The University of Alabama Awards Committee has bestowed the Capstone’s highest honors, the Premier Awards, to nine students, faculty and staff who exemplify the highest standards of scholarship, service, leadership and character.
William P. And Estan J. Bloom Scholarship Award
This award honors a junior who has improved intergroup relations within the University community.
Montgomery native Tionna Taite desires to one day make a positive impact on society. But with what she’s already accomplished while attending The University of Alabama, there’s not many who would say that goal hasn’t been met.
When Taite became a student at UA she set out to improve understanding and collaboration among diverse individuals and groups. The news media major set about achieving this objective by creating her own magazine, “Nineteen Fifty-Six,” which highlights Black culture, Black excellence and the Black student experience.
In addition to being founder and editor-in-chief of “Nineteen Fifty-Six,” Taite also is also the first Black editor-in-chief of UA Honor College’s “MOSAIC” magazine, the CEO and founder of Becoming Black Excellence and a member of the Alabama Forensic Council. She previously worked as a social media strategist for the Crimson White.
The Judy Bonner Presidential Medallion Prize
This award recognizes a member of the UA community who has gone above and beyond normal expectations to change the culture or implement new initiatives designed to advance the Alabama experience for all undergraduate students or a segment of the undergraduate population.
Dr. Rosalind Moore-Miller
As executive director of student engagement, Dr. Rosalind Moore-Miller has successfully overseen more than 600 student organizations to ensure they have a meaningful experience at the Capstone. In doing this, she has helped keep UA as a leading institution amongst its peers.
She created UA’s co-curricular transcript system during the coronavirus pandemic and helped hundreds of student organizations re-tool their meetings and programs so that they follow COVID-19 safety guidelines.
Her colleagues describe her as an understanding, inspiring, innovative, trustworthy, fair, admirable “role model for educators everywhere” as she relentlessly pursues support for UA’s students.
The Morris Lehman Mayer Award
This award recognizes one graduating senior and one teaching faculty who exemplifies integrity, selfless service and leadership at the University and in the community, and who have made significant contributions to student life.
Lyndell McDonald (Faculty)
Lyndell McDonald, an assistant professor of theatre and dance, has served as technical supervisor of dance at UA since 2005. He oversees five dance productions annually and provides oversight on all aspects of technical production including lighting, sound, projection and scenic design.
But not only does he light up the theatre and dance department’s productions, he lights up the entire college with his integrity and selfless leadership as a tireless champion of his students, his peers said.
Alumni have called him the backbone of UA theatre and dance, and without him, the “gears” of the department would fail. They said through his instruction, students have learned to light their own work professionally, and they leave the program with an enviable, highly employable skillset.
Demarcus Joiner (Student)
Civil engineering major Demarcus Joiner knows what it’s like not only to need help from others but to receive it.
As a young child diagnosed with kidney cancer, his dream was simply to live. He spent much time in the hospital fighting for that dream, going to multiple appointments a year. And it was during these hospital visits that he began to truly admire the doctors and nurses that worked hard to give him and other children a chance at continued life.
It didn’t take him long to decide that he wanted to use the life that others worked so diligently to help him keep to be like his hospital heroes. Initially, he sought to become a pediatric oncologist, but as he continued his education he found that his true calling was in the study of law, which he said can be used to help people in the fields of health and wellbeing.
With his deep passion for helping others, the Roanoke, Alabama native is a mentor at Southview Elementary School and with the Boys and Girls Club of West Alabama. He volunteers at the Crimson Village every other Friday with his fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, served as the first elected vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion of the SGA and is currently president of the SGA.
The John Fraser Ramsey Award
This award recognizes in a junior with the versatility of gifts and attainments, as well as the breadth of excellence in mind and character, that have traditionally been the goals of a liberal education.
Jackson Foster, a religious studies and history major, started off on a much different path.
He initially was headed to the University of Miami to double major in biochemistry and molecular biology. But as soon as he got the news, it didn’t sit well with him.
So he radically sought a different path that landed him at the Capstone majoring in religious studies and history. And he’s been very busy in those fields since.
