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An award-winning East Central University graduate who has worked in the field of human resources and deafness for more than 25 years has been named the 2011 recipient of the Distinguished Alumna Award in Human Services Counseling by ECU’s Human Resources Department.

R. René Ryan of Tulsa received the award at the department’s awards and recognition program this spring in Ada. She has been the executive director of TSHA (Total Source for Hearing-loss and Access) in Tulsa for 18 years.

Ryan also received the Lifetime Achievement Award last February from the Oklahoma Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf.

As a nationally certified sign language interpreter since 1985, and because of her work within the deaf community, she was one of the first hearing individuals to receive the Golden Hands Award from the National Association of the Deaf in 1999.

She continues to interpret regularly, including a great deal of court room interpreting, as not enough interpreters are qualified for that setting.

Ryan graduated from ECU in 1985 with a bachelor’s degree in human services counseling/services to the deaf and was hired by TSHA. After three years, she received a full scholarship to return to ECU. By doubling up on the course work, she completed her master of science in human resources degree in rehabilitative counseling with a 3.89 grade average, in half the normal time.

She returned to TSHA, and during her tenure, has managed six programs with 19 staff members and 125 contractors in a multi-state environment.

Her work with employers has led her to receive The Trailblazer Award from the Oklahoma Alliance for Civil Rights, the Building the 21st Century Workforce Award from the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (Southwest & Rocky Mountain Region) and the Exemplary Public Interest Contribution Award from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Ryan continues her connection to ECU by supervising current ECU interns who choose TSHA as their internship site.

 She also mentors other directors in non-profit agencies who need assistance and has worked with the U.S. Department of Education as a peer reviewer in Washington, D.C., for grant proposals. As a member of review teams, she also goes to funded sites across the nation to evaluate performance and provide consultation and guidance on improving programs.

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