The following story originally ran on the W&M Alumni Magazine website as an online exclusive. – Ed.

Experts on next-generation quantum technologies, mental health and blue crab fishery management were among the 10 leading William & Mary educators recognized on May 10 as the 2024 recipients of the highly coveted Plumeri Awards for Faculty Excellence. Nine professors and one coach were honored for their contributions to elevating excellence at the university and providing the most personal educational experience possible to our students. They each demonstrate deep commitment to the core award values of passion, vision, leadership and excellence.

Now in its 15th year, the Plumeri Awards were established in 2009 by Joseph J. Plumeri II ’66, D.P.S. ’11 to pay tribute to the impact professors had on his own life. Plumeri Award funds have provided over $3.2 million in critical research and operational support to nearly 250 faculty members and coaches to date. Names and biographies for each recipient can be found below and online at the Plumeri Awards page.

Members of the W&M baseball team and Director of Athletics Brian Mann present Plumeri with a commemorative baseball bat in honor of the 25th anniversary of Plumeri Park. (Photo by Robert Keroack ’79)

Plumeri set the tone for the event with impassioned remarks on the importance of excellence in our world, especially in education, and its role in shaping both individuals and society.

“Today is my favorite day of the year,” Plumeri remarked. “I look forward to this every year because I get to hang out with people who really love what they do. Excellence is what built this great country, and it’s our responsibility to ensure its sustainability.”

Following the awards ceremony on Friday, the university community celebrated the 25th anniversary of Plumeri Park, established through the philanthropic investment of Plumeri. and named in honor of his father, Samuel J. “Sam” Plumeri Sr.

William & Mary President Katherine A. Rowe and W&M Director of Athletics Brian Mann marked the occasion with Plumeri during a special program at the Tribe baseball game against Towson. Rowe noted Plumeri’s generosity and continued engagement with student athletes, relating how Plumeri often reminds students, “When you are on this field it’s expected that you’re going to do your best because the person this park was named after was special.”

Author of the national bestselling book “The Power of Being Yourself,” Plumeri is currently a senior advisor to global investment firm Kohlberg, Kravis Roberts & Co. L.P. (KKR) and executive chairman of Switzerland-based Selecta Group, a leading provider of coffee and convenience food in workplaces and public spaces. Previously, he served as vice chairman of the Board of Directors of First Data Corp., the world’s largest payments and business solutions company, and was chairman and CEO of Willis Group Holdings PLC, a multinational risk advisor and insurance brokerage that merged with Towers Watson & Co. in 2016. He also held a variety of leadership roles over more than 30 years at Citigroup, including co-CEO of Shearson Lehman Brothers, CEO of Primerica Financial Services and CEO of CitiBank North America.

Recipients of the highly competitive Plumeri awards are selected based on their accomplishments in the areas of discovery, scholarship, teaching and athletics. Full-time faculty who have been at the university at least five years are eligible, as are coaches and staff who help define excellence at William & Mary. In 2019, the award was increased from $10,000 to $20,000, to be used over a three-year period.

Throughout his remarks, Plumeri acknowledged the accomplishments of the 2024 cohort directly, with meaningful highlights from their work. Reflecting on his own journey, he expressed gratitude for the opportunities afforded to him by William & Mary and emphasized the vital role of faculty members in nurturing students’ growth and success.

“I’m blessed every year to celebrate the very thing that I think helped me build the character that I have,” Plumeri emphasized. As a student, he said, “the professors really paid attention to me, and they helped me because they really cared. I have always felt that that was really what this place was about. The real heart and soul are the people in this room — the faculty — because you are the embodiment of the connection between the school and the students. Without you, there’s no William & Mary. You should be celebrated because you’re what this place is all about.”

William & Mary Rector Charles E. Poston J.D. ’74, P ’02, P ’06, G ’26 welcomed the recipients and guests and congratulated the faculty on the distinctive recognition this award provides. President Rowe expressed her gratitude on behalf of the university and highlighted the unique nature of Plumeri’s visionary investment and impactful partnership across the years.

