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2019 Washburn Alumni Awards


Distinguished Service Award

This award recognizes alumni who have made personal and professional contributions to society, demonstrated exemplary support to the Washburn University Alumni Association and the community, been of service to humanity, distinguished themselves in their careers and brought honor to Washburn through their accomplishments.

Deanna Bisel, bba '70

Dee BiselDee Bisel retired in 2018 as owner and CEO of Minuteman Press of Lawrence, Kansas, a business she started in 1993. She developed the franchise and saw consistent growth with more than 1,000 client accounts. Minuteman Press was the first Kansas printer named a Sustainable Green Printer. Printing and Imaging Association of Mid-America named her executive of the year in 2012, and the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce named her small business of the year in 2009. She is an ABWA woman of the year and an ATHENA award winner. Bisel serves on the board of directors and board of trustees for the Washburn University Alumni Association and Foundation. She is an executive board member for the Printing and Imaging Association of Mid-America and a board member for SERTOMA, where she created the SERTOMA BBQ event that has raised $250,000 for the Lawrence SERTOMA Club philanthropies.

A Washburn memory that has influenced your life: At 5 p.m. on June 8, 1966, I locked the front door of the Crane Observatory. At 7:30, I watched on TV the building being destroyed by the tornado. My love for Washburn started that summer as I was inspired by the faculty and alumni who jumped right in and started cleaning and rebuilding. I still marvel at the fact classes started on time in September.

Mark Ross, bba '83

Mark RossFor 28 years, Mark Ross enjoyed a career in various sales and sales management roles at Monroe Systems for Business, Savin Corporation and Ricoh Corporation, nationwide providers of office technology solutions. During this time, he earned the Branch Sales Manager Outstanding Performance Award six times as the top sales manager in the nation, and he also achieved 21 President's Club awards. Over the past six years, he has worked as a sales and marketing business consultant based in Overland Park, Kansas. Ross serves as a Washburn University Alumni Association and Foundation trustee and director and he served on the Washburn Alumni Association board of directors for six years. He serves on the Alpha Delta alumni board of directors and he received the fraternity's Outstanding Alumnus award in 2012. He volunteers for several community organizations including Heart to Heart International.

How has your Washburn experience contributed to your life and career: My experience at Washburn and Alpha Delta helped impress upon me the importance of relationship building, teamwork and adaptability. These are some of the values that continue to guide my professional and personal life today. My favorite memories from Washburn have evolved from the friendships I developed as a student to the relationships I have established as an alumnus through participation with all the great Ichabods involved with the Washburn University Alumni Association and Foundation.


Lilla Day Monroe Award

This award honors women who have distinguished themselves as teachers, instructors, administrators or benefactors at Washburn and also have given service to the community and/or their chosen professions. The award is named after suffragist, lawyer and publisher Lilla Day Monroe.

Joan Barker, b ed '75

Joan BarkerJoan Barker grew up playing on Washburn’s campus, earned her degree as an Ichabod and is still involved in the university. She’s an alumna of Kappa Alpha Theta, having served on the advisory and alumnae boards and was honored as Theta of the Year as an alumna. She was initiated into NONOSO as a student and served as a sponsor. Barker taught second grade at Most Pure Heart of Mary for seven years and has been executive secretary of the Topeka High School Historical Society for 25 years, organizing events and fundraising initiatives and keeping track of graduates. She stays involved at Washburn – still living a few blocks from campus – by attending events and concerts.

How has Washburn influenced your life: From my early memories, the campus was a place of carefree fun. I flew kites on the golf course and traveled every sidewalk on my bike. It provided the best faculty, mentors, role models and people who I wish to emulate. It has provided volunteer opportunities that helped me realize the importance of giving back. It gave me the gift of beautiful friendships and the realization that structures can inspire, but it’s the people inside those buildings who create memories.


