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Distinguished Alumni

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)

2018 Recipients

Ms. Cheryl Brown Henderson

Cheryl M. Brown Henderson has spent much of her career building on a foundation laid by her father, the Rev. Oliver L. Brown.

Rev. Brown in 1950 was joined by 12 other parents and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, to file a suit on behalf of their children against the Topeka Board of Education. Three other states and the District of Columbia had joined the lawsuit by May 17, 1954, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that segregation at Topeka's Monroe elementary school and any other public school was unconstitutional.

In 1988, Brown Henderson established and is president of the Brown Foundation for Educational Equity, Excellence and Research, and also owns and operates an educational consulting firm, Brown & Associates.

Her work has drawn her into public policy and legislative development, education, business and civic leadership, and has led her to work with the U.S. Congress and to dinners and receptions at the White House.

She organized a group of community leaders and worked with the National Park Service to have the vacated Monroe elementary school building declared a national park in 1990. In 2001, she gained support from Congress for the Brown vs. Board of Education 50th Anniversary Presidential Commission.

The Foundation has provided scholarships to minority students; established children's libraries in low-income communities; developed educational curriculum, created traveling exhibits and a website about Rev. Brown; and sponsored programs on diversity and educational issues. In 2001, Brown Henderson represented the Trust for Historic Preservation in South Africa.

She has been honored with the National Education Association's Friend of Education Award, the National Alliance of Black School Educators' Lifetime Achievement Award, the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund Award of Excellence, and the Fight for Justice Award from Southern University Law Center.

Dr. Brian Cathers

Distinguished Alum Brian E. Cathers is leading the way in drug discovery and development for global pharmaceutical company Celgene, headquartered in San Diego, Calif.

He has direct responsibility for the company's Disease Biology, Discovery Biology and Proteomics groups. Research by Cathers and the teams he leads has spanned treatments for cancer, fibrotic, autoimmune and infectious diseases and in vitro safety assessment.

A native of Chanute, Ks., Cathers received a master of science degree with honors in medicinal chemistry in 1995 and a doctorate in medicinal chemistry the following year, both from the University of Kansas, and was a post-doctoral Fellow in the Drug Dynamics Institute at the University of Texas, Austin.

Cathers began conducting research on asthma and cancer in 1999 as lead enzymologist for Axys Pharmaceuticals in South San Francisco, Calif. In 2000, he joined NewBiotics Inc., in San Diego, where he generated and led several discovery projects in oncology and infectious diseases.

He accepted a position at Celgene in 2001 and, after a series of promotions throughout the company's divisions, became executive director of the company's Protein Homeostasis Thematic Center of Excellence in 2015.

He has written for dozens of peer-reviewed publications and holds numerous patents. Among his awards and honors are a 1993 National Institute of Health Pre-Doctoral Fellowship, the 1996 Irsay-Dahle Award for Excellence in Medicinal Chemistry, the Axys Recognition Award, ESU's 2001 Outstanding Recent Graduate Award, and the 2005 Celgene M.V.P. award.

He is married to the former Susan E. Hurt, who graduated from Emporia State in 1992 with a bachelor of science degree in mathematics.

Ms. Rose Haggerty

Rose M. Haggerty of Houston launched a second career after retiring in 2014 from 38 years of teaching at elementary, secondary, and college levels in Kansas and Texas. Haggerty now is executive director of the Texas Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance in Austin.

She received her MED in school administration in 1992 from Prairie View A&M University, Prairie View, Texas, and has advanced studies in educational leadership from Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

She had retired as manager of health and physical education for the Houston Independent School District, administering all HPE programs in grades kindergarten through 12.

Haggerty developed a nationally recognized curriculum for health and physical education, was co-chair of the Healthy Schools, Healthy Kids initiative, and spearheaded creation of the Student School Health Advisory System and the Peer Leader Group made up of secondary school students district-wide. She is a member of the National Advisory Board and secured millions of dollars in government grants to enhance nutrition, health and physical education programs.

Haggerty's awards include the 2013 E.B. Henderson Award of the American Alliance of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance and being named in 2005 to the Health, Physical Education and Recreation Alumni Hall of Fame at Emporia State, where she had been a cheerleader and gymnast.

