Winners of the Division of University Engagement Spring 2021 Awards

The Division of University Engagement annually recognizes students, faculty, staff, and community partners that have excelled in their work to advance the engagement of Indiana State University with the community.  For the Spring 2021 awards, the Division chose to acknowledge individuals, businesses, and non-profit organizations that have risen above and beyond expectations to help the University and local community get through pandemic.  The Division of University Engagement is pleased to announce the following award recipients and honorable mention recipients for the Spring 2021 awards.


The Innovation Award is given to a Wabash Valley business (for-profit or non-profit) that successfully created or launched a new business, product, or service during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The winner of the Innovation Award is the United Way of the Wabash Valley and Wabash Valley Community Foundation. Over the past year, the United Way of Wabash Valley and Wabash Valley Community Foundation reacted swiftly to the pandemic knowing the need from community organizations and people in our communities would be more dire than ever before. These teams reacted swiftly and formed a joint COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund that supported Vigo, Clay, Parke, Sullivan, Clark and Vermillion counties. Bridging their resources (people and financial expertise), they created a system that provided ongoing support that benefitted thousands of people in the Wabash Valley. Throughout the year they have engaged our communities to provide support to others while also continuously finding revenue sources to continue this support. These organizations answered the call of service and excelled in supporting our community in an innovative and collaborative way.

Two Honorable Mention Innovation Awards also have been given.

The first Honorable Mention recipient is Jacqueline Ruff and Claudine Hann, owners of  Fifi’s Lunch Box.  Fifi’s Lunch Box pivoted hard at the onset of the pandemic.  They closed the dining room, stopped taking cash at one point, and streamlined their curbside pickup and delivery services.  These are all things you might expect of a good business.  What was not necessarily expected was Fifi’s offering an option of buying dinners for local heroes like nurses, first responders, and healthcare workers.  This action sets them above the crowd and demonstrated how a business can not only pivot, but make an impact in our community while they do it.

The second Honorable Mention Innovation Award goes to Kelsey Terry, Founder/Owner/Instructors of Common Ground Yoga. Over the last year, everyone’s mental and physical health has been tested repeatedly. With their doors closed, the team at Common Ground, led by owner Kelsey Terry, reinvented the way clients and Common Ground engage, work out, communicate and practice yoga. Kelsey launched an online community during the shutdown, along with the opportunity to access OnDemand videos and an entire library of options, along with continuing to offer a great experience for those who choose to practice in-studio or at home. Her original business model that was created five years ago (in-studio with 20 people) is no longer a reality, but because of Kelsey’s business mind and commitment to her student’s wellness, she’s found a way to not only survive but thrive during this time.


The Unsung Hero Award is given to an individual of the Wabash Valley, including members of the ISU community, who demonstrated an extraordinary commitment and went beyond the call of duty in service to their community and/or company during the pandemic.

The winner of the Unsung Hero Award is Dr. Michael Williamson, an assistant professor in the Department of Applied Engineering and Technology Management. During the height of the pandemic, Dr. Williamson organized a fundraiser and wrote grants to obtain enough food to feed 125 families per day in his hometown.  This funding lasted for two months helping many children whose parents had lost their service-based jobs due to restaurants closing and were unable to apply for governmental aid due to the governmental offices closing.  The food helped families survive until remote computer stations were established to help the unemployed apply for federal funding. Dr. Williamson also stepped up to help k-12 students learn when they were faced with remote learning during the pandemic.  Dr. Williamson obtained funding through grants and donations that allowed for the setup of six remote learning sites for students.  The remote learning sites provided students with reliable internet, a computer to download, print, and submit assignments school assignments.  Post pandemic the computers and other equipment obtain will be donated to the public library for use with the after-school program which promotes learning and development of our youth. The after-school program targets at-risk and minority children. Dr. Williamson recently organized a blood drive to help fill the shortfall during the pandemic.  The drive collected enough blood to save 78 lives.

Six Honorable Mention Unsung Hero Awards also have been awarded.

Jennifer Mullen, Senior Instructor of Communication, is recognized for her extraordinary commitment to the Terre Haute and ISU communities.  Throughout the pandemic Jennifer continued to provide leadership for 12 Points redevelopment and local clean-up efforts.  She was a dancer in the 2020 Dancing with the Terre Haute Stars fundraiser for Chances and Services for Youth.

Courtney Chipol, Program Director of the West Central Indiana Small Business Development Center is recognized for her role as an unsung hero in the Wabash Valley region, within the Indiana Small Business Development Center network, and the ISU community. Courtney volunteers for many organizations, writes grants that directly impact the Wabash Valley, and goes far beyond what is expected of her in any of the roles. In addition, she involves her children and shows them what it means to be an active community member. Courtney’s current volunteer experience includes FSA Counseling Center (board president); West Central COVID-19 Emergency Response Team (member); Purdue Extension Board of Directors (vice president); Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors (member); Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce Ambassador Group (chair); Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Task Force (co-chair); Juneteenth Terre Haute Day (volunteer); Terre Haute Lemonade Day (volunteer); Saint Patrick School Marketing Committee (member); and United Way of Wabash Valley (volunteer). Courtney is an effective advocate for small business development in the Wabash Valley and loves helping people when they need support.  Courtney was nominated by a small business owner whom she helped open a business during the pandemic.

