2006 VIMS Service Awards

2006 VIMS Service Awards

The following remarks were read by Dean and Director John Wells during VIMS' annual Awards Ceremony on May 10, 2007 to honor recipients of the 2006 Service Awards.

Hannah McLean Anne McCracken
Hannah McClean Anne "Bootsie" McCracken
Robert M. Freeman Volunteer of the Year Award

This award was named for Robert Mallory Freeman, a former VIMS Council member and supporter who passed away in 2004. Bob was chairman of Signet Bank in Richmond until 1996. He was active with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the Virginia Environmental Endowment, among many other community leadership activities. At VIMS, Bob was interested in oyster restoration, advancing research with cutting-edge scientific equipment, and helping to leverage resources like VIMS newest vessel, the Pelican. The Pelican is a former Mike boat now being renovated for research at VIMS with help from the Freeman family and other generous donors.

The dual winners of this year's Freeman Award are Hannah McLean and Anne "Bootsie" McCracken.

Hannah Mclean has gone above and beyond the call of her mentorship at the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in VA. During her mentorship with the CBNERR Education Program, Hannah coordinated a new series of public Discovery Labs. This task required scheduling speakers, constructing displays, and creating educational activities. In addition, Hannah has taken on a blue crab observation study in the Education lab and helped care for several aquaria. Hannah is a diligent volunteer, always up for any work and always excited to be at VIMS. She helps out with the general education program as well as with Teacher Collection Trips, summer camps, and school field trips even when they are during her free time or weekends. While applying to college at William and Mary, Hannah has shown true loyalty to anything and everything VIMS. She recently competed in the Blue Crab Bowl, leading her high school team to a 2nd place victory. She is knowledgeable in many areas of marine science and we could not ask for a more enthusiastic volunteer.

"Bootsie" McCracken has served as chairperson of the VIMS Auction Committee for the past three years. Her eagerness to take on this daunting job has been surpassed only by her desire to work in such an energetic way with all of her committee members and with the VIMS faculty and staff. Bootsie's creative mind inspires other members of the committee.

Last year's auction gleaned almost twice the amount as the previous year, due mainly to hard work by Bootsie and the committee as well as the appearance of scientist and artist Guy Harvey. The proceeds from the 2006 auction supported student research at the Eastern Shore Lab, Fisheries Department, and Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. This year Bootsie attracted well-known Gloucester native Guy Crittenden as the featured artist.

Aside from her work on VIMS auctions, Bootsie and her husband Jim Rogers are instrumental in supporting the Kauffman Aquaculture Center and promoting the study of oysters. Their continuing commitment to VIMS has helped attract others to support the institute. VIMS is fortunate indeed to have Bootsie McCracken working with us to support marine science, research, and education. Bootsie is a volunteer who truly makes a difference!

There can be no doubt that Hannah McLean and Bootsie McCracken are excellent choices for the ROBERT M. FREEMAN Volunteer of the Year Award. | top

Outstanding Classified Employee Awards

These awards are chosen by nominations received by the Awards Committee from all faculty, staff, and students at VIMS. They are awarded in the categories of Facilities/Safety/Trades, Research and Advisory Service, Technical Support, and Administrative Support.

Mr. Mike Kershner Facilities/Safety/Trades

The Awards Committee is pleased to present the Outstanding Classified Employee in Facilities/Safety/Trades for 2006 to Mr. Mike Kershner.

Mike began his career at William & Mary in 1974 following graduation from Virginia Tech with a Bachelor's in Architecture. In 1994, Mike transferred to VIMS as a Project Manager for Facilities Management. During his tenure, Mike has managed such diverse projects as connecting our campus to the Hampton Roads Sanitation District; planning construction of Chesapeake Bay Hall; replacing the Boat Basin bulkhead; and planning, reviewing, and managing construction of Andrews Hall. In addition, Mike has on several occasions faithfully and admirably served as Director of Facilities Management during vacancies in that position.

