Friday, January 21, 2022
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Alumni Honored at annual Awards Luncheon

The UMKC Alumni Association held its Awards Luncheon last Thursday morning at Swinney Recreation Center to recognize alumni for their accomplishments.

The first floor of the recreation center was packed as guests, students, and staff maneuvered out of the rain into the building and found their designated tables.

“Today we will honor a unique group of outstanding awardees as we celebrate what it means to be a part of this university family,” Chancellor Leo E. Morton said.

Five years ago the award celebration was transformed into a luncheon that now raises scholarship funds for deserving students who are at risk of not re-enrolling. Last year, the Alumni Fund established two newly endowed scholarships. The Alumni Association has also partnered with the UMKC Board of Trustees to create a new Trustees’ Scholarship, which will provide students with a full-ride merit scholarship through proceeds generated from the award luncheons.

“Our signature event has been awarding immediate scholarship aid to students in need [totaling] around $200,000 to each of our schools and colleges,” said Pat MacDonald, president of the UMKC Alumni Association Governing Board.

The event honored 16 alumni and one family. Video tributes recounted how each recipient applied his or her UMKC education to contribute a positive impact on the world. The Alumni Achievement Award honorees received a framed Kangaroo watercolor print signed by prominent artist Tom Corbin, in addition to a bronze plate engraved with their name and award details.

Bambi Nancy Shen
Bambi Nancy Shen

Mike Keefe, a mathematician who later became a Pulitzer prize-winning political cartoonist received the Spotlight Award. The Bill French Alumni Service award was granted to Michael S.J Albano, an esteemed lawyer and avid Roo athletics fan. Bambi Nancy Shen accepted the Defying the Odds award which aptly defines her life. She was born in French Indonesia China (modern-day Vietnam) and endured internment concentration camps as a child after Japan took control over Vietnam. She later traveled to the United States and prevailed as an educator, business woman, and philanthropist. In 2011 she published her memoir, “The Uncrushable Rose.”

Since 1929, three generations of the Waldman family have graduated from UMKC. The Waldman generations stood on stage as they were bestowed with the Legacy award

Jawole Willa Jo Zollar walked away with the Alumna of the Year
award. As a dance pioneer, she founded the dance company Urban Bush Women in 1984 to explore the cultural influences of the African Diaspora.

“I had such an amazing experience here at UMKC of teachers, life long friends, and college room mates who are here,” Zollar said. I’m just filled with gratitude to be standing here in this moment.”

Zollar mentioned the dance term core-distal as she described her experience as a UMKC graduate.

Jawole Willa Jo Zollar
Jawole Willa Jo Zollar

“I have been able to move out into the world in a powerful way because of the the strength of my training, education, and the amazing teachers that I’ve had at UMKC,” Zollar said.

Each year, a graduate from each school and college is honored with the academic unit’s alumni achievement award. The recipients received a bronze Kangaroo statue designed by Corbin and an engraved plate with their name and award details.

Among those recipients were Peggy Dunn, mayor of Leawood, Kan., and Cole Haynes, a scientist and renowned professor at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

Alum William E. Osborn started working at the age of 11 after the death of his father. Years later he owned and operated Osborn Drugs in Miami, Okla. He supported pharmacy students and earned a number of community awards. Osborn passed away this year prior to receiving his award.

“This will be the second time in our Alumni Awards history that we have given an award posthumously, but it fills or hearts to be able to honor him in this way,” said Event Chair Michelle P. Wimes.

His family accepted the award on his behalf.

A renowned attorney, musician, a husband-and-wife engineering team, physicians, humanitarians, artists and educators were among those honored during the celebration, as well.

The Chancellor’s Medal is the highest non-academic award given at the Chancellor’s discretion to a volunteer who has shown unparalleled UMKC support and service. During the medals 54-year history it has only been bestowed three times.
The China Society for People’s Friendship Studies (PFS) received this rare honor for being UMKCs liaison, host, and connection to China. They will receive a personally engraved medal, designed and hand crafted by artist Robyn Nichols. The medal will be formally presented in October to the Chinese Delegation from the PFS during the 2014 Edgar Snow Symposium held in Kansas City, Mo.

Attendees donated $11,000 during the luncheon which prompted a $5,000 matching grant pledged by the UMKC Board of Trustees.

“We also want to thank the former alumni reward recipients for continuing to support this event,” Morton said.

Awards Luncheon at Swinney Recreation Center
Awards Luncheon at Swinney Recreation Center

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