Awards Luncheon Garners $200,000 for Student Scholarships

Swinney Recreation Center was transformed into a glittering ballroom for 600 guests who turned out to honor Alumni Award recipients and to kick off the campus' 80th anniversary.

In the event's opening video, Chancellor Morton said the luncheon was a way to "celebrate what it means to be a part of this university. Whether you are a student, alumnus, faculty and staff or a friend, here at UMKC, you are part of something special."

Hosted by the Alumni Association, the 2013 Alumni Awards luncheon honored 16 alumni and one family, as well as the 2013 Chancellor's Medal recipient: the UMKC Board of Trustees. The annual luncheon is the university’s largest event and proceeds support student scholarships.

"One of the reasons it is such a joy to work on this event has been our focus on students," said luncheon co-chair Raymond Cattaneo (M.D. '03). "So many of us owe our professional lives to the grace of receiving scholarship aid.  Many of our alumni awardees might not be where they are today had it not been for the generosity of alumni and friends who 'paid it forward' so they could attend school.  So we thank all of you who bought a ticket, a table, a sponsorship or made a direct contribution to this year’s scholarship fund."

Cattaneo and co-chair Michelle Wimes (B.A. '88) (center in photo, joined by Chancellor Leo Morton, left, and Alumni Association President Jerry Lonergan), announced to the packed crowd  that a record-breaking $200,000 was raised for immediate aid and endowed scholarship support, the most in the history of the awards. Wimes and Cattaneo then told guests that the Board of Trustees had offered to match any gifts received at the luncheon up to $5,000 to add to the grand total.

During the event, each awardee was honored with a video tribute sharing the story of his or her achievements and service. At a reception the evening prior at the H & R Block World Headquarters, honorees received their awards.  Each school achievement awardee was presented with a signed watercolor print of the Kangaroo mascot by internationally known artist Tom Corbin. The five university-wide honorees received a bronze kangaroo statue, also created by Corbin. 

The history of the university was front and center as videos and photos came together to celebrate the founding of the campus in 1933 in the midst of the Great Depression. In receiving the university's highest nonacademic award, the Chancellor's Medal, the Trustees organization was recognized for its role in mobilizing civic leadership in founding the campus and for its sustaining leadership and investment throughout the decades. Artist Robyn Nichols, who designed the original Chancellor's Medal, handcrafted individual lapel pin replicas of the medal for each member of the Trustees.

At the conclusion of the luncheon, Alumnus of the Year Major Gen. Mark Ediger (M.D. '78) spoke to the crowd on behalf of himself and his fellow award recipients. Ediger, a physician and graduate of the UMKC School of Medicine, is Deputy Surgeon General for the United States Air Force.
“As I read the stories of those who were honored, the common thread was an ethos of service,” Ediger told the audience. “I really credit this university for that, for giving us both the ability to serve and the desire to serve.”

At right, Peggy Dunn (BA '72), co-chair of UMKC's 80th anniversary celebration, views the history of the Roo mascot exhibit at the reception honoring awardees the evening prior to the luncheon.

International jazz sensation, UMKC's own Bobby Watson, surprised the audience with a special appearance and performed to close the luncheon.

Read more about the luncheon here and see photos of the campus celebrations for the awardees here.

About this Year's Awardees

List of Winners (click name to read more)

Alumnus of the Year, Major General Mark Ediger (B.A. ’77,M.D. ’78)
Bill French Alumni Service Award – Russell Tabata
Defying the Odds Award, Mary Daly
Legacy Award, Sweeney Family
Spotlight Award, Nelson Sabates
College of Arts and Sciences, William Reinert
Bloch School of Management, Catherine Lewis
School of Biological Sciences, Scott Falke
School of Computing and Engineering, Rajiv Chilakalapudi
Conservatory of Music and Dance, Jennifer Linn
School of Dentistry, L. Jackson Brown
School of Dentistry - Dental Hygiene, Ann Brunick
School of Education, Dorothy Watson
School of Law, Allison Bergman
School of Medicine, John Owen
School of Nursing, Deborah Persell
School of Pharmacy, William Larmer

