The Omicron Delta Kappa Leader of the Year program is named in honor of Gen. Russell E. Dougherty, United States Air Force (Ret.). Each OΔK circle selects an outstanding student to be named their Circle Leader of the Year. These students receive a certificate and are invited to apply for the National Leader of the Year Award.
The OΔK Awards Committee recognizes five finalists on a national level, one for each phase of campus life:
- Campus or Community Service
- Journalism, Speech, and the Mass Media
- Creative and Performing Arts
Each Leader of the Year finalist receives a $1,000 graduate/professional studies scholarship. Of the five finalists, one student is selected to receive the Gen. Russell E. Dougherty National Leader of the Year Award. The recipient of the National Leader of the Year Award receives a $4,000 scholarship to be used toward graduate-level study.
Gen. Russell A. Dougherty National Leader of the Year
Sara T. Frank, Emory University
From her upbringing as a “Rabbi’s kid,” Sara noted that conversations with her father were “far from the norm.” As Sara recalls, “He would come home from an emergency hospital visit, and we would discuss when it is ethical to remove life support from a dying patient. From an early age, I was taught that theoretical questions have real-life implications and, thus, to think critically and have the utmost regard for the people affected by my judgments.”
Her dedication toward contributing to her community is reflected in the participation in many extracurricular activities. Through her role as president of O∆K’s Mu Circle at Emory University, she was able to organize O∆K information sessions and fundraisers while promoting the Society’s ideals. She had served as a student investigator for the Emory College Honor Council, both reporting and working with the reported-on cases that demanded respect and emotional intelligence. During her sophomore year, she had served as a resident advisor to ease first-year students’ transition into college life. Sara has also been an active member of the Emory Jewish community often leading weekly worship services at Hillel. In addition, she served as a project leader for Emory First-Year Days of Service and MLK, Jr . Day.
Her community engagement has also extended into artistic expression. She hosted a weekly radio show where she interviewed local bands, played live music, and created discussions with her co-host. She also wrote for the station’s blog and magazine which enabled her analysis of music with listeners and readers. At Emory, Sara was a member of a weekly a Capella group called the ChaiTunes and served as musical director to guide and bring out each’s unique talents.
Sara is looking forward to continuing her passion for ethical and legal thought in law school at the University of Virginia. As a result of Sara’s long list of accomplishments and well-rounded leadership, the National Awards Committee selected Sara not only as the representative in scholarship phase of campus life but also as the 2018 Gen. Russell E. Dougherty National Leader of the Year.
Athletics Leader of the Year
Reid D. Loveless, Georgia Southern University
For Reid Loveless, an initiate of the Georgia Southern University Circle, a freshman course in genetics is what sparked his journey into understanding the significance of past and current discoveries. As Reid explains, “Ultimately, my research and clinical shadowing experiences over the years have directed me towards a career as a physician-scientist.”
In his quest to understand cellular and molecular biology, Reid began his sophomore year working on a project that would better understand the role of a specific human protein in metastasis, the spread of cancer. Through the use of a humanized zebrafish tumor model, Reid is hopeful that his current work, along with his honor thesis, will continue to lead to a step closer in future cancer patient therapies.
Reid’s determination can be equally matched in his extra-curricular activities. From the start of his college career, he served as the president, vice president, and secretary of his university’s wrestling team, and his duties included determining travel logistics to tournaments while managing finances and coaching. He also served as treasurer and social coordinator for the school’s climbing team which competes both outdoors and indoors. Furthermore, he was the secretary of his O∆K circle at Georgia Southern. As a result of Reid’s dedication to both the wrestling team and the climbing club, he is recognized as the Leader of the Year in the athletics phase.
Campus and Community Service Leader of the Year
Vrinda Kumar, SUNY Plattsburgh
An initiate of the SUNY Plattsburgh Circle, Vrinda Kumar’s passion for issues of public health and social justice is derived from a culmination of experiences that have given her a first-hand look into the world around her.
Vrinda was raised in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. After high school, and in the midst of a recession, Vrinda worked for various companies to fund her lifelong dream of studying in the United States. Through a scholarship from SUNY Plattsburgh, she was able to make her dream come true by allowing her attend college in America.
