The awards are considered among the University’s top honors for individual achievement.
The winners were announced during the Elmhurst University 2023 Student Leadership Awards, held earlier this month. A number of awards were given out during the ceremony, which celebrates campus leaders, organizations and initiatives that support student success and enhance the student experience.
Among the University’s oldest and most prestigious, the three Founders Awards recognize self-initiated service that brings about change and embodies humane values. One Founders Award is given for service to the campus community; the second is given for service to the greater society; and the third, the Cureton Award, is given for service to the global community. Candidates are nominated by members of the University community.
- The Founders Award for Service to the University Community was given to Doodly Garcia, a first-generation college student from Bensenville, Ill., who majored in accounting and finance. Garcia played a leadership role in a variety of student organizations, including Student Government Association and the Accounting, Finance and Economics Club. She says that some of the greatest lessons she learned at Elmhurst were not in the classroom but “through service and commitment to the Elmhurst community.”
- The Founders Award for Service to the Greater Society was given to Allison Skiple, a first-generation college student from Des Plaines, Ill., who majored in communication sciences and disorders, with minors in Spanish and psychology. Skiple found her passion for social responsibility through her work at the York Literacy Project, which fosters reading, writing and comprehension skills among underserved elementary students. In 2022, she received a $2,500 grant from the Phi Kappa Phi honor society to support the work of the York Literacy Project.
- The Cureton Award for Service to the Global Community was given to Wesley Nay, an urban studies and sociology major who lives in Broadview, Ill. Nay, who moved to Chicago from Vietnam when he was 7, has a passion for social justice from a global perspective. A member of the Honors Program, he held a population research fellowship with the University of Wisconsin and was part of DePaul University’s Labor Education Fellowship for Worker Justice. He also volunteered with the Night Ministry, Chicago Hopes for Kids, and the Reader Mansion House in England.
Bluejay of the Year
The Bluejay of the Year award is given to a student who clearly demonstrates what it means to be an Elmhurst Bluejay. The honoree is welcoming and enthusiastic, heavily involved in campus life, and holds integrity in high esteem. This year’s Bluejay of the Year is Jonathan Zapinski, an actuarial science and finance major from Southlake, Texas. A four-year letter winner for the Elmhurst men’s basketball team, Zapinski also has garnered multiple academic honors throughout his career. He is a two-time CCIW Elite 26 award recipient, given to the student-athlete with the highest academic standing at the year’s conference championship; and won the NCAA’s Elite 90 award in 2022, the highest academic achievement in an individual’s sport. On the court, Zapinski is the all-time blocks leader in Elmhurst history.
Senior of the Year
The highly sought-after Senior of the Year award honors the senior who typifies the Elmhurst University graduate—someone who excels in academics and campus involvement, and is passionate about continuing the Elmhurst University tradition. Selected by a special committee of the Elmhurst University Alumni Association, this year’s winner is Hiba Anees, a special education major from Woodridge. Among her many accomplishments, Anees was president of the Student Government Association, a member of the Muslim Student Association, a peer advisor for first-year students, and a life coach and advisor for students in the Elmhurst Learning and Success Academy. She also is a 2022 recipient of the Abraham Lincoln Civic Engagement and Student Laureate Award. Anees defines the Elmhurst spirit as an abundance of positivity, generosity and acceptance; and says that spirit can be reflected in giving back to her alma mater, profession and community.