Alumni Award Winners

Alumnus of the Year, Major General Mark Ediger (B.A. ’77,M.D. ’78)
Responsibility for the health care of 2.4 million patients, including 330,000 service men and women in 75 Air Force treatment centers worldwide might give most people pause. Not Major General (Dr.) Mark A. Ediger, Deputy Surgeon General for the United States Air Force, who supports the Surgeon General in overseeing operations for a $7.1 billion, 43,000-person integrated health care delivery system that includes the Air Force’s deployable medical capability. Ediger has been a leader in the strategy, planning and execution of medical missions that have contributed to joint medical support producing the lowest died-of-wounds rate in the history of war. He has been a key administrator in international health, aeromedical evacuation, special operations and transformation of primary care, serving as Command Surgeon for Special Operations Command, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Education and Training Command, improving the lives of military patients and their families. In 2012, he was confirmed by the US Senate to the rank of Major General, making him one of only four active duty two-star generals serving in the Air Force Medical Service. In July 2012 he assumed the position of Deputy Surgeon General at Headquarters, U.S. Air Force in the Pentagon.

Bill French Alumni Service Award, Russell Tabata (D.D.S. ’67)
Some 4,000 miles separate UMKC from the sands of Hawaii, but Russell Tabata is proof that the connection between the university and his native islands is immediate. For more than 15 years, Tabata has bridged the distance as leader of the Dental School’s Hawaiian alumni group. He dedicates countless hours of time to recruiting, interviewing and recommending prospective Hawaiian dental students to his alma mater. He remains in touch while they are in school and helps mentor them when they return to Hawaii to practice. He travels to Kansas City regularly to be engaged with the life of the Dental School and its students. The Hawaiian alumni delegation’s dedication to UMKC has its roots in World War II, when the Kansas City Dental School was one of few schools to accept students of Japanese ancestry, as West Coast dental schools expelled them and many were facing internment. Tabata keeps that story and its resulting legacy alive as he cultivates new generations of Hawaiian dentists with a passion for their profession and a love of service for UMKC. In photo, Tabata with his grandson, Connor, wife Loretta, and Dean Marsha Pyle.

Defying the Odds, Mary Daly (B.A. ’85)
The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco's Mary Daly is one of the nation's leading scholars in economics and public policy, a career that belies her life’s journey. As a young person, her education took a back seat to more pressing priorities. To help support her struggling family, she began working at an early age, eventually dropping out of school at age 15 to work full-time. Despite many obstacles, including a chaotic home environment, Daly found adults who encouraged and nurtured her. She earned a GED and enrolled at UMKC. She worked several jobs on campus to pay her tuition and was the first in her family to earn a college degree. The UMKC economics faculty recommended her to a doctoral program at Syracuse University. Today, she is group vice president and the associate director of research at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, where she has built a 15-plus year career. In addition to numerous scholarly articles, Daly has authored two books and produced several videos and online tools designed to educate the general public about economics. She also is a regular contributor to the national debate on issues including Social Security reform, disability policy, modernizing the social safety net and preparing the U.S. workforce for a global economy. Daly earned a Ph.D. from Syracuse University and a B.S. from UMKC. She is currently a fellow of the National Academy of Social Insurance, a visiting scholar at the Congressional Budget Office, and a member of the American Economics Association and the Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession. In photo, Daly with Dean Wayne Vaught, Arts & Sciences.

Legacy Award, The Sweeney Family
What does it mean when you have 18 alumni, 25 degrees and a UMKC leader in your family tree? It means that you are both the history and the future of the university. The Sweeney legacy began with Leo Sweeney’s graduation from the University of Kansas City (now UMKC) in 1951 and carried over to his 51-year career as UKC/UMKC's director of admissions and registrar, assistant vice chancellor and senior consultant for International Student Affairs. All four of Leo and Annabelle Sweeney’s (in foreground) children and their spouses, plus nieces and nephews, have followed the Roo tradition graduating from UMKC. They hold degrees from the College of Arts & Sciences, the Conservatory of Music and Dance, the Bloch School of Management and the schools of Biological Sciences, Law, Education and Medicine. Family members include Michael Brown, co-founder and CEO of Euronet World Wide, and also a former alumni achievement awardee and Entrepreneur of the Year awardee; Nancy Grasse, senior vice president of contracts and administration/procurement for UMB Financial Corporation; Carol Pecoraro, general manager of the Marriott Kansas City Downtown; and Michael Sweeney, cardiologist. While many members of the family have remained active with UMKC, Leo Sweeney as patriarch is perhaps the most visible, continuing his service as a retiree on the UMKC Retirees Association board. In addition he serves as a long-time director of St. Luke's College of Health Sciences Board and director of Military Officers of America Association's Sunflower Chapter Board and Foundation.

