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Six Named ESU Distinguished Alumni

Headshots of six people in one horizontal panel

Six Emporia State University graduates will receive Distinguished Alumni awards at the Black & Gold Gala on Oct. 27 as part of Homecoming 2023. The award is the highest honor bestowed to alumni and recognizes outstanding accomplishments in their careers.

Candidates nominated for the award by ESU alumni and faculty are evaluated by a joint committee, with recommendations for award recipients given to the Alumni Association Board of Directors for final approval. Distinguished Alumni represent leaders in the spectrum of professions who have contributed significantly to the rich heritage of ESU.

Former Emporian Cynthia (Pendleton) Eisenhauer of Kansas City, Missouri, built a career in government and finance after graduating with a BSE in English in 1970. She also holds an MPA in public administration from Drake University, where she was an adjunct professor, and studied public policy at Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Eisenhauer spent 34 years in government service in Iowa as governor’s and lieutenant governor’s chief of staff and as a cabinet member during four administrations.

“During all of those years when she was chief of staff and cabinet member for the governors of Iowa, something that really stood out was it was not just for Republican governors, not just Democratic governors, but for both,” said Allison Garrett, former ESU president and current chancellor of the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education, who nominated Eisenhauer for the Distinguished Alumni award. “That says something about her skills, her ability to get along with everyone and to seek progress.”

Eisenhauer also served as director of the Iowa Department of Management and Budget, the Iowa Workforce Development, the Iowa Board of Regents business and finance division, executive director of the Iowa Campaign Finance Disclosure Commission, executive branch manager of 15 state departments and their budgets for the Iowa Department of Management, and operations manager for Des Moines Community Development. She also taught high school English and journalism at Olpe High School and Topeka High School.

Her numerous awards included National Workforce Development Administrator of the Year, the Leadership for Iowa Award from the Association of Business and Industry and the 1998 Eagle Award for Distinguished Service to America’s Businesses and Workers.

After retiring from state government in 2007, she continued her career as an international government finance consultant and trustee of the Financial Accounting Foundation.

Her husband, Chief Judge Larry Eisenhauer, received a BSE in social sciences from ESU in 1968 and a juris doctorate from Drake University in 1975.

Olpe, Kansas, native Carolyn R. Mockry Hernandez dedicated her 43-year career to teaching, coaching, advising, sponsoring and supporting students to prepare for their future. She received a BSE in physical education in 1978.

As an educator at Nogales (Arizona) High School, Hernandez was PE curriculum leader, student council advisor, class sponsor and member of the scholarship committee and North Central Evaluation Team. Hernandez coached volleyball, basketball, softball, track and field and cheerleading.

Among the numerous awards she received were Teacher of the Year, Class Sponsor of the Year, Santa Cruz Valley Shining Star, Female Head Coach of the Year, Arizona 4A Coach of the Year, National Spiritline Coach of the Year, National Cheerleading Association Top Camp Manager of the Year and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Award. She was inducted into the Nogales High School Hall of Fame. She also judged cheerleading competitions. Her cheerleading teams won 20 state and two national championships, as well as an American Grand National large co-ed championship. Her coaching produced more than 125 NCA All-American team members.

She is married to Alfredo M. “Fred” Hernandez, Hornet baseball player who graduated in 1979 with a BSE in physical education. They live in Rio Rico, Arizona, and are parents of two sons, Keith and Jamie Hernandez. Keith also played baseball at ESU and graduated with a BS in recreation in 2010. Daughter-in-law, Laura Pfautsch Hernandez, played softball for the Lady Hornets and graduated in 2008 with a BSE in elementary education. Jamie, who played baseball at Sterling College, is married to Sarahi, who is a registered nurse at Banner Mission Hospital in McAllen, Texas.

“Her commitment and passion for the sport of cheerleading and her student athletes is unmatched,” said Keith Hernandez, who nominated Carolyn Hernandez. “(She) is very supportive of the high school and all of the athletics programs.”

Dr. Courtney J. Knaup of Las Vegas, Nevada, turned an exceptional career as a student into an exceptional career as chief medical physicist at the Comprehensive Cancer Centers of Nevada in Las Vegas. He is responsible for regulatory compliance, manages patient data systems, provides technical guidance to clinical staff and oversees clinical activities to ensure safe and effective treatments for 2000 cancer patients annually. He graduated in 2009 with a BS in physics and minors in chemistry and math.

Knaup was one of two chosen from more than 100 applicants to participate in the doctoral program in radiological sciences at the University of Texas Health Center in San Antonio. He was the sole recipient of an American Association of Physicists in Medicine graduate fellowship in medical physics in 2009-2011 and completed the doctoral program in three years. He is certified in therapeutic medical physics by the American Board of Radiology.

As an undergraduate, Knaup was a member of Kappa Mu Epsilon math honors society, a Shepherd Scholar, an Endly Scholar and a four-year NASA Space Grant award winner. He was one of 14 applicants to receive American Association of Physicists in Medicine internships to study radiation sciences at healthcare sites.

Former ESU Professor Dr. DeWayne Backhus, who nominated Knaup for Distinguished Alumni recognition, related an anecdote to illustrate Knaup’s exceptional performance even as an undergraduate.

“When he visited the University of Texas and was walking through their facilities, he came upon a group of students in the program who were in a clinical setting,” Backhus wrote. The professor asked a question but received no response. “… Courtney blurted out the answer, based on his Wesley [Medical Center] internship. Everyone turned and looked at him, recognizing that he was a prospective student candidate. This may have cinched his selection as one of two admitted.”

John A. Masterson of Iola touched the lives of thousands of young adults during his 40-year career in higher education at Allen County Community College. He graduated from Emporia State in 1967 with a BSE in physical education and in 1970 with a master’s in guidance and counseling.

