Honorary Alumnus Award
MILLERSVILLE UNIVERSITY HONORARY ALUMNUS AWARD
The Honorary Alumni Award is an award presented by Millersville University Alumni Association to individuals (non alumnus) who have performed continuous exemplary service to the University or made significant contributions of time, talent or wealth to the University. This award was created in 1993.
Living persons who are not classified as an alumnus/na, per University policy are eligible for this award.
Methods of Nomination
Nominations shall be sought from members of the Alumni Association and/or the public by way of announcements in the Millersville Review and other brochures/publications.
Nominations for the award may be made by any person, provided, however, that the Nominations and Awards Committee shall not be limited to the nominations submitted, but may, on its own, add to the list of nominees.
The deadline for nominations is always January 22. All nominations should be submitted via the online form.
Selection of Candidates
The Nominations and Awards Committee shall meet at the call of the Committee Chair to review nominations for the current year.
Number of Recipients
Ordinarily in any given year, no more than one (1) individual shall be honored. Nominations not acted upon in the current year may be held for reconsideration the following year.
Method of Presenting Award
The award will be presented by the President of the MU Alumni Association during the annual University Honors & Awards Convocation. The award recipient will be notified of their award beforehand.
Since joining the Millersville community in 1999, Dr. John Wright has been an influential leader in the Department of Applied Engineering, Safety & Technology. After joining the faculty, Wright started the ATMAE Student Chapter, better known as the MU Robotics Team.
In 2001, the team began designing and building robots to compete in multiple national and international competitions. Each robot takes approximately 4,000 man-hours to create and the team has been successful in winning more than 35 individual awards including six national championships.
Dr. Mehmet Goksu, professor of physics at Millersville, nominated Wright for the Honorary Alumni Award. Goksu was a former lead advisor for the MU Robotics team and has seen Wright spend countless hours working with his students.
“Dr. Wright is a very considerate, kind and tolerant person, and a strong advocate for diversity and fostering an environment of mutual understanding and support,” says Goksu. “He encourages and demonstrates ethical behavior, patience, an integrated view of life, and personal responsibility. He is a true role model to both students and faculty and is selfless with his time and energy.”
In 2015, Wright co-established a new undergraduate degree at Millersville - the automation and intelligent robotics engineering technology (ARET) degree. He is also active in department committees and currently serves as the ARET program coordinator.
Wright’s research interests include semi-autonomous and autonomous mobile robotic development and control, industrial robotics/machine vision, humanoid robotics, programmable logic controllers and systems integration. He has published and presented multiple works and has secured approximately $850,000 in grants and donations to Millersville. Wright is also a Certified Senior Technology Manager (CSTM) by the Association of Technology, Management and Applied Engineering (ATMAE).
Wright has been a part of ATMAE since 1992, where he has held multiple positions from an executive board member to president of multiple divisions within the association. In 2013, ATMAE recognized Wright with The Charles Keith Award, the association's highest honor. The award recognizes those in the field who have significantly contributed their efforts over a significant period of time towards the development of the association. In 2017, he was named an ATMAE Senior Fellow.
2016 HONORARY ALUMNI AWARD RECIPIENT - DR. DENNIS DENENBERG
Dr. Dennis Denenberg is known to many as an expert on heroes.
Dr. Denenberg has earned the title of a hero, in influencing hundreds or maybe thousands of Millersville education students over his 15-year tenure as a professor in the School of Education. Many of these students have benefited from the groundbreaking “Hooray for Heroes” program that he initiated while at Millersville.
“Everyone needs a hero, someone to look up to. There are heroes all around us, in our communities and throughout history,” says Dr. Denenberg, who is a graduate of The College of William and Mary.
Dr. Denenberg cheers on the world’s heroes through his “Hooray for Heroes” program that he took on a national tour after retiring. His purpose was to educate and inform students and their families about the impact of heroes in their lives, reaching out to more than 75,000 parents and teachers in the past 23 years. His book “50 American Heroes Every Kid Should Meet” was featured on USA TODAY and CNN Live.
