Volunteers, Leaders Recognized for Service at ACUI 2023

ACUI recognized a number of distinguished individuals during its Annual Conference in Boston, including the Presidential Award for Distinguished Service, two Legacy Leader recipients, and a number of honors for service, values, and professionalism.

A list of all 2023 award and scholarship recipients is available in the press release.

The Presidential Award for Distinguished Service was presented to Sarah Aikman, interim assistant vice president for student engagement at Northern Kentucky University, for demonstrating exceptional and unique service in fulfilling the mission, goals, and values of the Association. Awarded at the discretion of the Association president, it recognizes an individual for dedication to volunteering, encouraging staff to participate in ACUI programs, and advancing the work of ACUI through their contributions.

During the award presentation at the 2023 Annual Conference, ACUI President Deepti Chadee said this: “When I think of an ACUI Champion, this individual comes top of mind. Whether it has been through the countless volunteer roles they have held, engaging mentorship to help new professionals find their place in the field, or calling up peers and colleagues to strongly encourage them to donate to the various efforts we have to advance our communities.”

Two ACUI members, Kyle Burke and Jennifer Keegin, received Legacy Leader Awardswhich recognize individuals who have served as leaders within the college union profession and have worked throughout to advance campus community building.

Burke is director of university centers at the University of Wisconsin–Lacrosse, and just concluded a term as Region V director. One nominator wrote that “Kyle truly personifies the qualities and traits of a professional who embodies servant leadership and is truly deserving of the ACUI Legacy Leader Award.”

Keegin, associate director for campus activities at Binghamton University, served on the Board of Trustees from 2017–19, led the Volunteer Development Team, was a member of the 2008 Conference Program Team and the Education and Research Fund Team. One of her donors stated: “Your legacy, for me, is of ensuring everyone is made to feel welcome, at home, and befriended within ACUI.”

Emeritus Award

ACUI also presented its Emeritus Award to professionals for their leadership and dedication to serving students and advancing campus community through their careers in the college union and student activities field. While intended to recognize those retiring from the profession, on appropriate occasions, the ACUI Emeritus Award may be awarded to a professional who has rendered exceptional service to ACUI but has left the college union and student activities field in pursuit of another career.

Please visit the Emeritus Awards page to watch the honorary acceptance videos.

Debra Blade
Debra Blade is the most consistent presence at Northwestern University’s Norris Center. Blade graduated from the campus in 1979 and is one of the most tenured staff members. During the Norris Center’s recent 50-year anniversary, Blade was a key source of history and knowledge. Blade is retiring in 2023.

David Mucci
David Mucci was a key part of the University of Kansas community. He made many contributions throughout his more than 20 years in his director role. And the campus is making sure he knows his impact as, among other eorts, the campus radio station studio was renamed in his honor after he worked 12 years ago to ensure the key student service found a home in the union. Mucci retired from the University of Kansas in June 2022.

Tim Moore
Tim Moore is committed to advancing the profession. During his career, he worked to shape education policy, raised money for needed renovations, and served as a source of knowledge and inspiration. Moore is always willing to share his expertise, presenting at numerous Annual Conferences and seminars for ACUI and other organizations. Moore retired from the University of Louisville in December 2022.

Rick Thomas
Rick Thomas was a leader and mentor who saw potential in those he met. As a supervisor, Thomas sought strong relationships with his sta. Thomas was known for working to create a culture of belonging on campus that would connect students for life. He made this same effort within ACUI, serving on various committees focused on ensuring the Association was a welcoming space for women and the LGBTQ+ community. Thomas retired from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee in August 2022.

Brad Vest
Brad Vest leads with his heart. This is true of his work on campus and within ACUI. On campus, he continually encourages students and professional staff, offering assistance and keeping his team together through success and challenging times. He served as director of ACUI Region 5/III during a time of transition, always seeking ways to make the experience smooth and positive for members. Vest will retire in July 2023 from Appalachian State University.

Laurie Woodward

During her time in the profession, Laurie Woodward was interested in the connection between higher education and society, as well as leadership development for college students. Woodward is retiring from her role as director at the University of Oregon.

Honorary Membership

Honorary memberships were conferred by the Board of Trustees on those individuals who have demonstrated exceptional service to ACUI. Honorary members are granted all rights and privileges as defined by the ACUI Constitution. Normally reserved for those retiring from the profession, on appropriate occasions, it may be awarded to non-union personnel whose efforts have served to enhance the Association and the college union idea, or to a professional who has rendered exceptional service but has left the profession in pursuit of other careers.

Please visit the Honorary Membership page to watch the honorary acceptance videos.

Gary Chrzastowski
Gary Chrzastowski never shys away from sharing his time and talent to benefit others. Be it through his role on the Education Council, service on the Host Team for IPDS: New Professional Orientation, or work advancing ACUI’s corporate partnerships and Facility Design Awards program, Chrzastowski’s influence can be noted throughout the organization. And that is the same of his time at Indiana University’s Memorial Union, where he assisted with daily operations, including the $10 million renovation of the dining services area. Chrzastowski will retire in 2023.

Mark Day
Mark Day inspired his colleagues, especially those in Region 15 who watched him lead the charge on numerous programs. Day was a student leader, regional director, and Board of Trustees member over the years, and he served on several committees. Day was passionate about College Bowl, working to grow the program within ACUI; and he was instrumental in the creation of the Honda Campus All-Star Challenge. Day always shared his wit and humour through his work with the Association. Day will retire from Laguna College of Art + Design in 2023.

Michael Ellington
Michael Ellington was passionate about growing the profession and the Association—always welcoming students and new professionals at ACUI events. After starting with ACUI as a student representative in 1986, Ellington’s volunteer roles for ACUI ranged from Region 4 Conference chair to serving on the Committee for Multi-Ethnic Programs—and that just names a few. His historical knowledge of the Association was appreciated greatly during his time on the 100th Anniversary Celebration Task Force. On campus, Ellington served West Virginia University in many roles that allowed him to impact students and their experience. Ellington retired in August 2022.

Krista Harrell
Krista Harrell worked for the betterment of ACUI. Through her many volunteer roles, including the Board of Trustees, Harrell shared her knowledge, skills, and drive to make change, recruit new members and volunteers, and strengthen the organization. At the University of South Alabama, Harrell worked tirelessly to advance community and create an inclusive, safe environment. And she used her experience and passion to develop future generations of college union professionals—through her work on campus and in ACUI. Harrell serves as a mentor and friend to many ACUI colleagues. Harrell left the field to pursue new opportunities in December 2022.

Sharon “Chickie” Silverstein
Sharon “Chickie” Silverstein cares deeply about her students, her colleagues, and her association—ACUI. Silverstein’s list of volunteer service is long, including regional and international positions, roles on the Board of Trustees and with Conference Program Teams, and College Bowl. Through these roles, Silverstein was a “worker bee,” diving into projects, focusing on what needed to be done, and inspiring others along the way. Her energy, dedication, and level of care is infectious—both within ACUI and on campus. Silverstein will retire from Suffolk Community College in 2023.


  • Steve Chaplin

    Steve Chaplin is managing editor of ACUI’s The Bulletin and manager of the ACUI College Union and Student Activities (CUSA) Evaluation Program. A former newspaper writer, editor, and manager, he has volunteered as a student mentor as a member of the National Association of Science Writers, and received awards for his writing and reporting from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, the Kentucky Education Association, and the Kentucky Press Association.

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