Joey O’Rourke, Owner/Broadcaster of WMMC Radio 105.9 is recognized for his efforts to cover local sporting events during the pandemic.  Joey is a life-long resident of the Wabash Valley, graduating from Marshall High School and from Indiana State University in 2011 with a BS in Communications. Last year, Joey became the owner of the local radio station WMMC Radio 105.9. With the restrictions in place for extra-curricular activities during the pandemic, especially in regards to fans, Joey stepped up in a remarkable way to provide coverage for numerous sports teams at venues across the Wabash Valley. His broadcasting team covered the Wabash Valley Classic Tournament, high school and junior high athletic contests for West Vigo, Marshall, Casey-Westfield, Martinsville, and Paris, providing live-stream video feeds and audio commentary whenever possible, allowing parents and fans to be courtside for games and contests they otherwise would not have been able to view. He’s done all of this for these communities without charging a dime, simply because he saw the need, realized he could provide a service, and acted.

Amber Stinson, Community Specialist with the Vigo County Public Library is recognized for efforts to continue to serve library clients throughout the pandemic, including when the library was closed.  Amber rose to the challenge and exceeded expectations of bringing up-to-date, accurate information to the public while ensuring vital functions of the library took place.  She also volunteers with Leadership Connect and holds a graduate assistantship with ISU’s Packaging Technology program, all while pursuing her Master’s degree in Communication from ISU.

Bob Bowen, Owner of Bob Bowen Ford is recognized for always going above and beyond for the Wabash Valley community.   As an ISU Alum and Terre Haute native, Bob has been an advocate for young professionals and aided countless Sycamores in their search for a professional career while giving back to a variety of non-profit institutions to help students, organizations, and the community grow.  Bob also actively encourages, as well as motivates, community members with physical and mental disabilities.

Ardell Sanders, Associate Director of Residential Life at ISU, is recognized for his support to ISU students who were quarantined and isolated on campus due to COVID-19. On a daily basis and in person, Ardell provided the students with food, personal items, clean laundry, and other material resources.  He also provided a familiar face with whom to consult during their quarantine or isolation.  Ardell readily took on this job with a heart to serve fellow Sycamores and a commitment to keep students safe and healthy.


The University Engagement Resilience Award is given to a Wabash Valley business (for-profit or non-profit) that demonstrated the ability to adapt and persevere during the pandemic.  The ideal candidate is a business that continued to serve the Wabash Valley community despite extreme adversity.  Nominees for this award must have been established for a minimum of five years.

The Resilience Award has been awarded to two recipients.  The first recipient is Sarah Dyer and the staff of Maple Avenue Tree House Childcare Ministry.  Throughout the pandemic, Sarah Dyer and the dedicated staff at Maple Avenue Tree House Childcare Ministry kept their doors open and continuously provided safe childcare to families of first responders, essential workers, and others. Not only did they safely remain open to provide their regular services, but they also extended their services to include care and support for school-aged children. Their extended services provided more than just childcare for these children. Services also included academic support and tutoring for their remote learning assignments. During this time of fear, stress, and heightened concerns, the resilience of Sarah and the staff at Maple Avenue Tree House Childcare Ministry provided a safe environment and consistent support which alleviated some of the extra stress and pressure experienced by families during the pandemic.

The second recipient is the DeBaun Funeral Home. Like funeral homes around the world, the DeBaun Funeral Home was challenged to meet the growing need for their services during the pandemic. This 4th generation funeral home has had to adapt to the growing need for cremations. With the greater number of deaths, the demand for more cremations has lead the funeral home to add another crematory. They did this while putting their engagement with families first and continuing to be a source of comfort during a highly stressful period.

Four Honorable Mention Resilience Awards also have been given.

Jamie McDowell, Director of Operations for the Terre Haute Children’s Museum, was nominated for his partnership with the ISU College of Technology.  The College of Technology has a long-standing partnership with the Terre Haute Children’s Museum for Engineers Week.  During the pandemic, University faculty and staff did not know if it was possible to continue the partnership.  Jamie provided ideas and opportunities to continue the partnership through the use of social media videos.  They worked together to highlight museum exhibits and programs and opportunities from the College of Technology.  It was an excellent approach to reach both parents and students without being in person.

Cheyne O’Laughlin, the owner of Charlie’s Pub and Grub, is recognized for their ability to pivot to continue to serve the greater Wabash Valley community by adapting their business to continue to accept take-out orders, as well as creating a drive-up service where patrons could be served while remaining in their vehicles.  When restaurants were allowed to reopen, they made sure that social distancing was followed by disallowing certain tables to be used (or moving the tables if they were movable), installing new filtration systems, requiring all patrons to wear masks if not seated and eating/drinking, installing hand sanitizing measures in all restrooms, etc.

Reverend Dawn Black, Campus Minister for United Campus Ministries, is recognized for her work with the Student Food Pantry. While the school and the entire community were shut down, UCM and Pastor Black adapted to be able to continue to support students and the community.  They kept the Student Food Pantry operating and providing much-needed services to the students, especially those that were “stranded” on campus due to Covid 19 travel restrictions. She took orders from students and delivered food to them individually.  She put together “care packages” for needy students and distributed those. She also regularly held “conversations” on Zoom to enable the students to feel connected and have a support system.

Cathy and George Azar, the owners of the Saratoga Restaurant are recognized for their commitment to keeping their business open during the pandemic. The Saratoga Bar and Grill has been serving the Terre Haute community since 1942.  The current owners have done everything they can to keep their business open and their employers working during these very extreme difficult times.  The establishment has been for many years a supporter of ISU and the university’s programs, faculty, staff, and students.