Mr. James Johnson

blending of diverse talents and skills brought Jim Johnson recognition as a sculptor, artist, educator, and university administrator. Johnson retired in 2009 as dean of the College of Arts and Humanities at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Ill.

Johnson taught high school art classes before serving two years in the armed forces. He was a graduate assistant and part-time instructor at the University of Kansas while studying toward a master of fine arts degree that was awarded in 1970. He joined the faculty at Arkansas State University, and left in 1978 to became a professor and art department chair at EIU.

In a letter nominating Johnson for the award, EIU professor and chair emeritus James R. Quivey said Johnson showed extraordinary administrative leadership and exceptional artistic achievement. In 23 years as chair of EIU's English Department, Quivey said he had encountered "no administrator at any level who surpassed Jim for vision, selflessness, affability, unquestionable integrity, commitment, modesty, just plain niceness -- and especially accomplishment."

Johnson proved adept at garnering grants to develop better art facilities and the buildings to house them. Under his leadership, the Burl Ives Studio Hall was built in 1990. He worked with architects, department chairs, faculty, and staff to ensure academic and practical needs were satisfied within the design he envisioned for the new College of Arts and Humanities at EIU. He also oversaw planning for expanding and renovating the Doudna Fine Arts at EIU. In 2009 the Doudna conference room was named in his honor.

The EIU board of trustees praised him for leading the faculty to "a new level of excellence and national prominence" and described him as a "rare individual who is utterly without ego in his desire to do for others."

Even as Johnson was excelling as an educator, he simultaneously carved out a career as an artist and sculptor. He has participated in more than 90 regional and national juried and invitational exhibitions; exhibited large-scale public sculptures throughout the Midwest, and was one of five sculptors chosen for a research project at the University of Costa Rica. He also was an artist-in-residence at Anderson College in Indiana, and guest instructor at Texas Tech University and the Penland School of Arts and Crafts in North Carolina.

He received the 2006 Studs Terkel Humanities Service Award from the Illinois Humanities Council and was named Person of the Year in 2009 by the Daily Eastern News.

He is married to Emporia State alumna Wanda Weber Johnson (B.S. '64, business administration).

Dr. Leo Pauls

Since joining the Emporia State University faculty in 1971, Leo Pauls has fully immersed himself in ensuring quality educational opportunities for teachers. Pauls had graduated from Bethel College with a bachelor's degree in 1962 and earned a doctor of education degree in 1970 from the University of Northern Colorado.

Administrative leadership seemed to come naturally to Pauls. In addition to teaching students, he was laboratory school supervisor, coordinator of reading, and associate and acting chairman of the Division of Administration and Teacher Education at ESU.

He later became executive director for The Jones Institute for Educational Excellence and was instrumental in increasing the number of student teachers from 450 to 850, which led to increases in other Institute programs. He also was executive director of The Renaissance Group, president of the National Teachers Hall of Fame, director of the Hubbard Summer Academy of Future Teachers, and development director of the Emporia Christian School.

He served on the National Board for Professional Standards, received the Kansas Teacher Recognition Award in 2006, and served as advisor and consultant on numerous boards and committees, in addition to writing for many professional publications.

After beginning a phased retirement in 2006, he continued to teach and to coordinate The Renaissance Group, a national consortium of colleges and universities with a tradition of pre-eminence in teacher education.

Pauls was nominated for the Distinguished Alumni award by Emporia State alumna Debra Dell Wynn and her husband, Dr. Ron Wynn. She described Pauls as an outstanding teacher with high standards for the profession and for students, and one who left Emporia State with "a rich heritage in educational excellence."

Pauls and his wife, Karen Graber Pauls, are parents of two sons, Mark W. Pauls, who received a bachelor of arts degree in political science and economics from Emporia State in 1994, and Eric W. Pauls, who also attended Emporia State.

2017 Recipients

Ross Bjork

Click here to view Ross's introduction video.

Ross BjorkRoss Bjork earned a Bachelor of Science in recreation from Emporia State in 1995. He was also a two-year starter on the Hornet football team as a fullback.

In 1996, Bjork received his Master of Science in athletic administration from Western Illinois University and began his intercollegiate athletics administrative career at Western Kentucky University (WKU) as an assistant development coordinator.

Bjork later served in senior leadership roles at the University of Missouri, the University of Miami, and UCLA. In 2010, Bjork left UCLA and returned to Western Kentucky as their athletic director, becoming the youngest among the 120 NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) when hired.

