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Hornet Heritage Award

Hornet Heritage Award

The Hornet Heritage Family award, sponsored by the ESU Alumni Association, annually recognizes a multi-generational family of Hornet alumni and former students. A new family is recognized annually at Family Day.

Nomination Form

Go here to nominate a family online or call the Alumni Relations office at (620) 341-5440.

The 2019 Hornet Heritage Family: The Plank Family


Image of the Plank family

Diplomas and certifications from Emporia State University fill the foliage on Gene and Betty Plank's family tree.

The Emporia couple and their extended family will be recognized as the 2019 Hornet Heritage Family at halftime of the football game against the University of Nebraska Kearney on Sept. 21st in Welch Stadium.

The award, sponsored by the ESU Alumni Association, annually recognizes a multigenerational family of alumni and former students who have maintained close ties with Hornet Nation.

Family patriarch Gene Plank's introduction to ESU came via correspondence courses while he was teaching in a one-room rural schoolhouse.

After discharge from the military, he came to then Kansas State Teachers College campus and lived in "Vet City" housing to continue his education. He was impressed with the quality of the faculty, the friendly atmosphere, and the excellence of the educational program.

He left with a bachelor's degree in elementary education and a master's in counseling. Betty Plank also took coursework at ESU.

Later, he became a part-time adjunct instructor, and soon returned to campus full-time. He was a full professor for 22 of his 30 years on the faculty in the Division of Psychology and Special Education.

His dedication went beyond expectations.

"He did some things other people wouldn't have done," son Elwin Plank said. "I know, for example, he would help actually enroll students. ... He would go into a lot of cities and teach classes where students couldn't make it" to campus.

The Planks had high expectations for their children, too.

"My parents really taught us, especially my dad, to value education," said daughter Debra (Debbie) Plank Sack. "It was really very important to them that we got our college degree."

All seven children made the Hornet connection, as alumni or former students: Debbie Plank Sack, BSE 1984, MS 1988, and educational administration certification; Kevin Plank, BS 1982, MS 1983; Gary Plank, BSE 1980, MS 1982; Stephanie Plank Clements, former student; Elwin Plank, BSE 1981, MS 1982, EdS, 1989; Sheryl Plank Simonis, former student; and Tina Plank, BSE 1983, MS 1990 and elementary administration certification. Other Hornet family alumni members include Debbie Sack's husband Tom, Elwin Plank's wife, Sheri Keefe Plank, and Tina Plank's son, Noah Plank Retherford.

The elder Planks take pride in the different programs their family became involved in—psychology, education, special education, science, and social sciences. Many spent at least a portion of their careers as teachers, counselors, and administrators. With some Native American ancestry, son Gary Plank, Ph.D., took his first job as an educator on a reservation.

"It's really kind of a part of our heritage, how important education is," he said, "and you can see it in our family."

Gene and Betty Plank also gave a gift for scholarships through the ESU Foundation.