Coming to UA as a Randall Research Scholar and Blount Scholar, Foster co-founded the Crimson Historical Review, which is the University’s first peer-edited history journal. He’s also studied abroad at the University of Oxford, published his research, “Mapping the Modern History of Philosophy of Religion with Machine Learning,” in the academic journal The Macksey, presented his research at various national conferences and much more.
The Catherine Johnson Randall Award
This award recognizes the most outstanding graduating senior based on GPA, rigor of course of study and extraordinary scholarly or creative endeavor.
Mary Caroline Yuk
Mary Caroline Yuk is an interdisciplinary studies major concentrating on neuroscience and has been an active scholar throughout her time at UA.
Yuk has conducted research in the areas of neurobiology and community health. Most recently, she co-authored a published paper about accessibility to hearing healthcare, and she has another paper in review. Her work has been presented at numerous conferences, including one international, one national as well as multiple regional and national ones.
In addition to her research, Yuk is highly involved in community outreach, volunteering her for several organizations. She is also the co-founder and executive director of Big Al’s Healthy Ears Project, which is the first hearing health program in the state that educates middle school students on how to protect and clean their ears and interact with people who have a hearing impairment. She currently serves as president of the Office of Undergraduate Research Ambassadors.
The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award
This award recognizes excellence of character and service to humanity. It honors one man and one woman of the graduating class and one non-student who have been helpful and associated with the University.
Eric Harrison (Student)
Throughout his many childhood trials and tribulations that left him feeling “lost,” psychology major Eric Harrison held onto one dream: attending and graduating from college.
Even after suffering several near-death experiences, he decided to pursue his dream once again.
Now as a UA honor student, he realizes that his life has a purpose, which is to use his experience – even the negative – and education to uplift others.
He volunteers with the Parent Resource Institute for Drug Education of Tuscaloosa speaking to youth and young adults about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. He also implemented a 12-week program in a Tuscaloosa County alternative school and mentored youth at the Tuscaloosa County Juvenile Detention Facility while working to create an organization that provides support to children of addicted parents. He hopes that sharing his testimony, while incorporating his education, will bring encouragement to those who are like how he once was.
Caitlyn McTier (Student)
Sylacauga, Alabama native Caitlyn McTier said she owes her heart of service to mankind to her grandparents who grew up fighting racism and discrimination in Alabama prior to and during the Civil Rights Movement.
In 2012, McTier started Caitlyn’s Cubby, a nonprofit organization that helps end food insecurity in middle and high schools throughout the state by providing free meals on weekends. To date, Caitlyn’s Cubby has served nearly 3,000 meals to students.
She continued that line of service when she came to UA, by addressing food insecurity among college students. Partnering with the UA Food Insecurity Task Force, the journalism and creative media major started Project FIERCE (Food Insecurity Education and Recharging Civic Engagement).
She’s also a founding member of the Alabama College Basic Needs Coalition and serves on the Alabama Child Hunger Task Force, traveling to universities throughout the state to discuss food insecurity and food pantry structures. McTier is SGA’s vice president for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, the first Black woman elected to the SGA executive council and president of 32nd Order of XXXI, an honorary society that recognizes the most influential women at the Capstone based on their character and contributions.
Jacqueline Maye (Staff)
A single mother of four, Jacqueline Maye has been a dedicated program assistant at the University for more than 20 years.
She’s trained numerous employees and proudly shouts “roll tide” wherever she goes.
She’s served as an ambassador of the UA WellBama Program and has been an active member of Mt. Pilgrim Baptist Church for nearly 25 years, the HOLT in Action board for nearly a decade and the Holt Partnership for 10 years.
This story was updated on Feb. 25, 2021 to account for winners’ most recent accomplishments.
The University of Alabama, part of The University of Alabama System, is the state’s flagship university. UA shapes a better world through its teaching, research and service. With a global reputation for excellence, UA provides an inclusive, forward-thinking environment and nearly 200 degree programs on a beautiful, student-centered campus. A leader in cutting-edge research, UA advances discovery, creative inquiry and knowledge through more than 30 research centers. As the state’s largest higher education institution, UA drives economic growth in Alabama and beyond.