After graduating with his BSE, John served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War aboard the USS Mt. Katmai with two deployments to the war zone. Upon his release from active duty, he returned to Emporia where his wife, Georgia, was finishing her degree and began work on his master’s. He was a graduate assistant in the Student Affairs division where he and Georgia lived in the Men's Residence Hall, and he was employed as a Residence Hall Director.

After graduating with his MSE, he was employed as a full-time staff member and had charge of the residence hall system. His desire to use his physical education degree and to coach led him to take a position as Director of Guidance and Baseball Coach at Allen County. During his career, he also served Allen as Dean of Students/Athletic Director, Vice President for Administration and as President, a position he held for 30 years.

“For many years, John has been revered among his colleagues at Kansas community colleges for his experience and wisdom,” Josiah D’Albini wrote in his letter nominating Masterson for a Distinguished Alumni award. He said that Masterson was a president who truly knew his students.

“John could be seen stopping students in the hallway asking or congratulating them on how their game, concert or performance went,” D’Albini said. “John has been…supporting the students in the stands and concert and theater seats, even sometimes in the weight room.”

Masterson also became deeply involved in the Iola and Allen County communities, particularly in the area of economic development. He has served as a vice president and board member of Iola Industries, Inc., for more than 20 years, and on the Iola Area Economic Development Advisory Committee since its inception. He received the 2021 Lifetime Achievement Award from Thrive Allen County, a 2021 Kansas Department of Commerce Outstanding Service Award, induction into the 2014 Red Devil Diamonds Club Hall of Fame and was honored on June 30, 2022, with John Masterson Day by the City of Iola.

His wife, Georgia (McRae) Masterson (BSE 70-Physical Science), was a member of Alpha Sigma Tau sorority. They are parents of John (wife Lisa) and Jennifer, who is deceased. They are grandparents to Kate and Matti.

Dr. Maria Alexandra “Alex” Vuyk (BS 05-Psychology; MS 10-Special Education Teaching of Gifted) has applied her education to providing better educations for gifted children around the world. She is psychology professor at Catholic University of Our Lady of Assumption in Asuncion, Paraguay. Vuyk founded Paraguay’s first program for gifted students at the Colegio Santa Elena, the Paraguayan Network for Professionals in High Ability and Aikumby Center for Giftedness and Creativity, the first center focusing on talent development and assessments in Paraguay. She is fluent in nine languages and guides other educators in gifted education internationally.

She received the 2021 Emerging Scholar in Gifted Education Award from the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children, was advisor for the Paraguayan Minister of Health COVID task force and received the ESU Outstanding Graduate Student Research Award, among other awards. Recently, through a task force with the Ministry of Education and Sciences, the first official policy for gifted students (based on sound scientific evidence) was enacted in Paraguay.

She earned master’s and doctoral degrees in counseling psychology from the University of Kansas and received pre-doctoral training at the Children’s Hospital of Orange County in California.

Dr. Kenneth Weaver, retired department chair and dean of The Teachers College, was one of two former ESU educators who watched Vuyk evolve into a force for gifted education. Weaver visited Vuyk at the Colegio Santa Elena and remarked that his former student is “truly in a class all her own. … Vuyk is making the world a better place.”

“She was an intellectual even as an undergraduate … and she reset the bar of what is possible for a student to accomplish,” he wrote in a nomination letter. “Dr. Vuyk is changing her nation by providing opportunities for Paraguay’s gifted children.”

Armed with a BSB degree in marketing, Chris M. Waldeck left ESU in 1989 to begin a career that took him to the top of internationally known corporations.

Waldeck, who played football at ESU, began his professional career with the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) headquartered in Kansas City and his hometown, according to Brad Stratton, one of three who nominated Waldeck. Stratton (BSB 86-Business Administration) is president of Overland Park Wealth Management.

Following the NAIA, Waldeck held leadership roles with Spalding Sports Worldwide and Cramer Products, Inc., before joining Reebok International and the Adidas Group in 2004. During his tenure with Adidas Group he held several domestic and international leadership positions including leading a complex business turnaround of the group’s Reebok brand in South Korea from 2010 to 2013 and ultimately was named Vice President and General Manager of the Reebok North America operating unit in 2013.

In 2017, Waldeck joined VF Corporation as President of the Lee Brand. He was a member of the senior executive team that led the spin-off of the Jeanswear Division (Lee and Wrangler) to form Kontoor Brands, Inc., an independent, publicly traded company (NYSE: KTB) in 2019. Waldeck is currently Executive Vice President, Co-Chief Operating Officer and Global Brand President.

A letter of support from Scott Baxter, Kontoor Brands President, CEO and Board Chairman, described Waldeck as “book-smart, practical and experienced, with an equal dose of productive passion. “Chris leads by inspiring others, while encouraging collaboration in an inviting way… My thanks for preparing Chris to be a valued leader on team Kontoor Brands.”

Dr. R. Ed Bashaw, dean of the School of Business and Technology and Jones Distinguished Professor, praised Waldeck for essential contributions beyond business. “To only focus on Chris’s success in business would overlook his deep love and respect for his alma mater,” Bashaw said. Waldeck has served on the Dean’s Advisory Council, hosted events on behalf of the School of Business and visited with business students.

Stratton mentioned Waldeck’s strong character. Waldeck had joined Kappa Sigma fraternity during Stratton’s term as president. When Waldeck had received the national fraternity’s $250 cash scholarship for academic performance and campus-community involvement, he pulled Stratton aside and asked him to give the check to another student with greater need.

“That gesture back then speaks to who Chris Waldeck is and continues to be today,” Stratton said.