The man many of us know is private and soft-spoken. He collects music and restores antique cars, including a '29 Ford and a '66 Corvette. He has an affinity for scale-model European trains.

It is with the same attention to detail required for these pursuits that Mike reviews building codes and construction plans. As such, VIMS may be assured that when a project is finished or building complete; it is safe, functional, and built as designed.

Mike is equally at ease with scientists, engineers, and construction workers. He takes great pride in family and is a devoted son, brother, and uncle. During the Christmas Season, Mike often travels to visit family in Germany, always with a generous heart. As a member of Reformation Lutheran Church, Mike is a member of the choir and has twice been elected President of the Congregation.

It is for these reasons, and many left unsaid, and for the times Mike has worked late and arrived early to address projects that have slipped behind schedule, that Michael Kershner is a well-deserving recipient of the Outstanding Classified Employee Award for Facilities, Safety, and Trades. Above all, He is a Friend of VIMS and all who serve or attend this Institution. Congratulations, Mike! | top

Mr. Mark LaGuardia Research/Advisory Service

The recipient of the 2006 Outstanding Classified Employee in Research/Advisory Service is Mr. Mark LaGuardia.

Since joining VIMS in 1998, Mark La Guardia has consistently made extraordinary contributions in research and advisory service. He is constantly tackling difficult tasks, while exhibiting a rare level of scientific curiosity about important issues in environmental chemistry. His efforts have focused on answering critical questions about emerging and legacy pollutants in Virginia. Results of his work have been essential to efforts by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to identify contaminant sources and by the Virginia Department of Health to develop fish-consumption advisories and protect human health. In the process, the Institute has garnered millions of dollars in support.

Mark's "hands-on" abilities, "can-do" attitude, and dedication to getting the job done right are inspirational. As a classified employee, his scholarly productivity has been phenomenal; he is the author of four publications, and the co-author of eight, in high-impact journals such as Nature and Environmental Science & Technology. He also has personally made more than 30 scientific presentations. Despite this exhausting schedule, Mark always is willing to support others. To quote a VIMS graduate student: "Mark was instrumental to my success in all aspects of my laboratory work... and I will always be grateful for his help while I was at VIMS... he is a very good teacher, patient and most importantly, incredibly professional."

Congratulations, Mark! | top

Mr. Sean Fate Technical Support

The winner of the 2006 Outstanding Classified Employee for Technical Support is Mr. Sean Fate.

Sean Fate has had a transformative effect in the four years that he has worked at the VIMS Eastern Shore Laboratory. As logistics coordinator for the field station, it is his job to ensure that visiting researchers, instructors, and students are able to efficiently accomplish their goals. With more than 1,000 visiting researcher-days and 1,000 student-days per year, this is a near Herculean task. His efficiency, professionalism, and exemplary work ethic are largely responsible for the lab's ability to serve so many users. Scores of researchers and graduate students attest that they could not have accomplished their work without Sean's help, skills, and insight. His knowledge of the Eastern Shore's intricate waterways and his skills at operating research vessels have been indispensable to many research projects. Even more importantly, he brings a genuine interest in the science and education to his work that results in an enthusiasm that is evident to all. Resident staff, visiting scientists, and students all agree that it is simply fun to work with Sean. He is a tremendous asset to VIMS and is extremely deserving of recognition as this year's Outstanding Classified and Hourly Employee in the area of Technical Support.

Congratulations, Sean! | top

Mr. Bob Polley Administrative Support

The winner of the 2005 Outstanding Classified Employee for Administrative Support is Mr. Bob Polley.

In May 2003 ITNS met with many applicants seeking a Client Support Technician. After a long verbal interview, a cart of network gear, cables, and computers was wheeled into the room, and each candidate was asked to configure a networked computer to do a set of tasks. Some candidates had a "little difficulty." One was reduced to tears, but not Bob. Clearly, Bob can talk the talk, but also walk the walk.