During Bjork’s time at WKU, their athletic programs were highly successful.

In 2010 and 2011, WKU’s volleyball team reached the NCAA Tournament. Also in 2011, WKU’s women’s volleyball team won both the Sun Belt Conference Regular Season and Tournament Championships, while the men’s and women’s cross country teams each won the Sun Belt Conference team championships.

The 2011 football team posted a 7-5 record in only the third year of FBS football, and the program has continued to excel ever since.  During the 2011-12 season, WKU’s men’s basketball team won the Sun Belt Conference Tournament Championship and advanced to the NCAA Tournament’s second round.

On March 21, 2012, Bjork was named the director of intercollegiate athletics at the University of Mississippi/Ole Miss. At the time, Bjork was the youngest athletic director among the power five conference institutions.

Since Bjork’s arrival at Ole Miss, his impact was immediate on and off the field of play. Under Bjork, the Ole Miss men’s basketball team won the SEC tournament championship and the baseball team won the SEC Western Division in 2014 en route to their first College World Series appearance in 42 years.

The 2014-15 athletics season saw Ole Miss become one of only two schools in the nation to make a “New Year’s Six” bowl and the NCAA Tournament in men’s basketball and baseball. Track and field student-athlete Sam Kendricks won the pole vault event during the 2013 and 2014 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.  Many other first time events have happened under Bjork’s leadership, including the 2016 softball advancing to its first ever NCAA tournament.

Away from the field of play, a then-record 2.90 GPA among the student-athlete population was reached in 2014. Bjork’s long-term goal of achieving a 3.0 GPA for Ole Miss’ student-athlete population was achieved in the Spring of 2016 and graduation rates for athletics has reached an all-time high of 81%.

Bjork champions diversity. Since Bjork has been at Ole Miss, the Ole Miss Athletics Department and the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation partnered to establish a Racial Reconciliation Week that took place during the 2013 football season.  Bjork and then Chancellor Dan Jones were honored by the NCAA in 2015 with Champions of Diversity award recognizing their work at Ole Miss.

Bjork has taken a leadership role in the Oxford/University community since his arrival. He was given the new title of Vice Chancellor for Intercollegiate Athletics in October 2016 and is a member of the chancellor’s leadership team.

Bjork is married to his wife Sonya and they have two sons, Payton (11) and Paxton (6).

Dr. Dan S. Deines

Click here to view Dan's introduction video.

Dan DeinesDr. Dan S. Deines, who received his Bachelor of Arts in history at Fort Hays State University in 1970, earned a Master of Science in business administration from Emporia State in 1974. In 1982, he joined the faculty at Kansas State University and in 1984 became a member of the Kansas Society of Certified Public Accountants (KSCPA).  In 2005, he served as the chair of the KSCPA.

After obtaining his Ph.D. in accounting at the University of Nebraska in 1985, Deines was influential in designing and implementing the nationally recognized curriculum revision at Kansas State that was awarded one of 11 Accounting Education Change Commission grants in 1990.

Deines served on and later chaired the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants’ (AICPA) Accounting Careers subcommittee and was named a CPA Pathfinder by the AICPA in 1999. He also volunteered as a member of the AICPA’s Accounting Education Executive Committee, Leadership Development Task Force, Financial Literacy Commission, Member Advisory Panel, Pre-education Certification Committee and as a participant in the Pathways Supply Chain initiative.

In 2007, Deines was awarded the AICPA’s Distinguished Achievement in Accounting Education Award. The AICPA recognized Deines a second time in 2014, becoming the 23rd recipient of their Special Recognition Award. This award honors individuals who have contributed to the success of a professional initiative through outstanding contributions.

Deines has received the KSCPA’s Outstanding Educator Award and is a member of the American Accounting Association, as he has served on numerous committees for the association. He also was the interim head of Kansas State’s Department of Accounting from 2012-2014.

He has authored or co-authored several journal articles and is the co-author, with Penne Ainsworth, of the textbook "Introduction to Accounting: An Integrated Approach." Deines has made numerous presentations at professional and academic meetings and has lectured extensively on curriculum and recruitment topics.

