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All award winners standing with certificates on stage

Awards Ceremony Highlights ICC Convocation  

By: Mike Gavin
Published: August 19, 2022

SPINDALE (Aug. 19, 2022) – Eleven Isothermal Community College staff and faculty members were recognized this week for making outstanding contributions to the institution’s learning environment.

The Willard L. Lewis Staff Award, the Tanner Awards, and the Golden Apple Awards were presented Monday when faculty and staff gathered for Convocation 2022 at the Foundation Performing Arts and Conference Center.

The Golden Apple Award>s, given since 2006, recognize college employees who “dedicate their time and talents to create a college environment where learning can flourish.”

The Golden Apple winners were Elizabeth Adams, Clarke Burleson, Jennifer Dale, Gail Ebert, Joel Ekstrom, Anne Hardy, Bobbi Hodge, Tina Porter, Loreen Smith, and Jeff Waters.

The Tanner Awards were presented to Loreen Smith and Gail Ebert. Dr. Thad Harrill, Isothermal’s chief development officer, presented the Tanner Awards.

The Tanner family has been involved with Isothermal since the college’s beginning. S.B. Tanner, Sr., was one of the early supporters of the effort to create the college. His son, the late Jimmy Tanner, was named to Isothermal’s first Board of Trustees in 1964. He continued to serve as a trustee until 2007, distinguishing himself as the longest serving member in the history of that body.

The Lewis Award was presented to Robby Walters, chief information officer and head of Information Technologies.

That award is named for Dr. Willard L. Lewis, the college’s former president, who placed a great emphasis on the importance staff plays in Isothermal’s mission to “improve life through learning.”

“Robby’s door is always open, and he shares his time and expertise freely,” said Stephen Matheny, vice president of Administrative Services, as he recognized Walters. “He is a master juggler! He seamlessly handles a multitude of request from departments across campus. He currently co-leads the Integrative Technology Solutions Team as part of the strategic initiatives of the College. Also, he is leading his team on college-wide initiatives, such as document management through Team IA, the enterprise-resource planning application Coursedog curriculum and catalog manager, the short-term work force development project Destiny One, and the launch of the Single Sign-On project that will allow employees and students to access applications with minimal logins.”


  • Ebert with VP Harrill and President Annunziata
    Gail Ebert, Tanner Award Recipient
  • Smith with VP Harrill and President Annunziata
    Loreen Smith, Tanner Award Recipient
  • Walters with VP Matheny and President Annunziata
    Robby Walters, Lewis Award Recipient

The Golden Apples were presented by Dr. Greg Thomas, Isothermal’s vice president of Academic and Student Affairs.

President Margaret Annunziata was on hand to congratulate the recipients. She also presented a plaque to Leonard Hollifield, who served many years on the Isothermal Board of Trustees and chose not to be reappointed for a new term.

Annunziata also recognized Anne Hardy and Mark Franklin for their work in organizing a workplace learning experience with Trelleborg that involved a student trip to the company’s headquarters in Sweden.

The Golden Apple Award Committee made the selections on criteria including the exhibition of a commitment to excellence; the nurturing of a climate of integrity, care, and respect for individuals; demonstration of initiative to resolve problems or improve processes that benefit the college; demonstration of a cooperative spirit and willingness to help others that exceeds job expectations; and serving as an inspiration to others.

The citations for the recipients follow:

Elizabeth Adams

Criminal Justice InstructorElizabeth exhibits excellence in whatever she does. She desires to connect with her students and co-workers, building relationships that last a lifetime. Elizabeth sets high standards for her students, but understands that students must be developed with encouragement, reinforcement, and scaffolding to help them be able to achieve their goals. She is honest, hard-working and strives to make the Criminal Justice program one to be admired. She never complains and just does what needs to be done. Students have great rapport with Elizabeth and the students request her classes. I also think her willingness to do what is needed without hesitation is noteworthy. She takes the time to listen, and problem solve issues that are beyond her scope of duties. She volunteers to participate in things like Mental Health First Aid to be more prepared to respond to crisis and potential crisis. Elizabeth constantly strives to make her program better for students. She follows proper policy and procedure in dealing with any issues that may arise and always exhibits professionalism. She inspires others to do their best work whether student or colleague. She is dedicated to her students, the program and the College.

