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Founders' Day Event Honors University, Community Service

By Brendan O'Hallarn

At Old Dominion's 30th Founders' Day luncheon Oct. 21, three recently retired University employees were honored, along with four citizen leaders who have helped encourage an inclusive, diverse Hampton Roads community.

The University co-hosts Founders' Day each year with Town-N-Gown, an independent, informal association of men and women dedicated to developing a mutual understanding between Old Dominion and civilian and military communities of Hampton Roads.

Awards were presented for service at the luncheon that was held in the Big Blue Room of the Ted Constant Convocation Center, under the slogan "building the future - honoring our past."

After a video highlighting current and future campus construction projects - with each building greeted by a round of applause from attendees - President John R. Broderick presented Lucien Lombardo, professor emeritus of sociology and criminal justice, with the Old Dominion University Community Service Award.

Broderick said Lombardo's passion for the welfare of children inspired he and long-time collaborator Karen Polonko - who died of cancer in August - to found a program that gained worldwide attention and helped lead to the banning of corporal punishment in 49 countries.

"Dr. Lombardo collaborated with Dr. Polonko for the student organization In Support of Children in 1991," President Broderick said. "This organization set out to change social norms around corporal punishment with its motto, 'It's never OK to hit a child.'"

Two other long-time University administrators, who both retired Sept. 1, shared the Monarch Legacy Award, which was created to recognize members of the Old Dominion community who positively impact campus.

Lenora Thompson retired as director of counseling services after 37 years in that office. Dana Burnett, retired after 44 years in various roles, including vice president of student affairs, director of financial aid and career placement and professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Counseling.

Cecelia Tucker, the University's special assistant to the president for community engagement, said Thompson, "wore many hats with her students, from confidant to mentor, personal adviser and even big sister to some." Tucker said Burnett, "will not be forgotten by generations of students who considered him a friend, mentor and leader."

The Town-N-Gown Rita M. Costello Community Service Award was also presented to two individuals: Rev. Curtis W. Harris, who founded a mentor outreach program in Hampton; and William A. Hunton, who founded the oldest, independent historically African-American YMCA still in existence in the United States.

"This year, as with the Monarch Legacy Award, we couldn't choose just one honoree. We are honored to recognize two individuals, both doing outstanding work with organizations in our community," said Bet Cake, a representative of Town-N-Gown.

T. Richard Litton Jr. and Audra Bullock, founders of Norfolk Friends of Foster Care, were presented the Albert B. Gornto Jr. Regional Service Award.

Litton and Bullock opened their home to foster children within the Norfolk Department of Human Services in 2015 and have steadily increased their involvement in foster care programs in Norfolk. This year, they founded Norfolk Friends of Foster Care with the belief that every child deserves a happy and healthy childhood.

The organization has partnered with students in the Strome College of Business and College of Arts and Letters to develop a marketing and media campaign to recruit new foster families.

Founders' Day honors the visionary individuals who helped create what would become Old Dominion 86 years ago, and promotes the University and the many services it offers by encouraging community engagement and giving to its various constituencies.

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