Alex Garza started with a laugh and ended in tears.
Garza, a physician and Associate Dean for Public Health Practice and Professor of Epidemiology at Saint Louis University, was standing on stage at Swinney Recreation Center, accepting the Alumnus of the Year Award from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
“UMKC holds a special place in my heart,” said Garza, a 1990 graduate of the UMKC School of Biological Sciences. “It’s not just the place where I received a great education, but also the place where I matured as a person and set me on course for everything that followed.”
Each year, the UMKC Alumni Association Governing Board and the campus recognize outstanding alumni at a luncheon event that also serves to raise funds for student scholarships.
Garza was one of 16 individuals and one family honored at the event, one of the university’s largest. In the last eight years, the Alumni Awards event has garnered more than $900,000 for student scholarships and immediate aid. This year’s luncheon attracted more than 500 attendees and brought in more than $120,000 in student scholarship support.
UMKC Chancellor Leo E. Morton and Raymond Cattaneo, president of the UMKC Alumni Association Governing Board, alluded to the importance of student aid during their opening remarks.
“Imagine having to choose among paying for school, utilities or food,” Morton said, citing the story of one student who could not have remained in school without aid funded by the program.
Urging the guests to donate, Cattaneo added, “Let’s make sure that our students get the opportunities they deserve.”
Following are the 2016 UMKC Alumni Awardees with a degree from the Bloch School:
Bill French Alumni Service Award: Julia M. Wilson (’84 Management)
Teamwork is a value Julie Wilson wields daily in her role as Executive Vice President and Chief People Officer at Cerner Corp. That central focus characterized her time as a UMKC athlete and describes the volunteerism and dedication Wilson has shown to UMKC and, specifically, to UMKC athletics. Following an exciting basketball career including two NAIA Honorable Mention All-American selections and three NAIA All-District 16 selections and the NAIA Frank L. Hesselroth Award, Wilson became a central supporter of the UMKC Athletics program.
Defying the Odds Award: Judy G. Jacobs (’77 Management, ‘86 Education)
After Germany occupied Hungary in 1944, Judy Jacobs and her family were placed in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp when she was 7 years old. She lost many loved ones in the gas chambers of Auschwitz. When she and her parents were freed, she was sent off – young, alone and scared – to boarding school while her parents attempted to rebuild their lives. In 1946, Jacobs and her family moved to the United States. Despite everything they had experienced, her parents passed on their belief in the importance of education and Jacobs went on to college. Jacobs came to UMKC to earn her MBA and a Ph.D. in higher education administration and finance, and completed her degrees while working and raising a family. Today, Jacobs utilizes her education and her experiences during World War II to teach others about the Holocaust and makes every possible effort to accept all the speaking engagements she can.
Legacy Award: The Armacost Family
The Armacost family’s Kangaroo tradition began with the University of Kansas City (UKC), the predecessor to the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Lucille Cahill Armacost graduated from UKC in 1938 and her husband, the late Don R. Armacost, Sr., former owner of Peterson Manufacturing Company, graduated in 1940. Their son, Don R. Armacost, Jr., CEO of Peterson Manufacturing Co., graduated from the Henry W. Bloch School of Management in 1968 and received that school’s 1990 Alumni Achievement Award. Other graduates from the Armacost family include Jarrett Bertoncin (B.A. ’94, M.F.A. ’96, Arts & Sciences), who is an active member of the College of Arts and Sciences Alumni Board and current board president. In 2010, Lucille Armacost created the Don & Lucille Armacost Scholarship, one of the largest and most prestigious scholarships at UMKC.
Bloch School of Management Award
Doug Baker (M.B.A. ’95)
Doug Baker is Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer of Discovery Networks International, the world’s no. 1 nonfiction media company reaching 2 billion subscribers in 220 nations.