Bob also exhibits a special quality in his unflappable nature and ability to explain what he is doing in clear and understandable ways. People skills are a critical component for Bob's position and it is very clear that his personality "fits" VIMS and is a valuable asset to the VIMS community.

Bob serves the VIMS community by keeping all those finicky computers functioning properly in the complex and diverse VIMS IT environment. One nomination stated, "Bob sets himself apart through his personable approach, unfailing responsiveness, and extensive knowledge of computing and information technology." Another person observed that "With the recent retirement of Buddy Mathews, ITNS can rest assured that Bob is providing a smooth transition and keeping things operating efficiently." That is indeed a powerful statement of the confidence the VIMS community has in Bob's role in making IT a productive partner.

Congratulations, Bob! | top

Dr. Jan McDowell The Dean's Prize for the Advancement of Women in Marine Science

The Dean's Prize for the Advancement of Women in Marine Science is awarded for outstanding contributions toward the promotion of women in science. The award for 2006 goes to Dr. Jan McDowell.

Dr. Jan McDowell is a Molecular Biologist in the Department of Fisheries Science. For the past 18 years, Jan has been an excellent role model for female graduate students at VIMS. A full-time employee and single mom, Jan entered the graduate program, bypassed the Masters and completed her Ph.D. within normative time. As Jan's knowledge and experience increased in the genetics lab, students began seeking her advice—at first informally, and more recently by including her on their graduate committees. This is especially true for several female students in the program. Jan's influence on these students has been highlighted in the acknowledgments of their seminars and theses, and is probably best summed up in the words of a recent graduate, who said "It has been hugely encouraging for me to have Jan to turn to and learn from in the lab. Her leadership is invaluable to the female students in the Fisheries Genetics lab, to the female students who she teaches in the Marine Molecular Genetics class, and, given the limited number of female faculty members in the department, to all female students in the fisheries department."

Congratulations, Jan! | top

Professor Gene Burreson Outstanding Advisory Service Award

This is an alternating award given every three years to a faculty member who has excelled in teaching, research, or advisory services. This year's winner of the Outstanding Advisory Service Award is Dr. Eugene Burreson.

Professor Gene Burreson is an exemplar of advisory service, the often unglamorous task of translating science into honest guidance for policymakers, citizens, and industry.

Gene is generally soft-spoken, but has a true passion and enthusiasm for science. Although his stature and booming voice can be intimidating, those who know him realize that he is really a gentle giant. His intelligence, knowledge, and experience have earned him the respect of the scientific and regulatory communities at the local, state, national, and even international levels. In various ways, he has been involved in advisory service for most of his career, and served as the Director of Research and Advisory Service at VIMS from 1996 to 2002. His shellfish pathology lab monitors oyster diseases for Virginia, providing information critical for developing oyster-management strategies. He also serves as the internationally designated reference expert for diseases caused by Perkinsus and haplosporidian species, which impact shellfish worldwide. He is committed to disseminating information and data through manuscripts, reports, and presentations to scientists at international conferences, as well as to regulatory agencies, review boards and industry panels. He is highly respected by fellow researchers, managers, and watermen alike, both for the high quality of his research and his willingness to provide sound advice.

Gene has devoted much of his career to advisory service activities and has clearly demonstrated by example that he believes the advisory role is an extremely important part of the VIMS mission.

Thank you, Gene—you are an excellent role model for those who serve the Institute in the mission of Advisory Service. You continue to be an excellent representative of VIMS and we all are grateful for your contributions. | top

Special Service Awards

We would like to thank the VIMS Striped Bass Monitoring and Assessment Program staff, the VIMS American Shad Monitoring Program staff, and Bud Davenport for significant donations of fish to the Food Bank of Southeast Virginia.

