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ODU to Recognize Distinguished Alumni at Honors Dinner Nov. 5

Five outstanding graduates of Old Dominion University will be recognized as Distinguished Alumni at the 2009 Alumni Honors Dinner Thursday, Nov. 5, at the Norfolk Waterside Marriott.

The ODU Alumni Association will also present an Outstanding Achievement award, two Alumni Service awards and two Honorary Alumni awards.

Rocky Bleier, a Vietnam veteran and four-time Super Bowl champion with the Pittsburgh Steelers, will be guest speaker for the program. Proceeds from the event will go to the Alumni Association's Adam Thoroughgood Scholars Endowment.

Selected to receive Distinguished Alumni awards, in recognition of the impact they have made in their fields and communities, are: Marcia Bartusiak (M.S. '79), award-winning science writer and author; Jodi Gidley (M.S. '94), senior vice president of Mid-Atlantic Operations, AGL Resources, and president of Virginia Natural Gas; Luke Hillier '94, founder and CEO of ADS Inc. and Mythics Inc.; David Twardzik '72, assistant general manager of the NBA's Orlando Magic; and Renee Warren, co-president of Noelle-Elaine Media Inc.

The Outstanding Achievement award will be presented to alumnus Alton "Jay" Harris '87, ESPN SportsCenter anchor, and Alumni Service awards will go to Peter G. Decker Jr. '56, senior partner with Decker, Cardon, Thomas, Weintraub & Neskis, P.C., and Lt. Jason Redman '04, U.S. Navy, founder of Wounded Wear.

Honorary Alumni awards will go to Ben Bailey, the host of Discovery Channel's "Cash Cab," who attended ODU from 1987-90, and Jean Siebert, president and owner of Siebert Realty.


Marcia Bartusiak, who earned a master's degree in physics from ODU, is a science writer and author, and a visiting professor in the Graduate Program in Science Writing at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

She has been writing about astronomy and physics for three decades. She is currently working on a book about the discovery of the modern universe and is the author of three previous books: "Thursday's Universe," a lay guide to the frontiers of astrophysics and cosmology; "Through a Universe Darkly," a history of astronomers' centuries-long quest to discover the universe's composition; and "Einstein's Unfinished Symphony," a treatment of the ongoing attempt to detect gravity waves, the last experimental test of Einstein's theory of general relativity.

Her work has appeared in National Geographic, Astronomy, Sky & Telescope, Science, Popular Science, World Book Encyclopedia, Smithsonian and Technology Review. She is on the editorial advisory board of Astronomy magazine and has reviewed science books for both The New York Times and The Washington Post.

In 1982, Bartusiak became the first woman ever to receive the Science Writing Award from the American Institute of Physics. She won again in 2001 for "Einstein's Unfinished Symphony," and in 2006, she received the Andrew W. Gemant Award for "significant contributions to the cultural, artistic, or humanistic dimension of physics." She was a finalist in NASA's Journalist-in-Space competition and a Knight Fellow at MIT.

Jodi Gidley, who earned a master's degree in mechanical engineering from ODU, has more than 20 years' experience in the natural gas industry. In June 2007, she was named senior vice president, Mid-Atlantic operations, for AGL Resources, and president of three of its subsidiaries: Elizabethtown Gas in New Jersey, Elkton Gas in Maryland and Virginia Natural Gas, headquartered in Norfolk. She is responsible for serving 556,000 customers in these three states. She is the first woman to be named vice president, operations, at Virginia Natural Gas.

With AGL Resources' acquisition of NUI Corp. in 2004, Gidley was named vice president, gas operations, and business process services, for AGL Resources. She was responsible for gas supply and capacity planning, gas control and measurement, LNG (liquefied natural gas) and propane peak shaving operations, and business support systems at AGL Resources' six utilities. Previously, she served in several positions at Virginia Natural Gas, including vice president, operations, and director of financial planning and budgets.

She serves on the boards of the Greater Norfolk Corporation, Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, Hampton Roads Partnership, ODU Educational Foundation, Virginia Chamber of Commerce and Virginia Early Childhood Foundation. She previously served as a member of the Governor's Commission on Climate Change, which created a plan for Virginia to meet its emission reduction goals by 2025.

