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Gregory Phelan
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Phone: 607-753-4323
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Chancellor Honors Three Employees

Three SUNY Cortland faculty and staff members will receive the prestigious State University of New York Chancellor’s Award for Excellence during the 2014 Undergraduate Commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 17, at the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex.

The honorees are:

• Marie Blanden, secretary II in the Division of Student Affairs — Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Classified Service;

• Diane Craft ’72, a professor in the Physical Education Department — Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Faculty Service; and,

• Teri Vigars, the assistant director of the Academic Support and Achievement Program (ASAP) — Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Professional Service.

The Chancellor’s Awards provide system-wide recognition for consistently superior professional achievement and encourage the pursuit of excellence at all 64 SUNY campuses. Each campus president submits nominations, which are reviewed by the SUNY Committee on Awards.

This year’s award winners are profiled below:

Marie Blanden

Blanden, a 32-year College employee, becomes the sixth SUNY Cortland recipient of the classified service honor, which was created in 2009 and recognizes outstanding job performance, flexibility, creativity and exemplary customer service.

“Marie is genuinely committed to SUNY Cortland and its students, faculty and staff,” wrote SUNY Cortland President Erik J. Bitterbaum. “She is most generous of her time and she addresses the needs of each individual, providing ‘superior customer service’ at the highest level. She exceeds the criteria for this prestigious award.”

Marie Blanden
Marie Blanden

Blanden first joined SUNY Cortland as a stenographer in the Financial Aid Office. Two years later, she transferred to the Student Affairs Office and was promoted to senior stenographer. In 1989, she was renamed secretary I and in 1991 was promoted to her current position, where she has devoted the past 25 years to serving the needs of all 10 areas within that division of the campus.

Blanden displays her passion and commitment to the College and its student body through her participation in many programs and activities, including Family Weekend, the Tobacco Advisory Committee, the “Paws for Stress Relief” program and the Communities That Care College Connections group.

Blanden also is primarily responsible for compiling and circulating the annual Campus Safety Report. In addition, she co-chairs the Women’s Initiatives Committee and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act Policy Committee. With her extensive knowledge in student affairs and experience as a parent herself, Blanden was invited to present on the parents panel for Family Weekend. She also plays a key role in communicating the significance of Title IX initiatives to the campus and families.

Blanden is commended for her strong communication efforts and the work she has put in to keep families informed of current events at the College. She immerses herself in technology as an effective tool for reaching students’ families.

“Marie’s demeanor is always friendly, approachable and helpful,” Bitterbaum said. “She is a consummate professional and a role model for the campus.”

Diane Craft ’72

Craft is the 11th SUNY Cortland faculty member to receive the Faculty Service Award, which recognizes extensive service and leadership, as well as efforts to assist individual students, the community and the profession at large. Over her 28 years of service to SUNY Cortland’s Physical Education Department, Craft has demonstrated exceptional commitment to professional service, using her expertise to offer individuals with disabilities opportunities for physical activity.

Beyond her responsibilities at SUNY Cortland, her passion is helping preschool children across the country in mastering developmentally appropriate activities.

“My goal is to educate people who work directly with toddlers about what are safe inclusive activities for toddlers,” Craft said. “I help design activities that are safe and that help these young children practice fundamental movement skills.”

Beginning her work with children in the city of Cortland, Craft became aware of the need for preschool children to adopt a healthy lifestyle of movement and mobility. After discovering that few resources existed in the field, she co-authored four books on preschool developmentally appropriate movement activities, including Active Play: Engaging, Enjoyable Physical Activities for Young Children.

Diane Craft '72
Diane Craft '72

Craft is a nationally recognized advocate for preschool physical activity. Her service commitments have impacted the local area, New York state and the nation as a whole.

“Dr. Craft believes that all children should have the opportunity to perfect fundamental movement skills, beginning in the preschool years,” wrote Lynne Oudekerk, retired state director of New York state’s Child and Adult Care Food Program. 

“She has turned her passion into substantial service contributions at the local, state, and national levels,” Oudekerk added. “Through her efforts, hundreds if not thousands of early childhood educators around the United States have learned the importance of including developmentally appropriate physical activity in early childhood programming.”

The quality of Craft’s contributions to the profession is evident from the numerous awards and recognition she has received. In 2005, she was selected as the Outstanding Professional in Adapted Physical Activity by the Adapted Physical Education Council. The New York State Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance selected her for its Amazing Person Award in 2003.

A past president of the National Consortium for Physical Education and Recreation for Individuals with Disabilities, in 2004 she was presented with the organization’s William Hillman Service Award.

Craft received her Bachelor of Science in Physical Education from SUNY Cortland and a Doctor of Philosophy in Physical Education from New York University.

Teri Vigars

A tireless advocate for helping students discover their unique paths to academic success, Vigars is the 25th staff member to receive the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Professional Service.

As the assistant director of SUNY Cortland’s Academic Support and Achievement Program (ASAP), Vigars has devoted the last 14 years to providing academic support to SUNY Cortland students. She designed and developed a highly successful peer-tutoring program through ASAP. Vigars also played a key role in the implementation of the College’s innovative, real-time online tutoring service, which was developed to help all SUNY Cortland students and their different learning styles.

“For Teri, student success is not an abstract measure of GPAs or retention numbers, although she takes assessment very seriously and integrates it into every program,” wrote Jennifer Drake, an academic tutor for ASAP. “She believes that with the right guidance, every student can become an independent learner, despite whatever challenges the student may face.”

Vigars also is one of the visionaries behind the always-popular “Paws for Stress Relief” program. A collaborative effort among several offices on campus, the end-of-semester event brings dogs to campus for finals week stress relief. She also founded and serves as president of Golden Retriever Rescue Operated with Love Statewide (GRROWLS) locally.

Vigars has presented on “Paws for Stress Relief” several times at conferences that include the New York State College Health Association Annual Meeting and the SUNY Cortland Recreation Conference. She continues to provide in-service workshops at other SUNY institutions.

Countless campus groups and committees have benefitted from her work, including the College Assessment Committee, Faculty Senate, the Title IX Committee and the Multicultural Resources Team. Vigars also serves as the faculty advisor to the Omega Phi Beta sorority and the Rainbow Alliance. 

“She is a fine example of someone who demonstrates excellence in professional service beyond the parameters of her job description,” wrote Marilyn Webb, the coordinator of tutoring and accommodations services at Tompkins Cortland Community College. “She is able to see the ‘big picture’ and her wide vision leads to the development, creation and introduction of new programming to timely meet the needs of our students.”