Meet the Outstanding UMKC Alumni Being Recognized in 2022

Sixteen alumni and one family will be honored on April 29

The University of Missouri-Kansas City Class of 2022 Alumni Achievement Award recipients include the founder of a veterans housing program, a judge, national CEO and a legacy family whose education and contributions to UMKC have spanned generations.

Join us in honoring the Class of 2022 awardees in an in-person celebration at 6 p.m. April 29, at the James C. Olson Performing Arts Center. Visit UMKC's Alumni Association website to learn more about this year's honorees and the event. If you are unable to attend the event but would like to donate to student scholarships, contributions can be made online.

The Alumni Awards ceremony is one of the university’s largest events to support student scholarships. In the last decade, the Alumni Awards event has garnered more than $1 million in scholarships and immediate aid for UMKC students.

Co-chairs for the 2022 event are Dr. Joseph P. Spalitto (B.S. ’68, D.D.S. ’72) and Debbie Thompson (B.S.D.H. ’81)

University-Wide Alumni Awardees

Alumnus of the Year: Bryan Meyer (B.A. ’11, M.P.A. ’15, J.D. ‘15)

Bryan served in the Marine Corps for five years before coming to UMKC. After his Marine service, he earned three degrees from UMKC: Bachelor’s (2011), JD and MPA (2015). Following graduation in 2015, he then turned his attention to helping fellow veterans by helping to establish the Veterans Community Project (VCP) in Kansas City.
 
He now serves as the CEO of VCP, which is an innovative non-profit that provides housing for homeless veterans in a tiny home village. The village setting provides a sanctuary and emotional space needed for veterans to live and collaborate with those from similar backgrounds and shared experiences. A variety of services are offered to VCP residents, including a Veteran Support Services unit that works to address the underlying causes of homelessness. VCP also provides case managers who work with veterans to achieve incremental, lasting results in the areas of health and wellness, education, employment, financial literacy and the development of a personal support network. Bryan is driven by service and is passionate about building an organization that serves veterans.

Spotlight Award: Riddhiman Das (B.S. ’12, M.S. ‘19)

Das graduated from UMKC with a bachelor’s degree in computer science in 2012 and earned his master’s degree in computer science in 2019. While in school he was a part of the Henry W. Bloch School of Management Entrepreneurship Scholars program, which allows students to develop a business idea alongside a peer group while working with mentors who are accomplished local entrepreneurs.

In the fall of 2019, Das launched a company called TripleBlind, where he currently serves as CEO & Co-Founder. TripleBlind offers data privacy as a service to companies, allowing them to safely provide and consume sensitive data and algorithms in an encrypted space, without compromising privacy or security. Das has spent most of his career in leadership and has held various technical roles in software and product development, academia and consulting across a variety of industries. He is a recipient of the 2013 White House Champion of Change award presented by President Barack Obama. Das was named the 2013 Technologist of the Year by Silicon Prairie News and was featured in Ingram’s Kansas City Business Magazine in 2014.

The Bill French Alumni Service Award: Ann Mesle (J.D. ‘72)

In the midst of building a successful law career, Judge Ann Mesle has dedicated a significant amount of time and service to her alma matter, UMKC. She has served on several boards including the UMKC Law Foundation (President), UMKC Trustees, Martha Starr Education Fund (Co-Chair) and the Board of Diastole-Hospital Hill (Chair). She has received the UMKC Law Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award, its Alumni Achievement Award and its Best Friend Award.

Judge Mesle’s leadership has been demonstrated on various UMKC boards and committees including the Capital Campaign and Stewardship and Events (Chair), UMKC Trustees Board and Executive Board, Athletic Foundation, UMKC Trustees Initiative-Law, Law Foundation Board, Law Foundation, and as a Law Foundation Emeritus Trustee. Additionally, she has served on the boards of innumerable civic organizations, including years of service to the Kansas City Bar.

