Bold Vision, Boundless Reach

Photo by Janet Rogers, Division of Strategic Marketing and Communications

Alumni honored for impact on the broader world

The art of dance includes a concept called core-distal. Glossaries define it as the “energetic relationship between the center and the limbs.” Jawole Willa Jo Zollar defined it as “understanding how to move out into the world from your core.”

Zollar, an internationally acclaimed dancer-choreographer, is the 2014 Alumna of the Year for the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Thursday, she cited core-distal as the essence of her experience as a UMKC graduate.

“I was able to move out into the world because of the strong, purposeful core I developed with the help of my teachers here at UMKC,” she said, as she accepted her award at the university’s annual Alumni Awards Celebration.

She could have been speaking for all the honorees. At the event, video tributes described how each of them used their UMKC education as a foundation for creating purposeful impact on the wider world.

In all, 16 individuals, and one family, were honored at the event. In addition to Zollar, they included a mathematician who morphed into a Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist, a mayor and renowned civic leader, a husband-and-wife engineering team, and an educator/entrepreneur who survived childhood internment in WWII concentration camps. A cancer researcher, renowned attorneys and physicians, humanitarians, artists and educators rounded out the list.

Zollar, a Guggenheim Fellow, is the founder of Urban Bush Women, a performance ensemble dedicated to exploring the use of cultural expression as a catalyst for social change. She has toured the United States and five continents sharing her works through live performances; a PBS special, “Free to Dance,” which chronicled African-American influence on modern dance; and was a representative of the U.S. State Department’s inaugural cultural diplomacy program.

“I had such an amazing experience here at UMKC,” Zollar said. “I am thrilled to be standing here in this moment.”

According to Chancellor Leo E. Morton, the purpose of the annual event is to “celebrate what it means to be a part of this university family.”

And while celebrating the achievements of alumni is the focus of what occurs on stage at the event, the year-round behind-the-scenes work is focused on the students of today.

“Raising scholarship funds is an especially important part of this event because so many of us owe our professional lives to the good fortune of receiving beneficial scholarship aid,” said Michelle Wimes, 2014 luncheon chair. Wimes announced that this year’s event produced more than $100,000 in scholarship funds. Over the past five years, the event has raised more than a half million dollars for student assistance.

Attendees contributed an additional $11,000 in gifts during the lunch, triggering a $5,000
matching grant pledged by the UMKC Board of Trustees.

“Our signature effort has been giving out immediate aid scholarships of around $2,000 to students from each of our schools and colleges. These scholarships are often a lifeline that keeps a student from dropping out due to finances,” said Pat Macdonald, president of the UMKC Alumni Association Governing Board.

“The campus is so grateful to the UMKC Alumni Association for honoring these amazing alumni,” said Curt Crespino, Vice Chancellor for Advancement. “As the voice of our more than 100,000 graduates, the Association’s leadership is critical to raising needed money for student scholarships through this recognition event and year-round.”

Conservatory of Music and Dance musicians Adam Schlozman, Joel Stratton and Zach Morrow provided accompaniment during lunch.

The awards program began with the announcement of the upcoming presentation of the Chancellor’s Medal to The China Society for People’s Friendship Studies. The medal will be formally presented to the Chinese Delegation during the 2014 Edgar Snow Symposium in October right here in Kansas City.

There was also a sad note amid the celebration, when Wimes announced that School of Pharmacy award winner Willie Osborn had unexpectedly passed away.

“This will be the second time in our Alumni Awards history that we have given an award posthumously, but it fills our hearts to be able to honor him in this way,” Wimes said. “Because, as you’ll see, Willie meant a lot, not just to his family but to his alma mater and his community.” Members of the Osborn family were on hand to accept his award.