For Dr. Denenberg, there is one hero whom he knew well in his life, beloved sister Diana Denenberg Durand, (MU, Class of 1967), who battled breast cancer. Sadly, she did not survive. But her brother has taken up the gauntlet by funding the Diana Denenberg Durand Spirit Garden and Statue in the courtyard at Stayer Hall in honor of his sister.
“Diana is the bravest hero I have ever known,” says Dr. Denenberg, who set up and endowed “Diana’s Dreamers: Determined to Defeat Breast Cancer,” which funds a national online collegiate organization to promote awareness among college-aged women and men.
In his sister’s memory, Dr. Denenberg initiated Millersville’s annual October Breast-A-Ville event, which raises breast cancer awareness on campus and will serve as a model for other colleges through Diana’s Dreamers. His book “50 American Heroes Every Kid Should Meet” has been a huge seller, with proceeds going to The Diana’s Dreamers endowment. He also used the net proceeds from his “Hooray for Heroes” speaking engagements to fund the faculty/student lounge in the Stayer Education Building, which honors his parents, Hilda and David Denenberg.
His wonderful Lancaster home features antiques, collectibles, art and a stunning garden, which he graciously shares with administrators, faculty, staff and alumni.
2015 HONORARY ALUMNI AWARD RECIPIENT - GERALD C. ECKERT
Gerald C. Eckert has devoted the majority of his career to being a champion for public higher education and, in particular, for Millersville University. He recently retired as Millersville’s Vice President for University Advancement after almost 30 years.
When he arrived at Millersville in 1985, the total assets of the Millersville University Foundation were approximately $300,000. He concentrated on building a culture of philanthropy and strengthening the delivery of a high quality college experience at a public university. He succeeded. At his retirement, the endowment was valued at an estimated $30 million and Millersville was one of the top ranked public universities in the region. His focus was always directed on the benefits to students and the overall good of the University.
Under his leadership, Millersville University completed three successful campaigns generating more than $150 million that enhanced academic facilities and equipment, and increased annual fund and endowment support for scholarships and programs. Further, University publications, website, news division, special and alumni events were strengthened as well as Millersville’s Foundation and alumni boards. Working with other educational leaders in Pennsylvania, Eckert spearheaded a “public-private” matching funds program in 1992 to be used for renovation and construction of public higher education academic facilities. He assisted with forging a greater presence for the University in the City of Lancaster and led the efforts for the acquisition of the building that is now known as the Ware Center.
In 2012, he was appointed to serve on the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Postsecondary Education. His community activities include board memberships on the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Fulton Opera House, Lancaster Regional Medical Center, the Lancaster Symphony Orchestra, the Pennsylvania State System Advancement Officers, Lancaster Golf Association, the Lancaster Art Museum, Lancaster Library System and the Linden Hall School.
2014 HONORARY ALUMNI AWARD RECIPIENT - HARVEY OWEN
Harvey Owen, a local entrepreneur and leader, took the first Director position at the Ware Center in downtown Lancaster in January 2011. He embodied the Millersville University motto of creativity, innovation and engagement by creating a robust and vibrant performing arts center with something to do almost every night of the week. He programmed film, cabaret, music, dance and visual arts and turned the Ware Center into a destination. He collaborated and partnered with many downtown businesses to cross promote, host events and create sponsorship opportunities for the financial health of the Ware Center. Through his leadership, Harvey took a very painful reminder of a building in bankruptcy to a pillar of the community and an example of the University’s commitment to the arts and this region. Harvey Owen is retiring at the end of July 2014.
Harvey is the most recent past president of the board of trustees of the Fulton Opera House Foundation, where he has served as a trustee for nearly a decade. He has also run his own consultant business in Lancaster since 1998 and has been a mentor for SCORE Lancaster, working for a long list of clients including ASSETS Lancaster, Lancaster Convention Center Authority, LancasterHistory.org, Ephrata Playhouse in the Park, Keystone Cultural Center, the Lancaster Arts Hotel and the Lancaster Museum of Art. Owen has been an executive officer of several corporations including president of Molly’s Operating Corp., in Lancaster, and president/chief operating officer for NSI (a national trade association) and vice president of Gralla Publications in New York City, and chief operating officer of Sportscape, Inc. (a publishing and special events firm) in Massachusetts. He has a bachelor’s degree in business psychology from Wake Forest University.