Each year, our community and leadership recognize individual employees for extraordinary service to Adelphi University and outstanding demonstration of our shared values.

The selection process begins when faculty, staff and administration nominate nonfaculty staff members for the President’s Award for Excellence and the President’s Award for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging. Awardees are then chosen by selection committees based on exceptionally high criteria. A maximum of four awardees are chosen for Excellence and only one is selected for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging. 

This year, the 2024 President’s Awards highlight five Adelphi staff members for their extraordinary contributions in the 2023–2024 academic year. President Christine Riordan and the entire University community congratulate this year’s honorees. Thank you for your service, commitment and hard work in making Adelphi University what it is today!

2024 President’s Award for Excellence Honorees

Throughout her 11 years at Adelphi University, Melissa Bellantonio has risen from an hourly admissions representative to her current position as the director of undergraduate admissions, where she plays a crucial role in shaping Adelphi’s community. She has been instrumental in developing and implementing a robust geographic recruitment strategy that has expanded Adelphi’s reach, attracting a diverse and talented pool of students who demonstrate potential for intellectual rigor, creativity and community engagement. Bellantonio also ensures that Adelphi’s admissions process is inclusive and supportive, helping to attract students who might not have considered higher education otherwise.

Bellantonio’s welcoming demeanor and personalized approach create a positive impression of Adelphi, fostering a sense of belonging and excitement among new students. She plays a key role in crafting communications like acceptance letters, making her one of the first points of contact for incoming students and their families. Under her leadership, Adelphi welcomed its largest incoming first-year class last fall. “Melissa Bellantonio serves as a beacon of inspiration and guidance for the members of the Adelphi community,” one nominator noted. “Her leadership, compassion and unwavering commitment to improvement exemplify the qualities of a true role model, inspiring others to emulate her dedication to excellence and service.”

Bellantonio’s role in financial aid optimization has also ensured that prospective students have access to the financial resources they need to attend Adelphi. By implementing sustainable pricing strategies and maximizing financial aid opportunities, she helps make Adelphi’s programs more accessible and attractive to students. She’s also responsible for introducing an increased Phi Theta Kappa award, the Levermore Global Scholars Award and an academic scholarship award for all accepted transfer students.

In addition to her day-to-day work, Bellantonio represents Adelphi on two executive boards: New York State Association for College Admission Counseling and the Nassau Counselors’ Association. Through her active participation on these boards, she promotes access and equity and provides leadership in policy development. “Melissa is a person that we all continuously question, ‘How does she do it all?’” said one nominator. “I have worked with her for a little over three years and am constantly amazed by her work ethic and her ability to balance so many different responsibilities and tasks.”

In December 2023, Annette Leone ’19 celebrated an impressive 20 years as part of the Adelphi University Human Resources team. Leone, who oversees payments to faculty, staff, students and hourlies, processing roughly more than 1 million payments per year, also serves as the HR liaison to the payroll department. During her tenure, she has trained many HR employees, teaching them to complete their jobs with the same integrity and dedication that she brings to work every day.

Leone, who is also responsible for entering every new hire into Adelphi’s system, has a reputation for exceptional accuracy: “Annette does not make mistakes, thanks to her incredible attention to detail,” said one nominator. “She is a dedicated employee who really puts her heart and soul into everything she does.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Leone was an integral part of the University’s transition to online accessibility during the work-from-home period. She’s since worked with IT to automate many HR processes, procedures and functions, enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of Adelphi’s HR department. She’s also shown a commitment to diversity and inclusion, having completed the Diversity Certificate program.

Leone’s excellence goes beyond her daily work responsibilities. She’s always on the lookout for opportunities to engage with the Adelphi community. This past fall, she spearheaded and ran the Planting Fields Arboretum High Tea outing, which was attended by 25 Adelphi community members. Leone is currently in the process of negotiating a second community event at The Garden City Hotel for Fall 2024.She has been an unsung hero to HR for many years,” one nominator noted. “Hopefully, with this award, she won’t be ‘unsung’ much longer.”

Kathie Ortore is responsible for interfacing with students, faculty and staff within the Adelphi University College of Nursing and Public Health (CNPH). She supports the assistant dean, associate deans and chairs of the departments, and her many responsibilities include assisting with student registration, facilitating student engagement, revising adviser lists for faculty and handling faculty requests. As a strong advocate for students, Ortore works tirelessly to keep students informed and updated on required paperwork and actions they need to take through effective communication and follow-up.