“Joe is a true friend and partner in every sense to our university community — we are so fortunate at William & Mary to have his longstanding support.”

Rowe underscored the profound effect of the Plumeri Awards in fostering a culture of excellence and innovation at the Alma Mater of the Nation.

“We’re recognizing faculty and coaches who support our students in their growth,” said Rowe. “Teaching, learning, making new knowledge together — these are the most powerful mechanisms of change, and the Plumeri Awards catalyze that work. These awards are a testament to the transformative power of education and the dedication of our faculty members to their craft.”

Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs & Development Pamela Eddy, herself a recipient of the Plumeri Award in 2011, echoed Rowe’s sentiments, highlighting the passion and commitment of this year’s award recipients.

“Here, within the halls of William & Mary, excellence isn’t just a concept — it’s a living, breathing ethos,” Eddy said. “These awards celebrate faculty and coaches who seek out opportunities for transformation, both in themselves and in those they impact. I can personally testify to the downstream influence the Plumeri Award has had on my own career, and its impact on the university and our students. I know that when people see this award in my bio that it signals excellence.”

The ceremony honored the remarkable achievements of the faculty awardees, including Professor Dan Runfola, who delivered remarks on behalf of the 2024 cohort of recipients. Runfola’s pioneering work has led to cutting-edge discoveries in data analysis, and the Plumeri Award will not only continue to advance his work, but also the work of the entire class of awardees.

 “This award will let us take the next leap — seeking to expand these techniques to new areas around the world, in the pursuit of improving human wellbeing,” Runfola said.

Plumeri expressed deep gratitude and passionate encouragement to the 2024 class of Plumeri Awards recipients, taking time to recognize their accomplishments and drive for excellence. (Photo by Skip Rowland ’83)

As evidenced by the standing-room-only crowd and the impressive list of current and former awardees in attendance, the Plumeri Awards represent more than just accolades — they symbolize a shared commitment to excellence at William & Mary and a belief in the power of education to transform lives.

“Our responsibility is to do for ourselves to be great so that others have the opportunity to do the same,” Plumeri said. “That’s what the world is about, that’s what life’s about, that what this country’s about, and, God bless it, that’s what this college is about. Congratulations.”

Meet the Plumeri Award winners

More information is available on the Plumeri Awards webpage

Patton E. Burchett

Associate Professor of Religious Studies

Professor Burchett is a scholar of the religions of South Asia. He received his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 2012 and his research and teaching focus on Hindu religious history and the role of South Asian religious traditions in nationalist politics, contemporary contemplative and wellness practices, and responses to climate change and environmental crisis. Burchett is a founding member of W&M’s Mind, Brain & Wellness Seminar and is part of a grant-funded, interdisciplinary W&M team of psychologists, neuroscientists and humanities scholars studying how different individual motivations and socio-cultural perspectives affect the physiological and subjective effects of contemplation and breathing practices.

Brian G. Castleberry

Associate Professor of Creative Writing

Since its inception in 2010, Professor Castleberry has shaped the creative writing program at William & Mary — first as a non-tenure faculty member who spearheaded the creation of a minor program and later as the tenured director of that program. His stories and essays have been published in leading journals such as the Southern Review, Narrative, Michigan Quarterly Review, LitHub and the Los Angeles Review of Books. He has directed the Patrick Hayes Writers Series since 2014, diversifying the list of authors each year so that a greater number of students feel included in the notion of authorship and see themselves represented and celebrated on campus.

Audrey J. Horning ’89

Professor of Anthropology

Currently chair of the Anthropology Department, Professor Horning’s research centers on comparative colonialism and the relationship between heritage and contemporary identity, with a focus upon the early modern Atlantic. She has directed archaeological projects in Ireland, Scotland, the United Kingdom and the United States integrating rigorous scientific methods with community engagement. Professor Horning also makes significant contributions to the graduate program in historical anthropology, servicing as primary advisor for 11 graduate students.