Following are the 2014 UMKC Alumni Awardees:

Alumna of the Year:  Jawole Willa Jo Zollar (BA ’75)

One of the single most internationally renowned names in dance, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar is also one of the most decorated. A trailblazer and innovator in the dance world, Zollar is the recipient of the 2013 Doris Duke Performing Artist Award. Zollar is also a past recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship. In 1984, Zollar founded Urban Bush Women (UBW) as a performance ensemble dedicated to exploring the use of cultural expression as a catalyst for social change. She has toured the United States and five continents sharing her works through live performances; a PBS special, “Free to Dance,” which chronicled African-American influence on modern dance; and was a representative of the U.S. State Department’s inaugural cultural diplomacy program. Zollar’s career includes performing and creating works for Alvin Ailey, Philadanco and collaborations with Compagnie Jant-Bi from Senegal and Nora Chipaumire. She has been designated a Master of African American Choreography by the John F. Kennedy Performing Arts Center. Zollar developed a unique approach to enable artists to strengthen effective involvement in cultural organizing and civic engagement, which evolved into UBW’s acclaimed Summer Leadership Institute. She serves as director of the Institute, and currently holds the position of the Nancy Smith Fichter Professor of Dance and Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor at Florida State University.

Legacy Award: The Waldman Family

David Waldman (Law – JD ’32)

Leonard Swade (A&S – BA ’53, Law – JD ’56)

James Scherzer (Law  -JD ’80)

Dr. Steven Waldman (A&S – BS ’73, Med – MD ’77, Law – JD ’96)

Dr. Howard Waldman (A&S – BA, BS ’75)

Margaret Peggy Keith (Bloch – BBA ’94)

David M. Waldman (A&S – attended)

Dr. Corey Waldman (A&S – BLA ’11, Med ’12)

Jennifer Waldman (Med – attended)

Reid Waldman (Med – current student)

The story of the Waldman family’s Kangaroo tradition began in 1929 when the first graduate of three generations of Waldmans was admitted to the Kansas City School of Law (now the UMKC School of Law). The late David Waldman (Law JD ’32) walked from his West Bottoms home to the School of Law to save his nickels for food. His tireless efforts paid off when he graduated with honors in the top five percent of his class in less than the usual four years of study. Throughout his career as a trial lawyer, he mentored and provided financial assistance to countless students who attended the UMKC School of Law, including his brother-in-law Leonard Swade (A&S – BA ’53, Law – JD ’56) and his nephew James Scherzer (Law JD ’80). David’s sons, Dr. Steven Waldman (A&S – BS ’73, MED – MD ’77, Law – JD ’96) and Dr. Howard Waldman (A&S – BA, BS ’75) both graduated from the UMKC College of Arts & Sciences with bachelor’s degrees in geosciences before pursuing careers in medicine. One of the first pain management specialists in the region, Steven founded pain clinics at numerous area hospitals. Steven and his wife, Kathy, have raised four children – all ’Roos. Their son David attended the College of Arts & Sciences. Son Corey (A&S – BLA ’11, MD ’12) graduated from the UMKC School of Medicine in 2012. Jennifer attended the School of Medicine, and Reid is a current student at the School of Medicine. Kathy’s sister, Margaret Peggy Keith (BBA ’94), once served as the COO for her brother-in-law’s pain clinics and is currently co-owner of the Lenexa-based graphics company, Custom Color Corp.

Defying the Odds Award: Bambi Nancy Shen (MA ’76)

The harrowing life story of alumna Bambi Shen stretches across cultures and continents. Daughter of a Chinese diplomat, Shen was born in French Indochina (now Vietnam). For much of Shen’s young life, her mother berated her and repeatedly told her how she wished she’d been born a boy. When Japan took over Vietnam, she and her family endured internment in concentration camps, surviving hunger and bombing raids, which twice came precariously close to taking her life. Shen persevered and sought out an education, traveling alone to the United States on a scholarship to attend a college in Kentucky. In the U.S. she continued to face major challenges, including discrimination for her ethnicity and a near-crippling injury in college, but her personal determination and love of learning compelled her forward. In spite of a lack of family support and obstacles created by gender, ethnicity and culture, Shen triumphed as an educator who is fluent in French, English, Mandarin and Cantonese and conversant in Spanish. She is a businesswoman, mother, wife and philanthropist. She is a frequent speaker at battered women’s shelters, sororities and college campuses. In 2011 she published her memoir, The Uncrushable Rose: A Memoir from Concentration Camp to Becoming a Free Woman.

