Cowser, Gillikin, Griggs, Margolis, Natarelli, Stump win 2020 Oswald Awards

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Six Penn State students in their respective areas of leadership have been honored with the 2020  John W. Oswald Award. Awards were given in the following fields: Dario Natarelli, creative and performing arts; Renee Margolis, journalism, speech and the mass media; Blake Gillikin, athletics; Abigail Cowser, scholarship; Allyson Stump, social services and Jake Griggs, student government. 

The John W. Oswald Award, established in 1983, annually recognizes graduating seniors who have provided outstanding leadership in at least one of several areas of activity at the University. The award consists of a medallion honoring John W. Oswald, president of the University from 1970 to 1983.


On the field, two-time team captain Gillikin stands out as one of the best punters in Penn State history. In 2018, he broke the team’s all-time punting average record with an average of 44.0. His career average of 43.0 is second in team history.

Football student-athletes Blake Gillikin, pictured, and Cody Hodgens earned perfect 4.0 grade-point average during the fall 2017 semester. Penn State was the only Big Ten school with multiple football student-athletes posting a 4.0 GPA. Credit: Penn State AthleticsAll Rights Reserved.

The four-year starter over 53 games is impressive off the field, too.

The student majoring in kinesiology has a perfect 4.0 cumulative grade-point average, which garnered him numerous academic honors including three-time Academic All-Big Ten, two-time Academic All-America First-Team Selection, Evan Pugh Scholar Award, the President’s Spark Award and finalist for the Pop Warner Award. 

Gillikin is also active in the community, creating a program that encouraged students to donate new or gently used backpacks to local children in need through the Centre County Youth Services Bureau. 

In 2018, he also served as treasurer of the Penn State chapter of Uplifting Athletes, which raised nearly $100,000 for rare disease treatment and research.

Gillikin also dedicated his time to the Penn State Interfraternity Council/Panhellenic Dance Marathon known as THON, Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and other community service projects.

“Gillikin is a standout member of the student body who is dedicated to being his best both on and off the field,” said a nominator.

Creative and performing arts

Natarelli, a drama student from the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts in New York, has been honing his dancing and acting skills for nearly all his life. Now, he’s earning his bachelor of fine arts in musical theater from Penn State. 

Dario Natarelli Credit: Photo provided/Christopher Boudewyns PhotographyAll Rights Reserved.

He has been training at the Broadway Dance Center since age 9 -- where he now teaches -- and has appeared in numerous works including "Tappin’ Thru Life with Maurice Hines" (Off-Broadway), The Radio City Christmas Spectacular, A Salute to the Presidential Scholars at The Kennedy Center and "Breaking Brooklyn" (film).

Natarelli taught master classes in tap dance and contemporary dance nationwide and is a teacher and choreographer.  

At Penn State, Natarelli performed one of his pieces for the University-wide initiative, “All In at Penn State: A Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion.”  

He also volunteers as an assistant teacher at American Tap Dance Foundation in New York City and with Broadway Workshop for Broadway Cares Equity Fights AIDS.

“Dario is one of the most extraordinarily talented Penn State students and performers that I’ve had the pleasure of knowing,” a nominator said.

Journalism, speech and mass media

Margolis, who is majoring in communication science and disorders, is an extraordinarily engaged student at Penn State and in the community, nominators said.

Renee Margolis Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

She is president of the National Student Speech Language and Hearing Association, the student branch of the professional organization.

There, she’s responsible for leading tri-weekly meeting for more than 250 members and for securing speakers for the meetings. She also coordinates advocacy and professional events on campus.

In the community, Margolis helps individuals through the PALS Programs, a group designed to foster immersive experiences where young adults with Down syndrome and their peers have fun, grow as individuals and build transformative friendships.

As counselor for the program, Margolis assists between 20 to 60 people with Down syndrome during a weeklong camping experience to help promote interactions with others. The trip is designed to promote friendships, independence and personal growth.

“Renee is resilient, willing to accept challenges and is open to learning,” a nominator said. “I’m continuously impressed with her flexibility, maturity and leadership.”


Cowser, who is majoring in civil engineering with a geotechnical and materials engineering focus, is a Schreyer Scholar with a 3.96 cumulative grade-point average, but it’s how she applies her knowledge that earned her the honor.