Ortore is constantly looking to streamline CNPH’s processes and to enhance visibility to other offices. She collaborates with the graduate administrative staff member to ensure that academic audits are accurate and that all students receive correct clinical placements. She also collaborates with Carla Campagna, softball head coach and assistant athletic director, to make sure that courses don’t conflict with a student-athlete’s game schedule. “Ms. Ortore is a vital member of the CNPH who always goes above and beyond in everything she does,” said one nominator. “She is very student centered and guides and mentors the students with care and compassion.”

In addition to her day-to-day responsibilities, Ortore participates in many committees, such as the Reclassification Committee and the Campus Advisory Committee. She also attends workshops to improve her knowledge base and completed the Diversity Certificate program. Along with the assistant dean, Ortore is the point person between the New Seminary in Brooklyn and Orthodox Jewish students. As the Seminary liaison, she’s instrumental in troubleshooting any scheduling issues related to student observances. Perhaps most notable is Ortore’s involvement in the Executive Committee of Local 153, providing thoughtful insights on policy and procedure discussions. A persuasive voice for measured action, she has often presented a balanced perspective on even the most polarizing topics.

Ortore has a reputation for de-escalating problems within CNPH, whether it’s a faculty issue that requires immediate attention or distressed students and family members. If a student is experiencing extreme stress or anxiety, she has, on numerous occasions, contacted the Student Counseling Center and personally escorted them to obtain assistance at the center. “Kathie is service oriented and genuinely caring toward the audiences she serves,” noted one nominator. “I can’t think of a single person among the ranks of our union who is more deserving of this award.”

Leandro Rodriguez has been employed in the facilities/housekeeping department for 23 years, taking pride in the presentation of Adelphi as a globally renowned university. During his time at the University, he has maintained the areas he has been assigned to with the utmost cleanliness—and, according to one nominator, always with a smile. “Leandro provides a level of professionalism and customer service that goes above and beyond the expectations,” the nominator elaborated.

Rodriguez’s daily building assignment is Levermore Hall. Although he’s worked in other areas over the past two-plus decades, Levermore Hall has become his home at work. He is a welcoming presence in the building, always willing to assist others.

Rodriguez is known for being expedient in entering ticket requests for repairs, ensuring that Adelphi’s facilities remain safe as well as beautiful. He has also proven to think outside the box to find cost-effective solutions for the University. “Housekeeping may seem to be an invisible department,” said one nominator, “but the individuals who do the daily tasks that keep the University looking beautiful are not invisible to those of us in the departments where their work is appreciated.”

2024 President’s Award for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging

Linda Jean-Louis was nominated for the 2024 President’s Award for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging by seven different colleagues. As the University’s Registrar, Jean-Louis exemplifies diversity, equity and inclusion. She has led several campuswide initiatives to provide new and improved self-service tools to students, ensuring access, success and belonging in the Adelphi community. She’s also worked to ensure that Adelphi’s policies address the needs of its various student populations fairly.

Jean-Louis’ work with diversity and inclusion isn’t limited to Adelphi’s student body. She has created an atmosphere where all members of her team feel a sense of belonging while recognizing and embracing their differences. She encourages everyone to embrace the idea that the areas within Adelphi’s One-Stop Student Services Center (financial aid, student account services, the adviser team and the Office of the University Registrar) are all one entity. “She promotes a one-team mindset where all feel valued and can thrive,” said one of her nominators. Another nominator added, “Linda has created a profound sense of belonging and common shared values with our department.” Jean-Louis also encourages her team to participate in regional and local training events, such as the course Making Diversity Training a Regular Part of the Work Week.

In addition to her diversity, equity and inclusion work, Jean-Louis helps steward the academic experience for students through various tasks, such as managing the University Bulletin and handling classroom scheduling, course registration, grading and Commencement. In partnership with the Office of the Provost, she has been influential in modernizing the University’s grading, registration, and transcript and withdrawal policies. Doing so has eased academic challenges and reduced barriers for academic success. Jean-Louis also works to ensure that Adelphi meets federal and state compliance requirements, leading several successful external audits that protect federal and state funding to ensure that the University’s veteran students receive the financial aid they need.

“Linda, like many of her colleagues, works in higher education to promote social justice and support the advancement of our students,” said Catherine Graham, assistant vice president, Student Services Center.