Bill French Alumni Service Award: Michael S. J. Albano (BA ’65, JD ’68)

While Michael Albano is known nationally for his expertise in family and matrimonial law, his hobby and passion is ’Roo blue and gold. For more than 45 years, Albano has been a bedrock of alumni support and advocacy for the University. He has served as president of the UMKC Alumni Association, on the board of the UMKC Law Foundation, on the UMKC Trustees Board and as chair of the UM System Alumni Alliance. He is also a fixture in the fan stands at ’Roos athletics events and has been a tireless advocate for UMKC in the community. In 2013, he completed his service as chairman of the UM System Alliance of Alumni Associations. Albano’s accomplished career includes service as president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers Foundation and chairperson of the American Bar Association Family Law Section. His career accolades include the Missouri Bar President’s Award, multiple Family Lawyer of the Year awards, Best Lawyer in Kansas City and the Missouri Bar Association’s Family Law Practitioner of the Year award. He also was previously awarded a UMKC Outstanding Alumni Service award.

Spotlight Award: Mike Keefe (BS ’73, MS ’74)

Journalism’s highest award – the Pulitzer Prize – went to a graduate of UMKC’s department of mathematics. Mike Keefe began dabbling in drawing editorial cartoons during his days as a UMKC student when, during Watergate, he found himself “drawn to Richard Nixon’s nose.” His potential career in math went by the wayside as he pursued his cartooning “hobby.” His body of work at the UMKC University News led to a more than 30-year career at the Denver Post. Thousands of drawings later, including regular work for USA Today and AOL, Keefe won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning in 2011. The Pulitzer jury cited his “widely ranging cartoons that employ a loose, expressive style to send strong, witty messages.” With more than 8,800 cartoons in his Denver Post career that reached more than 600,000 people each day, Keefe’s work has had national visibility. He returned to UMKC last year to be the keynote speaker at Commencement.

College of Arts & Sciences: Peggy J. Dunn (BA ’72)

Peggy Dunn received her B.A. in Sociology from the UMKC College of Arts & Sciences. Peggy has been mayor of Leawood, Kan., since 1997. She is a Senior Fellow at the UMKC Henry W. Bloch School of Management, serves on the Johnson/Wyandotte Counties Council of Mayors and is a board member for several organizations in both Kansas and Missouri, including the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, Union Station, Truman Medical Centers, the Youth Volunteer Corps and the Hall Family Foundation. In recognition of Peggy’s steadfast and energetic commitment to the civic and philanthropic communities, she has received countless awards including the Marion and John Kreamer Award for Entrepreneurship in Volunteer Community Service, Johnson Countian of the Year and the JCRB/AJC Henry W. Bloch Human Relations Award. Peggy and her husband, Terry, currently serve on the steering committee for The Campaign for UMKC and served as co-chairs of UMKC’s previous successful capital campaign. Peggy also served as co-chair of UMKC’s 80th Anniversary committee.

School of Biological Sciences: Cole Haynes (PhD ’03)

Dr. Cole Haynes is receiving his award for his work on how cells respond to mitochondrial dysfunction in cancer and during normal aging. Haynes is an independent scientist and professor at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) and Cornell Medical Center in New York City. His laboratory at MSKCC focuses on the molecular mechanisms and signaling pathways that cells utilize to protect themselves during conditions that cause mitochondrial dysfunction. Haynes says, “Now that we have identified the cellular signaling components that can restore mitochondrial function to meet cellular energetic requirements, we intend to explore its function in aspects of biology where mitochondrial dysfunction is prevalent such as aging, germ line development, and cancer.” One of Haynes’ major goals going forward is to understand how these stress-responsive signaling pathways function at the molecular level. Ultimately, he hopes to translate these finding and develop strategies to manipulate these components as potential therapeutic strategies to boost the body’s ability to fight back.

Henry W. Bloch School of Management: Catherine A. Lewis (BS ’85)

With taxes being a certainty in this life, we can all use an accomplished guide to help with the ever-changing rules and codes. An accountant and expert in her field, Catherine Lewis (now retired) applied her more than 20 years of experience to her position as the global head of tax of KPMG’s Energy and Natural Resources practice. Lewis focused on working with domestic and international energy companies in tax advisory, planning, compliance and controversies. Catherine devotes significant energy to her alma mater. She is a past president, and current member, of the UMKC Bloch Advisory Council and a past board member of the Bloch Accounting Advisory Council. Lewis also serves on the board of Starlight Theatre and is treasurer of the Girl Scouts of Northeast Kansas and Northwest Missouri.

