Ellen Druebbisch ’21 is this year’s Robert L. Hill Distinguished Senior Award winner. The announcement was made during the Phi Kappa Phi induction ceremony today in Snidow Chapel.
The Robert L. Hill Distinguished Senior Award was established in memory of Hill, who served Lynchburg as a professor and chair of economics from 1965-1984. It is presented to a senior who has excelled in academics, ranked in the top 2% of the graduating class, pursued a challenging and rigorous curriculum, and exhibited involvement in campus and community activities.
Jennifer Styrsky, assistant professor of the Westover Honors College and School of Sciences and a member of the award evaluation committee, said all the finalists this year were excellent and equally matched.
“What made our winner stand out was the breadth and depth of her involvement in campus activities and the leadership skills she demonstrated in these roles. Her positive influence has extended across many disciplines and organizations, leaving a lasting impact on our campus community,” Styrsky said.
Honorable mentions for the Hill award included finalists Natalie Hanno ’21 and Nickolas Louvros ’21.
Druebbisch, a biomedical science major with minors in biology and health promotion, has said she wanted to “make the most out of my four years in college and to be as involved as I could be.”
That involvement has included being a Westover Honors Fellow, maintaining a 4.0 GPA, holding various positions on the Westover Honors College Executive Board, and receiving a Schewel Student-Faculty Research Fund grant for her senior research project. The Greensboro, North Carolina, resident was also a finalist for Lynchburg’s most prestigious academic honor, the Richard Clarke Somerville Scholar.
She wrote in her Hill Award application letter about starting out at Lynchburg with a few friends but deciding to “push outside my comfort zone.” So, she applied to be a part of Lynchburg’s Connections Program as a peer leader and mentor.
“This decision was one of the best I have made because after that first semester of teaching I found my voice, became confident putting myself in new situations and wanted to make an impact on the campus that had given me so much. This was when I started to be involved in anything I had time for,” Druebbisch said.
And Druebbisch became involved in many more activities. She’s captain of Lynchburg’s women’s tennis team and was the first student-athlete from that program to receive CoSIDA Division III “Academic All-America” honors. She tutors organic chemistry students through the University’s Peer Assisted Supplemental Study (PASS) program, serves as president and Student Government Association senator for the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, and was on the Relay For Life committee for two years.
She even found time to donate a kidney to a childhood friend last year.
“[I] can easily say that in my 22 years of teaching I have encountered few students as disciplined and conscientious as Ellen,” Dr. Beth Savage, director of the Westover Honors College, wrote in Druebbisch’s letter of recommendation. “Over the past four years, Ellen has embodied both the scholarly and service-oriented commitments that have characterized our strong Hill recipients in past years. I can imagine no more qualified candidate for this award.”
Savage went on to describe a conversation they had before an annual sophomore-senior dinner where she wanted the seniors, including Druebbisch, to talk about campus involvement opportunities and that students can’t do everything.
“Ellen piped up, ‘Well, I kind of do everything.’ I thought that was fantastic, and asked her to talk more about it. She told the sophomores that night about how each year she would seek out one more thing, one more new opportunity. She said to them, ‘You think you don’t have time, but you do. Look at your schedule. You can always do more.’ Her inspiring confidence that everyone can do as much as she can, proves her humility and how she takes new challenges in stride,” Savage said.
Druebbisch said she often gets comments on her ability to manage her breadth of involvement on campus and maintain near-perfect academic performance.
“While I always brush these comments to the side and make some sort of joke about not sleeping very much, finally, as a senior, I have had time to reflect on all that I have done,” she said. “I feel privileged to attend a school that encourages students to be involved in many different organizations on campus, and each of my experiences with these groups has developed me into the person I am today.”
In the fall, she will enter the Master of Public Health/Registered Dietitian combined program at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health. Her goal is to work in public health and nutrition counseling in schools and with underserved populations.