Donald Chenelle has spent his career making a Case Western Reserve University education a reality for a countless number of students.
"He has championed the need for affordable undergraduate education at Case and provided the opportunity for tens of thousands of students to attend and graduate in his almost 36 years of service," wrote a nominator who recommended that he be a recipient of the President's Award for Distinguished Service. Chenelle, director of financial aid, received the award during the Staff Service Awards Brunch last week.
He arrived at Case Western Reserve more than 35 years ago ready to help students find ways to pay for school. To achieve this, another nominator wrote about Chenelle's commitment to securing endowed scholarships and grants from alumni, the business community and friends of the university. He has spearheaded efforts such as the Ohio Leadership Awards Program, and has been instrumental in developing a partnership with Cleveland Scholarship Programs.
"We've got really good kids here. They are dedicated, hardworking and focused. You want to find ways to help them," Chenelle said. According to him, 60 percent of the Cleveland Scholarship program students who enroll at Case Western Reserve maintain at least a 3.0 GPA while here. "These are students who've worked very hard to overcome a lack of opportunities other students may have had."
In addition to the students, a nominator wrote that Chenelle "is genuinely concerned about his staff." He serves on numerous state financial aid and professional organizations in order to keep his team informed about policies and best practices.
Chenelle's role has been more than just director of financial aid. For many years, he has made it a point to work directly with student organizations, such as serving as an adviser to first-year undergraduates and Phi Delta Theta Fraternity. Over the years, he has led these student groups on everything from Cleveland Orchestra outings to baseball games and the ballet. "I established relationships with students on a different level and I had a lot of fun along the way. Those are experiences I wouldn't have otherwise had. I've learned just as much from them as they've learned from me." Chenelle's relationship with some students has evolved from him helping them figure out financial aid forms and social etiquette to him witnessing them graduate, get married, and have children of their own.
Chenelle will retire on June 30. He plans to volunteer several days a month with the Ohio College Access Network, Cleveland Scholarship Programs and other Northeast Ohio college access programs. He's also looking forward to a Disney World vacation with his family.
However, he said he will always remember the role Case Western Reserve has played in his life. "I've had wonderful relationships with students, faculty and staff. I will miss them all."
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