Defying the Odds Award: Susan Wilson, Ph.D. (MBA ’05)

Susan Wilson, Ph.D. (MBA ’05) is a proud UMKC graduate whose professional accomplishments are a stellar reflection on the University. Susan attended the University of Pittsburgh and earned three degrees. She pushed past poverty, discouragement from professors, racism and discrimination to seek research opportunities and guidance needed to prepare her for the application process for the school’s graduate psychology program. Susan was accepted to the clinical psychology program and matriculated through the very rigorous program as a single parent of two children.

Susan went on to complete her Ph.D. and secured a post-doctoral fellowship at the Menninger Foundation in Topeka. She moved to Kansas City in 1989 and went on to have a multifaceted career in healthcare administration, education and broadcasting. She served as a treating clinician for the Kansas City Chiefs and the National Football League (NFL). In 2005 Susan received her MBA at UMKC and in 2008 became the associate dean for diversity and community partnership at the UMKC School of Medicine. She was named vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion in 2014. During her tenure, she implemented a comprehensive, campus-wide plan for diversity and inclusion, built diversity and inclusion training programs, launched the Faculty Diversity Dialogues program and campus Diversity Advocates programs for students and employees. She retired from her role in January 2021, but has continued working with the School of Dentistry in a diversity and inclusion role.

Legacy Award: North/Cheadle Family

The North/Cheadle family’s UMKC legacy dates back to the 1960’s. Don Cheadle Sr. (M.A. ’70) and his brother-in-law  Basil North Jr. (B.A. ‘61, J.D. ‘71) were the first in their family to graduate from Kansas City’s university and laid the path for many generations that followed to become ‘Roos.

North’s daughters, Sheryl North (M.D. ’82) and Maria North Morgan (J.D. ’91) are both UMKC alumni. A host of other relatives have attended UMKC including: Glenn North, Jr. (M.F.A. ’20), Stasi Bobo–Ligon (B.B.A. ’88), Dione Cheadle (B.A. ’89), Myles Cheadle (attended) and Kellie North (attended).

Not only did members of this family graduate and/or attend UMKC, they selected different coursework, so this award represents excellence across several schools on campus. Many of these students have also succeeded in other interests such as art and music. The family is also very committed to public service, with many participating in numerous and impactful volunteer initiatives.

 

School Alumni Achievement Award Recipients

College of Arts and Sciences: Melissa Zarda (B.A. ’02, M.A. ‘07)

Owner, Pixel Lunch LLC

School of Biological and Chemical Sciences: Joseph Lambing (Ph.D. ‘90)

Senior Vice President, Bristol Myers Squibb, formerly MyoKardia (retired) 

Henry W. Bloch School of Management: Mike Perry (B.B.A. ’89)

President & CEO, Hallmark Cards, Inc.

School of Computing and Engineering: Jungwoo Ryoo (B.S. ’96, M.S. ’98)

Professor, Information Sciences and Technology; director, Division of Business, Engineering, and Information Sciences and Technology (BEIST), the Pennsylvania State University-Altoona.

Conservatory: Dr. Xi Wang (M.M. ’03)

Associate Professor, Music Composition and Theory, Southern Methodist University

School of Dentistry: Brenda Bohaty (Ph.D. ’09)

Nelson Professor and Chair, Department of Pediatric Dentistry, University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Dentistry

School of Dentistry – Dental Hygiene: Jo Ann Weatherwax  (B.S.D.H. ’06, M.S. ’12)

Founder/director, Volusia County Health Department Dental Program (retired)

School of Education: Lucero Garibay (M.A. ‘16)

Floor Supervisor and Psychotherapist, Pilsen Wellness Center

School of Law: J. Kent Emison (J.D. ’81)

Partner, Langdon & Emison LLC

School of Medicine: Lucky Atul Chopra (B.A. ’91, M.D. ’92)

CEO, Advanced Diagnostics Healthcare

School of Nursing and Health Studies: Leslie Luke (M.S.N. ’00)

Family Nurse Practitioner/Owner, The Care Clinic

School of Pharmacy: Janelle Sabo (Pharm.D. ’00)

Vice President of Clinical Capabilities, Eli Lilly and Company

 

Published: Dec 15, 2021

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