Spotlight Award, Nelson Sabates (M.D. ’86)
Dr. Nelson Sabates’ efforts have brought world-class scholars and researchers to Kansas City and UMKC, pioneering new treatments and advancing basic and clinical studies to improve patient care. Sabates, who has taught residents and medical students for more than 20 years, is professor and chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology at UMKC, founder and director of the Vision Research Center at UMKC, president and CEO of Sabates Eye Centers and president of the Vision Research Foundation of Kansas City. His work through the Vision Research Foundation and the UMKC Department of Ophthalmology recently elicited a significant grant from Research to Prevent Blindness, a prestigious voluntary health organization in support of eye research. The Vision Research Foundation’s focus on bench-to-bedside translational research – the only regional eye center to combine this research with clinical trials – seeks to improve treatment for eye diseases that affect millions. Sabates also has an international, national, regional and local presence as a leader, board member, speaker and author. Sabates, left, with Chancellor Leo Morton.

College of Arts and Sciences, William Reinert (B.A. ‘74)
As one of the lead product planners for the Toyota Pruis, Bill Reinert is a nationally recognized expert on energy and resource management. Reinert is national manager of Toyota Motor Sales, USA advanced technology group and has worked both with Bell Labs and Hewlett Packard. At Toyota, Reinert led the planning of both the Fuel Cell Hydrogen Vehicle, Toyota’s first hydrogen fuel vehicle, and the Prius, Toyota’s current electric (hybrid) vehicle. His commitment to intelligent use of energy resources led the U.S. Secretary of Energy to name him chair of the Electric Subgroup for the Future Transportation Fuels study as part of the National Petroleum Council’s research on fuel availability. He also leads projects in the Galapagos Islands with Toyota’s partner, the World Wildlife Fund. Based on the Galapagos Energy Blueprint, co-authored by Reinert, this 10-year project has transformed energy use within the archipelago and has helped save a precious and fragile ecosystem.

Bloch School of Management, Catherine Lewis ( B.S. '85)
With taxes being a certainty in this life, it’s critical to have experts who can navigate the ever-changing rules and codes. As global leader of KPMG’s Energy and Natural Resources tax practice, now retired, Catherine Lewis leveraged her more than 20 years of accounting expertise to work with domestic and international energy companies. Lewis is an expert for global organizations in the areas of taxation, planning, and compliance, along with foreign tax and investment structures. Lewis also devotes significant energy to her alma mater, bringing her career expertise to bear for students. She is a past president, and current member, of the UMKC Bloch Advisory Council and a past board member of the Bloch Accounting Advisory Council. Lewis also serves on the board of Starlight Theatre and is treasurer of the Girl Scouts of Northeast Kansas and Northwest Missouri.

School of Biological Sciences, Scott Falke (B.S., 1998)
As associate professor of biology at William Jewell College, Dr. Scott Falke has studied the structures of various proteins, including anthrax toxin through the use of cryo-electron microscopy. His collaborative research and enthusiasm for working with undergraduate students earned him William Jewell College’s coveted Spencer Family Sabbatical Fellowship, 2009-2010. A veteran of the U.S. Army and a Major in the U.S. Army Reserve, his sabbatical was cut short as he was called to duty in Afghanistan, 2010-2011. For this duty, Falke received a Bronze Star. In addition to a heavy teaching schedule, Falke has published several articles and has given national presentations on his research. He serves as vice president of the Missouri Branch of the American Society for Microbiology and sits on several committees at William Jewell, including the Curriculum, Education and Policy Committee and the Honors Committee. Falke, left, with Dean Ted White.

