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Press Releases

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Four From SU Earn Top USM Honors

SALISBURY, MD---Four members of the Salisbury University community, one faculty and three staff, have received the highest honor given by the University System of Maryland:  the Regents Faculty and Staff Awards for Excellence.

The Regents recognized Dr. Clara Small, professor of history, for outstanding public service recently at ceremonies in Baltimore.

Staff winners will be honored by the Board later this year. They are: Ruth Baker, managing director of the Perdue School of Business’s BEACON (Business, Economic and Community Outreach Network), for extraordinary public service to the University and greater community, exempt staff; Dawn Johnson, executive administrative assistant, Henson School of Science and Technology, for exceptional contribution to the institution and/or unit, non-exempt staff; and Vaughn P. White, director of multiethnic/international student services in the Student Affairs Division, outstanding service to students in an academic or residential environment, exempt staff.

The Regents made only six staff awards this year for all 13 institutions in the System .  SU’s staff honorees represent half of the System total.

“The University has earned outstanding national accolades over the last few years due largely to our faculty and staff who have worked with great dedication,” said SU President Janet Dudley-Eshbach.  “These Board of Regents Awards highlight some of the terrific SU employees who have made our institution’s achievements possible.”

The following are highlights about each honoree:

A professor of history in the Charles R. and Martha N. Fulton School of Liberal Arts, Clara Small is known throughout the Delmarva Peninsula for her presentations ranging from African-American history to historical national and international studies. On campus, she founded and advises SU’s chapter of the Pi Gamma Mu international honor society in the social sciences, which for the past two years has been listed on the Roll of Distinction, the society’s highest honor. Her work on the board of directors of SU’s Edward H. Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture has helped the center expand its focus on the contributions of African Americans on the Eastern Shore.

Small co-founded the Fulton School’s highly successful Brown Bag Lunch Discussion Series, through which the community is invited to hear SU faculty and guests share their insights and interests on a variety of topics.  Since 2001, she also has administered Buffalo Soldiers Summer Youth Workshops at SU, securing grant funding and overseeing the program that allows some 120 local at-risk youth to experience a hands-on approach to history with re-enactors playing the parts of African-American riders in the U.S. Calvary.

Dr. Timothy O’Rourke, dean of the Fulton School, calls Small SU’s “professor at large,” noting she has averaged more than 130 off-campus history presentations to school, civic and church organizations for the past several years, reaching out to some 10,000 community members annually. The Wicomico County Commission for Women has honored her for this outreach.

Statewide, Small is a member of the Governor’s Commission to Study the Legacy of Slavery and recently participated in an independent film recounting the life of Underground Railroad pioneer Harriet Tubman from her roots on the Eastern Shore to her celebrated emancipation efforts. Nationally, she is an advisor and lecturer for the National Park Service and served as commentator for the award-winning 2002 Public Broadcasting System documentary Whispers of Angels, tracing the path of the Underground Railroad on the Delmarva Peninsula. She also has conducted food drives for the less fortunate in Maryland and other states.

“When I see Dr. Small, she may be in a 17th century costume of a plantation slave, having just returned from serving as an educator and docent at Pemberton Plantation outside of Salisbury,” said SU Provost David Buchanan. “She may be darting about, students in tow and boxes in hand, gathering needed goods for flood victims in North Carolina. She may be heading for her car for a trip across the Bay Bridge to join her colleagues on the Governor’s Commission, or she may be sitting on the back lawn of Holloway Hall, surrounded by students in a lively discussion of American history. What I do know about Dr. Small is that she is a professor who is always on the move.”

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Associate managing director of the Franklin P. Perdue School of Business’ Business, Economic and Community Outreach Network (BEACON), Ruth Baker has helped serve not only SU, but the Lower Eastern Shore at large.

“What we have in Ruth is a gentle but persistent civic watchdog who is dedicated to ensuring that there is a plan for the thriving future of the Lower Eastern Shore,” said Dudley-Eshbach.

A governor-appointed member of the Eastern Shore Economic Development Task Force, Baker served as co-vice-chair on the task force’s transportation subcommittee. A mayor-appointed member of Salisbury’s Healthy Housing Ratio Task Force, she also managed research performed to help the city strengthen its neighborhoods. Similarly, her research on affordable housing in Worcester County is being used to shape public policy there.

