President’s Prize, Gold Axe recipients, Distinguished Seniors honored at 2020 virtual ceremony

President's Prize winners Skylar Weber, Monica Blauser and Denise Ocampo

In a virtual ceremony held Oct. 29, Northern Arizona University President Rita Cheng honored the recipients of the President’s Prize, the Gold Axe Award and the Distinguished Senior Award, commending these graduating Lumberjacks for all that they accomplished in their NAU careers.

At the ceremony, three of the 23 Gold Axe recipients were announced as winners of the President’s Prize, the highest honor NAU has for undergraduates. They are:

  • Monica Blauser is a nursing student at NAU-Yuma who joined the NAU Global Medical Brigades and did a study abroad in Africa, where she helped care for people with chronic diseases and educated Africans on dental hygiene, condom use and how diseases spread.
  • Denise Ocampo is a first-generation biomedical science student who came to NAU from Hawaii and, not knowing anyone, joined clubs and learned skills. She conducted and presented research, mentored other students, advocated for causes she believed in and volunteered.
  • Skylar Weber earned degrees in biomedical science and German; she interned at the Medical Examiner’s Office and spent a year studying and doing research in Constance, Germany. She is president of the NAU German Club and volunteered at the Flagstaff Family Food Center.

The Distinguished Seniors are: Hannah Jackson (College of Arts and Letters); Audrey McPherron (College of Education); Brian Carpenter (College of Engineering, Informatics, and Applied Sciences); Brittany Harvison (College of the Environment, Forestry, and Natural Sciences); Amber Connolly (College of Health and Human Services); Lindsay Strickler (College of Social and Behavioral Sciences); Jeannette Voci (NAU Online and Statewide); Monica Blauser (NAU-Yuma); and Steven Hernandez Jr. (The W. A. Franke College of Business).

President Cheng credited the students for excelling in their education, particularly in the final months as the pandemic disrupted their plans for internships, study abroad programs and social activities.

“After graduation, these students might continue their education, earn an advanced degree, start their own businesses, become a teacher or join the hundreds of thousands of health care workers who have been saving lives during this pandemic,” she said. “There is no question these exceptional students will become leaders in their chosen field, contribute to social and economic growth and give back to their community. It is my wish that these students, and are all of our alumni, will be lifelong ambassadors for NAU and continue to tell their stories through their accomplishments.”

The tradition of the Gold Axe Award dates back to 1933, a year after the student body adopted the axe as the symbol for Lumberjack athletics. NAU adopted the tradition of awarding small gold axe pins to outstanding members of the student body. To this day, the gold axe pin is considered the official emblem of the Associated Students of NAU and is presented each semester to recognize students’ outstanding achievements and distinguished service to the university and the greater community.

Watch the ceremony online.

Gold Axe winners


Distinguished Seniors