President’s Award for Excellence

The President’s Award for Excellence recognizes non-union and union staff members who help Adelphi University and our community achieve excellence and advance the goals, initiatives and values of Momentum and Momentum 2. The honorees of this award, regardless of their position level, continually seek to better themselves, their units and Adelphi, and serve as role models for all University community members.

  • Up to two non-union and two union staff members (maximum of four total) are selected for the President’s Award for Excellence.

President’s Award for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging

The President’s Award for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging recognizes one non-union or union staff member who contributes to Adelphi University being a place of belonging and a model of diversity, equity, inclusivity, and social justice. This annual award was established in 2020 to recognize those who demonstrate commitment to promoting and advancing the University’s core values in this area.

  • One staff member, either union or non-union, is selected for the President’s Award for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging.

As role models of excellence and dedication to our educational mission, our annual President’s Award honorees have earned the admiration of their colleagues and our community. It’s an exceptional privilege each year to be able to recognize and thank them for their extraordinary service to Adelphi.

Christine M. Riordan, PhD President, Adelphi University


Individuals who are nominated for the President’s Award for Excellence and the President’s Award for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging must meet the following criteria:

  • They must be a non-faculty Adelphi employee—either union or non-union.
  • They must have completed at least two continuous years of full‑time service in their department.
  • They must not have received the award in the past five years. Former award recipients are eligible for renomination after five years. An individual who is nominated but not selected may be renominated.
  • They cannot be a member of Executive Leadership, assistant or associate provost, assistant or associate vice president, chief, executive director, dean, or academic department chair.

Nomination Criteria

Faculty, fellow staff and administration may nominate non-faculty staff members for the President’s Award for Excellence and the President’s Award for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging. Relatives of a nominee may not nominate their own family.

  1. Use the online nomination form to recommend a candidate for a President’s Award. A separate letter of recommendation is not required. 
  2. Your online responses must provide specific, concrete examples of how the candidate’s work, efforts, and traits meet award criteria.
  3. After submitting a nomination, you should share the online nomination form with additional colleagues to request supporting submissions for your nominee.
  4. Multiple submissions for a single nominee are encouraged. A minimum of two nominations are required to be considered for the President’s Award.

  • How the individual has helped Adelphi/our community achieve excellence in a mission-critical area
  • How the individual exceeds typical standards of excellence by bettering themselves, their units and Adelphi
  • How the individual is a role model for our community members
  • How the individual’s efforts have helped advance one or more of the goals and values of Momentum/Momentum 2
  • How the individual is a role model of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging for our community members
  • How the individual exceeds expectations to help to create a place of belonging at Adelphi or promotes our shared values of diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice
  • How the individual’s efforts have helped Adelphi achieve one or more of the strategic priorities for diversity, equity, and inclusion in Momentum or Momentum 2
  • Leadership
  • Professionalism
  • Support of student success 
  • Integrity and accountability
  • Adelphi pride
  • Outstanding achievement in the workplace
  • Exceptional contributions toward efficiency and effectiveness
  • Distinguished service to the community, University projects or committees 
  • Special efforts in promoting diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging

Thank you to all our nominators for honorably shining a light on the hard work and dedicated efforts of our community members who help make Adelphi a special place for one another and our students.

John Siderakis Chief Administrative Officer


Awardees of the President’s Award for Excellence and the President’s Award for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging are selected according to exceptionally high criteria by their respective selection committees. Deliberations of the committees are strictly confidential.

For optimum fairness, the selection committees include constituencies from across Adelphi:

  • Students
  • Previous honorees
  • Local 153 representatives
  • Faculty members
  • Administrators
  • Members of the Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging

Co-chairs for the committees receive and review all nominations to ensure they are complete and meet eligibility criteria. After committee deliberations, the final selected candidates are shared with the University President for review and final approval.

Each year, a minimum of six nominations for the President’s Award for Excellence and four for the President’s Award for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging must be received by the deadline in order for the awards to be presented in a given year.

2024 Honorees

President’s Award for Excellence Honorees

Melissa Bellantonio 
Office of University Admissions

Annette Leone 
Office of Human Resources

Kathie Ortore
College of Nursing and Public Health

Leandro Rodriguez 

President’s Award for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Honoree

Linda Jean-Louis
One-Stop Student Services Center

Past Honorees

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