Currently, Deines serves as professor in the Department of Accounting and head of Accounting Pilot and Bridge Project at Kansas State University, and has held the KPMG Ralph Crouch Professor Chair of Accounting for 22 years. The goal of the Accounting Pilot and Bridge Project is to have the College Board adopt accounting as part of its advanced placement curriculum.

He has also received the Kansas State College of Business Administration's Outstanding Teaching and Advising Awards.

Deines has been married to his wife Linda for 47 years. They have one daughter, Jennifer Barton, and two grandchildren, Jackson and Julia.

Duane French

Click here to view Duane's introduction video.

Duane FrenchDuane French came to Emporia State University in the late 70’s to study rehabilitation counseling, graduating in 1979.  A quadriplegic since age 14, Duane’s career goal was to become a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor and his secondary goal was to be a director of a vocational-rehab program, and he chose ESU for his undergraduate degree because the campus was wheelchair accessible.

He began his post-Emporia State career as a state Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor in North Platte, Neb. French later went to work for the League of Human Dignity in Lincoln and traveled two rural counties to visit nursing homes to help people transition to independent living.

He then found a second job with the Nebraska Department of Education’s Instructional Television services as an actor on Strawberry Square, the Nebraska version of Sesame Street. French began on Strawberry Square as an actor and as the show progressed helped script writers develop the character of Andy, and he worked with choreographers to choreograph scenes including Andy.

In 1984, French moved to Alaska to work for Access Alaska Inc., a private nonprofit organization who dedicates themselves to helping the disabled. Just a few years later, he became Access Alaska Inc.’s executive director.

While in Alaska, the likes of former U.S. Senator Mark Begich and former Alaska Governor Tony Knowles both became important mentors for French. He also worked with other famous advocates and U.S. politicians, including the late activist Justin W. Dart, Jr., former U.S. Senator Tom Harkin, former U.S. Senator and Presidential candidate Bob Dole, Congressman Steny Hoyer and activist Marilyn Golden.

French was the chairman of the Equal Rights Commission in 1989. Just a year later, he, Dart, Jr., Harkin, Ted Kennedy and thousands of other activists helped pass the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). The ADA prohibits discrimination and ensures equal opportunity for persons with disabilities in employment, state and local government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities and transportation. It also mandates the establishment of TDD/telephone relay services.

After being awarded a fellowship in 1993, he conducted research in Finland and Sweden to document how personal assistant cooperatives could be replicated in the United States. French was named the director of the Alaska Division of Vocational Rehabilitation in 1995. A year later, French earned his master’s degree in Rehabilitation Administration from the University of San Francisco.

In 2005, French, John Hockenberry and Christopher Reeve were inaugural honorees into the Spinal Cord Injury Hall of Fame. French was also awarded the 2005 Frank Harkin Leadership Award from the National Council on Independent Living. Presented by Tom Harkin, this award is in honor of Tom’s brother Frank who was born deaf.

Three years later, French was named to his current position as the director of Disability Determination Services, a division of the Washington Department of Social & Health Services.

Sue Givens

Click here to view Sue's introduction video

Sue GivensAfter receiving her Bachelor of Science in elementary education at Emporia State in 1977, Sue Givens has become a respected and accomplished leader of public education in Kansas and beyond.

During her career, Sue Givens has served in professional organization leadership roles as president of the Kansas School Superintendents Association (KSSA), president and secretary treasurer of the Kansas Association of Middle School Administrators (KAMSA), president of the United School Administrators of Kansas (USA) and as chair of the Kansas Learning First Alliance.

Sue Givens has also earned numerous professional recognitions throughout her career.

Her earned recognitions include being named a Kansas Master Teacher by Emporia State in 2002, Keys for Networking Principal of the Year, USA-Kansas Distinguished Service Award recipient, Rotary Service Award recipient, Paul Harris International Rotary Award, Leadership Kansas Class of 2013 and one of 50 Kansans You Should Know in 2015.

Formerly an assistant superintendent in Pratt, Sue Givens served as a middle and elementary school principal; as a computer consulting teacher; and as an elementary and middle school math, language arts and computer teacher in various locations.

Since 2007, Sue Givens has been the superintendent of the El Dorado Public Schools. This past November, she was named the 2017 Kansas Superintendent of the Year. Due to becoming the 2017 Kansas Superintendent of the Year, she was then considered for the 2017 National Superintendent of the Year Award.