School of Computing and Engineering, Rajiv Chilakalapudi (M.S. ’97)
Chilakalapudi (Chilaka) is creator, director and producer of many of India’s top children’s shows and movies. Founder and managing director of Green Gold Animation, he has received countless awards and acclaim for his original work. His widely popular Chhota Bheem series currently has a viewership of more than 34 million children. He has created animated films, such as Krishna: The Birth and Krishna: The Makhan Chor, as well as the animated television shows Krishna Balram and Mighty Raju, which airs on The Cartoon Network India and Pogo. Green Gold Animation also has retail stores featuring products based on Green Gold’s animated characters. Chilakalapudi supports programs to expose young people to his craft, having enrolled 30 underprivileged teenagers in a training program, free of charge, and eventually hiring 20 of them to work for Green Gold. He also established 10 animation scholarships for economically challenged students in India.

Conservatory of Music and Dance, Jennifer Linn (B.M. ’82, M.M. ’86)
Jennifer Linn, an accomplished composer, pianist, teacher and clinician, is the Manager–Educational Piano for Hal Leonard Corporation, the largest publisher of print music in the world. In addition to her contribution as a composer and arranger for the Hal Leonard Student Piano Library, her work includes serving as editor and recording artist for several G. Schirmer Performance Editions. Her compositions and editions have been used frequently by the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance and have been included in the National Federation of Music Clubs festival lists, the renowned London College of Music examinations and numerous state repertoire lists. She was recently awarded the 2012 Collaborative Music Commission by the Music Teachers National Association and her instrumental trio for piano, flute and horn will be premiered March 10 at the MTNA National Conference in Anaheim, Calif. Linn, with Dean Peter Witte.

School of Dentistry, Dr. Lynn Jackson Brown (B.S. ’66, D.D.S. ’69)
A dentist, economist, epidemiologist, researcher, consultant, author and editor, L. Jackson Brown is a true Renaissance man. His work with Vietnam veterans at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Kansas City, after completing his D.D.S. at UMKC in 1969, spurred his interest in economics and in epidemiology—the study of health-related patterns in society. Adding a master’s degree and a doctorate in social medical science, Brown began what would be two decades of government service in health care research. In 1991, he was named director of the Division of Epidemiology and Oral Disease Prevention at the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Brown was associate executive director of the Health Policy Resources Center, the American Dental Association’s main source of information and analysis on dental practice, economics and epidemiology. The ADA honored him in 2011 with its Distinguished Service Award, the highest honor bestowed by the ADA’s Board of Trustees. Brown was editor of the Journal of Dental Education and a member of the senior staff of the American Dental Education Association from 2007 until July 1, 2012, and received its Presidential Citation. Brown, with Dean Marsha Pyle.

School of Dentistry – Dental Hygiene, Ann Brunick (M.S.D.H. ’86)
Ann Brunick, RDH, MS is the Chairperson and Professor of the University of South Dakota’s Department of Dental Hygiene. Ann received an associate’s degree from USD, a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota, and a master’s degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She has been a member of the USD faculty since 1982 and Chairperson of the Department since 1996. Ann has had national involvement with the ADHA Institute for Oral Health Scholarship and Research Review Committees, the ADA Commission on Dental Accreditation and the ADA Joint Commission for National Dental Board Examinations. Ann has been involved with several interprofessional education projects emphasizing oral health to students within the Physician’s Assistant Studies, Physical Therapy, and Sanford School of Medicine programs at the University of South Dakota. She participated in a CDC grant in which an innovative health promotion model was developed and implemented as a collaborative interprofessional approach to assist an underserved population with diabetes. She recently received a HRSA Office of Rural Health Policy Outreach grant to establish a school-based preventive dental program serving several school districts in southeast South Dakota. Ann is the author of several articles and book chapters and is the co-author of a textbook entitled the Handbook of Nitrous Oxide and Oxygen Sedation in which the 4th edition is in progress. Brunick, left, with UMKC student Jaiojiao Zhang at the breakfast for alumni awardees and student leaders.

