The University of Arizona

Commencement Awards to Honor Outreach, Alumni Achievement

By Rebecca Ruiz-McGill, University of Communications | November 19, 2010

UA professor Sharon B. Megdal and alumna author Judith Ann Jance will be recognized for their community outreach and professional achievements, respectively, during the Winter Commencement Ceremony.

Sharon B. Megdal and Judith Ann Jance will be recongnized Saturday, Dec. 18, during the Winter Commencement Ceremony for distinguished outreach and alumni achievement, respectively.

Sharon B. Megdal, Distinguished Outreach Faculty Award

The Distinguished Outreach Faculty Award recognizes outstanding faculty members whose scholarship-based outreach to the state, nation and the world has demonstrated sustained excellence in the University of Arizona's outreach mission.

The award carries a $5,000 increase to base salary.

Megdal is being recognized for her sustained excellence in water-related scholarship, education and outreach and her contributions to developing and evaluating water use and conservation policies for Arizona, the nation and abroad.

Megdal is director of the UA Water Resources Research Center and the C.W. and Modene Neely Endowed Professor for Excellence in Agriculture and Life Science. She holds joint professorships in the department of agricultural and resource economics and the department of soil, water and environmental science and teaches the multi-disciplinary graduate course, Arizona Water Policy.

She also serves as director of the UA Water Sustainability Program and, under her leadership, the program has become a hub for applied water policy research and effective outreach. Her work focuses on state, regional and transboundary water resources management and policy with particular emphasis on achieving desired policy objectives.

Megdal also writes a quarterly water policy column for the Water Resources Research Center's newsletter.

She is known and respected for her extraordinary communication and consensus-building skills, which have been critical in bringing the diverse perspectives of policy makers, academicians, activists and interest groups together to forge solutions to the exceedingly complex water issues facing Arizona and the world.

She serves as an elected member of the Central Arizona Water Conservation District Board of Directors, which oversees the Central Arizona Project. She also is a member of Arizona Governor's Blue Ribbon Panel on Water Sustainability.

Megdal has served on numerous state boards and commissions, including the Arizona Corporation Commission and the Arizona State Transportation Board. She became the first recipient of the C.W. and Modene Neely Endowed Professorship for Excellence in Agriculture and Life Science in 2008.

Her responsiveness to the public, coupled with her ability to effectively communicate the latest scientific discoveries and scholarly opinions via various local, state and international forums, have led to her success and a greater global understanding of water-related issues.

The candidate will be presented by Meredith Hay, executive vice president and provost, during the commencement ceremony.

Judith Ann Jance, Alumni Achievement Award

Since 1943, the UA Alumni Association has presented accomplished alumni and friends with distinguished awards.

The goal is to recognize alumni, friends of the institution, community leaders, faculty, staff, students, alumni chapters and clubs, and college alumni councils for outstanding achievement and/or service to the UA, the Alumni Association, their communities and their professions. 

Jance, world-renowned as author J.A. Jance, is a New York Times bestselling author with more than 10 million book copies in print. Her most recent book published in 2010, "Queen of the Night," a thriller that weaves in legends of the Tohono O'odham Nation, is yet another best selling hit.

Jance, the first person in her family to attend a four-year college, graduated from the UA in 1966 with a bachelor's degree in English and secondary education. Four years later, she earned a master of education degree in library science from the UA, and in 2000, she was awarded an honorary doctor of humane letters degree.

After teaching high school English at Tucson's Pueblo High School for two years and working as a K-12 librarian on an Indian reservation in Sells, Ariz., for five years, Jance spent the next 10 years in the life-insurance industry before finally turning her hand to writing full-time in the early 1980s. She has written 42 books and is now working on her 43rd. Raised in Bisbee, Ariz., Jance frequently uses Arizona as the setting for her mysteries.

In 2009, she was the inaugural recipient of the Willo Award, a lifetime achievement award for mystery writing. She also won the 1991 American Mystery Award.

Jance is an avid crusader for many causes, including the UA Friends of the Libraries, the American Cancer Society, Gilda's Club, the Humane Society, the YWCA's shelter for homeless families and the Girl Scouts. She and her husband divide their time between Tucson and Seattle. Jance has five children, six grandchildren and an aging golden retriever.

The UA Alumni Association will present the Alumni Achievement Award to Jance during the commencement ceremony.