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Biology Major LaCheryl Ball Wins ODU’s Kaufman Prize

The Kaufman Prize, the highest honor given to a graduating Old Dominion University student, was presented to LaCheryl Ball, a biology/pre-veterinary studies graduate from the College of Sciences, during the annual Student Honors and Awards Dinner on Thursday, May 9.

Ball, who is from Richmond, Va., excelled in the classroom and earned undergraduate research honors the past three years from the biological sciences department. She has been doing research at the Virginia Zoo that focuses on squirrel monkeys. Her research in that area - involving puzzle solving to get food, and the way this challenge seems to stimulate the monkeys - led this spring to her selection for a national award from the Charles H. Turner Program of the Animal Behavior Society and the Center for Integrative Study of Animal Behavior.

Throughout her ODU career, Ball has also been extremely active in service, for organizations such as the Virginia Food Bank, the Chesapeake Humane Society and her sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha. The first member of her family to go to college, Ball is headed to veterinary school.

As winner of the Kaufman Prize, Ball receives a $10,000 cash award. First runner-up for the award, Mariam Abdelhamid, also will receive a cash prize.

The Kaufman Prize was established by Landmark Communications Inc. to recognize graduating seniors who have had an exceptional and constructive influence on the university, its students or the community by demonstrating the highest qualities of leadership and service.

Ball named Eric Walters, assistant professor of biological sciences, as her most inspirational faculty member. Walters wrote in a letter of support for her Kaufman Prize application: "Ball is a student I will never forget. ... LaCheryl is a one-of-a-kind dream student that, if one is lucky enough, will come along every decade or so."

Abdelhamid, who will graduate on May 11 with a degree in finance and decision sciences from the College of Business and Public Administration, was president of ODU's Student Government Association for the past year.

From Vienna, Va., Abdelhamid took on a number of service responsibilities along with her studies at the university, including serving as ODU's student representative to the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia and organizer for the 2013 Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. She also was a student volunteer for ODU's Freshman Service Experience.

Abdelhamid named Kelly Alvey, instructor and adviser in decision sciences, as her most inspirational faculty member. In a letter of support for her Kaufman Prize application, Alvey wrote that Abdelhamid was among the best students he has had in his seven years at ODU, especially considering her workload. "Her ability to balance the academic workload of a double major in two business disciplines while serving as the student body president was very impressive," Alvey wrote.

The other four Kaufman Prize finalists were Samantha Vowell, an exercise science/pre-med major; Jocelyn Weidner, an August 2012 nursing graduate; Mairi Buchan, a biology major; and Jon Plisco, an accounting and finance major who graduated in December 2012.

Notably, Buchan, Plisco and Weidner balanced their academic careers and service work with their responsibilities as ODU student-athletes, playing varsity women's basketball, football and women's soccer, respectively.

Following Kaufman's example, all of the nominees demonstrated sustained participation in leadership of campus or community groups, an outstanding record of volunteer activities or academic achievement, or the achievement of a major task affecting the campus or community.

The Kaufman Prize Selection Committee interviews nominees and recommends to President John R. Broderick those to be chosen for the Kaufman Honors and the one person who is to receive the Kaufman Prize.

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