Each of Case Western Reserve’s COVID-19 Champion honorees can claim particular expertise: English and engineering, medicine and nursing, custodial services, resiliency and technology.

But they all share a common commitment: preventing the pandemic from imperiling health or education.

Selected from a pool of 99 nominations, the individuals announced earlier this week had an enormous positive impact on the university community. 

Yet as Vice President for Human Resources Carolyn Gregory noted during Monday’s online ceremony, the winners emerged from a field of dozens of deeply inspiring examples.

“I want to thank those who took the time to submit,” Gregory said, “as well as everyone whose wonderful work made our choices extremely difficult.”

Added Interim President Scott Cowen, who announced the winners during the event attended by 120 people: “It has been an honor to lead a community so dedicated to supporting students and one another.”

Immediately below are the faculty and staff COVID-19 Champion Runners-Up, followed by the COVID-19 Champions—all including excerpts from nominations about them.

COVID-19 Champion Runners-Up receive items with Case Western Reserve logos, as well as Echo Dot speakers. Champions also receive CWRU-related items, as well as Fitbits.

COVID-19 Champion Runners-Up

Faculty

Photo of Marc Buchner

Marc Buchner, Associate Dean of Academics, Case School of Engineering 

“I can say without a doubt that the students of the Case School of Engineering would not have been as successful as they were in this past year without Marc’s efforts. He was there to ease faculty transition to online delivery and make each course as successful as possible, to ensure no student was left behind academically, and to advocate for changes to school academic policy that had true and lasting impact on the lives of our students.  

“Marc’s work was critical, not only in working with instructors to develop impactful programs but also gathering real-time data from the students themselves to respond and make changes based on their experiences.”

Photo of Brie Parkin

Brie Parkin, Lecturer of English and Interim Director, Writing Resource Center, College of Arts and Sciences

“Brie works far beyond her job description. She has made sure that students facing food insecurity have food, she has built a food pantry and has transitioned the campus’s writing resource center to a supportive virtual resource for faculty, staff, and students.

“She has helped counsel students who need help with public assistance. She has been a tireless advocate and advisor for many students. As a mentor for the CHC (Cleveland Humanities Collaborative), she supports students making the transition from Tri-C to CWRU and she does so with a commitment and passion unparalleled.”

Staff

Michael Whitted, former group leader for (Custodial) staff—now South Housing Custodial Supervisor

“Michael has overseen and worked directly as a custodian to keep the residential areas of the Case Western Reserve campus clean and sanitary for students and staff alike. He’s been an essential employee and has worked in-person throughout the pandemic. 

“Without Michael, our residential facilities on campus would not be kept clean and sanitary, which has been especially important during the pandemic when cleaning processes changed significantly and dramatically increased in frequency. 

“Without his hard work, students and staff could have easily been at higher risk for infection.”

Photo of Joel Kraft

Joel Kraft, Senior Solutions Architect, [U]Tech

“Joel developed the daily health attestation form, helped with technology for the COVID testing site, and a critical part in developing a new system to track isolation and quarantine, which freed our health care professionals from manual processes. 

“When the university was given the opportunity to administer vaccines, Joel was there to help develop the process and make sure all the appropriate systems were in place and functioning. Joel’s knowledge of the campus community, the various systems and technology, and his tireless dedication allowed us to create a safer environment for all of our students, faculty and staff.”

COVID-19 Champions

Faculty

Photo of Rong Xu

Rong Xu, Professor of Biomedical Informatics

“In collaboration with colleagues from CWRU and other organizations, Dr. Xu has led and published six high-profile papers and characterized the risk, disparity and outcomes of COVID-19 in patients with various disorders, dementia, chronic liver diseases, and cancers. These studies identified vulnerable populations for timely interventions to protect patients or mitigate the worst effects of COVID-19 pandemic. 

“They have been featured in both the scientific and lay press such as The New York Times, NBC News, Forbes, and USA Today.”

Photo of Shanina Knighton

Shanina Knighton, Instructor, Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing

“From the very start of the pandemic, Dr. Knighton has been a strong voice in sharing her expertise as an infection preventionist to students, colleagues and the public about ways to prevent the spread and transmission of COVID-19. She is an advocate for vulnerable and underserved minority communities in Northeast Ohio.

“She also created a detailed series of informational posters and fliers that convey necessary COVID-19 precautions, and hosted a series of webinars that addressed specific concerns among business owners who provide services, like hair and nail salons.”

Staff

Photo of Fred Peck

Fred Peck, Assistant Director, Academic Custodial Services

“Fred’s response to the pandemic was amazing.  

“He immediately went into action at the beginning, leading a team of over 100 staff on campus. He has ensured his team is conducting the required cleaning, according to current CDC guidelines, in a safe and effective manner. Fred also coordinated training for staff in current cleaning requirements, and made sure they had the necessary supplies and equipment to complete their tasks. 

“His quick actions have helped Case Western Reserve continue to be a clean and safe campus environment.”

Photo of Megan Koeth

Megan Koeth, Director, Office of Resiliency 

“Megan’s job is emergency management, so she is literally trained to prepare for worst-case scenarios. 

“But I don’t think she ever could have imagined this situation. Still, she has handled every challenge that came her way.

“Megan organized campus-wide COVID-19 inspections, mass and weekly testing, care of our isolated and quarantined students, and recently brought vaccinations to our campus. Her organization, forethought and planning have been critical in our efforts to keep the campus safe and healthy.”