OWU director receives Hoch Award


The Ohio Campus Compact is honoring Sally Leber, Ohio Wesleyan University’s director of Community Service Learning, with its 2023 David Hoch Memorial Award for Excellence in Service.

“This is some of the best news ever,” said Ohio Wesleyan President Rock Jones Ph.D., who nominated Leber for the Hoch Award. “I cannot imagine anyone exceeding Sally Leber in contributions that further the civic mission of their institution.”

Leber’s efforts include building and maintaining relationships with over 60 nonprofit community partners, working with Ohio Wesleyan students majoring in Social Justice and Education, and helping to create the new Bishop Scholars program, which involves 75 OWU students providing intensive mathematics and literacy tutoring to youths attending Buckeye Valley Local Schools, Delaware City Schools, and Columbus Bilingual Academy North. Funded by a state education grant that Leber helped to secure, the Bishop Scholars program is working to help the youths get back on track academically following the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Students and alumni tell me all the time that Sally has helped them to become better people who are more aware of the needs of others and who are more willing and able to help,” Jones said. “They tell me how Sally placed them in service-learning experiences that changed their lives, mentored them through difficult personal experiences and important life decisions, and just checked in with them from time to time to see how they were doing.

“Over my 15 years as president of Ohio Wesleyan, I have felt the magnitude of Sally’s empathetic presence, her caring heart, and her extended hand,” Jones said. “She expresses concern when concern is most needed, and she is willing to step in and go to work when help is most needed. She models civic engagement in the way she lives her life and in the way she does her work.”

According to the Ohio Campus Compact, the Hoch Award is given annually “to recognize and honor the outstanding work in service-learning and/or civic engagement” performed by a faculty or staff member at an OCC member institution. The compact is a nonprofit consortium of 34 institutions of higher education with a collective mission “to strengthen Ohio colleges and universities’ capacity to educate students for civic and social responsibility and to improve community life.”

OWU Vice President for Student Engagement and Success Dwayne Todd, Ph.D., oversees Leber’s office and supported her nomination for the Hoch Award.

“Sally Leber’s work in leading community service and civic engagement initiatives with college students is renowned not only in the state of Ohio, but well beyond as well,” Todd told the award committee. “It is impossible to effectively quantify the number of individuals who have personally benefited from Sally’s tireless and passionate efforts over a 28-year span at Ohio Wesleyan University to improve the wellbeing of communities while also teaching students how to serve others in ethical, values-based, and sustained ways. …

“(Sally) ensures that service initiatives she helps coordinate are conducted in ways that respect the experiences and culture of those who are being served, that students approach all service experiences with proper preparation and an appropriate mindset, and that students have effective ways of processing their experiences and learning afterward,” he said.

“Sally’s work in civic engagement has also been immense,” Todd continued. “She is very active in advising and teaching in our Social Justice academic program, leading voter engagement drives, and educating students on how to effect change in civic systems. She successfully weaves service and action together in ways that help students see paths forward to participate in societal change efforts.

“Because Sally has been instrumental in demonstrating what excellence in service looks like to our campus community, and the immense learning that comes from it, community service was added by our faculty as a fourth component of our signature university program, the OWU Connection,” Todd said. “Starting next fall, all students will be required to complete an OWU Connection experience as a part of their degree-completion requirements, which can be done through completing an internship/apprenticeship, independent research project, a study-away experience, or an immersive and extended community service experience.

“This incorporation of service in the OWU Connection program will continue to elevate the value of service throughout our campus, and thousands more students and community members will benefit from the even greater levels of service that will result,” Todd concluded. “Sally is at the helm of this effort to expand service offerings through the OWU Connection and is doing so in a masterful way.”

Leber will be formally recognized by the Ohio Campus Compact during its annual meeting, set to be held Aug. 11 on the Ohio Wesleyan campus. Along with Leber, Anita Ruf-Young of Cleveland State University will be honored with a 2023 Hoch Award for her work to improve her northeast Ohio campus and community.

The award is named in memory of David Hoch, the Dean of Honors at The University of Toledo, who was instrumental in initiating and nurturing civic engagement in UToledo’s Honors Program, residence life, and other areas.

Learn more about the Ohio Campus Compact and Hoch Award at https://ohiocampuscompact.org. Learn more about Leber and Ohio Wesleyan’s Community Service Learning Center at www.owu.edu/CommunityServiceLearning. Learn more about Ohio Wesleyan’s signature student experience, the OWU Connection, at www.owu.edu/OWUConnection.

Submitted by Ohio Wesleyan University.

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