Meet the 2020 UMKC Alumni Awardees

Sixteen alumni and one family will be honored April 24, 2020
2020 UMKC Alumni Awards

The University of Missouri-Kansas City Class of 2020 Alumni Achievement Award recipients includes a national leader in radiology, a corporate immigration attorney, a Latin Grammy award winner and the owner of Bier Station.

Each year, the UMKC Alumni Association recognizes individual alumni and one family with top honors. This year's recipients will be inducted on Friday, April 24, 2020, when the Alumni Association will highlight each awardee's story and accomplishments during an evening program at the James C. Olson Performing Arts Center followed by a reception.

University-Wide Alumni Awardees

Alumnus of the Year: Alexander Norbash (M.D. ’86)

An interventional neuroradiologist, a highly technical specialty that addresses life-and-death matters with techniques requiring high precision and composure, Alexander Norbash serves as chair and professor of the Department of Radiology, associate vice chancellor for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and adjunct professor of Neurosurgery at the University of California San Diego (UC San Diego). Norbash has been instrumental in inventing and implementing new technologies which are less invasive and more effective for treating strokes and brain aneurysms.

He is currently president of the Society of Chairs of Academic Radiology Departments and president-elect of the American Roentgen Ray Society. Additionally, he’s founding chair of the American College of Radiology (ACR) Head Injury Institute that seeks to standardize reporting of traumatic brain injuries and has been funded by the Department of Defense. Prior to joining UC San Diego, Norbash was chairman and professor of Radiology and assistant dean for Diversity and Multicultural Affairs at Boston University.

Spotlight Award: Mark McHenry (M.P.A. ’89)

Mark McHenry retired as director of the City of Kansas City, Missouri’s Parks and Recreation Department at the end of 2018 but the accomplishments from his 44-year career there — including adding 34 parks, six community centers and doubling the size of the Kansas City Zoo — will endure for generations to come.

McHenry’s leadership was evident not only in the region, but on a national scale as well. A member of the National Recreation and Parks Association since 1984, he was inducted into the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration in 2004 and served as president of the board in 2018. A perennial ambassador for UMKC, McHenry has lent his expertise to the university as a member of the Department of Public Affairs Advisory Council and helping to develop the executive master’s of public administration program. He recently joined landscape architecture and planning design firm Ochsner Hare & Hare, the Olsson Studio, to help with local and regional business development. This summer, he was appointed to the Missouri Conservation Commission by Gov. Mike Parson for a six-year term.

The Bill French Alumni Service Award: James Polsinelli (J.D. ’67, H.D. ’13)

Since starting a law firm in 1972 with two fellow UMKC alumni, James Polsinelli’s name has become synonymous with legal services in Kansas City. His trademark integrity, entrepreneurial spirit and adaptability have made his firm one of the city’s largest. In addition to a successful, 51-year legal career, Polsinelli is known for his ardent and longstanding support of UMKC and the Kansas City community. He currently serves as chair of the UMKC Board of Trustees and as a director on the UMKC Foundation Board. He supports the university’s students by sponsoring receptions at his firm, advocating for the university in Jefferson City and, in 2018, he co-chaired the UMKC Alumni Awards event that raises money for student scholarships.

A hallmark trait of Polisnelli’s style is his ability to inspire others and empower them to act — whether he’s passing on his excitement for service or mentoring a new generation of lawyers. His passion for giving back to the community extends beyond UMKC and includes work with the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority, Rockhurst High School and the Kansas City Bar Association.

Defying the Odds Award: Hagos Andebrhan (B.S.C.E. ’78)

From a one-room household in Eritrea, a country in eastern Africa, to CEO of Taliaferro & Browne, a lead civil engineering firm in Kansas City, Hagos Andebrhan’s hard work and dedication have earned him success in the United States. The youngest of five children, Andebrhan came to the U.S. in 1970 to join an advanced airline pilot training program in Kansas City but ended up meeting his mentor and the founder of Taliaferro & Browne, Will Taliaferro, and changing careers.

While completing his bachelor’s and master’s degrees and doctoral candidacy in civil engineering, Andebrhan worked full-time as a draftsman at Taliaferro & Browne as well as supporting his wife and children and family back in Eritrea. After Will Taliaferro’s death in 1990, Andebrhan and Leonard Graham, a fellow UMKC alumnus, purchased the company. Since then the company has grown to nearly 60 employees and has worked on numerous projects in Kansas City, including Berkley Riverfront Park, Science City in Union Station and the Kansas City Power and Light District.

Legacy Award: The Edelman Family

The Edelman Family’s UMKC legacy begins when 12-year-old Doris Tager fled Nazi Germany in 1938. Sponsored by members of the local Jewish community, her family traveled to the Netherlands and Cuba before arriving in Kansas City. She’d go on to attend the University of Kansas City (now UMKC) and graduate in 1947 with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and economics. That same year, Doris met her husband William Edelman, a fellow Roo who would graduate in 1954 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Doris had a successful career as a stockbroker and was the first female vice president and partner of B.C. Christopher and Company where she worked for more than 20 years. William served patients in the heart of Kansas City as a family physician for more than 50 years before retiring in 2001.

Their oldest son, Mark (J.D. ’75), founded the Theater League, Inc., a not-for-profit community-based performing arts organization that presented the best of Broadway to Kansas City audiences for forty-two years.

Youngest son Ron (J.D. ’82) opened one of the region’s most successful law practices — Edelman and Thompson — with James Thompson in 1994.

Middle son Alan and his wife Debbie Sosland-Edelman, great supporters of UMKC, also connect with the university through their son Alexander (J.D. ’12). He started his own firm with two other UMKC alumni and was recognized by the National LGBT Bar Association as one of the “40 Best Attorneys Under 40.”

School Alumni Achievement Award Recipients

College of Arts and Sciences: John Couture (B.A. ’95)

Owner/Operator, Bier Station

School of Biological and Chemical Sciences: Carl Hoff (Ph.D. ’77)

Professor of Chemistry, University of Miami

Henry W. Bloch School of Management: Heather Humphrey (MBA ’11)

Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, Evergy

School of Computing and Engineering: Bonnie Gorman (B.S.M.E. ’86)

Director, Programs, Northrop Grumman

Conservatory: Andrés Salguero (G.R.C.T. ’11, D.M.A. ’11)

President/Teaching Artist, 123 Andrés

School of Dentistry: Nick Rogers (D.D.S. ’78)

Dentist, Rogers Family Dentistry

School of Dentistry – Dental Hygiene: Cindy Sensabaugh (M.S. ’15)

Senior Manager, Professional Education & Academic Relations, Philips

School of Education: Mary Delac (M.A. ’98)

Principal, Our Lady of Hope Catholic School

School of Law: Mira Mdivani (J.D. ’99)

Business Immigration Attorney, Mdivani Corporate Immigration Law Firm

School of Medicine: Kevin Blinder (M.D. ’85)

Partner, The Retina Institute

School of Nursing and Health Studies: Theresa Maxwell (M.S.N. ’01)

Nurse Practitioner, Office Manager, Digestive Health Specialists

School of Pharmacy: Jerry Bauman (Pharm.D. ’77)

Editor, Pharmacotherapy Publications; Retired from University of Illinois at Chicago

Published: Sep 30, 2019
Posted In: Honors and Awards

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