School of Education, Dorothy Watson (M.A. ’64)
Literacy trailblazer, international educator and professor emerita of education at the University of Missouri-Columbia, Dorothy Watson has taught in inner-city Kansas City, Mo., in Sierra Leone and in Kenya. The Watson Literacy Center, which she founded and is housed at Park University, was named in her honor. Her pioneering work in literacy education garnered her recognitions that include her induction into the Reading Hall of Fame, Outstanding Educator in the Language Arts by the Nation Council of Teachers of English and recipient of the William T. Kemper Fellow for Excellence in Teaching. Watson is internationally known as a pioneer of the whole language movement and served as the first president of The Whole Language Umbrella, a subsidiary of the National Council of Teachers of English. She co-authored Reading Miscue Inventory, the book that is widely regarded as a classic text on literary assessment. Watson earned her doctorate from Wayne State University in 1973, her M.A. from UMKC in 1964 and her B.A. from Park University in 1952. Watson has published countless articles, six books (including Making a Difference: Selected Writings of Dorothy Watson), and has contributed chapters to 40 books. Watson, right, with Dean Wanda Blanchett.

School of Law, Allison Bergman (J.D. ’96)
Recently named as a Leading Lawyer for Business by Chambers USA and previously recognized by Missouri Lawyer’s Weekly as a contender for lawyer of the year, Allison Bergman is a lawyer with a passion for the urban core of Kansas City. She is an attorney at Hardwick Law Firm, LLC, and practiced at the law firm of Lathrop & Gage LLP for over 14 years. Bergman works on the development of the largest wind power transload facility in the Midwest, and has focused 14 years of her practice on real estate, development and land use issues. She served as assistant and then chief legal counsel to the Kansas City Terminal Railway Company for a decade. In addition, she served as lead counsel for the redevelopment of Kansas City’s landmark Federal Courthouse, and since 2000, has represented Beacon Hill Developers in its effort to redevelop a 90-acre neighborhood in the city’s urban core. From 2000 to 2010, she shared her vast expertise with the legal community as a co-author of the Federal Regulations section of the Missouri Bar Association’s Real Estate Practice Handbook. Bergman, left, with Dean Ellen Suni.

School of Medicine, Dr. John Owen ( B.A. ’79, M.D. '81)
John Owen is a practicing physician at the Liberty Clinic in Liberty, MO. Recently retired from his post as the Air National Guard Assistant to the Command Surgeon, Air Mobility Command, Owen received the Surgeon General’s Air National Guard State Air Surgeon of the Year in 2007 and the Harry Truman Public Service Award in 2012, which he accepted on behalf of the members of the Armed Forces during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Owen served the state of Missouri as director of the Joint Staff, Missouri Joint Force Headquarters, where he oversaw domestic operation, joint staff, special staff and the state partnership program to the nation of Panama. He has received many honors for his service, including the Legion of Merit, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Air Force Commendation Medal and the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal. Owen with Dean Betty Drees.

School of Nursing, Deborah Persell (M.S.N. ’78)
Deborah Persell, a national leader in crisis management, has played an instrumental role in founding a new field in the profession of nursing. After Sept. 11, 2001, Persell pursued and became the first graduate from the Homeland Security Nursing program at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, where she earned her doctorate. At Arkansas State University, today Persell is a professor in the College of Nursing and Health Professions. She serves as director of the Disaster Preparedness & Emergency Management program as well as coordinator of the university’s Regional Training Center for Disaster Life Support. Her work has revolutionized the way crises are managed, and through her articles, national speaking engagements and her scholarship, she has shaped how the nursing profession approaches crises and disasters. Persell, who is also a credentialed nurse practitioner, was named Academic Nurse of the Year in 2010 by the UMKC School of Nursing. Persell, left, with Dean Lora Lacey Haun.

School of Pharmacy, William Larmer (B.S.P. ’75)
As a respected and successful financial expert who manages the portfolios of people from all walks of life, William Larmer works with business owners, doctors, movie stars, professional athletes, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball. Larmer serves clients, near and far, through his financial advisory firm, Larmer & Elstun, LLC. Though himself not a practicing pharmacist, he credits his success to the rigorous, high-quality education he received at UMKC’s School of Pharmacy. He is a regular speaker who talks with students about the many career options that await them, both inside and outside the health sciences field. Larmer has devoted countless hours to both the Pharmacy Alumni Association and the Pharmacy Foundation, working to advance the school. He received the School of Pharmacy’s Alumni Award for Outstanding Professional Service in 2007. Larmer, left, with Dean Russell Melchert.
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