Abigail Cowser Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

As a research assistant at Penn State’s Food-Energy-Water, Critical Infrastructure and Environmental Lab, Cowser analyzed data trends between socio-economic and environmental factors contributing to poverty. In 2019, she traveled to Vietnam to look at bottled water quality.

For the Engineers in Action Bridge Program, Cowser participated in projects to Bolivia and Rwanda to help construct suspended pedestrian footbridges over impassable rivers. The efforts helped residents obtain access to necessities such as schools, medical care, and markets during the rainy season.

As project manager of the bridge in Bolivia in 2019, Cowser was responsible for selecting and preparing the team, fulfilling travel requirements, overseeing construction, coordinating with Bolivian staff and dealing with site related issues.

“This is a large responsibility for any college student to take on,” a nominator said. “Yet Cowser managed the task without compromising her academics and while maintaining her composure during numerous unexpected challenges that arose during the project.”

In addition to serving in the Penn State Chapter of Engineers in Action, Cowser serves as the Cross Cultural Competency Committee Chair for the national organization. She’s also involved with the American Concrete Institute, where she’s secretary of Penn State’s chapter. 

Social services

Stump, a Schreyer Scholar, majoring in communication science disorders with a minor in global health, applies her knowledge to advancing her education while helping others. Stump has maintained a 3.96 GPA and will be graduating summa cum laude. 

Allyson Stump Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

During the summer of 2019, Stump traveled to Tanzania for her Global Health minor fieldwork placement. In Dar es Salaam and Dodoma, Stump shadowed nurses in under-five clinics, worked at the Dodoma School for the Deaf, engaged with multiple nonprofits, and implemented her own community outreach programs. She also worked in rural villages shadowing nursing students giving health assessments to community members, some with disabilities, which became the inspiration for her honors thesis.

She is a student thesis researcher at Penn State’s Laboratory for the Study of Visual Supports in Communication and Education. There, she conducts research on “The Benefits of Community-Based Recreational Therapy for Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities in Low and Lower-Middle Income Countries”. Stump presented this research at the National Speech-Language-Hearing Association Convention in November. 

Stump is also very involved in service at the university and the community. She serves on the Executive Board and as the Show Instructor for Harmony, a Penn State sanctioned performing arts organization for individuals aged 3-45 with and without disabilities. She also has served as a THON Family Relations Captain for the past two years, her junior year being the Special Interest Organization Adopt-A-Family Liaison and her senior year being the Teen and Adult Coordinator. Stump is a job coach at the State College Area School District and was a teaching assistant at Penn State.

“Allie’s vitae illustrates how active she has been in a variety of activities, from research to international travel to conference presentations to leading several campus clubs,” a nominator said. “She manages to accomplish all these things while being an exceptional student in a challenging honor’s curriculum. This speaks volumes for her skills and dedication.”  

Student government

Griggs, a Schreyer Scholar and member of the Presidential Leadership Academy, is double-majoring in management and political science with a 3.95 cumulative grade-point average.

R. Jacob Griggs Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

A nominator said Griggs has demonstrated outstanding academic achievement and leadership on campus and in the community throughout his college experience. 

Griggs serves as the University Park Undergraduate Association (UPUA) vice president. Previously, he served as chair of the Governmental Affairs Committee, liaison to the Borough of State College, and first-year representative. 

In UPUA, Griggs led a group of students to build relationships and advocate on behalf of Penn State and its students to local, state and federal leaders. One nominator called Griggs’ efforts during Capital Day -- where students meet with state lawmakers in Harrisburg -- a particular success in both student cooperation and discussions. 

Another area Griggs had an impact was during the 2018 election, where he worked in tandem with other student organizations to encourage students to vote.

In 2018-19, Griggs served as executive director of the Association of Big Ten Students, a legislative body representing more than 500,000 students across 14 Big Ten institutions. There, Griggs met with national lawmakers to address issues such as sexual assault prevention and enhancing mental health resources.

“Aside from all his talents and abilities, Jake is personable and funny,” a nominator said. “He has everything going for him and I can’t wait to see what he accomplishes in the future. Jake is the epitome of a Penn State graduate who will make our world a better place and he deserves to be recognized for his contributions.”


Last Updated April 09, 2020