The Distinguished Alumni award is the highest honor that can be granted to an alumnus or alumna of Emporia State University by the ESU Alumni Association. Awarded each fall during Homecoming, it recognizes the outstanding professional accomplishments of ESU's finest graduates. Since the inception of the award program in 1960, more than 200 alumni have received the award.
Candidates are nominated for the Distinguished Alumni award by alumni and current and retired ESU faculty. As much information as possible is gathered on each candidate. The information is evaluated and an initial selection is made by a committee representing alumni and faculty. The Alumni Association Board of Directors approves or makes final selection of those who will receive the award. A maximum of five alumni can receive the award in a given year.
Past Distinguished Alumni have included teachers, research scholars, humanitarians, administrators, public servants, doctors, lawyers, and leaders in business, industry, and the military. All are respected in their professions and community. Most important, they are Emporia State University graduates who have given ESU a rich heritage.
Click here to fill out the nomination form online or call your ESU Alumni Office at 620-341-5440 to request the most current nomination form. (please note: for consideration during the upcoming calendar year, nominations are due by October 31; nominations received after this date will be considered for the following year)
Click here to view Ron's introduction video.
He has written two books and numerous articles published in professional journals. He retired as director of the School Counseling and Counseling Psychology program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he had taught from 1963 to 1992. A research center bearing his name is located at UMass Amherst.
He and his wife, Patricia Keck Fredrickson (BSE 1953 – English), returned in 1992 to the family farm west of Osage City, where they raise Angus cattle. The couple subsequently associated their operation with Meyer Natural Angus to market choice and prime beef, certified to be free of antibiotics, animal byproducts or implants. They also work with a state forester to maintain a 55-acre tree farm that had belonged to their son, the late Dr. Doren D. Fredrickson, who was a professor in Preventative Medicine and Public Health at the Kansas University School of Medicine-Wichita and the Health Officer of the Sedgwick County Health Department. The Fredricksons have won numerous awards from the Osage County Conservation District, the Kansas Bankers Association and Kansas Farm Bureau for their successful land conservation efforts.
In 2015, Pat and Ron received the Kansas Master Farmer and Master Farm Homemaker Award from the Kansas Cooperative Extension Service and Kansas Farmer magazine. After the death of Dr. Doren Fredrickson, they established a scholarship to be presented annually to an Osage County 4-H member and also donated toward a Doren D. Fredrickson Arena, to be located on the Osage County Fairgrounds. The couple also created a 4-H scholarship in Lyon County in the name of their daughter Anne J. Fredrickson.
The Dr. Ronald H. and Dr. Patricia A. Fredrickson Career Services Director's Office was named in their honor as an outgrowth of their support of the Memorial Union renovation. Fredrickson is a past member of the Emporia State Alumni Board of Directors. As a student, he was involved in numerous campus organizations and activities, including Student Body President in 1952-53, Xi Phi (Leadership Honors), Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, Wesley Foundation, Sphinx Club (entertainment), The Bulletin, Emporia State Players and Kappa Delta Pi education fraternity. He was also named to "Who's Who Among College Students."
Click here to view Shirley's introduction video.
Shirley Johannsen, Topeka, graduated from Emporia State with a bachelor of science in elementary education degree in 1964 and began teaching that fall in the State Street Elementary School in Topeka. She retired in 2014 after spending her entire career in USD 501 as teacher at State Street Elementary and a coach at Holiday Junior High and Chase Middle School.
That same year, she was inducted into the Kansas Teachers Hall of Fame, saw the State Street School's auditorium named in her honor and was recognized formally by a Kansas Senate resolution for her "extraordinary services and rare accomplishment of teaching for 50 years at State Street Elementary School in Topeka." She was also named USD 501 Topeka Teacher of the Year in 1991, was a nominee for Kansas Teacher of the Year in 2008 and received the Martin Luther King’s Vivian Scales Education Award in 2014.
The resolution praised Johannsen for supporting "an array of extracurricular activities, from sports and theater to other arts activities, that made a difference for students." Johannsen devoted many hours to painting and restoring sections of the school and spent a recent summer repainting the auditorium's art-deco-style seating by hand, taking care to match the original colors. Principal Sharp said Johannsen often asked that struggling students be assigned to her class, so she could help them improve, resulting in Sharp's tagging her with the nickname "The Kid Whisperer."
