Five members of the University of Colorado community are recipients of the 2014 Thomas Jefferson Award, among the highest honors given at CU.
This year’s award winners – two faculty members, a staff professional and two students – were chosen for embodying and advancing the ideals of Jefferson, the third U.S. president and a Founding Father who greatly influenced American arts, sciences, education and public affairs. The Jefferson Award recognizes CU faculty, staff and students who demonstrate excellence in the performance of regular academic responsibilities while contributing outstanding service to the broader community.
The 2014 honorees are:
Helen Achol Abyei, recent graduate of the University of Colorado Denver with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and theater. Praised for her profound love of writing, the theater, and public speaking, she endured life in war-torn North Sudan while raising six children. After time in a refugee camp in Egypt, she settled in Denver, taught herself English and enrolled in college. As a young mother stressing education to her children, she worked in banking for nearly 30 years. Now she writes plays – some of which have been acted out by CU Denver students – to shed light on atrocities taking place in her home country. She expects to return there someday as a teacher.
Alexandra Antonioli, M.D./Ph.D. candidate in the Medical Scientist Training Program, CU School of Medicine at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus. A high school valedictorian in Montana, she went to Yale University, earned a bachelor’s degree in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry and worked in a laboratory. Now in the fifth year of the University of Colorado’s combined M.D./Ph.D. program, her thesis work focuses on the understanding of certain proteins and their role in autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and age-related macular degeneration. She is an accomplished classical pianist and devotes considerable time to charitable work.
A committee of CU faculty, staff and students selects winners. Recipients receive an engraved plaque and a $2,000 honorarium, and are recognized by the CU Board of Regents.
The Thomas Jefferson Award was established at the University of Virginia in 1951 by the Robert Earll McConnell Foundation to honor teaching faculty who exemplified the humanistic ideals associated with Jefferson. By 1962, six other institutions – including CU – had established a Jefferson Award. In 1980, the university added a student category; in 1988, the staff category was approved. Funding for the awards is derived from earnings on an endowment provided by the McConnell Foundation and from a bequest by Harrison Blair, a CU alumnus.