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2017 Distinguished Alumni Announced

June 7, 2017

Leader of an SEC athletic program. A nationally known accounting expert. Kansas Superintendent of the Year. An advocate jailed while fighting for the Americans with Disabilities Act. Founder of the Travel Channel. 

The five members of the 2017 Distinguished Alumni all took degrees from Emporia State University and built successful careers. These five will be honored during Homecoming in November:

  • Ross Bjork (BS 1995—Recreation) of Oxford, Mississippi, vice chancellor for intercollegiate athletics at the University of Mississippi/Ole Miss;
  • Dan Deines (MS 1974—Business Administration) of Manhattan, Kansas, professor in the Department of Accounting and head of Accounting Pilot and Bridge Project at Kansas State University;
  • Duane French (BS 1979—Rehabilitation Counseling) of Olympia, Washington, director of Disability Determination Services, a division of the Washington Department of Social & Health Services;
  • Sue Givens (BSE 1977—Elementary Education) of El Dorado, superintendent of El Dorado Public Schools; and
  • Jim Trecek (BSE 1967 – English) of Tulsa, Oklahoma, partner in Kansas City-based GreenG LLC.

“ESU is committed to excellence, and after graduation, our alumni exemplify excellence in their many fields of endeavor,” said Tyler Curtis, assistant vice president for university advancement and Foundation assistant vice president for outreach and engagement. “Our Distinguished Alumni represent the best of the best among our 60,000-plus alumni of Hornet Nation.” 

Bjork, who was a two-year starter on the Hornet football team as a fullback during his undergraduate career, earned a master’s degree in athletic administration from Western Illinois University before building his career at the Western Kentucky University, University of Missouri, the University of Miami and UCLA. In March 2012, he was named director of intercollegiate athletics at Ole Miss. At the time, Bjork was the youngest athletic director among the power five conference institutions.  

Deines joined the K-State faculty in 1982, joined the Kansas Society of Certified Public Accountants in 1984 and earned a Ph.D. in accounting from the University of Nebraska in 1985. He has been active in and honored by both KSCPA and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants during his career. The goal of the Accounting Pilot and Bridge Project, which Deines currently heads, is to have the College Board adopt accounting as part of its advanced placement curriculum.

French was 14 when a diving accident left him a quadriplegic. He took his undergraduate degree from ESU in rehabilitation counseling and created a career as vocational rehabilitation counselor and advocate for the rights of people with disabilities. His career took him from his native Nebraska to Alaska before he became the director of Disability Determination Services, a division of the Washington Department of Social & Health Services, In 2008. French was among thousands of activities who helped pass the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Twice he disabled the motor on his wheelchair so law enforcement officers had to forcibly remove him from protests and take him to jail. French was present during the public ceremony at which President George H.W. Bush signed the act into law.

Givens has been an educator for 40 years, working as an elementary and middle school math, language arts and computer teacher, a computer consulting teacher, a middle and elementary school principal and assistant superintendent before being named superintendent of El Dorado Public Schools in 2007.  She has been named a Kansas Master Teacher and, this year, was named the Kansas Superintendent of the Year.

Trecek has had careers in many different fields, including a venture capitalist, strategic planner, counter intelligence officer, corporate public relations officer, television executive and more. After graduating from ESU and earning a master’s degree in communications from Central Missouri, Trecek became the founder, president and chairman of Associated Communications, Inc., which helped launch the startup of worldwide sports television leader Entertainment Sports Programming Network (ESPN). 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. 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.

Full biographies of each recipient is available online at 

Emporia State’s Distinguished Alumni Award is the highest honor granted by the Alumni Association to a degree-bearing alumnus or alumna of the university. Since the program began in 1960, more than 200 alumni have received the award, which recognizes outstanding professional accomplishments of Emporia State’s exceptional graduates.

Other Hornet alumni as well as current and retired Emporia State faculty and staff nominate the candidates. A committee made up of alumni and faculty evaluate nominees and make selections annually. A maximum of five alumni can receive the award in any given year.




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