Distinguished Alumni Awards

Distinguished Alumni Awards Ceremony

Do you know an alumnus who is doing transformative work in the field of education? We strive to recognize the talent and efforts of our alumni through our annual Pitt Education Distinguished Alumni Awards ceremony.

Our award categories include:


Meet the 2020 Alumni Award Recipients

Distinguished Alumni Award 

Mary Ann Watson, PhD

Mary Ann Watson is a practicing clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at Metropolitan State University of Denver, where she specializes in human sexuality, thanatology (death, dying, and loss), and cultural and ethnic diversity. She is the author of many professional articles and is the editor of five editions of Your Sexuality Workbook.In addition, she has produced 20 film productions for the humanities and sciences based on her academic and travel interests, and they have been used in the college and university classroom and streamed more than 500,000 times worldwide. Watson previously completed Fulbright-Hays Fellowships for college faculty to Kenya and Egypt and a two-year assignment with the U.S. Public Health Service on the Navajo and Hopi reservations. Watson earned her bachelor’s degree from Grove City College and her Master of Education and PhD in counseling psychology from the University of Pittsburgh. She also completed postdoctoral study at The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. She has three adult children, three grandchildren, and lives in Denver, Colo. with her husband, Flint Whitlock.

Distinguished Early Career Award

Treg Campbell

Since 2010, Treg Campbell has been employed as an English instructor at his alma mater, the Washington School District. He is the coordinator of the inaugural Teacher Induction program and is active on numerous committees and councils, including for the school calendar, comprehensive plan, curriculum, social-emotional learning, student behavior, and technology. Campbell is also the assistant director of the Prexie Musical Theater, oversees the Graduation Project, and serves as the freshman class sponsor. In recognition of his contributions to education, Campbell earlier received the Academy of Adolescent Health’s 2016 Outstanding Educator Award. Campbell earned his bachelor’s degree in English writing and a certificate in children’s literature from the University of Pittsburgh Greensburg. He then returned to Pitt to earn his Certificate of Advanced Study in English Education and Master of Education degree. Driven to create a culture of distinguished and diverse learners at Washington School District, Campbell is constantly seeking to confront challenges and create opportunities within the educational system.

Distinguished PreK-12 Educator Award

William Hale Kerr, Jr., EdD

William Hale Kerr, Jr. recently retired after more than 40 years in public education, including 25 years as a superintendent of schools. His broad-based experiences as a teacher, principal, and district administrator include service in the Southwestern Pennsylvania school districts of Kiski Area, Leechburg Area, Apollo-Ridge, Armstrong, and Norwin. Kerr was recently appointed by the Pennsylvania Secretary of Education to serve as the chief recovery officer for the Duquesne City School District in order to provide academic and financial oversight for educational services. Kerr is a recipient of the Pittsburgh FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award for his improvement of programs that educate K-12 students about the science of opioid and heroin addiction and the implementation of a cyber security curriculum for high school students. Kerr earned his bachelor’s in elementary education from Slippery Rock University, a master’s degree from Duquesne University, and his Doctor of Education from the University of Pittsburgh. He and his wife Debra have two children and three grandchildren. 

Departmental Award - Administrative and Policy Studies

Alphonse DeSena, PhD

Alphonse DeSena is the former program director in the Division of Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Settings at the National Science Foundation (NSF) in Alexandria, Va. Over the course of 14 years at the NSF, DeSena managed a portfolio whose awards focused on projects by museums, zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens, and planetariums; on projects about sustainability education, climate change education, and maker/design education; and on work on the intersection of science-art design. Prior to joining the NSF, DeSena was the program director at the Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science, the executive director of the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, and the founding president of Exploration Place in Wichita, Kansas. He led the process of developing new facilities and expanding the organizations. Before working in the museum field, DeSena worked for six years at the Learning Research and Development Center at the University of Pittsburgh, where he contributed to science concept development in children. He earned his PhD in curriculum and supervision from the University of Pittsburgh.

Departmental Award - Health and Physical Activity

Reed Humphrey, PhD

Reed Humphrey is the dean and a professor at the University of Montana’s College of Health Professions and Biomedical Sciences and also heads the university’s Health and Medicine group. In this role, he oversees the college’s seven schools and units, which include the schools of pharmacy, physical therapy and rehabilitation science, public and community health sciences, social work, integrative physiology and athletic training, and speech, language, hearing, and occupational sciences, and the Family Medicine Residency of Western Montana. He also manages the school’s funded research centers, institutes, and associated campus clinics. Humphrey is also the founding director of the Neural Injury Center at the University of Montana. He is a master fellow and past president of the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation (AACVPR) and a fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). Humphrey earned both his bachelor and PhD degrees from the University of Pittsburgh, with additional graduate degrees from Wake Forest University and Virginia Commonwealth University. He lives in Missoula, Montana with his wife, Kim, and has two children. 

