Presidential Medals, Alumni of the Year Awards Presented to Distinguished Group
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Presidential Medals, Alumni of the Year Awards Presented to Distinguished Group

2024 Medal winners

When Paul Freeman, OD ‘74, FAAO, was thinking about his acceptance speech for receiving the 2024 Presidential Medal of Honor from Salus University, he decided he wanted to deliver a message to his daughter, Julia.

Julie and Paul FreemanThe first thing he had to do was make sure she would attend the University’s annual recognition reception, held June 2, 2024, at Pinecrest Country Club in Lansdale, Pennsylvania.

Once that commitment was secured, then Dr. Freeman began considering what kind of message he wanted to deliver. For that, he drew inspiration from one his mentors at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry, the late Irving Bennett, OD ‘44, DSC (Hon.) ‘87, FAAO, an internationally renowned authority and publisher in the field of optometric economics and practice management.

Dr. Bennett had once written a column titled “Dear Linda,” and Dr. Freeman changed the title to “Dear Julia” to directly address his daughter, a rising third-year student at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine who plans on going into general practice for exotic companion animals, like reptiles and small mammals like bunnies, guinea pigs and birds.

“As I accept this award, I feel that is important to acknowledge that although this is a result of what I have done, there are a number of mentors and colleagues who assisted and guided me along the way,” said Dr. Freeman. “As I know you’re going to find out at Penn Vet, I needed, and did receive, a good education and had great mentors to help me with that pursuit. Remember that, because I know someday you, too, will receive recognition for your veterinary achievements.”

The message from father to daughter was received loud and clear.

“It was meaningful and inspiring,” said Julia Freeman. “He is my role model and it was very sweet of him. It’s nice to see him be rewarded for his community service and his impact on his specialty. I hope to follow in his footsteps and be like that.”

The event featured the awarding of five Presidential Medal of Honor winners. In addition to Dr. Freeman, medals were presented to Rita Chaiken, AuD ‘03; Patricia Modica, OD ‘88, Resident ‘89; James Saviola, OD ‘85, FAAO; and Stephanie Czuhajewski, executive director of the Academy of Doctors of Audiology (ADA).

“It always humbling to read everything that these honorees have accomplished,” said Salus president Michael H. Mittelman, OD ‘80, MBA, MPH, FAAO, FACHE. “They all helped change not only their professions, but the world. What’s fascinating to me is talking to Jim Saviola, for instance. He’s an optometrist but he did all sorts of other things that helped literally millions of people. I think every one of these people has a story like that. That’s what makes this a special event.”

In addition to the Presidential Medal awards, the event also featured the annual Alumni of the Year award presentations.

Among those recognized were:

— Albert Fitch Memorial Alumnus of the Year: Brian Mahoney, OD ’85.

— George S. Osborne College of Audiology Alumnus of the Year: Brian Urban, AuD ‘06.

— Blindness and Low Vision Studies (BLVS) Alumna of the Year: Carlton Anne Cook Walker, MEd ‘11, JD, MBA.

—  Speech-Language Pathology Alumna of the Year: Lauren Bevan, MS ‘17.

— Physician Assistant Alumnus of the Year: Evan Schulz, MMS ’19.

— Special Recognition Award: Amanda Legge, OD ’12.

— Distinguished Service Award and the inaugural 2024 Provost Service Award: Nancy Griffin.

MHM, Nancy Griffin and Dr. CaldwellReceiving both the Distinguished Service Award and the Provost Service Award was an emotional moment for Griffin, who retired earlier this year after 46 years in the University’s Office of Admissions.

“I have been able to work with the best and the brightest. It’s been an absolute pleasure for me. You work 46 years, you don’t realize what you’re doing and how many people you’re touching. It’s nice to realize that you did touch people,” said Griffin.

In his presentation remarks, James Caldwell, OD ‘89, Resident ‘91, EdD, dean of Student Affairs and associate provost of Academic Affairs, said the provost award was created to honor the service of a Salus University community member who has demonstrated unwavering support and dedication.

“Nancy, your impact on the University and the lives of countless students and alumni really cannot be measured,” said Dr. Caldwell. “Throughout your 46 years in the Office of Admissions, you’ve been a beacon of guidance and a source of inspiration for all of us who have had the privilege of working with you.”

Griffin has known Dr. Caldwell since the latter arrived at PCO as a student for orientations and the two worked together until her retirement.

“He made me cry,” said Griffin of Dr. Caldwell’s presentation. “He’s just fabulous. All the work that he accomplishes becomes things that you accomplish. He just gives to everybody else and doesn’t take the glory ever. He’s just a wonderful person to work with.”

AOY award winners