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6 Alumni/4 Faculty Honored at Awards Banquet

CCI honored six alumni and four faculty members at its annual Awards and Scholarship Donor Appreciation Banquet on Nov. 14 at Knoxville’s Holiday Inn World’s Fair Park.  Sharon Price John (BS/Adv ‘86), CEO and President of Build-a-Bear Workshop, Inc., received CCI’s highest alumni honor, the Donald G. Hileman Distinguished Alumni Award, during the event. (See for a summary of John’s distinguished career, and for a list of past Hileman Award winners).

Dean Wirth with Isaac Wright and Marcellus TurnerCCI Alumni Award Winners

In addition to John, five other CCI alums received awards at the banquet. 

  • Dana McCullough (’95) – Advertising Alumna of the Year
  • Tyler Summitt (’13) – Communication Studies Alumnus of the Year
  • Marcellus Turner (‘88) – Information Sciences Alumnus of the Year
  • Viola Gienger (’84) – Journalism and Electronic Media Alumna of the Year
  • Isaac Wright (’03) – Public Relations Alumnus of the Year

Dean Wirth with faculty members Levenshus, Palenchar and Faizer


CCI Faculty Award Winners

Four CCI faculty members were presented with awards at the banquet.

  • Abbey Levenshus (PR) – Faculty Teaching Award
  • Jin Seong Park (ADV) – Faculty Research Award
  • Michael Palenchar (PR) – Faculty Service/Outreach Award
  • Melanie Faizer (JEM) – Lecturer Teaching Award

In addition to recognizing outstanding alumni and faculty, the annual banquet allows the college to honor CCI’s scholarship donors and provides scholarship recipients and donors the opportunity to meet in person. A list of CCI scholarships can be found at

 Alumni Awards

Donald G. Hileman Distinguished Alumni AwardSharon Price John (’86), CEO and President, Build-a-Bear Workshop, Inc.

John is an expert in corporate turnarounds. Since she took the helm at Build-a-Bear the company has experienced six consecutive quarters of improved operating performance. She previously helped revitalize Wolverine Worldwide’s Stride Rite Children’s Group LLC as president and held senior management roles at Hasbro. 

Advertising Alumna of the YearDana McCullough (’95), Vice President, Account Director at McCann Erickson

McCullough leads advertising efforts for Nikon Inc. and the United Way.  She has over 18 years of leadership experience marketing some of America’s most beloved brands including AT&T, Fisher Price, Pepperidge Farms and the U.S. Army.

Communication Studies Alumnus of the YearTyler Summitt (’13), Head Coach, Louisiana Tech University Women’s Basketball Team

Summitt began his coaching career as an assistant coach of women’s basketball at Marquette University.  He was named head coach at Louisiana Tech in Spring 2014.  Louisiana Tech ranks second in all-time NCAA women’s basketball wins trailing only UT.

Information Sciences Alumnus of the YearMarcellus Turner (’88), City Librarian, Seattle Public Library System

Turner oversees the Seattle Public Library with 26 branches, a $63 million annual budget and 684 staff members.  He serves on the University of Washington iSchool Advisory Board and on CCI’s Board of Visitors.

Journalism and Electronic Media Alumna of the YearViola Gienger (’84), Senior Writer, United States Institute of Peace

Gienger reports, writes and edits stories related to the Institute’s work including the Olive Branch blog. She has 25 years of experience as a news reporter including coverage of the State Department and Pentagon for Bloomberg News.

Public Relations Alumnus of the YearIsaac Wright (’03), Vice President, American Bridge and Director, Correct the Record 2016 Project

Wright has received six Pollie Awards and a Reed Award.  He has worked on campaigns for Gore-Lieberman, Mike Beebe, Jay Nixon, and Hilary Clinton.  He was named to Arkansas Business Magazine’s “40 Under 40.”


Faculty Awards

Faculty Teaching AwardAbbey Levenshus, Assistant Professor, School of Advertising and Public Relations

Levenshus teaches public relations (PR) writing and case courses that bridge her professional communication experience and her research on government PR, risk and crisis communication, and social media. Her classes participated in the Medal of Honor Project including the Medal of Honor Convention Town Hall event held on the UT campus as a part of their learning experience.

Faculty Research AwardJin Seong Park, Assistant Professor, School of Advertising and Public Relations

Park’s research focuses on how drug advertising changes the way people think about diseases.  He teaches courses on advertising media strategy, advertising and public relations research, and health issues in communication.

Faculty Service/Outreach AwardMichael Palenchar, Associate Professor, School of Advertising and Public Relations

Palenchar teaches public relations management, crisis communication and qualitative research methods. He has 20+ years of professional experience and his research focus is on risk communication science. Palenchar is the current chair of UT’s Undergraduate Council.

Lecturer Teaching AwardMelanie Faizer, Lecturer, School of Journalism and Electronic Media

Faizer was a multimedia editor and manager at Bloomberg News in New York City. She teaches history and principles of journalism, multimedia storytelling and web journalism. She is working on a digital textbook on multimedia storytelling.