Romuald “Rom” N. Lipcius

Marine Science

Professor Lipcius joined the faculty of William & Mary’s Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) in 1986 after postdoctoral fellowships at the Smithsonian Institution and U.S. National Research Council. His doctoral degree is from Florida State University. He is a W&M Biomathematics Program faculty member, and in his cross-campus work he collaborates with Professors Shaw and Shi of the Mathematics Department and Professor Lockwood of the Geology Department. Lipcius teaches both undergraduate and graduate courses at W&M and VIMS. He has supervised 19 doctoral and 18 master’s graduate students, served on numerous student committees and has mentored many students from the high school level and up.

Elizabeth J. Mead

Professor of Art

Professor Mead teaches sculpture in the Department of Art & Art History. In the studio classroom, she focuses on teaching her students to see and think carefully. Emphasis is placed on developing in each student the tools to critically analyze visual phenomenon and to contextualize it. Her innovative teaching has been recognized with the W&M Alumni Association’s Alumni Fellowship Award, and she has been named both a Coco Faculty Fellow and as a W. Taylor Reveley III Interdisciplinary Fellow.

Irina B. Novikova

Professor of Physics

Professor Novikova received her Ph.D. in 2003 from Texas A&M University. After spending three years as a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, she joined the physics faculty at William & Mary. For almost two decades, Novikova has been working on the next generation of quantum technologies that use laser manipulation of atomic quantum states. Her work includes a wide range of applications from quantum memory optimization and designing more sensitive atomic clocks and magnetometers to demonstrating new sources of non-classical optical fields and quantum-enhanced spectroscopy and imaging.

Janise S. Parker

Associate Professor of School Psychology

Professor Parker received her doctorate from the University of Florida in School Psychology, and she is a licensed psychologist and nationally certified school psychologist. Her commitment to community-engaged work reflects an intentional integration of service, activist-scholarship and teaching. She is a research fellow with the William & Mary Bray School Lab, where she has designed a healing-centered micro-course that focuses on community restoration in light of historical and contemporary acts of racial and religious/spiritual division. She recently founded and directs the Community and Action Research Engagement (CARE) Lab in the School of Education which was developed to address mental health disparities alongside members in the surrounding community through teaching, service and applied research.

Michael A. Powell ’04

Director of Gymnastics

Coach Powell strives to provide an experiential education through varsity athletics. Using the medium of gymnastics, he seeks to enhance the education and growth of student-athletes through excellence in athletics, academics and community engagement. Powell has continued the program’s legacy of fostering connections throughout campus and the local community. He has guided student-athletes to the myriad of leadership and educational opportunities available at W&M and, as a result, seven gymnasts have received the Cypher Award in the last eight years for their efforts to make a difference at the university.

Joshua R. Puzey

Associate Professor of Biology, Graduate Director of Biology

Professor Puzey currently serves as the Broderick Family/Goldman Sachs Associate Professor of Biology and is a distinguished scholar in evolutionary biology and genomics. He earned his Ph.D. from Harvard University and completed a National Science Foundation (NSF)-sponsored research fellowship at Duke University. Supported by prestigious institutions such as NSF and National Geographic, his research delves into various fields, including plant-microbe interactions and genomics in conservation. As director of graduate students in biology, he mentors the next generation of scholars, advocating for inclusivity and diversity within academia.

Daniel M. Runfola

Associate Professor of Applied Science, Graduate Director of Applied Science and Data Science

Professor Runfola is an associate professor and graduate director of Applied Science and Data Science at William & Mary. His core expertise is in the applied use of machine learning to analyze satellite data to better understand the relationships between societies and the environment at a global scale. In addition to his Ph.D. and postdoctoral group, Dan also runs one of the largest undergraduate research groups on campus, the W&M geoLab.