University of Mary Washington senior Jessica Lynch received the Grace Mann Launch Award during the Eagle Awards ceremony, held virtually last night. Student leaders and outstanding campus organizations were honored at this annual event, presented by the James Farmer Multicultural Center (JFMC), Student Activities and Engagement, and Center for Community Engagement. Juniors Amber Brown and Quinn Lipetz served as hosts for the online presentation.
“Jessica is an amazing, outstanding individual,” said Dean of Students Cedric Rucker, who presented Lynch with the award. “All of the experiences she has had as a student leader, opening doors and making UMW a more inclusive community, are reflective of the life Grace led at Mary Washington. Jessica will leave a legacy for other students to follow.”
Grace Mann was a UMW student leader and social justice activist who died six years ago during her junior year. Her parents established an endowment for an annual financial award to be presented to a graduating senior who exemplifies Mann’s commitment to social justice, equality and advocacy.
A historic preservation and American studies major, Lynch currently serves as president of SEED (Students Educating and Empowering for Diversity) and Talk to the Hands, a club dedicated to teaching students American Sign Language.
In the past, Lynch has been an executive board member of PRISM (People for the Rights of Gender and Sexual Minorities), and served as a new student orientation leader and a peer mentor for RISE (Resources Inspiring Student Excellence) and the First-Year Seminar programs.
Active with JFMC, Lynch went on a 2019 trip organized by the center to retrace the Freedom Rides. She currently serves on a student subcommittee that has helped plan the annual Social Justice and Leadership Summit at UMW.
“Jessica is widely respected by her peers, staff and faculty due to her impeccable character and ability to lead with conviction,” said JFMC Assistant Director Christopher Williams, who has worked closely with Lynch throughout her time at Mary Washington.
Williams himself was the recipient of the James Farmer Defining A Legacy Award, introduced last year and given to a student, or staff or faculty member, who creates a direct action project, overcomes a substantial obstacle, challenges an oppressive system and spreads their cause.
A former James Farmer Scholar and personal friend of Dr. Farmer, Williams has carried out the late civil rights icon and Mary Washington history professor’s legacy through activism and advocacy work at JFMC and in the wider community. He recently helped secure a historical marker at the Fredericksburg bus station where the Freedom Riders stopped 60 years ago this May, with the help of UMW faculty and students, including Lynch, in partnership with the City of Fredericksburg.
Other award winners included students Maya Jenkins and Jaelynn Scott, who earned Prince B. Woodard awards. Named for a former Mary Washington president, these honors recognize outstanding leadership and contributions to the greater community.
Scott received the Prince Woodard Outstanding Leader Award, presented to a graduating senior who has made a substantial impact on campus and beyond, while exemplifying honor, leadership and service. Jenkins, a rising junior, earned the Prince Woodard Emerging Leader Award, presented each year to an underclassman who has already made a difference in the campus community.
Senior Stephanie Turcios received the Clara Boyd Wheeler Award for exemplifying grace, a spirit of service and the ability to change lives.
Senior Allison Grant earned the Elizabeth A. Baumgarten Leadership Award for outstanding service to the university and community.
Senior Angela-Marie Sokpolie received the Alex Naden Award, which memorializes a senior class officer and member of the rugby team who graduated from Mary Washington in 2003, and lost his life in an accident later that year.
UMW COVID Care Coordinator Betsy Southern was presented with the Giving Tree Award, honoring a faculty or staff member who has contributed significantly to the mission of the university through direct work with students. Sarah Bazemore, a first-year student who spent time in quarantine after COVID exposure, nominated Southern for the award.
The Alumni Association presented three awards:
Award for Outstanding Senior, Alexander Lee
Service Award for Outstanding Senior Dedicated to Community Service, Abigail Beyen and Laiba Murad
Distinguished Bachelor of Liberal Studies Award, Michael Passera
Other individual award winners were:
Lu Sheikhnureldin, Leader in Service
Mandy Byrd, Unsung Hero