Written by Steven J. Fuller (B.A., University of Cincinnati, '99 | M.A., University of Cincinnati, '01)
Just over nineteen years ago, Lisa Newman organized and hosted the first CommCeleb awards banquet. Always a champion of the Communication Department’s faculty, staff, students, and alumni, Lisa wanted an opportunity to publicly recognize the people who make our department thrive. I actually remember attending the first CommCeleb as a college senior in 1999. Many alums reading this post probably made internship posters that Lisa displayed during those early years. So many posters.
Since then, the event has undergone a few facelifts, but nearly two decades later, the heart of CommCeleb remains the same—to honor Communication superstars.
This year, CommCeleb returned to Mick & Mack’s Contemporary Café in the center of UC’s campus. Over 120 guests enjoyed a cash bar, buffet dinner, and an awards program hosted by myself and Communication undergraduate student, Emma Gresser.
The most exciting part of this year’s event was seeing so many alumni. The department was especially thankful for the fifteen alums who stepped up to donate $100 to help fund the event. With ongoing budget cuts from the university, events like CommCeleb couldn’t happen without the generous donations from people like Suzanne Boys, Chris and Tom Carleton, Marthe Church, Evelyn Guzman, Victoria Kuhlman, Greg and Mary Kuntz, Mary Ellen Lintner (one of my former cohosts!), Autumn Miller, Alli Mowrey, Marissa Pauly, Rene Robers, Maria Rolling, and James Savage.
There were too many awards to list here, but a few highlights for me were presenting graduate student Steve Ingham with an honorary spot on the Steve Clock. It’s a long story that I’m still not sure everyone in attendance understood, but trust me, it’s the most prestigious honor anyone could ever receive.
I was also thrilled that Maria Rolling won the Distinguished Friend of Communication Award. Not only was Maria an excellent student while at UC, but she’s already done so much to serve the department as an alum.
Jenifer Kues McAleese and I attended graduate school together at UC, so handing her the Outstanding Communication Alumni Award gave me great joy (and also made me sad that I haven’t won the award yet … but mostly the great joy thing). Jenifer and her husband are entrepreneurs who started i-wireless and grew it into a successful cell phone company that is now owned by Kroger. Her acceptance speech was fantastic and very timely.
I was also honored to announce Emma Gresser as this year’s Outstanding Undergraduate. Emma was so involved during her time at UC that I’d need a separate post just to mention all of her wonderful accomplishments. She truly earned the award, and we all wish her well in her next stop at DePaul University to complete her master’s degree.
Lastly, I was privileged to watch Steve Depoe recognize Gail Fairhurst for winning the 2016-2017 University of Cincinnati Distinguished Professor in Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences Award. Steve spoke eloquently about how much Gail has meant to the Communication Department. I’m thankful for my time with Gail as an undergrad, grad student, and colleague. She’s a wonderful teacher and researcher, but even a better person, and Steve’s speech captured that perfectly.
At CommCeleb 2017, we enjoyed a few drinks, shared a meal together, laughed, demonstrated our hidden talents, sang Take Me Out to the Ballgame for the third year in a row, and honored lots of Communication faculty, staff, students, and alumni. But, as I said at the end of the evening, most importantly, we came together as a Communication family to reunite at our home away from home. I’ve been part of this department for twenty years, and while every family has its warts, what makes the Communication Department so special is our people. UC is a special place. It’s been my home for a long time, and I know wherever I end up in the future, I can always come home again. And so can you.
In fact, while we hope you visit often, we especially hope you’ll join us next year for CommCeleb’s 20th Anniversary. We’ll have more drinks, more food, more laughs, more awards, and we’ll probably sing Take Me Out to the Ballgame again because, well, I have no idea why we do that, but it’s pretty fun.
Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “Where we love is home—home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.” I couldn’t agree more.
See everyone next year!
Steven J. Fuller