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2018 - Early Career Award - Dr. Anna "Quinn" Denzer-Emerson

The Awards Committee granted the 2018 OSPA Early Career Award to Dr. Anna "Quinn" Denzer-Emerson after her tragic death. Dr. Rob Kubick explained why she was so deserving of this honor.

The following is a transcript of the OSPA Fall Conference Early Career Award presentation on Nov. 8, 2018.

Good afternoon, everyone. I’m Rob Kubick, co-chair of the OSPA Awards Committee, and I’m here to present the 2018 OSPA Early Career Award.
This award recognizes a school psychology professional who wastes no time in making a mark. This year, OSPA is pleased to recognize Dr. Anna “Quinn” Denzer-Emerson with the OSPA Early Career Award.

Quinn graduated from the School Psychology Program at Kent State University and completed her school psychology internship in the Akron Public Schools. It was my great honor to be one of Quinn’s primary supervisors during her internship in Akron.

From the beginning, Quinn made it clear to the staff in Akron that she would not be pursuing full-time employment in or around the Akron area. Instead, she wanted to learn all that she could in what she called “the big city” and then take her knowledge and experience to a school district closer to her hometown of Mount Vernon. As she neared the conclusion of her internship, Quinn began looking for school psychologist positions in that area. She soon landed an interview in the Cardington-Lincoln Schools in neighboring Morrow County. Within minutes of Quinn leaving the interview, her prospective supervisor called my cell phone. Overwhelmed to have a chance to add a candidate with such outstanding qualifications, skills, and demeanor, this man asked me, “Please, please, tell me… Is she for real?” When I asked him how long he had interviewed her, he told me it had been about 45 minutes. I told him, “Then I regret to inform you that you’ve only scratched the surface of how wonderful she is.”

Quinn got that job and served with distinction in Cardington, but home continued to beckon. She returned to Knox County when she took a school psychologist position for the Fredericktown Local Schools. Still, from the outset of her professional career, Quinn had consistently identified working as a school psychologist in her Knox County hometown of Mount Vernon as her “dream job.” So it was with great pride that, just earlier this year, Quinn announced to family, friends and colleagues that she had been hired as the school psychologist for Mount Vernon City Schools for the 2018-19 school year.

Quinn was a regular attendee at OSPA conferences. She was also a regular attendee and presenter at the annual conference and convention of the National Association of School Psychologists. Quinn was a prolific researcher with a wide variety of work that supported research-to-practice initiatives in multiple contexts. Quinn served as a Graduate Research Assistant for The Research Center for Educational Technology at Kent State University. She also served as Co-Editor, Reviewer, and Manager of The Research Center for Educational Technology Journal. Her doctoral dissertation, titled “A Modified Psychoeducationally-based Teacher Training Program to Address Bullying among Students with Disabilities,” was successfully defended earlier this year (with her graduation and degree conferral occurring shortly afterward). In addition, Quinn co-authored a peer-reviewed study for the journal Advances in Mental Health Promotion. Her study, titled “Utility of a self-monitoring technique in reducing off-task behavior,” was also a featured article in The Ohio School Psychologist.

Quinn had recently been appointed to the Board of New Directions, a local agency in Mount Vernon with a stated mission of providing resources for the safety, healing and freedom of individuals who have experienced domestic violence or sexual assault and offering preventive education to create an informed and supportive community.

Quinn was a “take charge” individual who preferred to run her life rather than to allow her life to run her. From a young age, it was clear to those who knew her best that Quinn preferred to live life in the driver’s seat. Balanced with her outsized leadership capacity, Quinn was unfailingly kind, thoughtful, generous, and supportive to innumerable professional colleagues, community partners, neighbors, friends and family. It’s not unusual for special leaders to shine and to cast a glow about them. It is rare, though, for those leaders to tirelessly devote themselves to finding ways that help others shine, too. It is rarer still for such leadership qualities to emanate from someone at the outset of her professional career.

In a remarkably short amount of time, Quinn established a reputation for being a highly capable practitioner, a prolific researcher, champion for the students she served, and a trusted advisor, colleague and dear friend to so many of us. A rising star. A rising star taken way too soon. Quinn suffered a brain aneurysm and passed away on July 18 leaving her family, our profession and our world with a tremendous void. Quinn and her husband, Drew, were expecting their first child, a baby girl, Blair Abigale Emerson, who passed away with Quinn at their family home in Gambier, Ohio.

I respectfully ask that you join me now in a moment of silence and reflection for our colleague and friend, Quinn.
We have with us today some very honored guests: Quinn’s husband, Drew, Quinn’s parents, John and Debra Denzer, and Quinn’s sister, Caroline Denzer. To each of you, we say that we are profoundly grateful and honored to have you here with us today to recognize the extraordinary person whom you shared with us for these past many years. Thank you, thank you, for sharing your Quinn with all of us.

We are also pleased to welcome two of Quinn’s professors from Kent State University, Dr. Richard Cowan (her dissertation director) and Dr. Karla Anhalt (a member of her dissertation committee). Also here are Dr. Bradd Falkenberg and Mrs. Nichole Wirtzberger, who were Quinn’s primary supervisors in the Akron Public Schools. Also joining us is Mr. John Biltz, the Coordinator of the Child Study Department in the Akron Public Schools. Like countless others, some of us travelled to Mount Vernon on a picture perfect night this past summer to gather and to celebrate the life of our departed colleague and friend. Quinn’s loved ones shared several heartfelt memories and glowing tributes.
Among these was a remembrance offered by her father, John. He noted that he and Quinn shared a love for Tom Petty music, and he recalled a day when he traveled up from Mount Vernon to Kent to take Quinn to a Tom Petty concert. As it turned out, the concert had to be canceled. But John told us that the two of them made the very best of the situation. They got some food, poured some drinks, and stayed up half the night listening to Tom Petty music. Song after song, they talked into the wee hours and simply enjoyed each other’s company. A vivid and beautiful recollection, John shared it in a way that brought each of us there, seeing it in our mind’s eye, and enjoying that moment in time with them.

Quinn’s passing is an incalculable loss for Ohio school psychology, for the educational community in Mount Vernon and Knox County, and for countless present and future Ohio school children. Quinn’s singular contributions to our shared profession were lasting and deep but, sadly, they had only just begun. Our solace is found in the fact that her contributions continue to bloom in her absence, most notably in her research on enhancing bullying prevention and intervention programs through comprehensive teacher training. Plans are being made to share much of this research with our entire membership.

Today, we close with some words offered to us by a fellow who was no school psychologist but, like Quinn, found his own solace in encouraging others as they were learning to fly and running down their dreams. That man, of course, was Tom Petty. And just like Quinn, he never backed down.

Among the lyrics in his extensive catalogue, Mr. Petty offered the following:

You and I will meet again
When we’re least expecting it
Somewhere in some far off place
I will recognize your face
I won’t say goodbye my friend
For you and I will meet again

It is with all of this in mind that the Executive Board of the Ohio School Psychologists Association is very proud to posthumously recognize Dr. Anna Quinn Denzer-Emerson with the OSPA Early Career Award.
Thank you.