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. See the links at right to read about past recipients.
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)
Daniel D. Busby has worked with nonprofit organizations during much of his nearly 50 year career. In his latest role as president of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA), Busby works with nearly 1,900 evangelical Christian organizations which receive over $22 billion in annual revenue. ECFA sets standards of governance, financial management and fundraising to which organizations voluntarily commit.
Along with frequent presentations on nonprofit topics, Busby is the author of hundreds of articles and 52 editions of five different nonprofit titles. NonProfit Times has named him one of the 50 most powerful nonprofit leaders for the past five consecutive years.
Another facet of Busby’s life centers on baseball memorabilia. He regularly contributes artifacts to the National Baseball Hall of Fame Library and Museum and assists the Hall in identifying items donated to their collection. He is writing a series of iBooks on vintage baseball tickets and a print edition relating to Brooklyn Dodgers memorabilia.
Diane M. DeBacker, Ed.D., recently concluded four years of service as Kansas Commissioner of Education, providing leadership for the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) to carry out the policies and programs that help the state’s 475,000 kindergarten through twelfth grade students achieve their academic goals.
DeBacker rose through classroom and administrative ranks in Kansas public and private schools before joining the KSDE, an agency she served as director of school improvement and accreditation, deputy commissioner of the Division of Learning and Innovative Services, interim Commissioner of Education, and most recently Kansas Education Commissioner.
Throughout her career, DeBacker has been sought out by schools, districts, education organizations and others for her educational insights as well as her clear thinking around the issues and challenges facing policy makers, educators and students.
DeBacker left her KSDE post in May, 2014, to serve as advisor to the director general of the Abu Dhabi Education Council in the United Arab Emirates.
Anthony D. “Tony” Forcum, prior to his retirement in May 2014, was a principal of Deloitte Consulting LLP and a member of its Board of Directors. Forcum joined a predecessor of Deloitte & Touche in 1974 after graduating from Emporia State University and became a partner in 1984.
He served as Deloitte Consulting’s National Managing Director—Operations & Finance from 2003 through 2009 and Managing Director of Deloitte Consulting’s Texas practice offices in Dallas, Houston and Austin from 1997 to 2001. He also was Managing Director of the Dallas office in 1996. He served as the national recruiting principal for Deloitte Consulting at the University of Texas at Austin for many years.
Post-retirement, Forcum admits that his schedule will remain full. He plans to continue to serve McCombs School of Business at UT-Austin (where he is a lifetime member of the Business Advisory Council), and to work in entrepreneurial and consulting opportunities as they may present themselves.
Rosemary A. Kirby, Ph.D., has taken divergent routes during a career in education that has spanned more than five decades. From an early classroom assignment Wichita Southeast High School, Kirby moved into administrative roles at several Wichita schools, including principalships at Mead Junior High, Jardine Junior High and West High Schools.
In the early 1990s, Wichita’s USD 259 Board of Education showed its confidence in Kirby when she was named the district’s interim superintendent. She was director of Wichita Area Vocational Technical School and president of Wichita Area Technical College, in addition to teaching for nine years in Wichita State University’s College of Education.
While officially retired, Kirby spends approximately 24 hours a week tutoring 20 students from kindergarten through high school in a variety of subjects: math, language arts, social studies, science and computer keyboarding. It’s a time-consuming endeavor, but one she finds extremely rewarding.
Kirby is an emeritus trustee of the Emporia State University Foundation, and is an active volunteer with the Emporia State Alumni Association’s teacher appreciation luncheons and student recruitment activities.
Click here to see the video from the 2013 Distinguished Alumni and Outstanding Recent Graduate recipients.
Linda Bluth has 47 years of experience as a special educator, including 32 years in special needs transportation. Retiring in 2009 as director of the Office of Quality Assurance and Monitoring at the Maryland State Department of Education, she currently works part-time for that same agency as a quality assurance monitoring specialist in special education and early intervention services.
An expert in the field of special needs transportation policies, she joined the School Bus Safety company as a consultant and product trainer in 2011. Bluth is past president of the National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT), and received the organization’s Distinguished Service Award in 2000.
A physical education teacher and Title VII Indian education director at Royal Valley USD 337, Mayetta, Anita Evans develops and implements programs emphasizing Native American culture, language, art and academic assistance for students in the district, along with coaching the high school’s softball and volleyball teams.
Evans was named 1997 Kansas Native American Educator of the Year, and earned National Indian Teacher of the Year honors in 2002 from the National Indian Education Association. She is also a 2010 Port Jervis (N.Y.) High School Hall of Fame inductee. In 1998, she implemented a summer youth work program for Prairie Band Potawatomie Nation and served as its director until 2005. She also sponsors the Royal Valley Native American Singers and Dancers, the only school-sponsored Native American dance group in Kansas.
J.D. Schramm serves on the faculty of Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, where he teaches a variety of communication courses to MBA students.
A sought out speaker, educator and trainer, Schramm uses his expertise in communication to help individuals and organizations become more effective. He speaks regularly on topics of suicide prevention, LGBT inclusiveness in schools and churches, and mentoring young people. Schramm earned a BFA in theatre from Emporia State University in 1985.
An original member of the ESU Ambassadors, he took that model to his high school alma mater, Thomas More Prep-Marian in Hays when he served there as director of admissions. He went on to complete his MBA at New York University in 2002 and his doctorate in education (Ed.D.) from the University of Pennsylvania in 2012.
Tom Thornbrugh is Presiding Judge of Division IV of the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals. In a distinguished career in both private practice and on the bench, Thornbrugh has been committed to ensuring citizens receive fair treatment under the law. Before his district court appointment, Thornbrugh spent more than 20 years in private law practice in Tulsa, also serving as a legislative advisor for U.S. Sen. Dewey Bartlett (R-Okla).
During his career with the U.S. Army, Thornbrugh was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Army Commendation Award, and Vietnamese Signal Corps Citation. He serves as adjunct professor at St. Gregory’s University and University of Tulsa.