The University of Missouri-Kansas City Class of 2017 Alumni Award recipients includes the first female president and chief executive officer for the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City; a local musician whose career has put UMKC’s jazz program on the global and national stages; the founder, president and CEO of the Bank of Blue Valley; and a man who learned to adapt to ever-changing circumstances and earned a J.D., master’s degrees in economics and political science, and an MBA from UMKC.
Each year, the UMKC Alumni Association Governing Board and the campus recognize outstanding individual alumni, and one family, with top honors. UMKC will celebrate these alumni at a luncheon event on April 20 on the UMKC campus. UMKC’s Alumni Association will highlight recipients’ stories and accomplishments at the luncheon, and honorees will visit classrooms to share their stories with current students.
The annual luncheon is one of the university’s largest events, with proceeds supporting student scholarships. In the last eight years, the Alumni Awards event has garnered more than $900,000 for student scholarships and immediate aid. Last year’s luncheon attracted more than 500 attendees and brought in more than $120,000 in student scholarship support. Proceeds from the Alumni Awards event benefit UMKC students through supporting both endowed and immediate student aid.
“We’re so proud to showcase these amazing UMKC graduates,” said Raymond Cattaneo, M.D., president of the UMKC Alumni Association Governing Board. “In honoring these alumni, we’re also committed to helping the next generation of Roos, which is why this event benefits student aid and scholarships.”
Following are the 2017 UMKC Alumni Awardees:
Campus-Wide Award Recipients
Alumna of the Year: Esther L. George (E.M.B.A. ’00)
President and Chief Executive Officer for the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Esther George is a world-renowned expert on economic issues. She has held the top post at the bank since 2011. In 2016, she became a voting member of the Federal Open Market Committee. Beyond her national leadership in shaping domestic fiscal policy, George also is known globally for her expertise. She hosts the annual Jackson Hole Economic Symposium and has participated in the Bank for International Settlements’ Financial Stability Institute programs in Lima, Abu Dhabi, Beijing and Malaysia. George has been involved with UMKC and the Bloch School and is currently a UMKC Trustee.
Spotlight Award: Hermon Mehari (B.M. ’10)
Hermon Mehari’s career has put UMKC’s jazz program on the global and national stages, and he has been an ambassador for Kansas City jazz and UMKC’s jazz program around the world. He has won countless accolades, including first place in the national trumpet competition for jazz, first place in the Carmen Caruso International Trumpet Competition, second place in the International Trumpet Guild Competition in Australia, and was a semifinalist in the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition and the Charlotte Street Grant awards. While still a student he formed an award-winning ensemble, Diverse, whose debut album made the Top 40 on the Jazzweek radio charts. He continues to perform professionally around the world. One of his nominators notes that, “Next to Bobby Watson, Hermon Mehari has brought the most attention to UMKC and the KC jazz scene in recent history.”
Bill French Alumni Service Award: Bob Regnier (M.B.A. ’78)
Founder, president and CEO of the Bank of Blue Valley, Bob Regnier has been a long-time volunteer for UMKC, dating back to his service on the Bloch Alumni Association Board in 1990-96. He has served on the School’s Finance Advisory Board, and in 2009, he stepped into a campus-wide volunteer role as the co-chair of the university’s capital campaign. In 2016, he became a member of the UMKC Foundation board of directors. In addition to his personal service, the Regnier Family Foundation has supported the Bloch School and the university in countless ways, including founding and naming the UMKC Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation’s signature program, now the Regnier Family Foundation’s Venture Creation Challenge.
Defying the Odds Award: Troy L. Nash (J.D. ’97, M.A. ’05, M.A. ’11, M.B.A. ’13)
Growing up in a single family home and on public assistance, Troy L. Nash worked odd jobs to help his mother make ends meet. The family bounced from home to home, forcing him to adapt to ever-changing circumstances. He sought out education and with the help of scholarships and loans, he earned an undergraduate degree from Wesley College, a J.D., master’s degrees in economics and political science. He also earned an M.A. in economics and political science and an MBA at UMKC as well as a doctorate degree in education from St. Louis University. With a long track record of public service to Missouri and the city, Nash became the first African-American real estate executive to become principal and shareholder in a top 10 commercial real estate firm in the Kansas City area at Newmark Grubb Zimmer, led by Hugh Zimmer.