Johannsen taught multiple generations of students at the school and became co-workers with a few former students when they too became teachers at State Street. "What's more, they very clearly point out that it was her inspiration that guided them to a love of learning and teaching," a colleague wrote to commemorate Johannsen's retirement.
Johannsen was a member of Alpha Sigma Alpha sorority and named to Who’s Who Among College Students at Emporia State and received her master's degree in education in 1972 from Washburn University in Topeka.
Click here to view Herman's introduction video.
The Kansas Sheriff's Association named Jones 2014 Sheriff of the Year, and was recognized as Law Enforcement Officer of the year in 2012 by the Topeka Downtown Optimists organization. Jones has been involved in the Black Student Union and is a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. He serves as a commissioner for the Kansas Commission on Police Officers' Standards and Training and is a Life Member of the Kansas Peace Officers Association. Jones is a member of the Kansas Sheriffs' Association, the National Sheriffs' Association, the FBI National Academy Associates, the Shawnee County Department of Corrections' Public Relations Board and the Topeka Safe Streets Coalition.
In addition to serving as elder, deacon, and other roles at his church, he is a Big Brother and board member for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Topeka, has been a youth league coach for both baseball and basketball, a Boy Scout leader and executive board member of the Boy Scouts of America Jayhawk Area Council, a member of the Family Service and Guidance Center Board of Directors, the United Way Agency Coordinator and Public Advisory Group, Shawnee Heights High School Booster Club and the Topeka Officials Association.
Click here to view Mike's introduction video.
Law, known professionally as Mike Kennedy, is vice president of programming for Steel City Media Kansas City and program director of Q104 KBEQ. He was host for the station's Morning Drive program for 14 years before stepping away at the end of 2015. In that role, Law has evolved into an influential figure in the field of country music. Successful artists and hopefuls alike seek him out to play their recordings.
Law has repeatedly been named one of country music's top 15 decision-makers by Music Row magazine, best country program director in America by Radio Ink magazine, and is included on the Country Radio Power List. In 2014 he was honored as a Kansas City Media Legend, awarded annually to one person who has served Kansas City media for 25 years or more. He has been named one of country music's Top Country Programmers in America for 14 of the last 16 years, becoming country radio's most-nominated programmer. He also has been Billboard magazine's Program Director of the Year and was named Country Radio's Large Market Morning Show of the Year in 2010.
Law reached his career goal in 2015 when he was inducted into the radio portion of the Country Music Hall of Fame. He had been inducted into the Kansas Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2014.
Despite a busy schedule that frequently takes him across the country for music events and to recording sessions where his opinion is sought by headliners in the business, Law has made time to stay closely involved in Emporia State events and activities. He currently serves on the Emporia State Foundation board of directors, the Hornets for Higher Ed, and has served as master of ceremonies for numerous campus events.
He is actively involved in several charities in the Kansas City area. He serves on the board of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and the Country Radio Broadcasters Agenda Committee and actively helps raise funds for causes primarily involving children -- the Fore the Kids Golf Tourney for Children's Mercy Hospital, the Q-104 Golf Tourney to benefit Children's Mercy South Hospital, and the Tux & Boots event to benefit Therapeutic Riding Academy for disabled children.
Click here to view Steve's introduction video.
He also has taken leadership roles in the Emporia community, as president of the Emporia Area Chamber of Commerce, the Regional Development Association and other organizations. He said his proudest moment as a civic leader was in 1999 when, as chairman of the United Way campaign, the drive exceeded its $600,000 goal by $18,000. It was the first time the campaign surpassed the $600,000 mark. Sauder has supported the university in a variety of ways, from serving on boards and councils, to fundraising, to establishing multiple scholarships, including a gift from Steve Sauder and Paula Sauder to create the Ron Fredrickson and Inez Friesen Pocket Theaters in Roosevelt Hall.
He received the Joe Cannon Service Award given for dedication, service, and commitment to bettering ESU and intercollegiate athletics. in 2014 in recognition of his ongoing efforts on behalf of Emporia State Athletic Department. He is a member of the Emporia State University Foundation Board of Trustees and is the Champion for Athletics for the Now & Forever Campaign. In 2013, Sauder and his wife Bobbi made a significant donation to the campaign that doubles the annual output of the Earl W. Sauder Athletic Scholarship. He is also completing his third term as a trustee at Baker University. His memberships on campus boards include the President's Community Advisory Council, the School of Business Alliance and the Kellogg Society. He is a past member of the Alumni Association Board of Directors.