This is the 10th year that VIMS staff have donated fish to the Food Bank. Before 1997, fish captured in the monitoring programs were hauled to the local landfill after study. Thinking this was a tremendous waste, the staff of the Anadromous Fishes Monitoring Program asked why the fish couldn't be put to use. Fisheries staff contacted the Food Bank and acquired the necessary permits from the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, Bud Davenport looked into liability issues and established procedures, and the donations began. A refrigerated trailer from Hunters for the Hungry keeps the product fresh, and a local fish house cleans, fillets, packages, and freezes the fish. The end result is that VIMS fisheries staff and Bud Davenport have quietly supplied needy families with more than 50,000 pounds of fish.

We would also like to give special recognition to Amy Shields for her leadership in organizing the "Green Team" and other environmental actions at VIMS and the College.

Our students are often our conscience. Today we wish to recognize and express our appreciation to one such student, Amy Shields, whose dedication to making VIMS a "green campus," and whose enthusiasm and effort has led to the creation of the VIMS Green Team.

Amy, you recognized that, as an environmental institution, VIMS should lead by example. You also saw the importance of organizing an active student movement to propel the institute toward sustainable practices in all that it does, from daily operations to routine maintenance, and from construction of new facilities to planning for the future of the campus. You have successfully coordinated Green Team activities with other student organizations at William & Mary, connected us with larger campus movements working to create sustainable campus environments in the United States, and helped to bring the first and largest campus environmental event to William & Mary with an early showing of the film "An Inconvenient Truth."

All of the students working for the Green Team deserve our congratulations for their outstanding efforts. But today, we wish to recognize the central role you have played in making this all happen. From all of us, Faculty, Staff, and Students, thank you, Amy. | top

Recognition of Special Accomplishments

The following section acknowledges some of the many accolades bestowed on VIMS faculty, students, and staff in 2006. For more details visit the VIMS' Top Stories page at

  • Graduate students Amber Hardison, Erica Holloman, and Grace Saba received prestigious EPA Fellowships that provide up to 3 years of support at $37,000 per year.

  • Amber Hardison also received a Travel Scholarship from the European Association of Organic Geochemists to support research with collaborators at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology.

  • Aaron Bever received Honorable Mention for the Best Student Paper award in the NSF Margins program, for his presentation at the Fall 2006 meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

  • Bryce Brylawski won the award for the best presentation by a PhD student at the Atlantic Estuarine Research Society meeting in North Carolina for his talk on potential nursery habitat for hatchery-reared blue crabs.

  • Branson Williams, first-year student with Dr. Mary Fabrizio, received top honors for his presentation at the NOAA Educational Partnership Program on using passive acoustics to determine habitat use of summer flounder.

  • Connie Sullivan won the Best Presentation award at the Pacific Northwest SETAC conference where she presented her thesis work.

  • Doctoral student Jianmin (Jimmy) Ye received a travel award from the Nordic Society of Fish Immunology to deliver an oral presentation on his antibody research at the 7th International Symposium on Fish Immunology in Scotland this June.

  • Doctoral student Dave Hewitt received a Certificate of Appreciation from the Education Section of the American Fisheries Society for being the lead editor for ”The AFS Guide to Fisheries Employment, 2nd Edition.”

  • Azure Bevington won the $5,000 National Garden Club Scholarship.

  • The International Game Fish Association honored Professor John Graves with their individual Conservation Award for 2006 for his groundbreaking research and management efforts in regards to billfish and tuna.

  • John Graves also received the first-ever NOAA Fisheries Service Special Recognition Award for his 10 years of service as Chair of the Advisory Committee to the U.S. Section of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas.

  • The College of William and Mary awarded Term Distinguished Professorships to faculty members Courtney Harris and Jesse McNinch. The awards, made on a competitive basis to recognize professional achievement, service, and demonstrated commitment to teaching, are appointed by the College for a three-year term.

  • The US Environmental Protection Agency recognized the Center for Coastal Resources Management at VIMS as one of the nation's 25 models of effective wetlands research and management. Congratulations to CCRM head Carl Hershner.