2024 Salus Awards Gala Celebrates the Best of the Best
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2024 Salus Awards Gala Celebrates the Best of the Best

On Election Day in 2006, Michael Speirs was driving with his children through Chester County, Pennsylvania, on the way to visit the Herr’s potato chip factory when he got a call on his cell phone from George Bottomley, then director of the newly established Physician Assistant (PA) program at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO) asking him if he’d be interested in joining the faculty of the program.

Speirs had two questions: (1) What’s PCO? (2) And what’s a physician assistant?

Michael Speirs award pic“I learned quickly enough, and in the ensuing years, I had the opportunity to teach not only PA students but those in Occupational Therapy (OT), Speech-Language Pathology (SLP) and Audiology (AUD),” said Speirs, an associate professor who teaches cadaver anatomy.

For his efforts in the classroom, and for the second consecutive year, Speirs was named the Onofrey G. Rybachok Educator of the Year Award during the 8th annual Salus Awards Gala (SAG) held June 14, 2024, at The Fuge in Warminster, Pennsylvania.

His nomination synopsis called Speirs “a very personable and approachable educator” who cares deeply about his students and preparing them to have successful careers. “His incredible knowledge about his fields of study and his passion for education is palpable.”

The award is named after Dr. Rybachok, a PCO faculty member from 1937 to 1978, and is presented to the most valuable academic professor in any program or department at the University.

“I’m thrilled to be the recipient of this award. And I accept it not only on my behalf, but on behalf of the faculty members who make the University what it is for the students in the different programs,” said Speirs. “I hope that we remain united, productive and satisfied as we become part of the Drexel family going forward.”

The SAG Awards have evolved over the years to recognize outstanding educators, faculty, staff, administration and students in the Salus University community. This year, more than 100 nominations and more than 300 votes were cast to the Campus Activities Committee, which organizes the awards banquet.

Among the winners was the Office of Safety and Security, which garnered the Steadfast Service Department of the Year Award. It was especially significant this year because the department recently lost its security manager, Richard Stankovis, who passed away suddenly on June 12, 2024, just two days before the banquet.

“Given that we’re here to honor excellence tonight, it would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge the heaviness that is in our hearts about our dear friend and colleague, Rich Stankovis,” said James Caldwell, OD ‘89, Resident ‘91, EdD, associate provost of Academic Affairs and dean of Student Affairs. “There certainly was no better example of excellence within the Salus community than Rich. He touched everyone that came in contact with him. His presence influenced and impacted every member of our Salus community. While he loved all of us, we know that he loved the students the most of all.”

Hero Seto ‘25AUD, Student Council vice president, described Stankovis as a great man who will live on in the spirits of all those he touched.

“Rich had a way about him. When he greeted you, he saw you and not just another student. He was the cornerstone of our community and he loved to support our students,” said Seto.

Ben Jolley award picThe Lombardi Emerging Professional of the Year Award was presented to Benjamin Jolly ‘25O&P. Named after Lorraine Lombardi, PhD, who spent decades teaching students at PCO, the award honors a standout student leader in one of the University’s program.

“While I have not had the privilege to meet Dr. Lombardi, I’ve read enough about her to know that she is a sterling example of everything I aspire to be as a healthcare professional,” said Jolley. “With my profession of Orthotics and Prosthetics still being relatively young, I hope to make contributions to help it find its own voice, in much the same way that Dr. Lombardi did for optometry.”

The complete list of award winners includes:

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