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May 27, 2022

SVSU honors business leaders, outstanding faculty and staff

Saginaw Valley State University honored several regional business leaders as well as outstanding faculty and staff during the university’s 31st All-University Awards Banquet Friday, April 29. Because the 2020 and 2021 award celebrations were not held in person, award winners from 2020, 2021 and 2022 were recognized.

In addressing the nearly 350 faculty, staff and honorees who attended the banquet, SVSU President Donald J. Bachand said, “Tonight we recognize outstanding achievement with titles that emphasize teaching, research, diversity, community involvement and employee performance. What we are truly honoring, however, are relationships. Relationships with students, with colleagues, with communities. That’s what matters. And it is worth celebrating.”

Six community leaders were honored with the Distinguished Service Award, SVSU’s most prestigious award for a community member. “As we recognize tonight’s recipients of this honor, I cannot imagine where SVSU would be without these individuals and their truly extraordinary contributions,” Bachand said.

Jerome Yantz was the recipient of the 2020 Distinguished Service Award. Yantz enjoyed a long career with Weinlander Fitzhugh, serving as a managing partner for the majority of that time. His involvement with SVSU spans several decades and numerous roles. He served on the SVSU Board of Control from 2001 to 2015, acting as chair from 2005 to 2006. He also served on the SVSU Board of Fellows and the SVSU Foundation Board of Directors. As a Foundation Board member, he actively participated in four major fundraising campaigns, which collectively raised more than $70 million. Yantz was honored posthumously; he passed away on April 16.

Kimberly Norris and William Zehnder shared the 2021 Distinguished Service Award:

Norris, a two-time SVSU alumna (B.S.N., 1989; M.S.N. 1998), worked in the health care industry before joining her family’s business, Glastender, which manufactures food service equipment. Norris and Glastender are longtime supporters of SVSU. Glastender provides SVSU students with the Glastender, Inc. Annual Business & Manufacturing Scholarship, and both endowment and sponsorship support for the Stevens Center and other major SVSU initiatives.

Norris is a former member of the Stevens Center, has served on the SVSU Foundation Board since 2012 and is a former chair of that body, and co-chaired the university’s First for Business Campaign, which raised over $25 million for the Carmona College of Business.

Zehnder, third-generation owner and current president of Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn, has strong ties to the Stevens Center for Family Business, having served on the executive council, including a term as chair. Zehnder co-chaired the First for Business Campaign for the Carmona College of Business (CCB) and sits on the CCB’s advisory board and on the university’s Board of Fellows. As employer partners with SVSU’s Office of Career Services, both the Bavarian Inn and the Bavarian Inn Lodge have selected the university as one of their top-tier recruiting schools.

The 2022 Distinguished Service Award was presented to three individuals: John M. Kunitzer, Beth Thieme and Jenée Velasquez.

Kunitzer earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from SVSU in 1973. He then joined Yeo & Yeo, PC, a CPA and business consultant firm. In his 40-year career with Yeo & Yeo, Kunitzer, a certified public accountant, rose through the ranks, serving as president and CEO from 1997 until his retirement in 2012. He served on SVSU’s Board of Control from 2013-2021 and currently sits on the SVSU Foundation Board of Directors. He was honored with the 2002 Alumni of the Year award.

Thieme was named the first female president of Amigo Mobility International, Inc., in 2021. She joined the company in 1975 and has played a key role in its growth and development. Thieme serves on the Carmona College of Business Advisory Board and is a former member of the Stevens Center for Family Business Executive Council. In 2018, she and her husband, Al Thieme, chairman and founder of Amigo, were awarded the Outstanding Entrepreneur Award from the Carmona College of Business which honors individuals whose successes include both sales as well as support for the surrounding community. Amigo is a dedicated supporter of SVSU and is recognized as a founding donor of the Stevens Center endowment and a major supporter of the SVSU First for Business Campaign.

Velasquez is the executive director of the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation. She was appointed to SVSU’s Board of Control in 2011 and served for 8 years, assuming multiple leadership roles, including secretary, vice chair and chair. Velasquez also served on SVSU’s Board of Fellows, College of Business Advisory Board, presidential search committee, and the steering committees for the First for Business and 50th anniversary fundraising campaigns. She and her husband, Christian Velasquez, have established an endowment fund at SVSU.

Several SVSU faculty and staff members also received recognition for outstanding achievement and dedicated service.

The Franc A. Landee Teaching Excellence Award was established in 1971 and is SVSU’s longest-standing award that honors faculty members who are recognized for consistently demonstrating their knowledge of subject matter, exercising fairness and integrity, motivating students to excel, offering counsel and advice and maintaining high standards for academic achievement.

2020 ― Jennifer Chaytor, associate professor of chemistry

2021 ― Elizabeth Rich, professor of English

2022 ― Arthur L. Martin III, professor of biology

The Earl Warrick Award for Excellence in Research was established in 1988 in honor of Dr. Warrick, a researcher for the Dow Corning Corporation and one-time interim dean of the College of Science, Engineering & Technology. The honoree is a faculty member whose scholarly activity over an extended period of time has been of the highest quality.

2020 ― Meghan Baruth, associate professor of health sciences

2021 ― Rebecca A. Schlaff, associate professor of health sciences

2022 ― Tami L. Sivy, professor of chemistry

The House Family Award for Teacher Impact recognizes teaching faculty in SVSU’s Arts & Behavioral Sciences, Education and Business colleges who have had a profound impact on their students. Established in 1990, this award is funded by the family of Dr. Robert House.

