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Two USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology faculty members have been named recipients of prestigious awards given by the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education (AGHE) and will be honored at the group’s annual meeting in Long Beach March 3-6.

Davis School Dean Pinchas Cohen, executive director of the Ethel Percy Andrus Gerontology Center and holder of the William and Sylvia Kugel Dean’s Chair in Gerontology, is the 2016 recipient of the Administrative Leadership Award. According to the AGHE website, the award honors administrators who have made exceptional efforts in support of gerontology or geriatrics education and have “gone the extra mile” to support gerontology or geriatrics education on campus.

“I am grateful and humbled to be recognized in this fashion by AGHE,” Dean Cohen said. “I am immensely thankful for our creative and hardworking faculty, our dedicated staff, and our incredible students and alumni—they are the people who have made the Davis School’s continued success possible.”

Davis School Associate Dean Maria Henke, who nominated Cohen for the award, said that his leadership of the school comes at a critical time of many changes and opportunities for the school and for the field of gerontology.

“Since he became dean of the Davis School in 2012, his leadership has shaped the school—already a landmark institution in the gerontology field—into an even more dynamic force for discovery and innovation as the world faces unprecedented aging-related changes,” Henke wrote in her nomination letter.

Davis School Vice Dean, Ethel Percy Andrus Gerontology Center Director, and James E. Birren Chair in Gerontology Kelvin Davies also wrote a letter supporting Cohen’s nomination, praising his ability to recruit new faculty members and start new research and educational initiatives.

“It is truly remarkable how much Dean Cohen has achieved in his first three years at USC,” Davies said. “The faculty have been revitalized by both junior and senior hires in key areas, important facilities have been renovated or newly installed, and vital support staff have been hired. This has all been accompanied by multiple new programs and initiatives that have either been his inventions or the result of faculty/staff teams he established to explore cutting-edge new directions.”

The association also recognized Elizabeth Zelinski, holder of the Rita and Edward Polusky Chair in Education and Aging and professor of gerontology and psychology, with the Distinguished Faculty Honor. The award recognizes exemplary and innovative teaching, and the honoree is invited to present a highlighted teaching workshop at the annual AGHE meeting.

Several current and former students of Zelinski wrote in support of her nomination, including Davis School Research Associate Deanah Kim Zak.

“She is a kind, caring, and hard-working advisor and teacher, and she has had a great impact in my life as a student and as a person,” Zak said. “It is evident in everything she does that her priority is her students and their success, both in the classroom and in their research. An important aspect of Dr. Zelinski’s interactions with students is her profound interest in her students’ work and research interests, and she provides just the right amount of structure yet tries to cultivate independent thinking in her students.”

Lisa Brinkmann, a 2012 USC Master of Science in Gerontology graduate and executive director of the Marin Villages senior community in Marin County, Calif., recalled how Zelinski made gerontology knowledge approachable and applicable for her.

“I am an ‘older’ student of gerontology, having enrolled in the program after a 30 year career in business; Dr. Zelinski added a perspective to my education upon which I still reflect,” Brinkmann said. “She has a wealth of knowledge and experience that surpasses most, yet she was able to relate to the students in a very personable manner. She demonstrated the importance of technology and innovation and exposed students to real life examples of how concepts can be applied and their impact in our society.”

Zelinkski described receiving the award as a “tremendous honor.”

“I had caring and inspiring teachers during my graduate training, and I really tried to emulate their approach. Aging has been my passion for many years, so it’s not difficult to share the enthusiasm,” she said. “I have often told people that I have the best job in the world, helping students develop into professionals. And I never have to say goodbye to them, only farewell, as we see each other at gerontology events on a regular basis!”

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