Clarke Burleson

IT Helpdesk Support SpecialistClarke’s interactions at the Help Desk are always professional, personal, and on target to help the individual obtain a resolution. He is courteous, listens well, and makes sure he understands the issue. Clarke demonstrates great respect for students and employees. When helping people on the phone, his tone is always kind, patient, and professional. He does not leave calls unanswered, he will call that person back even though they did not leave a message. He does not get frustrated, no matter how many times he has to help folks with the same technical issue. I know that when I refer a student to him, that student will be assisted and in a timely manner. Clarke identified a need for some Microsoft Teams training as part of the strategic planning efforts of the college. Once the need was identified, he put together the workshop content and scheduled the training sessions. He follows through with folks when help is requested and always reaches out to make sure that issues are resolved. He will walk down his hallway 57 times a day to open an unlocked door for employees and students, and most of these visitors are not even there to see him. He's always smiling while walking down that hall.

Jennifer Dale

Polk Center Administrative AssistantJennifer is always willing to go the extra mile. She always lends a helping hand without even having to be asked. She is efficient and her work is always near perfect. Jennifer is the first smiling face people see when they walk into the Polk Center. The students and staff love her and often just want to stop and chat to her about their day. She is a great listener, and the students can tell that she truly cares about them. She has to handle all issues brought to the front desk which vary day to day. She is able to problem solve by using resources, including reaching out for help if she needs it. Jennifer has extensive knowledge of the Polk campus and has help implement processes that have improved the campus. She is a huge team player and is always kind to everyone. She goes above and beyond by making sure that everyone feels appreciated which includes doing small things for birthdays and other events. She inspires everyone around her with her "can do" attitude. Her kindness and professionalism is unmatched. For this and many other reasons, she is deserving of a Golden Apple Award.

Gail Ebert

CustodianGail shows integrity, care, and respect for all just by how he cares for a building. Gail always goes above and beyond to make these buildings and the grounds look the best. Gail always has a great attitude about his work. If we have questions about getting something accomplished maintenance wise, he is able to help us contact the right people. He says hello to everyone and has a smile. We have introduced Gail to the class, and he has told the students he is here to help them in the learning environment. He finds ways to be innovative if we have equipment we can repurpose. He helps make suggestions when we have equipment to put together. If we need an item to help in the classroom, he is quick to see if he has something that will work or make a suggestion as to what might work. He cares about and takes pride in his work. He cares about his coworkers and the students just by how he takes care of the buildings and the grounds. Gail makes a point to ask how we are and what he can do to help us or the students.

Joel Ekstrom

Student Services Advisor & Technology CoordinatorJoel goes above and beyond to assist everyone in the Admissions, Financial Aid, and the Registrar's Office. He is also often called upon by other departments to assist with projects. He wears many hats and works with many different departments across campus pulling data, creating reports that are mission-critical, and assisting with transcript evaluations and transfer credits. Joel does a superior job managing the Federal Work-Study program and is always on his top game when placing students in positions across campus. Joel has a very high moral compass and treats everyone with a high level of respect. Joel wants what is best for the college, but also what is best for the people involved. If there is a process that could be improved by having a report, Joel will create whatever is needed. Joel's persistence has made forms more accessible to students, faculty, and staff across campus. Isothermal has also been able to increase graduation numbers because of Finish First, which has bolstered students' abilities to find jobs and become gainfully employed across the service area. He deserves the Golden Apple award for his many years of service and dedication to Isothermal and its mission.

Anne Hardy

ARC II Grant Coordinator

Anne has carried the Isothermal Community College banner into unexplored territory in preparation for the International Internship Program and the capstone trip to Sweden. There have been continuous obstacles and procedural questions, however Anne's commitment to providing a world-class international learning experience for the students has been focused and unwavering. Her singular focus has been to provide the students with an experience that will enhance their educational goals, enrich their personal lives, and ignite their vocational careers. Anne always engaged the students with respect, while expecting them to be responsible and fulfill the requirements of the program. Her mentorship and coaching skills were evident as the students made the presentation to Trelleborg management. The Engineering Manager at Trelleborg stated that based on the findings presented by the students, Trelleborg would be changing their procedures to determine the frequency of roll grinding for the calendar roll machine. This was a highly rewarding and affirming moment for the students. Although there were numerous opportunities to be frustrated or discouraged throughout the process, Anne maintained a high level of professionalism and a cooperative spirit that allowed her to navigate successfully through each challenge. For these reasons, I believe that Anne Hardy is a worthy recipient of a Golden Apple award.