School of Computing and Engineering: Trent & Kimberly Robinett (BSCE ’95 & BSEE ’95)

Showing true entrepreneurial spirit, Trent and Kimberly Robinett were two of three UMKC students who had a dream to someday work together and provide quality engineering to local Kansas City area communities. In 2002, Trent Robinett formed Lee & Robinett Engineers, LLC offering engineering consulting, transportation, utilities and site development to local communities and developers. In early 2003, Kimberly Robinett joined the team, bringing electrical engineering experience to the company. Later that same year, fellow alumna Kim Pemberton joined the team and the dream became a reality. Under the banner of TREKK Design Group, the company provides project management services, transportation, traffic, water/wastewater and residential design engineering for clients. One high-profile project has been their involvement in ensuring the 150-year-old downtown Kansas City sewer system will be able to support the future streetcar route, consulting for the line’s designer by sending probes and crews underneath the city streets to look for problems such as structural weaknesses and underground vaults.

Conservatory of Music and Dance: Jan Kraybill (DMA ’00)

Jan Kraybill performs extensively as both a pianist and organist across the United States, Canada, Germany, Poland, Russia, South Korea and the United Kingdom. In 2010, she received the highest level of certification, the Fellowship (FAGO) Award from the American Guild of Organists. Locally, she performs with many ensembles such as the Kansas City Symphony and Chorus, the Spire Chamber Ensemble and The Kansas City Chorale. In 2012, the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts selected Kraybill to be the organ conservator for the Julia Irene Kauffman Casavant Organ. Her January 2013 performance at the Kauffman Center was acclaimed as brilliant. Paul Horsley of The Independent described her “extraordinary virtuosity” beginning one passage “at a tempo that seemed downright suicidal, but managed to hack through the thickets of one of Bach’s most complex works with nary a hitch. Her remarkable feat brought the audience to its feet.”

School of Dentistry: Connie Lee Drisko (DDS ’80)

Connie Drisko followed a 16-year career as a dental hygienist with a DDS from the UMKC School of Dentistry and began service to UMKC as an associate professor at the school, where she led the department in teaching awards, research grants and community service. She then served as associate dean and as a director at the University of Louisville before becoming only the third dean of the College of Dental Medicine at Georgia Health Sciences University. During her tenure, student enrollment grew significantly. Drisko directed the funding, design and construction of a $112 million, five-story clinical facility, one of the largest of its kind in the country. In recent years the American Dental Association nationally recognized her school for student diversity programs that prepare underrepresented minority and low income students for careers in dentistry.

School of Dentistry – Dental Hygiene: Dorinda D. Ball (BSDH ’03)

The enormous challenge of access to care in the oral health field has been the theme of the distinguished career for Dorinda Ball. She began her career in public health as a US Public Health Service (USPHS) Commissioned Officer with the Indian Health Service in Parker, Ariz. She deployed on two joint services humanitarian missions, providing direct patient care and developing basic non-surgical periodontal therapy training programs for dental schools in Guyana and Papua New Guinea. She was appointed to the American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA) Council on Public Health and was instrumental in the development of ADHA’s “Career Opportunities in Public Health” guide. Her current assignment is in Washington, D.C. as a public health service commissioned officer for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, where she recruits health care students and providers to positions in the 119 prisons under the auspices of the federal government. In 2008, Ball received the U.S. Public Health Service Achievement Medal for her “exemplary performance, dedication, leadership and invaluable contribution while providing the highest standard of service” during a 2008 medical mission aboard the USNS Mercy hospital ship. A recognized leader and valuable contributor to her peers and supervisors, she has received multiple other awards during her career with the public health service.