Legacy Award: The Cisetti-Orozco-Madden Family
The Cisetti-Orozco-Madden family’s Roo roots began with Josephine Cisetti, who graduated from UKC in 1945. Many Roos would follow, including her two sons, John Cisetti and Rev. Joseph Cisetti, who graduated from UMKC with degrees from the School of Education and the College of Arts & Sciences respectively. Father Cisetti is pastor of St. Therese North parish and was ordained in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. John Cisetti has been the award-winning band director for the Louisburg, Kan, school district for more than 37 years. John’s wife, Veronica, is a Roo as well, along with her four siblings. John and Veronica’s daughter Mary came to UMKC as a Trustees’ Scholar and graduated from the Bloch School in 2012. She met her now husband, Nick Patonai, at UMKC – Nick graduated from the School of Medicine in 2014. The Legacy Award will celebrate the more than 25 Roos in the family, including Patrick Madden, a graduate of the College, who is married to Veronica Cisetti’s sister, Gloria. Madden is College Programs Coordinator for the National Soccer Coaches Association of America and a former president of the College of Arts & Sciences Alumni Association board.
School-Based Alumni Achievement Award Recipients
College of Arts & Sciences
Kathryn Webster (B.A. ’75, M.A. ’79)
Kathryn Webster is national chair of the board of directors for the WomenHeart: the National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease.
School of Biological Sciences
Theron E. Odlaug (B.S. ’71, M.S. ’73)
Former CEO of leon-nanodrugs GMBH, Theron E. Odlaug now serves on the board of directors. He also serves on the board for CoreRx Inc in Clearwater, Fla. and is an advisor to Carstens Inc. in Chicago, Ill. He is also an executive in residence at a private equity firm called Signet Healthcare Partners based in New York, NY.
Bloch School of Management
George W. Holcomb III (E.M.B.A. ’02)
As the surgeon-in-chief and senior vice president at Children’s Mercy, George W. Holcomb is on the executive team of one of U.S. News and World Report’s best pediatric hospitals with the region’s only Level IV Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
School of Computing & Engineering
Jim Hogan (B.S.C.E. ’84)
Jim Hogan serves as the senior vice president of operations in Burns & McDonnell’s Transmission & Distribution division. He also manages the division’s Kansas City operations.
Conservatory of Music and Dance
James C. Mair (M.A. ’90)
James C. Mair founded the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra and started the “Basically Basie” big band competition, which brings young talent to Kansas City from all across the region. He is currently a professor of music and director of Instrumental Studies at Kansas City Kansas Community College.
School of Dentistry
Jane Chestnut Atkinson (D.D.S. ’81)
The director of the Center for Clinical Research at the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research within the National Institutes of Health, Jane Chestnut Atkinson’s research has focused on topics like oral health status and salivary gland function in patients with the AIDS virus.
School of Dentistry – Dental Hygiene
Liz Kaz (B.S.D.H. ’86, M.S. ’87)
Clinical associate professor and director of Continuing Education at the UMKC School of Dentistry, Liz Kaz has been a pioneer in dental hygiene education throughout her career and serves on national boards for her profession.
School of Education
David Sharp (M.A. ’99, E.D.S.P. ’03)
A veteran who has been honored for his service, David Sharp is principal at Lee’s Summit West High School, having served previously as director at Summit Technology Academy.
School of Law
Nancy B. Firestone (J.D. ’77)
Nancy B. Firestone is a federal judge and serves on the United States Court of Federal Claims in Washington, DC. She was the Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the United States Department of Justice and is an adjunct professor at Georgetown University.
School of Medicine
Latha Sivaprasad (M.D. ’99)
Latha Sivaprasad is chief medical officer and senior vice president for Rhode Island Hospital and previously served as chief patient experience officer for Beth Israel Medical Center in New York.
School of Nursing & Health Studies
Anita Skarbek (B.S.N. ’01, M.S.N. ’03)
Anita Skarbek is the director of the RN-BSN program at the UMKC School of Nursing and Health Studies and is a clinical assistant professor. She also serves as a member of the Missouri Organization of Nurse Leaders, the Organization of Nurse Executives/NJ (ONE/NJ), and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.
School of Pharmacy
Heather Lyons-Burney (Pharm.D. ’94)
Heather Lyons-Burney is an adjunct clinical instructor at the UMKC School of Pharmacy’s expansion program in Springfield, Mo. Lyons-Burney was co-owner of Branson Drug in Branson, Mo. Recently, she helped establish the non-profit clinic, Faith Community Health in Branson, to provide patient-centered, team approach to health care in a traditionally underserved population.
Know an outstanding UMKC graduate? Nominations for the 2018 class of Alumni Award recipients are open through March 5. Nominations can be made online.