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MSU announces 2023 Distinguished Service Awards recipients 

Morehead State University has announced the recipients of the 2023 Distinguished Service Awards. These awards recognize faculty and staff for their service to the campus community and their fields of study. The awards were presented at MSU’s Fall Convocation ceremony on Wednesday, Aug. 9. 

Distinguished Staff Service Award - Maxwell Ammons  

Max Ammons is the assistant vice president for student affairs and dean of students since 2015. He joined MSU from 2007-10 as a professor of military science and chair of the Department of Military Science. Ammons returned in 2012 after serving as the deputy chief of future operations and special assistant to the commanding general for U.S. Army Central Command. A graduate of North Georgia College (University of North Georgia) and Troy University, Ammons served in the U.S. Army as an active-duty aviator and operations career field officer for 21 years before employment with MSU. He has over 16 years of experience in academia, serving as an instructor, assistant professor, professor, department chair, program director, and in his current roles with the University. 

Distinguished Faculty Service Award - Dr. Elizabeth Ash (Class of 2007, 2009) 

Dr. Elizabeth “Liz” Ash is a two-time graduate of Morehead State. Employed with MSU since 2009, she is an instructor of health and wellness in the Department of Kinesiology, Health, and Imaging Sciences (KHIS). At MSU, Ash has served on various committees, including Undergraduate Curriculum, College of Science Honors Day, General Education Proposal, and Faculty Advisory Committee. She has dedicated 13 years as the faculty sponsor of Eta Sigma Gamma, the National Health Education honorary, and has recently worked to develop the Kinesiology & Health Club. Ash has also been active in the Eagle Scholars Program since its founding in 2011 and has represented her department, college, and MSU by actively participating in various events and conferences. 

Distinguished Teacher Award - Dr. Bernadette Barton 

Dr. Bernadette Barton is a professor of sociology and director of gender studies in the Department of Sociology, Social Work and Criminology. She has served as an instructor at MSU since 2000. She is the author of “The Pornification of America: How Raunch Culture is Ruining Our Society” (2021); “Stripped: More Stories from Exotic Dancers” (2017); “Pray the Gay Away: The Extraordinary Lives of Bible Belt Gays” (2014); and “Stripped: Inside the Lives of Exotic Dancers” (2006). Barton writes about and teaches contemporary issues of gender, sexuality, religion, culture, happiness, and the sex industry.  

Distinguished Researcher - Dr. Jen O’Keefe  

Dr. Jen O’Keefe came to Morehead State in 2002 and built foundations for her research endeavors while completing her doctorate in geology at the University of Kentucky. As a geology and science education professor, she is a broadly trained earth systems scientist committed to fostering student success through research experiences and global collaborations. This has resulted in an extensive publication and grants record that ranges from microscopic and geochemical analysis of the formation and transformation of organic sediments to coal fire dynamics to the impacts of climate change on plant and fungal communities to pollen as indicators of bee foraging habits, among others. O’Keefe is also the 2023 Distinguished Service Award recipient from AASP-The Palynological Society and among the geoscientists elected Fellows of the Geological Society of America (GSA) in 2023. 

Distinguished Creative Production - Greg Carlisle  

Greg Carlisle completed his 22nd year of teaching at Morehead State University as an associate professor of theatre. His courses included Advanced Acting electives, Voice and Articulation, Directing, Theatre History, Dramatic Literature, and Senior Seminar in Theatre. As part of an interdisciplinary service-learning effort, Carlisle assisted MSU students in volunteering as simulated patients for the UK (University of Kentucky) Physician Assistants program. He has hosted theatre conferences held on MSU’s campus and served for two years as the program lead for Theatre and Dance. Carlisle has directed 21 theatrical productions in his time at MSU. From 2017 to 2019 and again this summer, he was a teaching artist for Shooting Stars Youtheatre. Carlisle has also published three works of literary criticism through Sideshow Media Group Press in Los Angeles. 

View a gallery of MSU's 2023 Fall Convocation at

For more information, contact Academic Affairs at 606-783-2002. 

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2023 Distinguished Service Award Recipients

From left to right: Maxwell Ammons, Dr. Elizabeth Ash, Dr. Bernadette Barton, Greg Carlisle and Dr. Jen O'Keefe.