Our institution's ongoing commitment to community engagement includes the annual student-organized
Relay for Life event, planned for Friday from 2 p.m. to midnight in O'Neill Arena. I will be offering the opening remarks. Benefiting the American Cancer Society, this gathering typically attracts hundreds of our students, faculty and staff - including cancer survivors and their families. Among those in attendance will be John Kaczynski, director of Government Affairs, who is a survivor of soft-tissue cancer synovial sarcoma. You may remember John's story being told last year by ESPN during a profile on him and his brother, Joe. John will tell his story during the event's Survivors Ceremony scheduled at 6 p.m. Please consider playing a role in helping us raise funds for this important cause. If you cannot attend in person, you can donate online at www.relayforlife.org/svsumi.
Congratulations again to our forensics team, which placed second during the Michigan Intercollegiate Speech League Novice States Tournament at Hillsdale last Saturday. Three SVSU students won their respective events, and all seven SVSU students involved in this competition placed near the top of their respective categories. Kelley Gray, a communication major from Sandusky, won the programmed oral interpretation category. Darious Henry, a communication major from Chesterfield Township, won first place in the prose category. Tiler Jewel, a creative writing major from Essexville, placed first in the informative category. These students' high-achieving status is a reflection of their talent and hard work as well as the wise guidance of their advisor, Amy Pierce, associate professor of communication.
A member of our SVSU family will receive an award for being among the top professionals in the Great Lakes Bay Region at Tuesday's 13th annual RUBY Awards ceremony, presented by 1st State Bank. Sheruni Ratnabalasuriar, associate professor of criminal justice, will be among this year's recipients. The award highlights our region's top professionals under the age of 40. Many of our faculty, staff and alumni have received this award over the years. Congratulations to Sheruni for joining this select company.
I am pleased to report one of our alumni, Erin Martin, a teacher at Bullock Creek High School, was honored with the Excellence in Education award from the Michigan Lottery. Winners of the weekly award receive a plaque, a $500 grant for education-based purchases, and a $1,500 cash prize. On top of being a two-time alumna of SVSU (and the wife of Art Martin, professor of biology), Erin also was a participant in The Dow Corning Foundation/SVSU STEM Community Partnership in 2016. She displayed her innovative teaching approach back then in a profile you can read here.
This year, we are aiming for a three-peat as one of the Chronicle of Higher Education's Great Colleges to Work For. The process will be familiar to those who participated during the previous two years. On Monday, March 12, a random sample of staff and faculty will receive an e-mail from Modern Think for this year's Great Colleges to Work For survey. The deadline to complete this survey will be Friday, April 6. If you are among those selected, I encourage you to participate. As your responses showed previously, this is a great place to work. The survey results also provide useful information to help our institution become an even greater place to work.
Please join me in welcoming David Bell to the SVSU team. He will serve as the associate director for entrepreneurship, experiential learning and continuing education. In this role, he will seek to enhance academic programs, grow new opportunities in entrepreneurship, and enrich the regional business community. David previously was The Dow Chemical Co.'s associate commercial director from 2003-15. He joined Dow in 1979 as a chemist. He completed a bachelor's degree in polymer science at Pennsylvania State University and an M.B.A. at Michigan State University. David replaces Tom Sesti, who had been our entrepreneur-in-residence. Our continued thanks to the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation for supporting this position.
One of our most popular Black History Month traditions at SVSU is the food festival, "A Taste of Soul," which received rave reviews once again this year by those in attendance Wednesday. I would like to thank the faculty and staff who participated, as well as the Men of Bethel from Bethel A.M.E. Church in Saginaw (those I am dining with in the picture), and many others from the community who joined us for this fine – and delicious – event.
Mark your calendars for Monday at 7 p.m. in the Rhea Miller Recital Hall. Our guest speaker for the evening is Marilyn E. Atkins, an alumna from 1973 who went on to an outstanding career as a judge in Detroit before retiring recently. Raised in Saginaw, she worked hard to overcome childhood challenges, including family turmoil and abuse. At age 19, Marylin challenged racial, religious and societal norms by marrying former Roman Catholic priest Thomas Lee Atkins, who was white and 25 years older than she. She documented her inspiring story in her autobiography, "The Triumph of Rosemary: A Memoir," which was published last year.
As I mentioned last week, tickets remain available for our latest stage production, "Death by Design." The murder-mystery comedy is directed by Ric Roberts, professor of theatre. The curtains open at 7:30 p.m. today through Saturday and at 3 p.m. Sunday in the Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts. You can purchase tickets on site or online.