University Service Citation Award
Started in 1980 by the ESU Alumni Association, the intent of the University Service Citation Award is to recognize unique and significant service to Emporia State University. Individuals chosen for this award are moved to service by a deep concern for and loyalty to ESU. Their efforts extend beyond the call of duty and usually are performed without expectation for compensation. Award nominations are made annually.
Click here to fill out a nomination form online or call your ESU Alumni Association at 620-341-5440 to request a nomination form. (please note: for consideration during the upcoming calendar year, nominations are due by December 1; nominations received after this date will be considered for the following year)
Jim & Kathy Kessler
Jim Kessler of Gardner came to Emporia State -- then Kansas State Teachers College -- to be closer to his high school sweetheart, Kathy Keegan, also of Gardner. Kessler, who graduated high school a year before her, had attended McPherson College on a football scholarship, but transferred to KSTC to be nearer to her. They married in 1972, while both still were attending KSTC. Jim Kessler graduated in 1974 with a bachelor of science in business administration and used his degree handling business in the office of Modern Air Conditioning, Inc. Soon, he was allowed to begin buying a little stock in the company every year and eventually became a co-owner. He retired as president and owner of the company in January 2017. Kathy Kessler worked in the Emporia school district and owned and operated a crafts business, and later became office manager for Modern Air.
The couple entrenched themselves as volunteers in the community at-large and in the Hornet community, where they have generously donated their time and effort, as well as financial gifts. Jim Kessler has been a member of the Emporia State Foundation board of directors since 2013, with a current term that will expire in 2022. His work for the university includes service on the the J.F. Smith Feasibility Study, the Champion for Athletics committee, the National Campaign committee, the President's Community Advisory Council, the School of Business Advisory Council, and the 2011 Presidential Search Committee. He and Kathy were co-chairs of the Annual Community Scholarship Drive. They have volunteered in the community at-large through the Emporia Area Habitat for Humanity, Sacred Heart Catholic Church, the Emporia Granada Theatre Alliance and the Emporia Jaycees. Jim also has been, or now is, a member of the Emporia Country Club's finance committee, the Emporia Community Foundation board of trustees, and the boards of directors for the Emporia Area Chamber of Commerce, Knights of Columbus, Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas, Eastgate Plaza Inc., Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Sertoma, and the United Way of the Flint Hills. He was elected to two four-year terms on the Emporia City Commission and served several terms as mayor. After he declined to run for re-election, he later agreed to return to the commission for four months, to fill in for a commissioner who had been called to active duty in Kuwait. Kessler was the 1994 Sertoman of the Year, Rotary Club's 2015 Paul Harris Fellow, and 1990 Jaycees Outstanding Young Kansan. He also received the Lyon-Chase County Bar Association's Liberty Bell Award in 1992.
The Kesslers are parents of four children: Traci A. Kessler Gant, who graduated from Emporia State in 2003 with a bachelor of science degree in business administration; Abbey K. Kessler, who graduated in 2008 with a bachelor of science in sociology; and Brett M. Kessler and Clint R. Kessler, both former students at Emporia State.
Karen Sommers comes from a family with Emporia State ties. Her late father, Charles W. Wayman graduated in 1940 with a bachelor of science in business administration; her mother, Elva Lee Wayman, graduated in 1944 with a bachelor of science degree in business administration. She and her brother, James Wayman, are former ESU students. Sommers' late husband, Stanley O. Sommers Jr., graduated from Emporia State with a degree in business administration. Their son, Chris W. Sommers, graduated from ESU in 2002 with a bachelor of science degree; another son, Trey Sommers, is a former student. Karen Sommers graduated from the University of Kansas in 1968 with a bachelor of science degree in public relations. She is a director and vice president of marketing at ESB Financial and owner of KW Rentals.
