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Alumni Association recognizes distinguished students

O'Hara, Katie Scarlett | Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Danny Richter got a birthday party under the dome yesterday when a reception was held to honor him as this year’s Alumni Association’s Distinguished Undergraduate Student of the Year. “This is the biggest [birthday present] he ever got,” said Richter’s mother, Maria Russ, who boarded a red-eye flight from California to attend the reception and celebrate Richter’s birthday. “I am pleased but not totally surprised.”The award, given each year since 1982, is “conferred on a senior student who has distinguished himself or herself in service to Notre Dame, service to the community, or academic standing,” according to the flyers distributed by the Alumni Association at the banquet. The scheduling of the reception on Richter’s birthday was coincidental.”This is icing on the cake,” said Richter, an environmental geo-science major. “I could’ve left without this award and gotten so much out of my four years. But this is fantastic. It shows I am doing something that’s being appreciated, noticed [and shows] this is what Notre Dame hopes people are doing.”Richter is a resident assistant in Keough Hall who has been involved in numerous service opportunities such as the Urban Plunge, Circle K, the Appalachia Program and work in Haiti. Keough rector Father Peter Jarret said he thought it was this involvement that helped him earn the award.”He has the sense of making the most of one’s time at Notre Dame,” Jarrett said. “Lectures, research, concerts, service … he takes advantage of these every day.”While reading the program outlining Richter’s achievements and awards, which include candidacy for the Marshall and Rhodes Scholarships, freshman Brendan Ryan, a fellow Keough resident, said he was in awe of his RA. “I’ll have to move out of his section,” Ryan said. “I am not worthy.”Ryan, along with several of his section mates, showed up in the rotunda to support Richter.”I know if I got an award, Danny would come see me,” Ryan said. “I knew he was bright but I had no idea he was doing all this. He is pretty humble.” Richter was nominated by a friend and selected by a committee. There were nearly 50 nominations, said Chuck Lennon, executive director of the Alumni Association.”There are lots of great students out there,” said Jarret. “He is deserving, [but] he may not be singularly deserving. However, he represents the many students whose four years are marked by dedication to Notre Dame. And he is a good representative.” The Alumni Association conferred this year’s Distinguished Graduate Student Award on Shannon Gayk, a doctoral student in the Department of English. “I am honored and humbled by this award,” Gayk told attendees of the reception. “I have given much less to Notre Dame than it has given to me … I am extremely grateful.”