University of Mary Washington senior Ahad Shahid won the Grace Mann Launch Award during the annual Eagle Awards ceremony that recognized more than a dozen outstanding students in the University Center’s Chandler Ballroom Thursday night.
Cedric Rucker, associate vice president and dean of Student Life, presented the $7,100 award to Shahid to help in his post-college social justice advocacy work.
“The family has established an endowment to provide an annual financial award to a UMW graduation senior who will be going out into the world and doing the good that Grace would have done,” Rucker said. Grace Mann was a junior student leader and social justice activist who died in 2015.
Shahid “has a passion for wanting marginalized members of this community to feel comfortable and included, and his activism on campus has reflected it,” Rucker said.
Shahid has served in a host of organizations on campus, including the Student Government Association Senate, where he was chair of the ethics and conduct committee. He has also worked with the Multicultural Leadership Council, the RISE Peer Mentor Program, the UMW Peer Mentor Program, the Islamic Student Association and the James Farmer Multicultural Center, among others.
He helped organize a meal program that provides food for needy families in Fredericksburg and volunteered as an Outdoor Lab Camp counselor. He did groundskeeping on the Rappahannock River Heritage Trail and performed a host of duties for Washington Heritage Museums.
But Shahid said he enjoyed most his work with Brothers of a New Direction, a support system for men of color that also works to strengthen community participation. As the group’s president, he helped create a Social Justice Series in concert with the James Farmer Multicultural Center called Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Shahid said he was inspired by Martin Luther King’s 1967 Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?
“[King] argued that radical change within a nation starts with individual people, and it stuck with me,” Shahid wrote in his award application.
Shahid’s “talents in digital filmmaking, imaging and historic preservation helped to create an impactful video highlighting the harsh truth that black citizens and other disenfranchised groups go through to find justice in the United States,” Rucker said. “This video presentation allowed students and faculty to speak openly about their feelings regarding the current social and political climate in this country.”
Shahid, a communication and digital studies major, plans to continue his social activism after graduation, Rucker said. “Ahad Shahid is truly a committed, impactful, outgoing, organized and socially-aware individual. I have no doubt that he will succeed.”
Shahid is the third winner of the Grace Mann Launch Award. Past recipients include Brittany Greene and Megan Blosser.
Two students received Prince B. Woodard Awards Thursday night, which recognize excellence, contributions to the greater community and the qualities of honesty and integrity. Shannon Finney won the Prince Woodard Outstanding Leader Award, given to a graduating senior who has made a substantial impact on campus and beyond, while exemplifying honor, leadership and service. Theo Zotos won the Prince Woodard Emerging Leader Award, given to a rising sophomore, junior or senior who already made a difference.
Erynn Sendrick received the Clara Boyd Wheeler Award for exemplifying grace, a spirit of service and the ability to change lives.
Madalyn Rymer won the Elizabeth M. Baumgarten Leadership Award for outstanding service to the university and community.
Corrine Presland-Byrne received the Alex Naden Award. Naden was a senior class officer and member of the rugby team who graduated from Mary Washington College in 2003 and lost his life in an accident in 2003. The award goes to a student who best embodies the character Naden personified.
Other individual award winners were:
Natalie LeMay, Leader in Honor
Maia Smith, Leader in Service
Amanda Short, Leader of a Sports Club
Daniel Clark, Unsung Hero
Mark Herring, Outstanding Club Treasurer
Marissa Miller, associate coordinator of Student Conduct and Responsibility and coordinator for Prevention and Advocacy, received the Giving Tree Award, which recognizes faculty or staff that a student feels has contributed significantly to the mission of the university through their work directly with students.
The following programs were presented with awards:
Outstanding Small Scale Program: Kwanzaa
Outstanding Large Scale Program: Step Show
Outstanding Diversity Program: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness
Outstanding Educational Program: I Can, We Can
Outstanding Philanthropy: Mortar Board
The following organizations also received awards:
Collaborative Partnership: SAVE and Feminist United
Innovation in Fundraising: Variety Show
Achievement for an Athletic Team: Swim
Community Service: Swim
New Club: Men’s Volleyball
Overall Achievement: Class Council
Sports Club: Men’s Rugby