Departmental Award - Instruction and Learning

Gary R. Snyder, EdD

Gary R. Snyder recently retired as the principal of Princeton High School in New Jersey. He now teaches aspiring school leaders in the doctoral program at Delaware Valley University in Doylestown, Pennsylvania and also teaches at New Jersey City University and the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association. Snyder began his teaching career at his alma mater, Norwin High, before teaching social studies at schools in Virginia and California. He also was a wrestling coach, with one of his athletes later wrestling in the Olympics for the United States. Snyder next became an assistant principal and then a principal of a middle and high school in Massachusetts. Snyder earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh in history and secondary education. He also holds a master’s degree in school administration from Virginia Tech and a Doctor of Education from Delaware Valley University. He met his wife, Stella Volpe (BS ’85), at Pitt. She earned her bachelor’s degree in health, physical, and recreation and received the 2009 Departmental Distinguished Alumni Award in Health and Physical Activity.

Departmental Award - Psychology in Education

Leon E. Wiles

Leon Wiles is the former chief diversity officer at Clemson University, where he developed and implemented the university’s first comprehensive diversity and inclusion plan. The plan increased the recruitment, retention, and advancement of minoritized students, faculty, and staff while also increasing engagement with surrounding communities. Prior to this position, Wiles was dean of students and vice chancellor for student and diversity affairs at the University of South Carolina Upstate. Across his career, he worked as an academic advisor, counselor, teacher, and administrator. After earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Arkansas, Wiles earned a master’s degree in counselor education from the University of Pittsburgh. He also completed studies in psychology at Harvard and Yale on a Ford Foundation Fellowship and completed graduate courses in higher education administration at Penn State University and the University of South Carolina. He and his wife, Maliaka Wiles, reside in South Carolina and have two daughters and two grandchildren. 

Student Leadership Award

Ashley E. Shafer

Ashley Shafer is a fourth-year doctoral student in the Applied Developmental Psychology Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) program at the School of Education. She strives to improve the early childhood education experience through building teacher capacity and implementation success and is passionate about social-emotional development, teacher-child relationships, and culturally responsive teaching practices. Shafer is the president of the Council of Graduate Students in Education, the vice president of the Alliance for Urban Scholars, and is a student fellow for the Center for Urban Education and the Office of Child Development. Her goal is to conduct research that has a positive impact on the lives of practitioners, children, and their families. 

Outstanding Alumni Dissertation Award

Eben B. Witherspoon, PhD

Eben Witherspoon is a postdoctoral researcher in the Learning Research and Development Center (LRDC) at the University of Pittsburgh. He studies how instructional coaches help teachers to learn how to orchestrate productive in-class discussions with students. Witherspoon is a 2019 graduate of the Learning Sciences and Policy PhD program at the University of Pittsburgh. He was involved in a number of projects focused on how individual attitudes and social environments influence students’ learning and persistence in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). His dissertation was focused on identifying sources of retention differences in organic chemistry and physics for men and women in pre-medicine academic programs. Later this year, Witherspoon will start a new role as a quantitative researcher at the American Institutes of Research in Chicago. 

Lauren E. Moran, EdD

Lauren Moran is the director of student engagement and leadership at Slippery Rock University. She is also a temporary faculty member in the university’s Leadership Studies program and is participating in the Leadership Develop Initiative XXVI through Leadership Pittsburgh, Inc. Moran is a 2019 graduate of the University of Pittsburgh’s Doctor of Education (EdD) program in higher education management. Her dissertation, “Defining Undergraduate Student Leadership Development Through Practice: A Case Study of a Rural, Mid-sized, Public Institution,” explored how leadership was defined and how undergraduate leadership education was implemented within curricular and co-curricular contexts. Moran earned her bachelor’s degree in speech communications from Edinboro University and her master’s degree in college student personnel from Bowling Green State University. 

Sheth International Young Alumni Achievement Award 

Silver Francis Oonyu

Silver Francis Oonyu is the founder and director of the Silver Memorial Inclusive Learning Center (SMILE School) in his native Uganda. The school is the first inclusive school in the Teso region and has over 200 students enrolled. Oonyu, who lost his sight as a young boy, wanted to create a school that could serve all students, regardless of ability status. Oonyu also works as an educational consultant for special education, an assistant lecturer, and a program manager for Advocacy for Vulnerable Children’s Rights Uganda. Oonyu received his master’s degree in special education and graduate certificate in African studies from the University of Pittsburgh in 2012. He was recognized with the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for International Studies Sheth International Young Alumni Achievement Award this past academic year.

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