Sue Givens gives her time to the El Dorado community and State of Kansas in various ways. She is board member of the El Dorado Chamber of Commerce, El Dorado Inc., El Dorado Salvation Army Advisory Committee, has served as secretary and producer of the Miss Kansas Pageant, Inc., and is a current board member of the Miss Kansas Scholarship Foundation.

Sue Givens has deep connections to Emporia State other than earning her undergraduate degree as a Hornet and receiving the 2002 Kansas Master Teacher Award. Her husband, Senator Bruce Givens (BSE 1978—Psychology; MS 1984—Educational Administration), earned two degrees at Emporia State and their daughter Megan is also a Hornet graduate (BSB 2003—Computer Information Systems) who is employed by Koch Industries.

Jim Trecek

Click here to view Jim's introduction video.

Jim TrecekJim Trecek, a farm-boy native and high school graduate of Cuba, Kan., has had careers in many different fields, including a venture capitalist, strategic planner, counter intelligence officer, corporate public relations officer, television executive and more.

His illustrious career began as an Emporia State undergraduate.

Trecek held three on-campus jobs during his time as a Hornet. Those included him being the University’s first sports information director, the associate editor of the Bulletin (Emporia State’s newspaper) and the editorial assistant for the Sunflower (Emporia State’s yearbook). He went on to graduate from Emporia State in 1966 with his undergraduate degree in English.

Once graduating from Emporia State, Trecek became a college preparatory English, speech and creative writing teacher and was a debate and assistant baseball coach at Great Bend Senior High School. Additionally, Trecek held a second position in Great Bend as the Great Bend Daily Tribune’s daily sports columnist and summer managing editor of the morning edition newspaper.

While pursing his master’s degree in 1968 at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, Mo., Trecek served as the sports information director and assistant public relations coordinator. In 1970, he  completed his requirements for a Master of Arts in communications from Central Missouri.

Trecek became the founder, president and chairman of Associated Communications, Inc. in 1977 after roles as a public relations representative at Skelly Oil Company and the vice president of Webb Advertising in Tulsa, Okla.  Through Associated Communications, he consulted the startups of worldwide sports television leader Entertainment Sports Programming Network (ESPN) and the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) and was a major partner responsible for the national satellite distribution of WGN America, the Prevue Guide, the Music Group and a number of other satellite-delivered audio devices.

Trecek moved to New York City in 1985 as senior vice president for a year at Tempo Enterprises. While there, he was responsible for the creation and founding of the Travel Channel. Funded by Trans World Airlines (TWA), Trecek became the Travel Channel’s executive vice president of the worldwide cable TV network and served as vice president and COO of television-network services at TWA from 1985-1988.

The Travel Channel is currently available on most local and national cable/satellite television providers around the world.

Realizing his unique ability to create new businesses and companies, Trecek returned to Tulsa and a seven-year run at the creation of Vyvx, Inc., which eventually became the world premier television programming distributor on fiber optics technology.  He began as their vice president of marketing, later served as their vice president of sales and finished his time there as their vice president of corporate accounts was eventually purchased by Level 3 Communications.

Trecek spent the next three years with the Williams Companies as vice president of its Alliance Development Group.

Since 2002, Trecek has served in numerous other roles, including being a partner and vice president of Oklahoma Centennial Photographic Survey, LLC.; COO of the Keogh Group, LLC; president and CEO for Triarii Scientific, LLC; president & CEO of Red Source Global, LLC; project director of the Knowledge Management Center; and the senior partner at Alliance Professionals.

During his role as the project director of the Knowledge Management Center, Trecek worked with the Department of Homeland Security. As the president and CEO of Red Source Global, LLC, Trecek’s counter terrorism intelligence and related security information about the Global War on Terrorism allowed him to gain top security clearance.

Charity involvement has been a significant part of Trecek’s life. Over the years, Trecek has been associated with many charitable organizations.

Currently, Trecek is a partner with Kansas City-based GreenG LLC in the areas of developing technology, economics and applications for waste-to-energy applications and oil/water separation.

Trecek is married to his wife Barbara. He has four children—Heather, Hillarie, Kyle and Matt—and also has seven grandchildren.

2016 Recipients

Dr. Ronald Fredrickson

Click here to view Ron's introduction video.

