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Top student awards go to former Screaming Eagles during graduation

Two former Screaming Eagles walked away with the top student honors during Austin Peays Commencement exercises last Friday.

Both awards are decided by faculty vote. The William McClure Drane Award is presented to the most outstanding baccalaureate graduate and is based on character, scholarship, leadership and service to APSU. The Harvill-Civitan Award recognizes outstanding citizenship.

The 2004 recipient of the prestigious Drane Award is Judy McElhiney, Clarksville. Kelly Harris, now a resident of Hopkinsville, Ky., received the 2004 Harvill-Civitan Award.
Two former Screaming Eagles walked away with the top student honors during Austin Peay's Commencement exercises last Friday.

Both awards are decided by faculty vote. The William McClure Drane Award is presented to the most outstanding baccalaureate graduate and is based on character, scholarship, leadership and service to APSU. The Harvill-Civitan Award recognizes outstanding citizenship.

The 2004 recipient of the prestigious Drane Award is Judy McElhiney, Clarksville. Kelly Harris, now a resident of Hopkinsville, Ky., received the 2004 Harvill-Civitan Award.

McElhiney served from 1987-93 in the U.S. Army as a nuclear, biological and chemical operations specialist. She began her college career in 1998 at the APSU Center @ Fort Campbell, soon enrolling on APSU's main campus.

McElhiney graduated with a double major in biology and health and human performance, a minor in chemistry and a perfect 4.0 GPA. She was accepted to many of the nation's top medical schools and offered full scholarships to Mayo Medical School, Vanderbilt University Medical School and the University of Kentucky School of Medicine.

Ultimately, she accepted the scholarship to Mayo Medical, where she soon will begin work toward an M.D. She also plans to earn a master's degree in public health.

McElhiney received the Health and Human Performance Department Achievement Award, chemistry department's Durward Harris Premedical Award, biology department's Jennie M. Jordan Award and the James E. Ward Honor Student Award for academic achievement, sports skill development, leadership ability and professional growth. She was a Summa Cum Laude Dean's List scholar and a member of Beta Beta Beta and Phi Kappa Phi honoraries. She was the recipient of a tutoring scholarship, the Frank and Gladys Buhler Scholarship in Health and Human Performance and the Fort Campbell Officer's Wives Club Annual Academic Scholarship.

In 2000 McElhiney was chosen for a Short-Term Training Program, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, at Vanderbilt University. During the summers of 2001 and 2002, she was a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellow at Mayo Medical Center.

Her research at Mayo Medical Center was published in the Sept. 15, 2002, edition of the Cancer Research journal. Other publications included her article, “Trials and Tribulations of a Special Forces Wife,” published in the Fisher House Quarterly Magazine in Spring 2002.

McElhiney has given several professional presentations, including “The Road Less Traveled: Trials and Tribulations of a Pre-Med Non-Traditional Student” during the APSU Annual Pre-Professional Seminar in December 2003. She will present the same paper at the National Non-Traditional Pre-Medical Student Annual Student Conference in Denver in June 2004.

In January 1999, she made a presentation at the World Fit Pros Annual Convention in Ottawa, Canada, and in June 1999, to the Health and Fitness Professionals Association Annual Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa. In November 1999, she made a presentation to the Professional World Aerobic Championships in Helsinki, Finland.

She and her husband, a member of the Fifth Special Forces, have presented jointly “Remarks from a War Hero” at the Logistics Association 55th Annual Conference, Reno, in November 2002 and in June 2002, “Operation Enduring Freedom” at the Veterans Canteen Services Annual Conference in St. Louis.

Her senior year, McElhiney was president of Chi Epsilon Mu, APSU's award-winning chemistry club and the fifth largest chemistry club in the nation, having served as historian three years. She was president of the Health and Human Performance Club and a member of the American Chemical Society, American Fitness and Aerobics Association and the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance.

McElhiney balanced her studies with life as a military wife and the mother of two children, ages 10 and 13, and she found time for volunteer work. For four years, she tutored undergraduates having academic difficulties. She was a judge for the Middle Tennessee Science and Engineering Fair. Besides serving as a judge for APSU'S ExpOlympics, she judged science projects in Montgomery County schools. She assisted her professors with lab work and helped with the APSU Health Fair. She was a mentor for pre-medical students and an instructor of dance theory for the health and human performance department.

Her volunteer service extends beyond campus. She volunteered in the operating and emergency rooms of Gateway Medical Center and helped at local convalescent homes. She was a volunteer tutor of high school students having academic problems, a volunteer dance instructor for a church youth group and helped with Sango Elementary School's Math Superstars.

Originally from Florida and now a Hopkinsville, Ky., resident, Harris, who received the 2004 Harvill-Civitan Award, graduated with a baccalaureate degree in nursing. A Dean's List scholar, she received the Sigma Theta Tau Student Achievement Award and was tapped to Omicron Delta Kappa honorary.

A strong student leader, Harris was president of her class in the School of Nursing for the past two years. This past year, she also served as president of the Student Nurses Association and was legislative director of the Tennessee Association of Student Nurses.

This past year, Harris was a delegate to the National Student Nurses Association Mid-Year Conference in New Orleans and to the national Student Nurses Association Annual Conference in Nashville. She also was vice chair of the Tennessee Student Nurses Association Convention.

She worked in a leadership role with Student Nurses on the Move at Capital Hill and was the author of the resolution on Continued Competency in Nursing that passed the House of Delegates at the Annual National Student Nurses Association Conference.

This past year, Harris was the Student Nurses Association coordinator of the charity drive for Sanctuary House, a safe house in Clarksville for abused wives. She volunteered with Project Nightingale and was a Head Start health screening volunteer and a Buddy Ball baseball coach.

Along with McElhiney, the following students were nominated for the 2004 Drane Award: Jaime Durrett of Clarksville, Lisa Morris, Fort Campbell, Ky., and Rhet Wierzba, Farmington, Ill.

Harris competed for the Harvill-Civitan Award against Delacy LeBlanc, Fayetteville, and Elizabeth Murrieta of Whittier, Calif.
—Dennie Burke