She is a lifetime member of the Emporia State Foundation board of trustees, a past vice president and chairman of the 1985 fundraising drive. She has served on the Foundation's nominating committee, President's Club executive committee, the Alumni Association legislative committee, trustee development committee, real estate committee, and the university house committee. She has served in an array of capacities for the university, including the Nominating Committee, Real Estate committee, Trustee Development, Golden Gala committee, the Alumni Association Legislative Committee, Hornets for Higher Education, the President's Advisory Council, the President's Club Executive Committee, a current director and past president of the Kansas Business Hall of Fame, a member of the Business Alliance for the university's school of business, and Chi Omega sorority. The Kansas Board of Regents appointed her to the search committees for ESU President Dr. Kay Schallenkamp and for ESU Provost Dr. David Cordle. She is a past director of the board of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and a 1995 graduate of Leadership Kansas.
In the Emporia community, Sommers is a past director of the Emporia Area Chamber of Commerce and was chairman of the 1990 IMAGE committee, which received the 1990 Committee of the Year award, and a member of the 1994 IMAGE award winner. She has been drive chair for the United Way of the Flint Hills, a past president of the Emporia Country Club, a past director of the William Allen White Community Partnership, a past board member of the Emporia Community Foundation, and a past trustee and current communion steward at the First United Methodist Church, as well as a past president of Chapter DI of PEO and The Junto organizations.
Vern & Susie Swanson
Vern and Susie Swanson have been strong voices for higher education, particularly for Emporia State, through their service in the Kansas Legislature. Vern Swanson represented the 64th District in the House of Representatives from 2007-2014; Susie Swanson became 64th District Representative in 2015 and currently continues in that position. Susie Swanson, originally from Larned, graduated from Emporia State in 1970 with a bachelor of arts degree in sociology and a minor in Spanish. Later, she received a master of social work from the University of Kansas. She was a member of Chi Omega sorority and was a Blue Key Darling. She was a social worker with the Arkansas Department of Family and Children's Services for two years and for the Twin Lakes Educational Cooperative for 26 years. She continued in social work for five years with the Maternal and Infant Program for the Clay County Health Department and for nine years was a social work consultant for Presbyterian Manor. Swanson had donated a kidney -- originally intended for her neighbor's son -- that ultimately was received by a woman in California.
Vern Swanson received his bachelor's degree in business administration in 1966 from Emporia State, and completed post-graduate work from 1969 to 1970. He also served in the U.S. Army and the Army National Guard from 1963 to 1969. He retired as a sales representative for EVCO Wholesale Foods and was elected to the Kansas House of Representatives. He also served as a member and president of the Clay County board of education. In 2016, he was elected to the Kansas Historical Foundation Board of Directors. Vern Swanson was a member of Alpha Kappa Lambda fraternity. From 1998 to 2003, he was a member of the Emporia State Alumni Board.
The Swansons are parents of two children: Kim Dekker and Eric C. Swanson, who received a bachelor's degree in 1995 in mathematics and a master of science in educational administration in 2004.
Maurice Gray was a Hornet football student-athlete during his time at Kansas State Teachers College, as he earned his bachelor’s in psychology in 1975. Over the years, Gray has served Emporia State in a variety of roles.
Gray is an influential figure that helped establish the Emporia Connection, which is an official alumni chapter designed to strengthen ties between African American alumni, current and prospective students and the University. The group is comprised of six decades of alumni who live throughout the United States. Gray continues to help lead the Emporia Connection as he helps organize events and serves as their historian.
He was directly involved in recognizing the late Geraldine Strader (BSE 1957—Foreign Language; MLS 1967—Library Science) on Emporia State’s campus. Due to Gray’s efforts, a plaque in the William Allen White Library honors both her time on campus and her impact on others. Strader was recognized as an advocate for diversity and inclusion and ensured that everyone had a fair voice. She was also one of the first female African Americans to live in the dorms on the Emporia State campus.
Gray is a Hornet for Higher Ed. He continuously advocates to his legislators about the importance of higher education, the importance of accessibility to public higher education services and education as a whole.
He has helped volunteer his time at TAP luncheons, which involves serving lunches to high school staff members. Gray served as a board member in his church, served on the Emporia State Athletics Hall of Honor Board and was a member of the Emporia State Alumni Board from 2008-14. He also supports Football Legends Weekend fundraising events every year.
