Distinguished Service Awards to honor 2 passionate employees dedicated to student success

Contact: Erin Flynn

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Kerrie Jo Harvey and Dr. Sarah Summy will receive Distinguished Service Awards during Western Michigan University's Fall Convocation on Friday, Sept. 16.

"These individuals exemplify service leadership in their daily routines. They were nominated and selected for this award because they stand out among their peers for being engaged, selfless and committed to innovative and effective programming," says Dr. Christopher Cheatham, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs.

Both award recipients have touched thousands of lives in their tenure at the University. Harvey, advisor senior in Lee Honors College, has held a variety of roles related to supporting students over her 27 years at Western. Summy, professor and program coordinator in the Department of Special Education and Literacy Studies and Faculty Senate president, has taught at Western for 24 years.

"Their commitment to service elevates the University’s reputation beyond the campus and into the larger community, not just locally but nationally and globally," Cheatham adds. "It is truly an honor to recognize each of this year’s awardees."

The Distinguished Service Awards will be presented at Fall Convocation along with six other prestigious campuswide honors: the Distinguished Faculty Scholar, Emerging Scholar, Distinguished Teaching, Excellence in Diversity, Global Engagement and Make a Difference awards. The event begins at 11:30 a.m. in the North Ballroom on the second floor of the Bernhard Center. A luncheon will follow at 12:15 p.m.


A portrait of .

Kerrie Jo Harvey

Since joining Western as career development and cultural activities coordinator for the TRIO Student Success Program in 1995, Harvey has made her mark, transforming student lives with care and purpose. Her "immense contributions'' span many corners of campus, from the Center for Academic Support Programs and Office of International Student and Scholar Services to advising roles in the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Fine Arts.

Whether advocating for various student populations and their needs; supporting and developing the Intellectual Skills Development Program; facilitating advisor training; or designing a career-mentoring program for an at-risk student population, Harvey is "a consummate professional who focuses on the positive outcomes, the best possible alternatives and a win-win for those involved," says Marilyn Kritzman, faculty specialist in the School of Communication.

"Her ingenuity, her dedication, her breadth of knowledge (and) her kindheartedness all contribute to WMU's success," adds Dr. Susan Pozo, director of Global and International Studies and professor of economics.

Several current and former students supporting Harvey's nomination noted she helped them overcome challenges and turn their academic careers around. James T. Brand, a pediatric audiologist who graduated from Western in 2017 with a degree in biomedical sciences, says Harvey put him on the path to success after a rocky start.

"I had nearly conceded (the) fact that maybe I wasn't meant for higher education. Ms. Harvey did not let me hold onto that fallacy for long," he says. "She went above and beyond to help me develop the tools I needed to be academically successful and the confidence to be proud of myself."

It was in a field experience course taught by Harvey, in fact, that Brand found the support he needed to explore careers in the healthcare field and identify an area he was passionate about. He also watched many fellow Broncos blossom under Harvey's guidance when he worked with her in Disability Services for Students.

"Her support of students with disabilities was nothing short of amazing. In her firm but thoughtful approach to problem-solving and empowering students, I observed many others benefit from her unique talents," he says. "In a world of higher education, when we sit in meetings and brainstorm how we can support and retain historically underrepresented students, Ms. Harvey is quietly doing so from her desk with a smile."

"The best way to describe Kerrie is this: She cares. She cares deeply about student success, coworker success, faculty success and the success of Western Michigan University," adds Jan Tiderington, former international admissions officer and academic advisor.


A portrait of Sarah Summy.

Dr. Sarah Summy

From influencing future educators in her classes to leading Universitywide initiatives, Summy's work at Western is hard to quantify.

"It would take many pages to adequately describe all of her work," says Dr. Kristal Ehrhardt, interim dean of the College of Education and Human Development. "One thing is clear: It is well known throughout the University that if you seek a faculty member to participate in University service—someone who will exhibit dedication, commitment and who will consistently ensure that work is completed in a timely fashion—Sarah Summy should be at the top of your list."

Summy joined Western's faculty in 1998 as an assistant professor of special education, focused on empowering future educators.

"Students appreciate the passion she brings to the classroom and the compassion and expertise with which she interacts with them as an advisor, mentor and clinical supervisor," says Laura Ciccantell, director of teacher certification.

Summy has also played an active role outside the classroom as a member or leader of numerous committees and councils related to assessment, professional and curriculum development and strategic planning. She has also been part of Western's Faculty Senate for nearly 20 years, most recently elected to serve as president from 2022-24.

Nominators point to her immense service contributions to the University, such as helping secure millions of dollars in funding through grant writing and establishing "strong and long-lasting relationships with key stakeholders." She also played a critical role in the development of WMU Essential Studies, which was highlighted in the reaffirmation of Western's accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission last spring.

"The untold hours of work she has invested in moving this curriculum from concept to the implementation cannot be overstated," says Dr. Suzan Ayers, professor and chair of the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences. "To say that Dr. Summy is 'the whole package' would be an obvious understatement."

Summy was awarded the WMU Distinguished Teaching Award in 2013.

"Dr. Summy continues to impress upon me the impact that service can make," adds Dr. Rena VanDerwall, assistant professor in the Department of Special Education and Literacy Studies. "Through her leadership and support, she is not only making her own contributions but is developing the next generation of faculty to continue in the same vein."

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