As an undergraduate student, she was a researcher for Title IX investigations and a head resident assistant. She led SUNY Plattsburgh Student Association as its vice president and then president. Through these positions, she was able to allocated and managed a budget of $1.3 million, lobbied Congress and the Governor of New York for higher education funding, collaborated with local organizations to raise money and advocate for the at-risk women, and founded and established an organization to empower communities. Vrinda is currently working to publish independent research on substance abuse and its connection to sexual assault. She is also the founder of SUNY Plattsburgh CARES, which helps to expose students to issues of discrimination and intersectionality.
According to Vrinda, the Leader of the Year representing the campus and community service phase, “The struggles I previously faced to obtain an education and the current challenges I faced as a woman of color has now inspired me to work in a field where I could empathize with others and use my privilege as a college student to work to alleviate inequity.” She will be returning to SUNY Plattsburgh for her graduate studies and to work as a resident director.
Creative and Performing Arts Leader of the Year
Jacob G. Thrasher, University of Mississippi
Finding himself caught between two passions – science and art – Jacob Thrasher decided to take the best of both and pursue a dual career in biochemistry and editorial cartooning. An initiate of the University of Mississippi Circle, Jacob worked in various labs and multiple news outlets during his time as an undergraduate. For Jacob, “working in two seemingly different fields made me more creative and versatile and strengthened my work ethic.”
In his sophomore year, Jacob was hired by The Daily Mississippian as an editorial cartoonist. For Jacob, this was an opportunity to combine journalism, art, and activism into his work. Some of his cartoons would tackle issues that stemmed from collegiate politics to national politics, such as racism or homophobia. In 2015, Jacob participated in a student-led movement that called for the discontinuation of flying the Mississippi state flag on campus due to its Confederate imagery by contributing drawings depicting the debate surrounding it. According to Jacob, “It was through that event that I found out how powerful my cartoons could be and how I want to continue making them to help progress in places like Mississippi.”
Through his role as vice president and president of his O∆K circle, Jacob was able to be part of the freedom of speech panel as an editorial cartoonist. He is also a member of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists, a free speech organization. Jacob represents the creative and performing arts phase as a Leader of the Year. Jacob will begin his doctoral studies in biochemistry in the fall of 2018 and plans to continue with his editorial cartooning.
Journalism, Speech, and the Mass Media Leader of the Year
Faith E. Pinho, Washington and Lee University
Faith Pinho, an initiate of the Alpha Circle at Washington and Lee University, developed her love for communications and writing one summer night on the porch of a vacation home in Nova Scotia, Canada. While her parents went out, her older sister gave the younger kids pens and paper with the encouragement to write. According to Faith, “Ever since that summer, I have been writing – obsessed with it, consumed by it, defined by it.”
Throughout her life, Faith’s dedication had led her to write two 100-page historical fiction novels at eight years old and a weekly newsletter peppered with stories, town gossip, and jokes at the age of 12. By high school, Faith’s identity as a writer, along with her curiosity about people, places, and politics, would inspire her to pursue political journalism.
Faith completed a couple of internships with WBUR, Boston’s NPR station, where she wrote more than 50 scripts for the hourly newscast and reported on stories from the legalization of same-sex marriage to the “Deflategate” football scandal. She covered metro issues and politics, first as an intern, then as a freelance reporter, for The Washington Times. In the last two years, Faith produced local news and human-interest pieces as an independent reporter for Virginia’s public radio network. For Faith, working in this industry is “an opportunity to put on someone else’s eyeglasses and understand the world from another perspective-and then to explain what I see to everyone else.”
She also received two awards from the Society of Professional Journalism, Region 2, for pieces that aired on WMRA public radio. Following graduation, she will work with The Indy Star newspaper in Indianapolis as a recipient of the Pulliam Journalism Fellowship.
Faith spent the last few years, as both a student and journalist, absorbing local cultures. From spending a semester studying African politics in Ghana, reporting on local news in Washington, D.C., living for a year in London, and establishing a community at her university, every experience in a different culture has intensified her desire to live internationally and work as a foreign correspondent. As a result of Faith’s achievements, the National Awards Committee recognizes Faith as the Leader of the Year representing the journalism, speech, and the mass media phase.