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For the first time since 1982, two students will receive the prestigious George Nigh Award which is presented annually to East Central University's top senior.

James E. Brown III of Cushing and Aradhna Pillai of Nadi, Fiji, each will receive the $500 award Tuesday [APRIL 22] from former Gov. George Nigh at a luncheon in the South Dining Hall of Taff Cafeteria in ECU's Memorial Student Union.

The luncheon is open to the public and officers and members of area civic groups are encouraged to attend. The cost is $5. The buffet line will open at 11:30 a.m. Reservations, while not required, can be made by calling the President's Office at 580-559-5213.

Brown and Pillai, along with finalists Rina Chronister-Phillips of Norman, Audrey Myers of Ada and Tori Petete of Ada, will be honored by ECU officials and community leaders for their outstanding academic achievements.

The Nigh Award is based on academic achievement, character and potential contribution to public service. The late Julian Rothbaum, a Tulsa oil man, banker and one-time state regent for higher education, established an endowment to fund the Nigh Award in honor of the former governor.

Nigh, also a former president of the University of Central Oklahoma, served four terms in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, four terms as lieutenant governor and two terms as governor.

James Brown, a chemistry major who said he realized how much he enjoys teaching since becoming a supplemental instructor of an ECU chemistry class last summer, wants to become a university professor after working several years in industry or for NASA. He plans to earn a master's or doctoral degree in chemical engineering at the University of Oklahoma.

He has held a NASA Fellowship since 2004 and has been a McNair Scholar since 2005. He has been involved in research projects at the Robert S. Kerr Environmental Research Library in Ada and in the National Science Foundation's Research Experience for Undergraduates last summer at Oklahoma State University. He also has made four presentations about his research.

As a member of the CREW, ECU's campus activities board, he was in charge of the Homecoming parade the last two years. He has been co-chair of the CREW since 2006 and was president of the Society of Success and Leadership for two years. He is vice president of the Chemistry Club.

Brown has been a volunteer at both Stillwater's Humane Society and Ada's PAWS Animal Shelter, participated in the Relay for Life for four years, delivered presents for needy children for three years and was a Thanksgiving dinner volunteer in Cushing and Ada.

Brown was a Top Ten Freshman in 2004, the second runner-up for Homecoming king last fall and has been a member of Alph Chi national honor society since 2005.

Aradhna Pillai, a non-traditional student, left a secure and rewarding six-year position as a research officer in the Australian Embassy's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Fiji to come to ECU. She will graduate in May with a degree in political science.

She has been admitted to the Robert Wagner School of Public Service at New York University to work toward a master in public administration degree with an international concentration. She wants to work in public policy internationally for an organization such as the United Nations, focusing on the improvement of governance in developing countries or countries with political unrest.

Pillai eventually wants to become an American citizen and seek a high-level diplomatic post with a U.S. embassy.

At ECU she is a member of Phi Alpha Theta history honor society and Pi Sigma Alpha political science honor society. She has made academic presentations, served as a Student Senate representative and helped organize Household Hazardous Waste Collection Day as an officer in ECU's Environmental Health Science Club.

She was the master of ceremonies for Global Ada at ECU last December and was selected by the Rotary Club and ECU's Office of International Students and Programs to lead the Outstanding International Citizen ceremony. She also helped organize ECU's Multicultural Fair for two years.

Finalist Rina Chronister-Phillips received a degree in social work in December and works in the mental/behavioral health field. She plans to earn a master of social work degree from the University of Oklahoma and become a licensed clinical social worker.

At ECU she was a member of Alpha Chi national honor society and was president of Alpha Delta Mu social work honor society in 2005-06. She participated in the Annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner, worked on social issue awareness campaigns and was elected the undergraduate student representative to the National Association of Social Workers Oklahoma Chapter.

Audrey Myers is majoring in chemistry and represented ECU this year at Research Day at the Capitol. She has presented her undergraduate research at several conferences. She is a McNair student researcher at the Robert S. Kerr Environmental Research Center in Ada and has provided free tutoring to chemistry students. Last fall she was a supplemental instructor for an ECU chemistry class.

Myers was named a Top Ten Freshman and a Top Ten Senior. She volunteered through the ECU Honors Student Association for the after-school program at the Ada Boys and Girls Club. She plans to earn a doctorate in chemistry and become either a college professor or work in industry or government. Tori Petete will receive a degree in accounting and begin working as an accountant at Devon Energy in Oklahoma City. She plans to complete a master's degree in accounting in August 2009 at Oklahoma Christian University and become a certified public accountant.

She presented a service-learning project to university presidents at the Presidential Summit with Dr. Pat Fountain last fall. She is a Tiger Ambassador, Top Ten Senior and a member of Alpha Chi national honor society and is secretary of the Accounting Club.

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