Mar 26, 2007    #041
Contact: Noemi Rojas
(815) 235-1520

UMKC announces its 2006-07 Alumni Achievement Award winners

    The University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) has selected 17 outstanding alumni for 2006-07.

    One alumnus from each of the university’s 12 academic units is chosen for notable success in his or her profession and for outstanding community service. In addition, five alumni will be honored for inspiring and leading at a level that crosses disciplines and expectations.

    UMKC’s Alumni Association will highlight their stories and achievements in front of an anticipated crowd of 700 at a dinner and program at 5:30 p.m. April 19, in the Swinney Recreation Center, 5030 Holmes St., Kansas City, Mo.

Alumnus of the Year, Rocky Levell, R.Ph. (B.S.P. 1979)

Partner and Co-owner, Community Hospices of America

As partner and co-owner of the fifth-largest hospice in the nation, Levell serves the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of patients and their families in six states. He works closely with the Missouri Department of Health and Human Services as the primary trainer for nursing home staff caring for patients in their last phase of life. In his spare time, he also serves the Rainbow Network, a Christian ministry in rural Nicaragua that provides health care, education, housing and micro-loans to some of the world’s poorest people.

Defying the Odds Award, Obie Austin (M.S.N. 1999)

Advanced Practice Nurse, UMKC Student Health and Wellness Center, Rediscover Rehabilitation Service, Kansas City Free Health Clinic

Austin grew up in inner-city Kansas City, Mo., in a home with 16 other family members. He had no money and little preparation for college but managed to complete his undergraduate education in seven and a half years. After earning a master’s degree in nursing at UMKC, he has devoted his life to serving the underprivileged urban population through local health clinics.

Legacy Award, The Bloch Family

Founders, H&R Bloch 

Beginning with Leon Bloch Sr., a 1902 graduate of the University of Kansas City Law School (predecessor to the UMKC School of Law), three generations of Bloch have left of powerful legacy at UMKC. After Leon Bloch Sr.’s death in 1976, the family helped establish the UMKC Law School’s Leon E. Bloch Law Library and later made donations to create the Henry W. Bloch School of Business and Public Administration. Most recently, Henry Bloch’s children, Robert Bloch, Tom Bloch, Liz Uhlmann, Mary Jo Browne and their spouses dedicated the Marion Bloch Terrace and Park, a landscaped park adjacent to the UMKC Bloch School. In addition, the family has funded countless scholarships and endowed faculty positions.

Spotlight Award, Steve Bernstein (J.D., M.B.A. 1991)

Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Bernstein Rein Advertising

The Spotlight Award is given to the person who has brought positive attention to UMKC and its home city, making Bernstein the perfect choice for this year’s honor. Through the dedicated service of his advertising firm, Bernstein has given UMKC a clear identity by way of a new branding and marketing initiative. His support of UMKC and his significant community involvement have gone a long way toward bolstering Kansas City’s image as well.

Bill French Alumni Service Award, Angela Bennett (B.A. 1974, J.D. 1977)

Regional Director, U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights

Bennett, a Kansas City native, knows what it means to serve the public. The former president of the University of Missouri System Board of Curators has worked to ensure all citizens are aware of their rights and responsibilities through her work with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights and the State of Missouri’s Consumer Protection Division.


Alumni Achievement Awards (by academic unit)

College of Arts & Sciences, John Mark Eberhart (M.A. 1998)

Author and Books Editor, The Kansas City Star

Eberhart has expanded The Kansas City Star’s literary coverage to an unprecedented degree. Beyond his history of professional triumphs, he has used his influence, talent and energy to advance the reputation of the UMKC literary community.

Conservatory of Music and Dance, Dee Hansen (D.M.A. 1991)

Chair of Graduate Studies in Music Education, Hartt School, University of Hartford

For nearly a decade, Hansen led fine arts advocates in lobbying the Kansas State Board of Education to ensure fine arts courses remained a permanent fixture of education. She succeeded in 2002, when the state’s graduation requirements were revised to include a fine arts course for the first time and music and arts courses became a required component of kindergarten through eighth grade curriculum.

Henry W. Bloch School of Business and Public Administration, Richard Gibson (M.B.A. 2002)

Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer, Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce

A native of Raytown, Mo., Gibson served his country in Vietnam and spent 26 years of his life in the U.S. Army. His ability to get things done earned Gibson an Executive Masters of Business Administration (EMBA) degree from the Bloch School and put him in a position to build and strengthen Kansas City’s economy in the 21st century.