Bobbi Hodge

Interim Faculty Chair Applied Sciences & Engineering TechnologyBobbi is not satisfied with the status quo. She is continuously suggesting new ways to advance the college in relationships and services to students, businesses, and community partners. She sets high standards for herself and improves the performance of those that have the privilege to work with her. Bobbi takes whatever time is necessary to insure that the needs of the student are being met. Her dedication to and investment of time and energy in her students is a testament to the care and concern she has for their success. Even with all the new administrative responsibilities that she has assumed, her number one priority continues to be the success of her students. Her thorough and timely responses have been an important component in the process of building significant long-term relationships. She is willing to provide whatever support is necessary to meet the requirements and objectives of the College's business and industry partners and this is recognized and appreciated. Her commitment to the College and her students is inspiring and worthy of imitation. Bobbi is a prime example of a servant leader. For all these reasons and more, I believe Bobbi is deserving and representative of the Golden Apple Award!

Tina Porter

Advising CoordinatorTina consistently strives for excellence in everything she does. She is a hard worker who continuously seek ways to improve processes that allows barriers to be removed for students and employees. She exhibits a passion for Isothermal Community College that reflects in her day-to-day activities. She is honest, trustworthy, and well respected by her peers. Tina is a true example of what it means to “improve life through learning,” as she is eager to learn about all aspects of the college and strives to advance this mission onto every student she encounters. She brings a wealth of knowledge in the history of this institution and has been very instrumental in removing barriers for students attempting our very high ranked and competitive nursing program. When the ASC office began to experience an increase in transitions in positions and processes, Tina was the first to step up to take on a leadership role. She volunteered to fill in wherever help was needed. I admire her drive and dedication not only to herself but those she engages. Because of her many great talents and dedication to this institution and students, I believe that she is not only deserving, but acts as an example, of what the Golden Apple award represents.

Loreen Smith

English InstructorLoreen is dedicated to the college and its students. She is always willing to go above and beyond. In addition to her demanding schedule of teaching courses and serving as the lead for the Peer-to-Peer Mentoring program, Loreen agreed to serve as the chief editor for the substantial revisions in the Employee Bridge. The review required her to conduct an in depth review of 20 tutorials that will serve as the on-boarding training for new employees. The review included making sure the content was accurate as well as identifying and fixing any grammar, punctuation, or spelling errors. The time and effort spent making sure that the information was accurate and comprehensible for new employees, shows how much she cares for employees and students. Her initiative to resolve the issues was a great benefit to the Professional Development Committee, as she was able to manage the changes with minimal oversight. She immediately accepted the challenge and completed the review a month before the deadline. Her willingness to go the extra mile and help the college provide high quality training for new employees is one of the many reasons she is deserving of the Golden Apple.

Jeff Waters

Machining InstructorIt is evident that Jeff is devoted to the machining program. He updates the machining lab with innovative technology and participates in continual professional development within the machining industry. He keeps the program up to speed with advanced machining and manufacturing capabilities. Jeff works with students that come from many different points in life and works individually with students to meet them where they are and supports them to become the best machinist they can be. Jeff never hesitates to take the initiative to get things done.

The machining department is often asked to complete projects for the college which Jeff spearheads with a positive attitude. He enjoys participating in outreach events like the Science Expo, job fairs, speaking to high school group tours, and industry partnerships. He is reliable, he shows up and always has an impressive presentation and materials to show prospective students and stakeholders. Jeff understands and appreciates the importance of outreach and we are grateful for this. Jeff is a team player and always willing to do his part for the greater good of the college. His hard work and persistence helped grow his program into something impressive and well represented for the college.