TTU's Leimer, Ward win THEC Love Awards for community service

Tennessee Tech University professor Wayne Leimer and student Stephanie Ward have at least two things in common.

Their volunteer work knows no boundaries, having taken them from their own communities to remote villages in South and Central America — and because of those efforts, they have each been honored with the Tennessee Higher Education Commission’s highest award for community service.

Recently named winners of THEC’s 2005 Rep. Harold Love Outstanding Community Involvement Award, Leimer and Ward are two of five faculty/staff members and five students selected for the honor from all of Tennessee’s colleges and universities.

Leimer, a professor of Earth sciences, and Ward, a senior English major, demonstrate ways to coordinate their many roles in life so that they can best serve their communities.

Wayne Leimer’s community service projects have taken him from Boy Scouts to Brazil.

He founded the Merit Badge University Program at TTU in 1986, which allows Boy Scouts to participate in one of more than 30 professional skill centers — ranging from archaeology to engineering — and earn merit badges at the end of the daylong session.

“Since that time, the program has flourished and has brought together thousands of Boy Scouts, university faculty and staff, student volunteers, community leaders and other professionals,” said TTU President Bob Bell. “It has truly become a successful community event, due to a large extent to Dr. Leimer’s contributions.”

About 500 Boy Scouts and 200 troop leaders and other adult supervisors from as far as Kentucky, Georgia and Alabama attended TTU’s latest MBU program earlier this year — and the event has spread to other parts of the state and country, with Leimer serving in an advisory capacity to other communities establishing their own MBU programs.

“He has made a difference in the lives of these young men who attend the program, who in turn, will make a difference in the world,” Bell said.

It’s his faith, however, that’s central to Leimer’s being, says TTU Financial Aid Director Ray Holbrook. A Baptist church deacon, Leimer has served on a number of church committees and has done mission work, helping the underprivileged in Brazil.

“Whether on an international service program to build a church or in the living room of a fellow church member in need, Wayne humbly but effectively brings calm, healing and peace,” Holbrook said. “Wherever Wayne goes, things are better there. He enriches. He completes. He finishes. He brings success as a partner to all those around him.”

Bell agreed, saying, “He has dedicated his life to improving the lives of our youth and has left our community and world better than it was.”

Stephanie Ward has found the delicate balance for being a successful student and volunteer.

“She is not only an exceptional person who possesses an outstanding academic record (She has a 3.9 grade point average.), but she is also a compassionate person who gives generously of her time to others through her volunteer work, both at the university and in the community,” Bell said.

“Being an excellent student is a very time-consuming process and requires a delicate balance, but Stephanie has found this balance and gives of her time and energy to being a strong advocate for human rights,” he continued.

Ward’s volunteer activities have included visiting senior citizens in nursing homes, assisting special education elementary students, collecting books to help local Hispanic children learn English and serving as a Rotary Cultural Ambassadorial Scholar to Quito, Ecuador.

During her stay in Ecuador, where she lived with a host family and attended a language school, she brought educational supplies to a poor, indigenous rainforest village that could be reached only by rafting down a river and walking inland.

As a co-coordinator of TTU’s Students for Human Rights Club, she helped create awareness of the suffering in Sudan, where more than 70,000 people have been killed and 1.5 million displaced since February 2003. She also organized a forum and silent auction fundraiser that netted a donation of more than $800 for Doctors Without Borders.

“I’m impressed with Ms. Ward’s caring nature and her commitment of time, energy and talent to serve others,” said Deanna Nipp, faculty advisor of the Students for Human Rights Club.

Bell agreed, saying, “We’re taught from our youth and throughout our lives that it’s better to give than to receive. It’s especially rewarding as a university president to see students who continually give back to the community, and Stephanie is certainly one of these students.”

Leimer and Ward each received a $1,000 award from THEC for his or her service.

Previous award winners from TTU include Decision Sciences and Management Professor Stuart (Doc) Wells, Curriculum and Instruction Professor Margaret Phelps, Health and Physical Education Professor LeBron Bell, Basic Business Adviser Katie Kumar and students Lucas Yeary, Noreen Grisolano, Anna LaBar, Destiny Locke and Genetta Gibson.

Previous staff winners include Sue Ellen Carter, Mary Ann Cummins, Pat King and Gay Shepherd.