UMKC will honor its outstanding alumni for 2011-12 at a luncheon event this week – on Thursday, April 26 – at the Westin Crown Center Hotel.
Each year, the UMKC Alumni Association recognizes 16 alumni and one family with top honors. The Class of 2012 Alumni Award recipients includes a chief researcher at the National Institutes of Health, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, the Chief Judge of Guam and others who are making a mark in their profession and serving their alma mater.
The annual luncheon is the University’s largest event and has sold-out for the past three years. Proceeds from the Alumni Awards Luncheon are used to support immediate aid scholarships for students with urgent financial needs. Over the past three years, the luncheon has raised more than $120,000 in immediate aid for students.
To date, more than 55 students, representing each UMKC school and college, have benefitted from these funds. The Alumni Association’s goal is to support an additional 35 students in 2012.
“When I learned I had received the Alumni Awards Scholarship I burst into tears,” said Joseph Salazar, a student in the UMKC College of Arts and Sciences and a 2010 scholarship recipient.
Campus-Wide Alumni Awards
Alumna of the Year — Catherine Y. Spong (M.D. ’91)
Often named by her peers as one of the most influential women in obstetrics and gynecology today, Catherine Spong is chief of Pregnancy and Perinatology at the National Institutes of Health. In her role with NIH, Spong oversees nearly $100 million in research grants and contracts in maternal fetal medicine, neonatology and obstetrics. The UMKC Alumna of the Year award is the highest alumni award given by the campus and the Alumni Association to honor eminence in a professional field and outstanding service to society.
Defying the Odds Award — David Westbrook (B.A. ’71)
The Defying the Odds Alumni Award is given to an alumnus who has achieved professional and personal success in spite of significant obstacles. Diagnosed with juvenile glaucoma at age 12, Westbrook had lost his vision by age 17. He enrolled at UMKC and began a journey that would lead him to a multi-decade career as a communications and public relations professional and a civic force in Kansas City. Westbrook is senior vice president of strategy and innovation at Children’s Mercy Hospital.
Spotlight Award — Yvonne Wilson (M.A. ’71, Ed.Sp. ’76)
Missouri Senator Yvonne Wilson began a life-long career as both an educator and education advocate after graduating from UMKC. She spent more than 35 years serving in public education as a teacher, principal and eventually as the first African American president of the Missouri Association of Elementary School Principals. The Spotlight Award recognizes an alumnus whose accomplishments, leadership and public service have caused regional and national attention to be focused on the metro area and UMKC.
Bill French Alumni Service Award — Lajuana Counts (B.B.A. ’82, J.D. ’88)
A tireless volunteer for UMKC, Lajuana Counts balances her role as Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri with many hours of service to her alma mater. Counts has served as president of the UMKC School of Law Alumni Association and currently serves on the board of the UMKC Law Foundation. The highest award for alumni service at UMKC, the Bill French Award recognizes alumni who have demonstrated outstanding loyalty, commitment and service to the University.
Legacy Award — The Hartwig Family
The Legacy Award recognizes a family with a tradition of attending UMKC and who have a record of service to the University, their community or profession. For two generations, the Hartwig family has made a name in the pharmacy profession while lending support and advocacy to UMKC. Hartwig family members train students at their Red Cross Pharmacy and established a scholarship for deserving pharmacy students.
For the complete list of the 2012 Alumni Award recipients, visit the University News page.