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NIRSA 2007 Honor Award presentation

Introductory remarks by Sam Hirt, CRSS, Vanderbilt University, 2004 Honor Award recipient

Sam Hirt presents the 2007 Honor Award

Good Evening!

Thank you, President Maureen, for your introduction and to all of you for your kind welcome.

It is indeed an honor to be here and to announce this year's (2006-2007) Honor Award recipient. There is an appropriate committee that performs the task of the selection process. This year's committee was comprised of:

  • Ms. Pat Besner, University of Toledo, Chair 2006-07 Honor Award Committee
  • Ms. Darcy Bingham, University of California, San Diego
  • Mr. Matt Specht, Northeastern Illinois University
  • Mr. John Meyer, University of Colorado
  • Ms. Kiki Alexander, NIRSA National Center Liaison

Thank you, Honor Award Committee, for your service.

Our winner this year is a person well anchored, not one to waiver on their philosophy or wander about in searching for their professional home. As a child, a formidable persevering competitor. In college, almost a flower child, a touch with a poetic turn of phrase. That's a picture that is hard to imagine here and now. I wasn't there to observe it, but I do know our winner is a product of institutions with a heritage of challenging their students to think broadly and analytically - a lesson well learned by the winner.

Yogi Berra once said, "You can observe a lot by just watching." Well, I have been enthusiastically watching our honoree in our NIRSA for the past 34 years. Our honoree moved into the profession ready to climb the ladder of success and ready to give and has been tirelessly adept in achieving both for the length of her or his distinguished career. The winner’s gifts, administrative commitment to programs of excellence; to serving and honoring students; to mentoring and building colleagues; and to being a servant leader of vision at their institution, in their state, and with the NIRSA. All the winner’s gifts were and are delivered without expectation of personal recognition or return, and all these gifts will continue to give for years to come because they represent investments in people and their hopes. Our honoree does not enjoy having "eyes" on her or him; what they do and strive for is done because it is the right thing to do from their perspective, not because it gains them some time in the limelight. But tonight is a time to shine the spotlight on a special career and colleague, so suck it up honoree; here we come revealing you to the eager hearts of your peers!

Out of graduate school and into an assistant director position - at a not too small place - it will take time to reach the next career step on the ladder - big place, big staff - it takes time for promotions ... not for our honoree, just four short years and a new title of Associate Director appears on her or his name tag! Work and build, work, build and dream - ten short years later and our Associate Director is now a Director! Nearly 20 years of dedication in building a top-notch, nationally recognized program and respected professional reputation does not go unnoticed. The ladder becomes an extension ladder as our talented honoree is called upon by their institution to bring her or his talents to an even broader audience as an Associate Vice President!

It has been said that "leadership is action, not position!" And our honoree epitomizes this ideal and also the first act of leadership is sacrifice. Our honoree is a real persuasive people person - the kind of person who is able to sell ice cream to a person shivering on the street corner without a coat on a windy Minneapolis winter day. Building collegial friendships comes naturally - southern hospitality I suppose. Story: it's the first conference for an unnamed NIRSA newcomer, but our honoree warmly greets the solo professional at the airport: "Hey, hop a cab with us and join our staff in enjoying the conference and socials" - a long-ago memory that has lasted a lifetime for the newcomer now turned "old NIRSA pro"!

Our honoree is:

  • Universally respected in their region and in our association as a student advocate and builder of young professionals.
  • Described by peers as a demanding yet supportive and loyal peer, supervisor, supervisee and friend.
  • Ever serving as a modest model of giving and creating opportunities.
  • A visionary.
  • Giving to NIRSA - our winner has been in the trenches of too many committees to restate, but some of the more visionary contributions include:
    • Repeat host institution for Soccer and Volleyball club championships in their infancy
    • Building future expectations of excellence for participants and other NIRSA members for club championship facilities, staff and event management. A hard act to follow!
    • Frequent Sport Club Symposium presenter - building respect and standards for an ever-growing program area of interest to students and the association.
    • Facility guru – the whole package - building, renovating, presenting, consulting, authoring, editing, teaching - carrying the wisdom back to benefit the entire campus community as well - if the topic was facilities, you were likely to come across the honoree's name someplace in the discussion or article!

Our honoree is also fully engaged in community volunteerism and cares deeply about the plight of those less fortunate and is a champion for fairness and equality. Business acumen - visionary - creating a new paradigm for our future – what if?! The honoree saw the current and future boom in building campus recreational facilities; knew the Association’s desire to build a relevant Foundation endowment to support future recreational pursuits; and also understood the impact our Association’s growth would have on sport related corporations. As Chair of the NIRSA Foundation Board, the honoree proposed and created a bond between the executives of these sport-related corporations and the NIRSA Foundation, a bond that created a financial leap to relevancy for the Foundation. The growth of our nest egg endowment dollars was so significant that it also inspired NIRSA professionals to step up to the plate to give and created additional incentives to draw greater contributions from all Association members (a challenge that past boards had been struggling to solve).

After an extended stay with the Foundation Board, to ensure that this vision was well on its way to completion, the honoree once again stepped forward to offer their business skills and vision to help shape and grow the NIRSA Services Corporation.

Our honoree has one standard for assignments and that standard is excellence. Our honoree, the keynote speaker, was recently introduced at a major university event as an ‘icon’ in the Student Affairs administration. That word startled him/her after looking up the definition after the celebration. I agree with the definition and disagree with our honoree's feeling that they were not deserving of this comparison. Our honoree may not enjoy having "eyes" on him/her but the Great State of Texas has twice honored him/her with the "Eyes of Texas" Leadership award.

Albert Einstein once said: "try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value." Our honoree tonight has achieved both. There is no doubt in my mind you all know who our honoree is this evening - that beaming face with a twinkle of mischief in his/her eye, the quiet professional gentle person from Texas - a colleague who received an overwhelming land swell of letters of support for this special recognition - as a previous Honor Award winner stated in his letter of nomination, "he/she is the kind of person who will bring ‘honor’ to the award.” It is my great pleasure to introduce our winner for the NIRSA 2006-2007 Honor Award:

Mr. Tom Dison

Tom Dison’s acceptance speech

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