Colleen Kennedy wins Shirley Aceto Award

  • Aceto Award
    Aceto Award
    Colleen Kennedy has been chosen as the recipient of the 2013 Shirley Aceto Award.
    Photo by Stephen Salpukas

Typed and single-spaced, a partial list of professional services Colleen Kennedy has provided to William & Mary since her arrival in 1988 consumes an entire sheet of paper.

Kennedy, associate professor of English, would say that most of them have been of the “behind-the-scenes” variety, though she added, “They’re really critical to the well being and importance of faculty and faculty rights.”

Many would agree, so many that Kennedy has been chosen the recipient of the 2013 Shirley Aceto Award, given annually to an instructional or professional faculty member “who demonstrates most fully a commitment to excellence in service for the common good.”

Kennedy follows Associate Professor of French and Modern Languages Katherine Kulick and Chon Glover, assistant to the president for community initiatives and chief diversity officer, as Aceto recipients. The award was instituted in 2010 when Aceto retired from the provost’s office after more than 39 years of service.

Friends then and now, Kennedy and Aceto worked together from 1994-97 when Aceto “mentored” Kennedy during her time as assistant to President Timothy Sullivan and again during the seven years Kennedy served in a variety of posts on the Faculty Assembly.

“To win this award is huge, because she was an incredible advocate for faculty,” Kennedy recalled. “Administrators get busy and they want things to go quickly. She’d call me up and say, ‘This just came across my desk. The faculty really need to see this.’ She was constantly watching out for us.”

Kennedy’s supporters claim she possesses the same virtues.

“I cannot think of another colleague in Arts & Sciences who has had the kind if impact on faculty development and on the curriculum that Professor Kennedy has had over the years,” wrote Susan V. Donaldson, chair of the Department of English. “In every respect, Professor Kennedy exemplifies the ideals of service, excellence and advocacy that have become bywords for Ms. Aceto’s legendary career at William & Mary.”

Kennedy served as director of the Writing Resource Center from 1988-94, then three years as Sullivan’s assistant, then stints on the Faculty Assembly as secretary (1998-99), vice president (2000-2001) and president (2001-2002). From 1998-2003 and again from 2006-2008, she served on the executive committee of the Faculty Assembly. From 2005-2008, she chaired the committee to revise the faculty handbook, all of which she considers to be her greatest contribution to the university.

“Working for Tim was huge; it introduced me to a whole new world,” Kennedy said. “It got me out of office and introduced me to faculty and alumni and development. It was fascinating; I didn’t want to do it fulltime because I really like teaching, but I wanted to keep my hand in it. So I started looking for governance opportunities that worked outside of curriculum.

“I actually prefer to be behind the scenes rather than in front, but I’ve been fortunate to have been on some great committees and had some great opportunities.”

Her latest “opportunity” is as faculty director of the St Andrews/William & Mary Joint Degree Programme, in which students complete two years at each institution and earn a single diploma -- a Bachelor of Arts (International Honours) - - with the insignia of both institutions.

“I hope down the road that becomes an important contribution to the College; we’re only two years into it,” Kennedy said. “The students are great; working with St Andrews people has been fun -- hard because like putting lots of pieces into giant jigsaw puzzle -- but the College is going to end up being quite proud of it. We haven’t found a program that exactly matches this one so this could launch into something really big.”

Joel Schwartz, director of the Roy R. Charles Center, believes that Kennedy has the unique gifts to excel at whatever comes next for her.

“Colleen always brings an unusual attention to detail to her work, which is necessary for these demanding jobs,” Schwartz wrote in his letter of recommendation. “But she also brings her tremendous ability to work in collegial settings, to speak and write persuasively, and to be alert to the potential political minefields that might lurk around the corner.

“Put simply, she has served the College community – students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends – in just about every capacity imaginable.