Bennett receives Rotary Civic Award

When President Linda Bennett attended a rotary club luncheon April 19, she was unaware of what was in store.

Bennett received the 2015 Rotary Civic Award for leadership in the community and significant contributions to the community and state of Indiana.

The Rotary Club Civic Award was founded in 1927 to recognize outstanding individuals who helped further the lives of community members.

Former Student Government Association President Alexa Bueltel said Bennett has been a mentor to her. Bueltel would go to Bennett for advice on SGA-related issues, she said. Bennett helped Bueltel see the overall picture of the university.

“As a female president, it’s really nice having her as a role model to look up to because she’s a female president at a university level,” Bueltel said. “It’s really nice to see her being out there with students and being a positive role model to us.”

Bueltel said she feels it is important for Bennett to hear what is going on in students’ lives and invited her to attend SGA meetings.

Former Rotary Club President Pepper Mulherin said the Civic Award Committee looks carefully at each nominee when selecting a recipient. She said the committee looks at the accomplishments that have positively impacted the community and then determines the best recipient.

“Bennett’s resume was so impressive,” Mulherin said. “Her accomplishments and attribution just really stood out head and shoulders above everyone else.”

Mulherin said Bennett’s leadership with the Crane Naval Base and USI entrepreneurial partnership to utilize military technology for businesses and gain national recognition was significant.

The collaboration between the university and Ivy Tech was also noteworthy in the selection process because it worked to benefit students and reach the goals of the Indiana.

Another key contributor to Bennett’s nomination was her orchestration of the university’s first Strategic Plan. Following the 2010-2015 Strategic Plan, the university conducted an environmental scan to look at the strengths the university has compared to trends across the nation and the globe.

Assistant professor of political science Matthew Hanka said Bennett wanted to conduct a scan that would design the points of the Strategic Plan. The three main focuses of the 2016-2020 Strategic Plan were directly taken from the environmental scan.

The scan laid the foundation of the 2016-20 Strategic Plan to maximize the strengths found in the scan. Two of the strengths that emerged from the scan were access and affordability.

“It’s been great to work with Bennett on this,” he said. “She empowers the people around her and has proven to be an effective leader.”

Hanka said he sees her legacy as strengthening institutions like the university through its people.

“She’s an asset to the community and region,” Hanka said. “USI is a better institution because of her.”