Dr. Jim Hoy began his accomplished career as an English instructor at Kansas State Teachers College (now Emporia State) from 1965-66 and returned from 1970 until his retirement in 2014.
Hoy’s career was not only spent in Emporia, but also throughout the world. He visited ranch cultures in several countries internationally and lectured on cowboy folklore internationally.
Hoy won many awards throughout his career for his outstanding work. Early on, he was the recipient of a Will Rogers Medallion, the Founders Award from Westerners International and the 1981 Seaton Award for nonfiction.
Since 1983, Hoy and Tim Isern have written Plains Folk, a weekly newspaper column devoted to life within the Great Plains. During that same year, he was named a Roe R. Cross Distinguished Professor. He also served in several organizations, including president of the Kansas Historical Society and the American Association of Australian Literary Studies; chair of the Board of Trustees of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress; and a member of the Kansas Humanities Council Speakers Bureau.
In 1992, Hoy and graduate student Mike Marchand (BS 1990—History; MA 1991—History; MLS 1994—Library Science) received a $16,000 grant from the Kansas State Historical Society to survey, map and document all manmade structures in the area near Middle Creek and Diamond Creek, which covers 171,520 acres in Chase, Marion and Morris counties. One significant result was the successful nomination of the Whitney Ranch near Hymer to the National Register of Historic Places.
Hoy received an American Cowboy Culture award in 1999 and was inducted into the Kansas Cowboy Hall of Fame in 2004. He also became a founding member of Emporia State’s Center for Great Plains Studies.
Both Hoy and his wife Dr. Cathy Hoy (MS 1982—Curriculum & Instruction; MLS 1983—Library Science; PHD 2001—Library & Information Management) were the recipients of the Friend of the Flint Hills Award given by the Flint Hills Discovery Center Foundation in Manhattan for the significant time, effort and resources they've given to the conservation of the Flint Hills of Kansas. He was recently named Kansan of the Year by the Native Sons & Daughters of Kansas. Past recipients of this award included Bob Dole, Robert Gates and Gordon Parks.
Tim has served on several Emporia State advisory boards. As he currently serves on the Emporia State Foundation Trustee Board, he previously served as a member of the Alumni Board and is currently the chair of the Business Alliance, which is the primary advisory group of the School of Business.
Tim, who is the president of Wright CPA Group, PA in Emporia, advocates for Emporia State as a Hornet for Higher Ed. He helps Emporia State advocate not only for the University, but for the state of Kansas’ entire system of higher education. Tim was also the first person to become a mentor of the Emporia State School of Business’ Mentor Program. Tim is a frequent speaker at business classes and has shared advice with students as the speaker at various dinners. Wright CPA Group has a long history of hiring Hornet accounting graduates.
Kristi is known as a volunteer extraordinaire as she volunteers her time at many events throughout the Emporia community.
Together, Tim & Kristi have been instrumental in helping with the Emporia State international population. As international students move to Emporia and on-campus, Tim & Kristi have welcomed them into their home and provided friendship and fellowship. Kristi was instrumental in founding a “bedding program” to collect bedding supplies from students who were leaving – to clean it – and provide it to new students arriving. This saved money for the new students and avoided the waste of perfectly good materials. Tim & Kristi have hosted international students at their home in many different formats over the years including hosting a Labor Day luncheon for 8 years in a row with all homemade food (except the butter!). The last 2 years Kristi served 115 for lunch. They also host reunions of the Delta Upsilon Fraternity, Tim’s fraternity.
Tim & Kristi established the Wright CPA Group, PA Accounting Scholarship in 2013 and the Dr. John C. Rich Fund for Professional Development of Accounting Majors in 2014. The Dr. John C. Rich Fund for Professional Development of Accounting Majors provides resources to benefit accounting students with professional development and preparation for entering the accounting workforce. It helps support activities in AC 302—Professional Development and Leadership, Beta Alpha Psi, Accounting Club and other student organizations primarily intended for accounting students. They were also part of the group of ESU business alums who founded the John C. Rich Endowed Professorship.