2020 ― Amy L. Hendrickson, associate professor of law

2021 ― Ranjana Dutta, professor of psychology

2022 ― Hideki Kihata, professor of art

The Mary H. Anderson Adjunct Faculty Award has been given since 1994 in recognition of an adjunct faculty member who shares both academic expertise and professional experience with students. The award is named for Mary H. Anderson, herself a dedicated SVSU adjunct faculty member.

2020 ― George R. Heron, department of social work. Heron passed away in

2021 ― Lindsay M. Franson and Laetitia Stock, department of biology

2022 ― Nicholas J. Sanislo, department of psychology

The Excellence in Online Teaching Award was established in 2020 to recognize a faculty member who has demonstrated excellence in online/hybrid teaching by creatively and effectively using appropriate technologies and best practices to design and teach online and/or hybrid courses at SVSU.

2020 ― Jesse Donahue, professor of political science

2021 ― Sandun S. Kuruppu, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering

2022 ― Joseph S. Weaver, associate professor of psychology

The Thomson Award for Empowering Learning in Community Engagement recognizes a full-time faculty member, staff member of team of SVSU employees for their innovation and leadership through community engagement. It was established in 2016 by Richard A. “Tony” and Joni Thomson who appreciate the commitment by SVSU faculty and staff to prepare educated, engaged citizens. The Thomsons are the former owners of the Thomson Agency, which represented Meemic Insurance.

2020 ― Helen M. Raica-Klotz, director of the Diane C. Boehm Writing Center; Christopher J. Giroux, assistant director of the Diane C. Boehm Writing Center

2021 ― SVSU’s Project ECHO Team:

Trisha K. Charbonneau-Ivey, project manager, Department of Nursing; Jessika Gehrke, ; Stephen Houghteling, ; Jennifer A. Kreiner, adjunct faculty, Department of Nursing; Kimberly F. Martini-Toth, project director: MI Babies; Scott Mellendorf, head of research services, Melvin J. Zahnow Library; Matthew L. Mitchell, ; Kari A. Peckham, administrative and technology coordinator, Department of Nursing; Kathleen A. Schachman, Harvey Randall Wickes Endowed Professor, Department of Nursing; Marilyn Skrocki, professor of health sciences.

2022 ―Amy L. Hlavacek, associate professor of mathematics

The Global Diversity Award was introduced in 2021 to recognize the extension of SVU’s impact from the Great Lakes Bay Region to the global community. It represents the university’s highest acknowledgement of global leadership and service by SVSU faculty, staff, student groups and other individuals associated with the campus community.

2021 ― Liana M. Bachand, community leader, and Joseph C. Ofori-Dankwa, Harvey Randall Wickes Endowed Professor

2022 ― Charles “Pat” Shelley, international student advisor

The Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Research Award, introduced in 2022, recognizes SVSU faculty who made a significant and/or long-standing contribution to the advancement of research or practice in the field of diversity, equity and inclusion.

2022 ― Eric Gardner, professor of English, and Mark A. Giesler, professor of social work

The Ruben Daniels Community Service Award represents the university’s highest recognition of employee community involvement. Named for the late Ruben Daniels, a Saginaw community leader, it was first given in 1993.

2020 ― Peter Rose-Barry, Finkbeiner Endowed Professor Ethics

2021 ― Susan M. Brasseur, director of continuing education and external project management

2022 ― Fenobia I. Dallas, professor of rhetoric and professional writing

The Terry Ishihara Award for Outstanding Co-curricular Involvement is named in honor of Dr. Ishihara, professor emeritus of mechanical engineering and technology (1980-1994). First presented in 1993, this award recognizes one SVSU faculty member and one staff member for contributions to student life and the university through co-curricular activities.

Faculty Award Honorees

2020 ― Jennifer D. McCullough, professor of communication

2021 ― Bradley Herzog, associate professor of rhetoric and professional writing, and J. Blake Johnson, professor of art

2022 ― Amy J. Pierce, associate professor of communication

Staff Award Honorees

2020 ― Alexandra J. Sturtridge, resident director

2021 ― Nic Taylor, former associate director of admissions (now executive director of Alumni Relations)

2022 ― Heather M. Kowaleski, manager of alumni communications

The Roosevelt Ruffin Diversity Award was created in 2005 to recognize SVSU individuals or groups who have demonstrated diversity leadership and creativity. It is named for the late Dr. Ruffin, who served as SVSU’s director of Multicultural Programs and Affirmative Action.

2020 ― Eric Gardner, professor of English

2021 ― Kimberly R. Lacey, associate professor of English

2022 ― Rajani Muraleedharan, associate professor of electrical & computer engineering

Through the Outstanding Performance Award, SVSU honors a secretarial/clerical and/or campus facilities employee and an administrative/professional staff member. The award recognizes exemplary work that consistently exceeds goals and job expectations in quantity, quality, customer service, teamwork and leadership within the department, division and university.

Support Staff Honorees

2020 ― David L. Jerome, inventory management specialist, and Alicea M. Moll, administrative secretary, Career Services

2021 ― Katherine L. Gerard, administrative secretary, Admissions

2022 ― Shelly A. Losee, administrative secretary, Academic Advisement Center

Administrative/Professional Honorees

2020 ― Kristen K. Willert, director of the Conference Center at SVSU, and Sharon Panepucci, nursing simulated laboratory coordinator

2021 ― Tammy J. Elliott, special assistant to the provost

2022 ― George M. Copeland Jr., Public School Academy transition coordinator, and Adrienne A. Galbraith, nursing simulation educator

For more information on the All-University Awards, including past recipients, visit