Ron Fredrickson of Osage City received a bachelor of science in education in social sciences in 1953. He holds a master of science and a doctoral degree, both in counseling and guidance, from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.  After graduation from Emporia State, Fredrickson served in the U.S. Navy for five years and in the Navy Reserve from 1958 to 1976.

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."

Ms. Shirley Johannsen

Click here to view Shirley's introduction video.

To State Street Elementary School Principal Sarah Sharp, Shirley A. Johannsen was "The Kid Whisperer." To the more than 1,000 students who filtered through her classroom over a 50-year career, she was simply "Ms. J."

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.

Mr. Herman Jones

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Shawnee County Sheriff Herman T. Jones, who received a bachelor's degree in psychology in 1991, began his association with law enforcement as a dispatcher for the campus Police and Safety department. Soon, he became a student night guard and later a campus police officer and supervisor.  He later was an officer with the Emporia Police Department. He served as a trooper and an administrator for the Kansas Highway Patrol for a total of 21 years, with an eight-year stint as an instructor at the University of Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center.  He graduated from the Kansas Highway Patrol Academy, the FBI National Academy in 2012 and the National Sheriff's Institute in 2014.

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.   

Mr. Michael Law

Click here to view Mike's introduction video.

Emporia native Mike Law began his association with the university as an Emporia High School student keeping statistics for Hornet football games on KVOE radio. In the 1980s, he was the play-by-play announcer for both Hornet football and basketball. After receiving an associate's degree in communication in 1979 from Colby Community College, Law returned to Emporia and received a bachelor of science in business administration from Emporia State in 1981.

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. 

Mr. Steve Sauder

Click here to view Steve's introduction video.

Steve Sauder, who graduated in 1968 with a bachelor's degree in business administration, is president of Emporia's Radio Stations, Inc.  (       KVOE AM & FM and KFFH FM) and also a founder and Chairman of the Board of Managers of ValuNet, Emporia’s fiber-optic broadband network that makes it one of only two gigabit communities in Kansas. Years earlier, he had been involved in creating a local telephone company in Emporia, Valu-Line, which later was sold to Birch Telecom.  These three companies have been honored by the Emporia Chamber as Business of the Year. A former coach for recreation league sports, Sauder now often takes the opportunity to help staff with sports broadcasts and is co-host of a sports talk show.

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.

