
Through her several roles, Chester, who will receive the Heebink for extended service, lives out an extraordinary commitment to both women’s health and science and technology education.
She is deputy director of the National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health that has helped some 3,000 women. She also is the founder and director of the Health Sciences & Technology Academy, which has graduated 2500 students since its inception in 1994. HSTA brings under-represented 9th-12th grade students and their teachers to university campuses for training during the summer, then provides infrastructure and support for community-based science projects during the school year.
Chester also helped originate “Women on Wellness,” a retreat promoting exercise, nutrition and mental health that has been delivered to more than 400 participants around West Virginia. Chester’s work has been recognized by the Association of Public Land-grant Universities (2010), Howard Hughes Medical Institute (2010, 2006) and Crisis Magazine (2006). This year, the university nominated her for the national Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring.
Claire St. Peter, an associate professor of psychology and recipient of the Heebink for beginning service, has an active research lab that educates and employs both undergraduate and graduate research assistants—but her real laboratories are the local public schools, where she and her colleagues “strive to develop behavioral interventions that maximize student success and “fit” within the context of the classroom.”
In her very first year at WVU, St. Peter developed a partnership with Monongalia County Schools that has since provided clinical services to more than 200 students experiencing difficulties in the classroom. It has also lead to other collaborations, including a teacher training program and a state-grant-funded alternative education center.
With a 2010 grant from the Department of Health and Human Services, St. Peter and her colleagues taught rural parents of children with autism how to improve their children’s functioning. St. Peter hopes that her blend of research, teaching, and service will improve service delivery for children in the state who struggle with challenging behavior or who have severe academic deficits, as well as spark an interest in science and psychology in the WVU students in her classroom and her lab.
The Heebink Award for extended service, given annually, was established in 1982 in memory of Ethel and Gerry Heebink, two former employees (English and Extension) of the university. The award for beginning service, given biennially, was established in 1992. The awards are given to faculty or staff members who have “used the unique resources of the university” and their own professional expertise to provide an educational or public service activity to the citizens of the state.
Chester and St. Peter will each receive an honorarium in professional development support ($3000 for extended service and $2000 for beginning service) and be recognized by President Gordon Gee and Provost McConnell at the April 9 faculty awards dinner at Blaney House.
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