Awards presented to outstanding faculty and staff for 2020

With the new academic year beginning, outstanding faculty and staff from last year were recognized on Aug. 21 as part of All Campus Day.

Awards were presented by Tina Q. Richardson, chancellor of Penn State Lehigh Valley, and Mark Gruskin, associate director, academic affairs, Penn State Lehigh Valley.

Faculty honored for academic excellence, notable service, innovative teaching and exceptional research included:

-- Leigh Cundari, who received the 2020 Teaching Excellence Award for full-time faculty.

Cundari, assistant teaching professor, rehabilitation and human services, was flattered by her nomination but chose to not submit materials for review by the award selection committee due to her retirement after the spring 2020 semester. This did not stop her colleagues from submitting the material in her behalf, as they felt it was crucial to have her recognized. She was nominated due to her strong connections with her student base throughout her professional career. One student is noted in saying “I always leave her class feeling like I have a purpose in life.” Her impact is said to be felt even through her retirement, and for many years to come. A colleague who nominated her wrote, “Dr. Cundari’s work is far reaching and lasting. The triple effect of Leigh Cundari’s influence is important, powerful and immeasurable.”

head shot of Dan Jackson

Dan Jackson, assistant teaching professor in astronomy, physics and mathematics, received the 2020 Academic Director’s Award for Innovation and Applied Learning. 

Credit: Dan Jackson

-- Dan Jackson, who received the 2020 Academic Director’s Award for Innovation and Applied Learning. Jackson is an assistant teaching professor in astronomy, physics, and mathematics.

He launched a joint research project with a psychology colleague in hopes of developing ways to help students increase their spatial reasoning skills. He also serves his students as a success coach. Jackson focuses on ensuring that his students have all the tools to be not only a successful student in his classes, but also in all of their classes. Jackson’s nominator wrote that, “He is an instructor who cares deeply about the success of his students and has dedicated many hours to developing innovative pathways for his students to succeed.”

Head shot of Sandy Kile

Sandy Kile, assistant teaching professor of communication arts and sciences, received the 2020 Outstanding Contribution in Outreach Award.

Credit: Sandy Kile

-- Sandy Kile, who received the 2020 Outstanding Contribution in Outreach Award.

Kile is an assistant teaching professor of communication arts and sciences. Kile’s nominators described her as crucial to campus, as she gives immeasurable numbers of hours of her time to planning events on campus and stepped up to co-chair the Charles W. Dent Blue and White gala to raise money for the campus expansion. In July of 2019, Kile spearheaded a Pathway to College and Career Readiness (PCCR) event where a student received a life-changing gift, color-blind glasses. In addition, she also co-chaired the campus commencement committee for years. One of her nominators stated how, “She bleeds blue and white, is a true gift to this campus and 100% deserving of this recognition.”

In addition to a commemorative plaque, the above recipients will receive additional travel funding for academic purposes in this academic year.

The faculty awards committee includes Alison Bonner, Beth Michalec, Roger Egolf, Karen Kackley and Liz Keptner.

Staff honored for inspired and dedicated work ethic included:

two women holding awards

Lorie Khalil, interim alumni relations coordinator, coordinator of athletic programs and head women's basketball coach, received the 2020 "For the Glory" Award. Heather Amatore, interim campus bursar, received the 2020 Outstanding Staff Award.

Credit: Penn State

-- Heather Amatore, who received the 2020 Outstanding Staff Award for extraordinary service to the Lehigh Valley Campus.

Amatore is the interim campus bursar, as well as is a chair of the Campus Engagement Committee and has a leadership role in Administrative SuperPowers. Her work ethic and dedication to producing high quality results were cited by her nominators. They wrote how Amatore genuinely loves her coworkers and her job; and puts her heart into everything she does which is incredibly infectious with her coworkers.

-- Lorie Khalil, who received the 2020 “For the Glory” Spirit Award, given to a staff member who demonstrates dedication to the university and a spirit of positivity, energy, enthusiasm, cooperation and willingness to go above and beyond.

Khalil is the coordinator of athletic programs and the head women’s basketball coach at Penn State Lehigh Valley. Her nominators noted Khalil consistently energizes the campus community and creates an inclusive campus by offering opportunities for teamwork. They wrote how Khalil finds tactics to motivate her students to be more competitive, as well as her colleagues to be healthier and proactive in managing their stress and physical activity. Her charismatic personality and passion were listed as some of the reasons she was worthy of this award.

The awards committee of the Staff Advisory Council included Susan Stumpf, Tara Koller, Lisa Miller and Jessica Dow.


Dennille Schuler

Public Relations Specialist
Penn State Lehigh Valley

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