University of Hartford to Honor Exceptional Students During Commencement Weekend

May 05, 2021
Photo of Juli Dajci '21
Juli Dajci '21
Photo of Kaitlyn Keeler
Kaitlyn Keeler '21

Each year at Commencement, we honor our most accomplished faculty and outstanding students.  This year, UHart will host five separate ceremonies at the XL Center in downtown Hartford during the weekend of Saturday, May 15, and Sunday, May 16. 

Student Award Winners

Belle K. Ribicoff Prize

Juli Dajci '21, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences and current SGA president, is the 2021 recipient of the Belle K. Ribicoff Prize. It is awarded annually to an exemplary graduating senior who has demonstrated academic excellence, intellectual curiosity, originality of thought, and a commitment to extracurricular activities and community service.

Pursuing a double major in political science and psychology, Dajci has distinguished himself as a young scholar committed to intellectual thought, academic and personal integrity, community life, and social justice. He is a University Honors student who has been on the President's and Dean's lists every semester. The University has recognized his exceptional academic pursuits with numerous awards and scholarships. 

Dajci was voted president of the Student Government Association for the 2020–21 academic year, becoming the first international student to serve in the role.

John G. Lee Award

Kaitlyn Keeler ’21, a senior in the Barney School of Business, is the 2021 recipient of the John G. Lee Award. The award is given annually to an exemplary graduating senior based on academic excellence, community service, and a permanent (home) address in one of 30 designated towns in Greater Hartford.

A member of the University of Hartford Honors Program who has maintained a 4.0 GPA, Keeler studied on a three-year accelerated track in the Barney School’s finance program. Her academic performance has been recognized with a variety of scholarships, including the Michael Miller Scholarship, the FIRM Scholarship, a Corporate Risk Solutions Scholarship, and an R.C. Knox/ People's United Insurance Center Scholarship.

Keeler intends to continue refining her skills as a strong finance leader through Aetna's Finance Leadership Development Program starting in June.

Faculty Award Winners

Humphrey R. Tonkin Award for Scholarly and/or Artistic Creativity

Benjamin S. Grossberg, professor of English in the College of Arts and Sciences; and Javon Jackson, professor and director of jazz studies in The Hartt School, are 2021 recipients of the Humphrey R. Tonkin Award for Scholarly and/or Artistic Creativity. The award is presented to faculty members who have displayed unusual creativity and innovation in the pursuit of their scholarship. 

Benjamin grossberg

Benjamin Grossberg is a poet of national standing. He has authored four full-length books of poetry, two chapbooks, an edited collection, and numerous peer-reviewed articles and essays. The extraordinary quantity of his publications is exceeded only by the quality and reception of his work.

As English instructor Leslie Johnson wrote in nominating Grossberg for the Tonkin Award, the University is fortunate "to have one of the most highly regarded and prestigiously published poets in contemporary American letters on our very own campus."

Read more about Professor Grossberg.

javon jackson

Javon Jackson’s career as a gifted jazz tenor saxophonist, bandleader, composer, and educator spans decades. A force in the jazz world, Jackson has released 21 recordings as a bandleader and toured and recorded over 150 CDs with such jazz greats as Elvin Jones, Freddie Hubbard, and Ben E. King. 

As a guest artist and lecturer at schools, festivals, camps, and academies throughout the world, Jackson is a tireless jazz ambassador. As director, Jackson’s efforts have expanded the University’s Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz in quality and scope, bringing increased enrollment, awareness, and respect.

Read more about Professor Jackson.

Roy E. Larsen Award for Excellence in Teaching

Benjamin Toth, professor of percussion in The Hartt School, is the 2021 recipient of the Roy E. Larsen Award for Excellence in Teaching.

The Larsen Award is presented each year to one of the University’s most outstanding teachers. This award is intended to assist the recipients in their personal endeavors, and serves to underscore the centrality of teaching at the University of Hartford.

As Larry Alan Smith, dean of The Hartt School, says, "For more than 25 years, Ben has been training students using innovative methods that enable them to move effortlessly across many different styles of music. [His] students are adaptable and flexible, and you will find them working in concert halls, Broadway theatres, colleges, and public schools.”

Read more about Professor Toth.

Oscar and Shoshana Trachtenberg Award

Sundeep R. Muppidi, professor of Communication in the College of Arts and Sciences, is the 2021 recipient of the Oscar and Shoshana Trachtenberg Award for Sustained Service to the University. The award honors a full-time faculty member for sustained and exemplary service to the University. 

Muppidi has a sustained record of excellence in teaching and scholarship through his terms as a member of the Multimedia Web Design and Development faculty from 2001 to 2010 and as an associate professor from 2004 to 2014. He is one of the few faculty members teaching both traditional studies courses such as new media and international communication, as well as production courses in television and multimedia production.

Read more about Professor Muppidi.

Belle K. Ribicoff Junior Faculty Prize

Mehmet Dede, assistant professor of music and performing arts management in The Hartt School, is the 2021 recipient of the Belle K. Ribicoff Junior Faculty Prize. The award recognizes an outstanding junior faculty member—an assistant professor in a tenure-track position, but not yet tenured—who demonstrates combined excellence in teaching, scholarly or creative activity, and service.

As an internationally recognized, award-winning music curator, festival producer, and tour promoter, Dede encourages and challenges his students to learn by demonstrating that he is a lifelong learner himself. His effectiveness in the classroom is rooted in his years of hands-on experience in this country and the world.

Since 2005, he has produced hundreds of concerts and event series. He has collaborated with such seminal American institutions as the Lincoln Center, Central Park SummerStage, the Town Hall, Symphony Space, the Kennedy Center.

Read more about Assistant Professor Dede.

Donald W. Davis UIS Award

Jeremiah Patterson, professor of foundation at the Hartford Art School, is the 2021 recipient of the Donald W. Davis University Interdisciplinary Studies (UIS) Award. The award recognizes effective interdisciplinary teaching, as well as overall contributions to the University Interdisciplinary Studies curriculum.

At the Hartford Art School, Patterson teaches painting and drawing as a professor of foundations. His artwork has been exhibited widely throughout the country and is in more than 100 private and corporate collections.

Read more about Professor Patterson.


Faculty Award Winners

For Media Inquiries

Meagan Fazio