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10 April 2013

Whitely wins national student affairs recognition

Sixteen years ago, Vice President for Student Affairs Pat Whitely stood before a crowd in Chicago.

At the time, William Butler was accepting NASPA’s (the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education) 1997 Scott Goodnight Award for Outstanding Performance as a dean.

Whitely remembers the day Butler received the recognition. He was already retiring, and Whitely was about to assume his position.

“He introduced me to the crowd of people and said, ‘This is who’s replacing me,’” she said. “I was thinking to myself, ‘Who knows if that’ll ever be me?’”

On March 19, at NASPA’s annual conference in Orlando, Whitely received the same recognition her predecessor had been awarded that day.

“Sixteen years later I was able to call him up and I said, ‘Dr. Butler, did you know that there’s only one university in the country that’s had two vice presidents obtain the Goodnight Award?’” she said. “And he said, ‘Darling, is that you?’”

NASPA’s Scott Goodnight Award is the highest honor that can be bestowed to a senior affairs administrator in higher education, who, according to the organization, “has demonstrated sustained professional service in student affairs work, high-level competency in administrative skills, innovative response in meeting students’ varied and emerging needs, effectiveness in developing junior staff members, and leadership in community and university affairs.”

The award is named in honor of the organization’s founding board chair. Both Butler and Whitely received the award, making the University of Miami the only school that has had two administrative members receive that distinction.

Butler expressed his sentiments about Whitely’s recognition.

“I couldn’t be more proud of her,” he said. “I was very proud to receive the same award in Chicago in 1997.”

He also expressed his feelings about her performance for the past 16 years.

“She’s done a terrific job and has more than met my expectations of being a first-rate student affairs administrator and educator,” he said.  “I’m very proud of her. I’m also proud of the university that it was possible for two vice presidents back-to-back for student affairs from the same university to receive that same award. That says something about the university.”

Nancy Ryan, executive assistant to the vice president, has worked for Butler and Whitely.

She worked for Butler for 19 years, and has worked for Whitely since she first started as VP 16 years ago.

“I’m very proud. It kind of pulls together the mission and the vision of the field of student affairs and what we do for students,” Ryan said. “Because this is a national award, this brings the focus of what’s going on in the country.”

Ryan noted that both Butler and Whitely, though distinct, have had similar goals and visions throughout their careers.

“The two of them have always had a good vision of what’s important to students and looking ahead,” Ryan said. “We’re ahead of the game. A lot of universities across the country have looked toward the University of Miami to help them when they’ve encountered different areas. It’s very rewarding. It’s challenging because you have to stay one step ahead of them, and that’s always hard to do.”

When asked about her feelings toward the award, Whitely expressed simultaneous feelings of pride and humility.

“I am incredibly humbled,” White said. “At the same, I’m proud of the award. Never in a million years would I have ever believed I would have achieved that or been honored by it. I am deeply humbled, honored, proud. There’s teamwork here at the university. There’s been a terrific team of people I’ve worked with.”