Luke Hillier, who earned a bachelor's degree in business administration/financial management from ODU, heads one of the nation's leading special operational equipment and logistics solutions providers. ADS, Inc. has annual sales over $900 million and more than 250 employees in its east and west coast operations. Prior to his involvement at ADS, he founded and served as CEO for the largest Oracle-based information system solutions provider, Mythics Inc. Under Hillier's leadership, Mythics grew from a garage startup into a dominant Oracle solutions provider with annual sales topping $300 million. He also serves as Mythics board chairman.

A former wrestler at ODU, Hillier was recognized as an Outstanding Scholar-Athlete, with a 4.0 grade point average. Upon graduation, he accepted a position with the Outstanding Scholars program in acquisition management for the U.S. government, where he was recognized with a U.S. NAVAIR Meritorious Service Award. After several years, Hillier joined Oracle Corp. as the lead state and local government sales representative, where he was the 1998 Sales Person of the Year. Hillier founded Mythics in 1999. As CEO, he interfaced with federal, state and local government agencies, as well as health care and higher education facilities. Mythics won Oracle's Partner-of-the-Year award in 2004.

Hillier participates in the ODU Landmark Executive-in-Residence program and is on the College of Business and Public Administration's Executive Advisory Council. A supporter of the Big Blue Club, he established the Luke Hillier Endowed Football Scholarship.

David Twardzik, who earned a bachelor's degree in business administration/management from ODU, has more than 33 years of professional basketball experience as a player, coach and front-office executive. Since 2005, he has been the assistant general manager of the National Basketball Association's Orlando Magic. Prior to that appointment, he spent two seasons as director of player personnel for the Magic.

A guard on ODU's basketball team, Twardzik became the university's first player ever to be named first-team All-American (1971-72). The season before, he helped lead the Monarchs to runner-up honors in the NCAA Division II national championship. ODU retired the Monarch captain's jersey in 1972.

Although selected as the 26th overall pick of the 1972 NBA draft by the Portland Trail Blazers, Twardzik began his pro career with the American Basketball Association's Virginia Squires, where he remained for four years. In 1975, he was named an ABA All-Star. Following the ABA-NBA merger in 1976, Twardzik joined Portland and helped the Trail Blazers capture the NBA title in 1976-77, setting a franchise record by hitting 61.2 percent of his field goals. Altogether, he appeared in 280 career NBA regular-season outings with the Trail Blazers. The team retired his jersey in 1981.

After leaving the game as a player, Twardzik worked in various capacities with several NBA teams' basketball operations departments. He served in Portland's front office through 1985. Later, he was an assistant coach for the Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Clippers and Detroit Pistons, and he scouted for Sacramento and Denver.

Renée Warren, who earned a bachelor's degree in criminal justice and speech communication from ODU, is co-president of Noelle-Elaine Media Inc., an event management, media relations and video production company in New York City. In April, along with her business partner, Kirsten Poe Hill, she authored "You Buy the Peanut Butter, I'll Get the Bread: The Absolutely True Adventures of Best Friends in Business."

A former journalist for The Virginian-Pilot and Daily Press newspapers and WTKR-TV, Warren was a producer at CNBC in Fort Lee, N.J., before co-founding Noelle-Elaine Media. She has interviewed such political figures as Nelson Mandela, Jerry Rawlings, Bill Clinton and Colin Powell. Her corporate clients include HBO, Chevron, Disney and Pepsi, plus Black Enterprise, Essence and Money magazines. Warren has overseen a $100 million private-equity investment fund campaign for Black Enterprise/ Greenwich Street Corporate Growth Partners, as well as ongoing initiatives for Charles Schwab. She has worked with business leaders from Charles Schwab, Citigroup, Time Warner, BET, the Charlotte Bobcats and Bank of America.

Her nonprofit client list has included the National Cancer Institute and the National Urban League, and she has worked with celebrity clients Spike Lee, Bill Cosby, Prince, Janet Jackson, Paul Newman, Samuel L. Jackson, LL Cool J, Whoopi Goldberg, Diana Ross, Muhammad Ali, Harry Belafonte and many others.

Warren has appeared on CNBC, CNN and Fox television shows, and won a Telly Award for the documentary "Africa: An Emerging Market." She is a national speaker, licensed real estate broker and adjunct assistant professor at New York University.

This article was posted on: November 3, 2009

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