Other endeavors have helped the Lower Shore prepare for the future. Baker managed a community visioning effort for Wicomico, Worcester and Somerset counties.  As part of that effort, her organization of a community task force to consider local water and sewer infrastructure needs is helping the region prepare for an influx of new residents. Her most recent achievement, a study titled “GrayShore: The Coming Senior Boom on the Eastern Shore,” is educating local government and senior service agencies about what they can do to prepare for the many elderly residents from metropolitan areas who are beginning to retire to the Eastern Shore.

For her work with Shore Transit, the area’s first regional public transportation system, she received a Governor’s Citation as well as the Evie Cutler Public Service Award from the Governor’s Committee on the Employment of People with Disabilities. In 2003, the Wicomico County Commission on Women named her one of the area’s Outstanding Women. She has earned accolades from many agencies, including the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce; Lower Shore Workforce Alliance; Maintaining the Aged in the Community (MAC) Inc.; and Wicomico County Recreation, Parks and Tourism.

“The examples of Ruth’s importance and contributions on the quality of life on the Lower Eastern Shore are countless,” said Dr. Memo Diriker, BEACON director. “In my 16 years at SU, I have had the honor and privilege to work with a number of very high-caliber individuals with a very high degree of commitment to community service. Ruth Baker is by far the cream of the cream of that group.”

Dawn Johnson, executive administrative assistant to Dr. Tom Jones, dean of the Richard A. Henson School of Science and Technology, has served SU for 33 years, including more than two decades as an administrative assistant in the Biological Sciences Department.

“She is renowned across this campus for her proficiency in managing the office and in finding ways to save scarce financial resources,” Dudley-Eshbach said. “Her many years of good service are a rarity.”

Through the Henson School, Johnson serves as a resource for some 122 faculty and staff. She also oversees budgets for each of the school’s seven departments and helps train and supervise newly hired staff.

“Managing a large quantity of work with high quality is Mrs. Johnson’s trademark,” said Jones. “She is very task oriented and stays on the job until it is done and is very careful to get things done properly. She is especially gifted in the areas of planning and problem solving.”

“As the University grows, budgets shrink and demands increase,” said Alan Selser, SU associate budget officer. “It has become incumbent on the various deans and directors to be able to plan strategically and to not only allocate but track their personnel and fiscal resources. To that extent, Dawn’s efforts have made her fiscal recordkeeping the benchmark for other academic areas.”

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Vaughn P. White, director of Multiethnic and International Student Services at SU, has has helped provide a welcoming environment for ethnically diverse students for the past 15 years, leading to higher retention and graduation rates.

“Vaughn understands well the challenges faced by students of color who choose to enroll in a predominately white university,” Dudley-Eshbach said. “For these students, many of whom have come from schools where students of color are the majority, this is their first time away from home and in an environment that differs markedly from their prior experience. Vaughn brings sensitivity and skillful programming designed to promote a level of comfort among both students and their families.”

White’s efforts begin before the students even reach SU. Through the Pre-Matriculation Program, students and their families are invited to campus for a weekend of activities prior to the start of the school year. MOSAIC, SU’s new student orientation cultural diversity program, introduces students to the special challenges of college life and existing resources. The Comprehensive Academic Support System provides checkpoints throughout each student’s freshman year to identify any difficulties new students of color may experience.

Along with these programs, White founded SU’s annual Black Student Leadership Conference, designed to recognize and promote leadership skills among African-American students. He serves as advisor to four student groups: the Union of African-American Students, SU’s chapter of the NAACP, The Truth social group and the recently-established Muslim Student Association. He also founded and coordinates SU’s bi-annual African-American Alumni Weekend.

“Vaughn is an excellent mentor to students,” said Dr. Carol Williamson, vice president of student affairs at SU. “He understands their developmental challenges and the issues of excelling in a majority white institution. Consequently, he knows the importance of all students developing an appreciation for the lives they will definitely live together in the 21st century. He is a knowledgeable and creative staff member who gives unlimited days and nights to assist the University in achieving its mission and our students in realizing their dreams.”

In addition to being honored during a ceremony with the Board of Regents, the winners will be recognized during a reception on campus 3-4:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 27, at the Scarborough Student Leadership Center.

For more information call 410-543-6030 or visit the SU Web site at

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