School of Education: Rodney E. Watson (EdSp ’00, PhD ’07)

A commitment to urban education and dedication to diversity and social justice describe the influential career of Rodney Watson. He first served as an elementary school principal in Kansas City. Fully understanding the overwhelming work required to lead urban schools, Watson was recruited to a position where he could in turn have an even greater impact. In 2010, he became a School Improvement Officer/Area Superintendent for Houston Independent School District in Texas, supervising 12 elementary schools. Watson later helped to develop, promote and implement Apollo 20 Elementary, where he provided direction and oversight to Houston’s 11 lowest-achieving elementary schools. After only one year, Watson was promoted to Chief School Officer, supervising 53 elementary schools and five School Improvement Officers. In 2013 Watson testified in Washington, D.C. before the House Education Subcommittee regarding the evaluation of teachers, Houston ISD support and development and its major successes. He is currently Chief of Human Resources for HISD, where he is responsible for an employee group of nearly 30,000 individuals.

School of Law:  Jim Bartimus (BA ’71, JD ’77)

Jim Bartimus is a partner at Bartimus, Frickleton, Robertson and Goza, PC. His practice focuses in the area of medical malpractice and pharmaceutical litigation. Bartimus has been involved in global lawsuits for the protection of litigants harmed by dangerous and harmful pharmaceutical practices. His extensive volunteer work includes serving as a board member on the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys, the Center for Practical Bioethics and the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association. Bartimus and his wife, Dana, have established a charitable foundation whose efforts concentrate on children’s issues. The foundation has helped fund many charities and local schools and non-profit organizations and was a major donor supporting the UMKC Law Advocacy Center, helping to position the school to become one of the top ten advocacy programs in the country. He is the recipient of numerous awards including multiple “Best of the Bar” awards, Top 50 Kansas City Super Lawyer, and an Acorn Award from the Missouri Humanities Council.

School of Medicine: Michele Kilo (MD ’84)

Known as a strong and compassionate leader, Michele Kilo is director of the Division of Developmental and Behavioral Sciences at Children’s Mercy Hospital. Her specialty areas include autistic spectrum disorders, intellectual disabilities and related disorders and attention deficit disorders. After joining CMH she became president of the medical staff, served on the board of directors and has chaired the Medical Executive Committee and Medical Staff Health and Wellness Committee. Kilo’s dedication to special needs children has led to her service as president of the Jellybean Conspiracy Board of Directors. The organization is a Kansas City-based not-for-profit meeting the social needs and artistic aspirations of high school students with disabilities. She was appointed by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon to the Missouri Autism Commission. In addition to her position as Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the UMKC School of Medicine, Kilo has served in various volunteer positions such as president of the School of Medicine Alumni Association and Chairman of the School of Medicine’s Board of Visitors. Kilo is a Lifetime Member of the UMKC Alumni Association.

School of Nursing and Health Studies: Kathleen Elaine Dunbar Haycraft, (DNP ’11)

Kathleen Haycraft empowers nurses and patients alike as the Missouri state representative for the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners and Chairman of the Missouri Council of Advance Practice Nurses, Missouri Nurses Association. As a family and pediatric nurse practitioner, and as a dermatological nurse, she has a demonstrated passion for health care policy and a broad range of experiences in administration, educational and clinical settings. She has been an instrumental leader working with multiple state representatives to expand access to care for all Missouri residents. She has published her work in the Missouri Nurse, submitted to the AANP journal and presented at the 2012 American Academy of Nurse Practitioners annual meeting.

School of Pharmacy:  William E. Osborn (BSP ’56)

A sense of “giving back” prevailed through every step of Willie Osborn’s career path.  Osborn owned and operated Osborn Drugs in Miami, Okla., and had an ownership stake in 24 other pharmacies in Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas and Missouri. In each case of store ownership, he helped young pharmacists buy into these businesses and made each one a partner. Through Osborn’s leadership, advice and support, 15 young pharmacists have now become their own business owners, living and working in their communities. Osborn received countless awards for his service to both community and pharmacy including the 2010 National Community Pharmacists Association’s Willard B. Simmons Award as Outstanding Independent Pharmacist, the Oklahoma Pharmacy Association Bowl of Hygeia Award and the American College of Apothecaries’ Albert E. Rosica, Jr. Memorial Award. To support his alma mater, Osborn spearheaded a drive among his Class of ’56 mates to purchase the naming rights of the student lounge in the UMKC Drug Information Center in the Health Sciences Building. Willie Osborn passed away unexpectedly in February 2014.


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