UMKC honors outstanding alumni

Sixteen alumni and one family will be honored in April 2011

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) will honor its outstanding alumni for 2010-11 at a sold-out luncheon event April 27. UMKC’s Alumni Association will highlight the recipients’ stories and accomplishments at the luncheon as well as through speeches, presentations and classroom visits where they will share their experiences with students.

One alumnus is chosen from each of the University’s 12 academic units to be recognized for distinguished professional accomplishments and for outstanding community service. In addition, four campus-wide awards are given to alumni for their uncommon achievements and exceptional leadership. A fifth campus-wide award – Legacy – honors a family with multigenerational ties to the university. This year’s Legacy Award recognizes a family with 13 members who attended or graduated from UMKC.

Campus-Wide Alumni Awards

Cynthia Watson, Alumna of the Year, B.A. ’78 – Considered one of the world’s leading security policy analysts, Watson is chair of the Department of Security Studies at The National War College in Washington, D.C. She is an internationally-renowned expert in civil-military relations with particular expertise regarding China and Latin America. Watson has written many articles and books including “U.S. National Security: A Reference Handbook”, which won the CHOICE award for academic book of the year in 2003.

Michelle LaPointe, Bill French Alumni Service Award, B.A. ’80 – LaPointe is the development officer for the Lyric Opera, yet finds the time and passion to support UMKC through her volunteer spirit. She served as co-chair of the University’s 75th anniversary year-long celebration, planning and attending many events throughout the campus. She has served or is currently serving on several UMKC volunteer boards. For four years, LaPointe chaired the UMKC Alumni Awards Celebration.

Mutuku Mutinga, Defying the Odds Award, M.S. ’68 – Born and raised in a small Kenyan village where few completed the fourth grade, Mutinga was determined to pursue an education. After high school, he worked and saved to travel to the U. S. for college, leading him to a career in science. His breakthroughs regarding insect-disease cycles and his patented inventions, including the MBU cloth, are combating malaria in his native Kenya.

The Salazar Family, Legacy Award – Recognized throughout the Kansas City community for extensive volunteer support and advocacy, the Salazar family claims 13 UMKC alumni in two generations.

Arthur Salazar, B.A. ’75

Carlos Salazar, B.A. ’78

Irene Salazar Caudillo, M.P.A. ’90

Macario Salazar, M.B.A. ’77

Tony Salazar, B.A. ’74

Virginia Salazar Bellis, B.A. ’84

Irma Salazar Robinson (attended ’83-’85)

Arthur Salazar Jr., B.A. ’07

Darcell Scott, current BLA student

Erica Hernandez-Scott, MA ’08

Jesse Hernandez, BS ’94

Jessica Hernandez-Luster, BA ’08

Melissa Salazar-Webster, BSN ’06

Jacki Witt, Spotlight Award, M.S.N. ’87, J.D. ’92 – Witt continues as a driving force behind the nationally-recognized Women’s Center for Excellence in Health at UMKC and Truman Medical Center, as well as the project director for the U.S. Department of Health’s National Clinical Training Center training clinicians in family planning clinics. A faculty member at the UMKC School of Nursing, she helped found the Helen Gragg Clinic at Operation Breakthrough, which provides care to the underserved.

Alumni Achievement Awardees (by academic unit)

Durwin Rice, College of Arts and Sciences, B.A. ’78 – Rice is a nationally-known decoupage artist whose works include special commissions from the New York Public Library, Pierpont Morgan Library and Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. He is the founder and executive director of the Tulips on Troost project, gaining regional and national attention for efforts to beautify Troost Avenue in Kansas City.

Stephanie Karst, School of Biological Sciences, Ph.D. ’00 – Karst is a virologist at the University of Florida, where she is associate professor in the department of molecular genetics and microbiology. Her work on the virus that causes 90 percent of all non-bacterial epidemic cases of gastroenteritis has been instrumental to the understanding of how the virus avoids immune response and causes repeat infections.