Sauder has been a strong supporter of Emporia State students and student athletes, with involvement in the Paul Terry Scholarship, the Earl and Stelouise Sauder Athletic Scholarship, the Earl W. Sauder Scholarship, the Earl Sauder Donor Advised fund, the Bobbi Sauder Nursing Scholarship and the Lady Hornet Basketball Scholarship.
Click here to view the 2015 Distinguished Alumni introduction video.Col. Guy Beougher
Retired U.S. Army Col. Guy C. Beougher, who received his bachelor of science in business administration degree from Emporia State in 1980, now is a senior leader in the Defense Logistics Agency and involved in the fight against Ebola in Africa.
Among his graduate degrees and certifications are a master of science in material acquisition management from Florida Institute of Technology and a master of science in national resource strategy from National Defense University; he is a doctoral candidate in public policy and administration, transactional cost economic theory, at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and University.
His awards include a Superior Civilian Service Medal, a Civilian Global War on Terrorism, Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medals, Army Achievement Medal, Kosovo NATO Medal and overseas ribbons. To read more, click here.
Richard C. 'Dick' Hawk has succeeded in diverse careers — banking, financial management and upscale restaurant ownership.
Hawk said he came to Emporia to attend Kansas State Teachers College, now Emporia State University, because of a $100 scholarship, “which was a great deal of money at the time.” He earned two degrees here, a bachelor of science in business administration in 1956, and a master of science in business administration the following year. During his time here, Hawk was editor of The Bulletin newspaper and president of the student council. He also served as director of field services at the university.
Later, he served as assistant dean in the University of Chicago's Graduate School of Education and became the first director of the Minnesota State Higher Education Board. He received an honorary doctorate degree from LLD University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minn. The Richard C. Hawk Sports Center was named in his honor at Alliant International University in San Diego. To read more, click here.
Dr. Ilene K. Kleinsorge credits Emporia State University for helping her along the journey from single parent and college student working four part-time jobs to executive dean of the Division of Business and engineering and dean of the College of Business at Oregon State University.
“First and foremost, the learning I got from ESU was that I could do anything I wanted to do,” said Kleinsorge, noting that her ESU experience taught her the value of collaboration. “I’ve been able to compose my life as I go by finding connections that others may not see and making things happen that are greater than first imagined.”
She graduated with honors from Emporia State with a bachelor of science degree in 1981 and received her doctorate from the University of Kansas in 1988. She became a faculty member in the OSU College of Business in 1987. To read more, click here.
John D. McPherson, Jr. built a career primarily running railroads since he graduated from Kansas State Teachers College in 1959 with a bachelor of science degree in business administration. He later received a master of science degree in management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
He served in various capacities for the former Santa Fe Railroad for 25 years and was chief operating officer for the Florida East Coast Railway LLC from 1999 to 2007. He also was vice president of Florida East Coast Industries Inc., and also served as its vice president of rail operations beginning in 1999, according to McPherson's executive profile in Bloomberg Business Week.
McPherson also was president and chief executive officer of the Illinois Central from 1998 to 1999 and as its senior vice president of operations from 1993 to 1998. He served as chairman of the Las Vegas Railway Express in 2013 and 2014, after becoming its director in 2012. He has been a director of CSX Corporation since July 2008, Bloomberg reported. He served as a director of TTX Company from 1997 to 2007. To read more, click here.
Lana Scrimsher Oleen has spent her career focused on education and citizen service. The former Kansas Senate Majority Leader graduated from Kansas State Teachers College in 1972 with a bachelor of science in education degree in English and in 1977 with a master of science degree in curriculum and instruction. She taught school from 1972 to 1986.
Oleen has devoted her time and talents generously to Emporia State both as a student and alumnus. She was the 2012 spring commencement speaker. She has served as chairman and member of the Foundation Board, as a member of the alumni board, the Now & Forever National Campaign Committee, Hornets for Higher Education, as a Kansas State Fair volunteer and as part of the Teacher Appreciation Program. As a student, Oleen served on Associated Student Government and The Bulletin.
She represented the 22nd District in the Kansas Senate from 1989 to 2005, becoming majority leader in 2003, and was a board member of the Policy Consensus Initiative, the Governor's Military Council and was chair of the Education Task Force/Superintendent Coalition. To read more, click here.
Past Distinguished Alumni Recipients