UMKC Celebrates 2013 Alumni Award Recipients

Students, Faculty and Staff Meet Influential Alumni

Celebrations popped up across the University of Missouri-Kansas City campuses, as the community welcomed the Class of 2013 Alumni Award recipients.

The UMKC School of Medicine held a reception in the lobby to introduce alumni winners to students.

“We hit a home run at the School of Medicine,” said Stuart Munro, chair of the School of Medicine’s Medical Humanities and Social Sciences Department. “We had three winners including the Alumnus of the Year.”

And that would be Major General Mark Ediger, M.D., M.P.H., ‘78. In 2012, Ediger was confirmed by the U.S. Senate to the rank of Major General, making him one of only four active duty two-star generals serving in the Air Force Medical Service. In July 2012, he assumed his current position of Deputy Surgeon General for the U.S. Air Force, a role where he supports the Surgeon General in overseeing the operations of the $7.1 billion, 43,000-person integrated health care delivery system that includes the Air Force’s deployable medical capability.

“The UMKC School of Medicine prepared me and other physicians to be patient centered,” Ediger said. “That sounds obvious, but the opposite is prevalent.”

At the reception, Ediger spoke with School of Medicine students who are also in the military.

“It’s a rare honor for someone in my position to be able to talk to someone in his position,” said Jacob Arnold, a third-year medicine student and second lieutenant in the U.S. Army. “He’s a definite role model, someone who has successfully combined health care and the military.”

Students also had the chance to meet with Nelson Sabates, M.D., ’86, who won the Spotlight Award. He is professor and chairman of the UMKC Department of Ophthalmology; founder and director of the Vision Research Center at UMKC; president and CEO of Sabates Eye Centers and president of the Vision Research Foundation of Kansas City.

And they could talk to John Owen, M.D., ’81, a practicing physician who is also a decorated military leader. Owen, who won the School of Medicine’s Alumni Achievement Award, is a practicing physician at the Liberty Clinic in Liberty, Mo. He recently retired from his post as the Air National Guard Assistant to the Command Surgeon, Air Mobility Command.

In the School of Computing and Engineering, students and faculty watched India’s most beloved children’s cartoon character, Chhota Bheem. They did so with understandable pride. The character’s creator, Rajiv Chilakalapudi, stood near the front of the room. He was on campus to receive an Alumni Achievement Award from the SCE, where he received his master’s degree in Computer Science.

Chilakalapudi, the founder and CEO of Green Gold, India’s leading animation company, told the story of Green Gold’s humble beginnings and its current success.

He said it all started at UMKC, where he was inspired by Walt Disney’s connection to the university. The group laughed as Chilakalapudi confessed that at one time, he’d considered himself too manly for cartoons. Then, in Kansas City, when he was waiting at a friend’s house to go to class, the friend played the film “The Lion King” for his child. Chilakalapudi was stunned to find himself entranced by the film.

That was the seed. Today, Green Gold produces several cartoons, including a full-length feature film. Chilakalapudi told the crowd that he hopes to put Green Gold on the same level as Disney or Pixar.

The cold, rainy weather moved “Jazz on the Lawn,” the annual alumni observance of the School of Education, to an indoor setting jokingly dubbed “Jazz on the Carpet.” The move failed to dampen the enthusiasm of students, alumni, faculty and staff who enjoyed the sounds of the four-piece combo “Shades of Jade” and a bountiful barbecue buffet.

The event, now in its 11th year, paid tribute to alumnus of the year Dorothy Watson. Dean Wanda Blanchett lauded the “indelible mark on education” Watson has made as a “literacy trailblazer.”

Blanchett also paid special attention to the 231 students about to graduate, and their transition from students to alumni.

“I really want to encourage all of our new graduates to stay engaged,” she said. “Your voices will help transform the field of education as we know it.”

One member of the class of 2013 was recognized for a special achievement: Kate Tankel, a senior from Overland Park, who won a Fulbright English teaching assistantship. Kate, a double major in K-12 Spanish education and Spanish, will spend the coming year teaching in Ecuador.

Learn more about the Class of 2013 Alumni Award recipients here.

Photo credit: Janet Rogers, Strategic Marketing and Communications.

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