School of Biological Sciences, Keith Gary (Ph.D. 1993)

Director of Program Development, Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute

A former emergency medical technician, Gary made significant contributions to the field of psychiatry during his blossoming career in academics at Dartmouth Medical School and the University of Connecticut Health Center. In 2003, he was appointed director of development at the Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute, where he has since worked tirelessly to ensure the city’s medical community receives the support it needs to be a regional leader.

School of Computing and Engineering, Fahim Siddiqui (M.S. 1993)

Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Sereniti, Inc.

Always on the cutting edge of telecommunications and computer technology, Siddiqui has been the force behind the success of companies such as Sprint, Time Warner and MCI. Software systems developed under his leadership and direct technical guidance are also used by the Chicago Stock Exchange, the New York Board of Trade and the National Security Agency. His most recent venture, Sereniti Inc., offers technology and support services to assist the average computer owner in setting up a home network, protecting against viruses and hacking and keeping software up to date.

School of Dentistry, Thomas A. Jones (D.D.S. 1966)

Clinical Assistant Professor, UMKC School of Dentistry

Jones battled racism all his life, whether it was in music competitions or as a student in the UMKC School of Dentistry. He was only the second African-American to graduate from the school and then spent the rest of his life providing dental care to the less fortunate in Kansas City and Central America.

School of Dentistry, Division of Dental Hygiene, Rebecca Wilder (M.S. 1979)

Director, Graduate Dental Hygiene Program, University of North Carolina School of Dentistry

Wilder has served as a consultant for leading dental hygiene companies, such as Colgate and Proctor and Gamble. She frequently speaks at conferences and has published more than 35 times in peer-reviewed journals. She currently serves as editor in chief of the Journal of Dental Hygiene and is working on the second edition of “Dental Hygiene: Concepts, Cases and Competencies,” one of only three comprehensive books for dental hygienists.

School of Education, Maggie Finefrock (M.A. 1987)

Chief Learning Officer, The Learning Project

As a member of the Teachers Corps in the 1970s, Finefrock helped desegregate Norfolk State University; as a member of the Peace Corps in the 1980s, she taught English to students and educators in Nepal; and as the director of Kansas City Harmony, she brought together media, educational institutions, businesses and community groups to increase multicultural understanding and combat racism. Today, through her consulting business The Learning Project, Finefrock helps businesses throughout the world in race relations, organizational development and conflict mediation.

School of Law, Irvin V. Belzer (J.D. 1976)

Senior Partner, Bryan Cave

Belzer’s list of involvements is varied, ranging from the Kansas City Area Development Council to the Jewish Community Foundation. It’s through his dedication to the community that this Kansas City son shows why he was chosen as a 2007 Alumni Award Winner.

School of Medicine, Christine Sullivan (B.A. 1982, M.D. 1985)

Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine and Residency Program Director, Truman Medical Center

In addition her role as popular mentor to UMKC’s medical students, Sullivan has played a key role in establishing Kansas City’s high quality of emergency medical care. As a member of the mayor’s Emergency Physicians Advisory Board, she advises the MAST ambulance system on treatment protocols and quality assurance of prehospital care. She was also involved in securing Overland Park Regional Medical Center’s designation as Kansas’ third Level II trauma center.

School of Nursing, Joyce Townser (B.S.N. 1996)

Region VII Women’s Health Coordinator, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Over the past decade, Townser has spearheaded countless projects aimed at raising awareness about women’s health, including programs focused on breast and cervical cancer, heart disease and domestic abuse. She also was an instrumental resource for the UMKC schools of nursing and medicine when they sought and obtained funding for the National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health, the only such center in a four-state region and one of only 21 of its kind nationwide.

School of Pharmacy, Susan McCann, R.Ph. (B.S.P. 1977)

Chief Administrator, Missouri Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs

McCann’s watchdog role ensures the compliance of controlled-substance laws among health care practitioners. She has saved the state thousands of dollars and protected the well-being of countless patients. Prior to her work with the Bureau, McCann spent 19 years helping draft Missouri Medicaid legislation.


The University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC), one of four University of Missouri campuses, is a public university serving more than 14,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students. UMKC engages with the community and economy based on a three-part mission: visual and performing arts, health sciences and urban affairs.

This information is available to people with speech or hearing impairments by calling Relay Missouri at (800) 735-2966 (TT) or (800) 735-2466 (voice).



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