Past Distinguished Alumni Recipients

Ross Bjork
Dan Deines
Duane French
Sue Givens
Jim Trecek
Ronald Fredrickson
Shirley Johannsen
Herman Jones
Michael Law
Steve Sauder
Col. Guy Beougher
Richard "Dick" Hawk
Dr. Ilene Kleinsorge
John D. McPherson
Lana Scrimsher Oleen
Dan Busby
Diane DeBacker
Tony Forcum
Rosemary Kirby
Linda Bluth
Anita Evans
J.D. Schramm
Tom Thornbrugh
Dale Cushinberry
Norma Lu Hafenstein
Floyd Hoelting
Dianne Welsh 
Maj. Gen. Kevin A. Leonard
Ronald Loewen
Teresa A. Markowitz
Don G. Reichardt 
H. Edward Flentje
Robert J. "Bob" Gress
Omar G. Rogers, Sr. 
Becky Hayes Boober
Randy Scott
Harold See
Sue Swaim 
Louis Burns|
Lonnie Clark
Tom Fincken
Ben R. Leedle, Jr. 
Donna L. Clopton
Dr. Karen Kelly
Herb B. Kuhn
Victor Spinski 
Jeremy C. Kohomban
Marshall McNott
Russell E. Meyer
David L. Robertson
Jackie I. Snyder 
Mary (Anderson) Devin
William Greene, Jr.
Peggy Lamm
J. Andy Tompkins
Deryl Wynn 
Mark Austenfeld
Raymond Blackwell
Wallace Fujii
Evan Lindquist 
Ed Eilert
Barbara (Zirnstein) Fowler
Robert Hartsook
Ramon Littell
Richard Zahn 
Betty “Kepka” (Hochman) Belton
William F. Blaufuss Jr.
Ronald J. Fundis
Susan (Davis) McCollum
Corinthian Christine Nutter 
Richard Daniel Lumley
James Meyer
Curtis Pickert
Janet (Painter) Schalansky 
Walter Boles
Robert Fisher
Ronald Poplau  
Ted E. Bilderback
William C. Kloefkorn
Ralph W. Laster Jr. 
Lloyd A. Stone 
Carol Swinney  
Bruce E. Koel 
Charles W. Lindahl 
Clyde F. Martin 
Howard Ray Moses 
Reginald Boothe 
Ronald Epps 
Edward H. Hammond 
Dennis Neff 
Forrest A. Newlin  
Michael C. Manning 
Thomas Moon 
Lea Follis Plarski
Philip Reed Rulon 
Jackie Silberg  
Stephen M. Archer 
Ray Rust 
Yasanori Watanabe 
William H. Wunder  
C. Clair Hutchinson 
Ronald Iman
Marc Johnson 
Gary Sherrer 
Rita Riggin Swan 
Monroe Fordham 
Ron F. Krueger 
Richard W. Mawdsley 
Calvin T. Roberts 
David A. Waite  
Kay Alden 
James R. Bowen 
James F. Harter 
Samuel Walter Wine 
Mark L. Witten 
Glen K. Andrews 
Robert F. Clarke 
Vernard Johnson
Linda (Hayes) Gerber 
Elva (Bell) McLin 
Leone Buyse 
Jack Carter 
Carl E. Powell 
Calvin Lee Pritner 
M. Kay Royse  
Bob Abbott 
D. Stanley Eitzen 
Francis K. McGowan 
Claire L. Schelske 
Larry H. Toburen  
Louis L. Bangs 
Michael A. Barbara 
Fred Burchinal 
Charles W. Dieker 
Florence E. Wilson 
Panayiotis M. Zavos  
Gary Bitter 
L. Scott Cram 
David M. King 
Barbara Kiefer Lewalski  
Robert E. Bays 
G. Wayne Johnston 
Kenneth C. Skeen 
Ron Slaymaker 
Julian H. Taylor  
Forrest Frease 
William Jackson Bell 
William A. Bloomer 
Vaughn Nelson 
James W. Pickert  
Raymond C. Koch 
Arthur Adrian 
Rainer Martens 
Rose Ann Shorey 
Marshall S. Hiskey  
Helen Case 
Manuel J. Justiz 
R. Wilford Riegle 
Gail Shannon  
Don Ingwerson 
Don Peters 
Al Philips 
John Sarracino 
Richard J. Williams  
Bill Brown 
Darrell Mase 
Ivan Smith  
Ted Andrews 
Dorothy Gropp 
Arlo Hermreck 
John R. Zimmerman  
Richard Hiskey 
Ruth Irwin 
Jim Pogue  
Alice VanLandingham 
Robert Mott 
Archie San Romani 
Paul Del Brinkman  
Burt Harrison 
Virgil Stout 
Herman Berg 
Jim Fraley  
Jean Leblon 
Helen Johnson 
Alma Eikerman 
Ben Day  
Erma L. Stewart 
John J. Zimmerman 
Frank A. Beach 
Stuart Cram  
Josephine Bates 
George Blair 
John McCormally 
Dale Saffels 
Roy Burns  
Al Morris 
Dwight Newberg 
Russell Porter 
Samuel Estep 
Noel Gist 
Mary M. Graye  
Ann King Reynolds 
Robert W. Stauffer 
Ray C. Maul 
Percy Young 
August Eberle 
Everett Fish  
Elijah Williams 
Eugene Savaiano 
Emory Lee Cox 
Thomas P. Butcher 
Lewis Worth Seagondollar  
Margaret L. Burke 
Arthur E. Gropp 
Homer W. Hargiss 
Francis C. Welch  
Hugh Edwards 
Robert H. McFarland 
Byron Eshelman  
Don Davis 
Minnie Miller  
Harry Levinson 
Everett Rich  
Vic Trusler 
Bill Larkin  
Paul Johnson 
William Martin Jr. 
Ray G. Cremer 
Guy E. Finkle 
Delort Gammon  
Edwin John Brown 
Alfred C. Hill 
Kathryn Kayser
Fred Messenger
Katherine Morrison  
Susan Friend 
Edna McCullough 
John Rufi 
Hugo Wedell 
Ellsworth C. Dent 
Clifford H. Nowlin 
F. L. Schlagle