Col. John Ritchie Award

This award honors men who have distinguished themselves as teachers, instructors, administrators or benefactors at Washburn and also have given service to the community and/or their chosen professions. The award is named after Col. John Ritchie, who donated the land on which Washburn is built.

Paul Etzel, bs '71

Paul EtzelPaul Etzel retired in 2014 as professor of astronomy and director of the Mount Laguna Observatory at San Diego State University. He served as astronomy department chair from 2000-05. He obtained $1.3 million in external grants and mentored dozens of graduate students on their thesis committees. He lives in Topeka and is a trustee with the Washburn University Alumni Association and Foundation. He and his wife, Rita, are engaged donors, having established scholarships for nursing and Washburn University Institute of Technology students, and an endowment for instructional support for physics and astronomy. They attend football and basketball games, alumni events and concerts on campus.

Share your fondest memory about Washburn: Dr. R. Stanley Alexander of Washburn University delivered two lectures about his research on eclipsing binary stars at the University of Kansas in 1968. Those lectures proved to be life changing and prompted me to transfer to Washburn. Washburn had the only functional research telescope in Kansas on the roof of Stoffer Hall. It was equipped with a photoelectric photometer built by Alexander, and he mentored me in obtaining, reducing and analyzing photometric observations. One night, my observations were interrupted at about 2 a.m. by a police helicopter shining its searchlight into the dome slit, which was soon followed by the sounds of the campus police banging on the observatory door.


Graduate of the Last Decade (GOLD) Award

This award honors recent Washburn graduates who demonstrate leadership in career or civic endeavors and loyalty to Washburn. Recipients of the award must have graduated within the past 10 years.

Billie Jean Graham, bba '09

Billie Jean GrahamBillie Jean Graham interned at BNSF Railway while at Washburn and that experience provided her a job when she graduated. She is now director of payroll services. She was a senior manager in payroll from 2016-18, and she held numerous positions before that, moving up from a corporate management trainee. She was noted early on for her problem solving and analytical skills and she helped design and implement electronic income withholding orders, saving the company time and decreasing potential errors. Graham has earned three achievement awards with BNSF and was a Topeka’s Top 20 Under 40 honoree in 2015. She served on the Washburn Alumni Association board of directors, and she volunteers at BNSF on the United Way committee and the Christmas Train committee.

Share your fondest memory about Washburn: When I was about to graduate from Washburn, I sat in the Memorial Union with Jeannie Shy from the Foundation and discussed establishing an endowed scholarship fund. It was such a surreal moment and something I will always remember. Through the generosity of multiple Washburn donors, I was able to graduate with minimal debt. I was about to become a Washburn donor and do the same thing for future Ichabods. It was an amazing feeling!


Honorary Ichabod Award

This award is given to individuals who are not graduates of Washburn University, but whom we recognize for their steadfast support of Washburn by way of their time, talent or treasure.

DL Smith

DL SmithDL Smith attended Washburn University before establishing DL Smith Electrical Construction in 1972. He retired after 33 years as owner and president. He was active in industry-related associations, including serving on the State Building Advisory Commission from 1978-2015. He was on the City of Topeka electrical board for 30 years and was a board member of the Better Business Bureau of Northeast Kansas. In 1989, he was inducted as a fellow into the Academy of Electrical Contracting and in 2000, he won the National Electrical Contractors Association Comstock Award for work in labor relations. In 1997, he received the McGraw Award for the advancement of the electrical contracting industry. He was a member of Phi Delta Theta while at Washburn and was named Phi of the Year in 1981. He has remained active at the University by serving on the Washburn University Alumni Association and Foundation board of directors and board of trustees.

Share your fondest memory about Washburn: My fondest memories were the friendships I developed in the Phi Delta fraternity and the students I met and studied with, especially while attending night school. Washburn showed me the importance of learning in order to be more proficient in your chosen profession or field of work.

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1729 MacVicar Avenue
Topeka, KS 66604 Phone: 785.670.4483
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