Joe Freeman, Bloch School of Business and Public Administration, B.S. ’93 – Freeman is chief operating officer at Pioneer Services, which provides services to 1.3 million military families. He has provided volunteer leadership to the Bloch School’s Council for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, the Bloch Advisory Council, the Entrepreneur of the Year Advisory Committee and to the School’s alumni association board.

Len Rodman, School of Computing and Engineering, M.S. ’78 – Rodman is the chairman, president and CEO of Black & Veatch engineering and construction company, ranked by Forbes as one of the 500 largest private companies in the United States. Rodman has led the company since 2000, during which time it has seen growth and expansion in global markets. He is a graduate of the former coordinated engineering program between UMKC and MU.

Mikel Rouse, Conservatory of Music and Dance, Cons ’78 – A New York-based composer and performer, Rouse has developed a trilogy of multimedia operas that played in theaters and festivals around the world. His compositions have been performed throughout the United States, Europe and the Pacific Rim.

Paulette Spencer, School of Dentistry, D.D.S. ’78, Ph.D. ’93 – Spencer is known internationally for her work in bioengineering. A Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, Spencer’s work focuses on the interface of tissue-materials interactions. Spencer is director of the KU Bioengineering Research Center and Ackers Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering.

Ann Battrell, School of Dentistry, Division of Dental Hygiene, M.S. ’07 – The executive director of the American Dental Hygienists’ Association, Battrell is distinguished as the first dental hygienist and first former ADHA president to hold the office of executive director. In her role, she represents 150,000 dental hygienists across the country and has worked at a national level to address access to oral health.

Steve Obenhaus, School of Education, B.A. ’88, Ph.D. ’96 – Obenhaus harnessed his passion for math and teaching to serve humanitarian needs as a volunteer in Haiti using mathematics to track poor water conditions and discover fresh water. A Presidential Award winner for excellence in math and – science teaching, he recently completed a year as an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow in Sen. Joseph Lieberman’s office in Washington, D.C.

Pete Levi, School of Law, J.D. ’69, L.L.M. ’71 – For 19 years, Levi served in the highly visible role of president and CEO of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, representing 2,500 businesses, civic organizations and nonprofits and working to build Kansas City’s economy. Prior to the Chamber, he served as executive director of the Mid-America Regional Council. He is currently a shareholder at Polsinelli Shughart PC.

Mamta Reddy, School of Medicine, M.D. ’98 – Reddy is Chief of Allergy/Immunology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Bronx Lebanon Hospital in Bronx, NY. She leads the South Bronx Asthma Partnership, which coordinates more than 60 community-based partners. Also, she developed a DVD-tutorial on New York’s asthma guidelines, which has been distributed to more than 23,000 health care providers.

Debra White, School of Nursing, M.S.N. ’99 – White is Chief Nursing Officer at Saint Luke’s Health System. Under her leadership, St. Luke’s Hospital twice achieved national recognition from the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Magnet Recognition Program. This elite honor has only been awarded to approximately two percent of all health care organizations in the United States.

Samuel Strada, School of Pharmacy, B.S.P. ’64, M.S. ’68 – Strada is Dean of the College of Medicine at the University of South Alabama, where he established a pharmacy mobile campus satellite program on the SA campus to help combat the pharmacy shortage along the Gulf Coast. He also is known internationally for his work in cyclic nucleotide phosphodiesterase-related research and in cellular signaling mechanisms.

The University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC), one of four University of Missouri campuses, is a public university serving more than 15,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students. UMKC engages with the community and economy based on a four-part mission: life and health sciences; visual and performing arts; urban issues and education; and a vibrant learning and campus life experience. For more information about UMKC, visit You can also find us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and watch us on YouTube.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .
  • Recent UMKC News

    $20 Million Scholarship Article in The Kansas City Star

    KC Scholars partnership also in U.S. News and World Report … Read more

    Geosciences Professor’s Research Cited in New York Times

    Fengpeng Sun co-authored study on California wildfire seasons The 2015 … Read more

    Bloch Faculty Interviewed on NBC Nightly News

    Brent Never teaches about Kansas City’s racial dividing line Never … Read more