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Washburn University Alumni Awards

The Alumni Awards honor alumni, employees and friends of Washburn University who distinguish themselves in their careers and their service to their community and the University.

The 2023 Alumni Award ceremony was Aug. 19. Information about the 2024 event will be released later.

2023 Honorees


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.

Robert Meinershagen, ba ’63, h ’21 

Robert Meinershagen head shotAward Presentation Video

Robert Meinershagen worked in sales and marketing of medical diagnostics products before starting his own company, Columbia Diagnostics, in 1976. Based in suburban Washington, D.C., the company distributed a full range of diagnostic instrumentation, reagents and laboratory disposables to the hospital, pathology and medical research laboratory markets. Meinershagen navigated the business into becoming a major pioneer in medical diagnostic kits until his retirement in 2000 when Columbia was sold to a large, multinational business. Meinershagen served on the board of trustees for the Washburn University Alumni Association and Foundation from 1997 until 2010 and remains a trustee emeritus. He was honored as an Alumni Fellow in 2000 and received an honorary doctor of science in 2021. Meinershagen was instrumental in creating the biology field laboratory in Karlyle Woods that now bears his name, and he and his wife’s contributions established the Robert E. & Helen L. Meinershagen Excellence in Biology Fund.

How has Washburn contributed to your life and career: My years as a student at Washburn were ones remembered as the most informative in my life. Looking back, my professors were always student centered, and I attribute that in part to the high quality of my education. It opened for me a range of opportunities and helped me succeed in my career and life. For this, I will always be grateful.

Brig. Gen. Deborah Rose, bsn ’82, h ’12 

Deborah Rose head shotAcceptance Speech Video

Brig. Gen. Deborah Rose served in the Air Force for 28 years and became the highest-ranking female to serve in the Kansas National Guard. She was a line officer leading at all levels of the 190th Air Refueling Wing of the Kansas Air National Guard. Rose was promoted to brigadier general in 2007 and was director of the Joint Force Headquarters, responsible for homeland security missions for the Kansas National Guard. She also served a dual-hat position as the Air National Guard assistant to the commander of the 17th Air Force. She received several awards including the Legion of Merit and the Meritorious Service Medal with Four Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters. She retired from the military in 2011. Alongside that service, Rose was a nurse at Colmery-O’Neil Veterans Administration Medical Center. She serves the Washburn University Alumni Association and Foundation as a director and trustee and is a member of Washburn Women’s Venture Partners and Nonoso. She and her siblings fund a Washburn Woman’s Alliance scholarship in their mother’s honor. She was a Washburn Alumni Fellow in 2007 and received an honorary doctor of public service from Washburn in 2012. Rose has served on the boards of directors of local organizations including Stormont Vail Foundation and Kansas STARBASE, Inc.

How has Washburn contributed to your life and career: I came to Washburn to ensure I could support my family if needed. Washburn gave me redemption after failing 10 years earlier, and as a non-traditional student, I always felt included. The School of Nursing provided an outstanding education for me and my nursing degree provided a variety of life skills no matter my position.


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.

Cynthia Hornberger, bsn ’78

Cindy Hornberger head shotAcceptance Speech Video

Cynthia Hornberger is a professor emeritus at Washburn University and currently teaches graduate courses in nursing and leadership. A member of the faculty since 1989, Hornberger served as dean of the School of Nursing from 2000-09 and special assistant to the president from 2010-16. Past administrative responsibilities also include leadership of the University Relations, Alumni Association and Strategic Analysis and Reporting departments. As special assistant to president Jerry Farley, she maintained communications with the Washburn board of regents and coordinated the development of the Leadership Washburn professional development program and the Vision 2022 Strategic Plan. As dean, she implemented the graduate nursing program, the Mobile Health Clinic and new international exchange programs. Hornberger has received awards for teaching, mentorship and research, and she earned certification as a Lean Six Sigma: Green Belt and as a Clinical Nurse Leader. She was named a Washburn Alumni Fellow in 2009. Along with other volunteer and leadership commitments, she serves on the Stormont Vail Health board of directors and is past-president of the Kansas Association of Colleges of Nursing.

How has Washburn contributed to your life and career: Washburn has been part of my life for nearly 50 years as a student, faculty and administrator. I treasure my memories of nursing school where I learned to be a professional nurse. Lessons learned helped me succeed in my nursing career as I sought to emulate my teachers to achieve the highest standards of my profession while helping others achieve their goals.


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.

Randall Scott, mba ’05

Randall Scott head shotAcceptance Speech Video

Randall Scott worked 22 years for the Washburn University Alumni Association and Foundation, retiring in 2020 as senior development director. He held several other roles including vice president of operations. Among many projects he helped raise funds for since starting in 1998, Scott said the Living Learning Center was his favorite because it changed the culture of the campus. He also played a key role in completing Washburn’s first comprehensive campaign, 150 Forward, which raised over $140 million. Scott started his career in banking before coming to Washburn. He and his wife, Kay, financially support several areas at Washburn and have established a music scholarship, an Ichabod Success Institute Scholarship and a Washburn Women’s Alliance Scholarship. They also pledged a gift to the new recital hall project. They are members of Washburn’s Lincoln Society for their lifetime cumulative contributions and of the Whiting Society for including Washburn in their estate plans.

How has Washburn contributed to your life and career: As a first-generation college graduate, I know firsthand the benefits of higher education. I love the mission of Washburn University and Washburn Tech, and it was very meaningful to be a part of transforming lives. The work of the Washburn University Alumni Association and Foundation to communicate with supporters, build relationships, engage and thank donors is significant to this mission. By far, my fondest memories are the many people I came to know, love and respect during my career. You are all intelligent, generous, interesting, kind and committed to strengthening our University and creating opportunities for students.


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.

Corey Ballentine, als ’19

Corey Ballentine head shotAcceptance Speech Video

Corey Ballentine is a cornerback for the Green Bay Packers of the NFL. He will be playing his second season with the Packers this fall and fifth season in the NFL. He has played in 40 career games with 48 tackles, two passes defended and an average of 23.8 yards per return as a kick-return specialist. Ballentine was drafted by the New York Giants in the sixth round and 180th overall pick of the 2019 draft. As a rookie, he played in 13 games with 26 tackles. He played two seasons for the Giants and has also played for the New York Jets and Detroit Lions. He wrapped up his Washburn football career in 2018 with the Cliff Harris Award as the small college defensive player of the year and with several All-America honors.

How has Washburn contributed to your life and career: Washburn has had such a big impact on my life, the people I’ve met – great people, great coaches, great faculty. Don’t underestimate the impact you have on people’s lives. The littlest things can go the longest ways. I would not be where I am without Washburn. I appreciate all the values that I’ve learned there – easy or hard. I appreciate them all.

Mallory Lutz, ba ’18

Mallory Lutz head shotAcceptance Speech Video

Mallory Lutz is a lobbyist at Little Government Relations in Topeka, Kansas. She started with the firm in 2018 and advocates on behalf of clients in the fields of public education, access to health care, children’s health, local governments and local food systems. She works with clients and legislators on policies aimed at improving the quality of life for Kansas kids, students, families and communities. She fosters relationships with lawmakers, agencies and partners to have meaningful debate and make progress on pressing issues for Kansans. Prior to that, she was a park ranger for the National Park Service at Brown v. Board of Education National Historical Park. Lutz serves or has served on the boards of YWCA Northeast Kansas, Forge Young Professionals, the Shawnee County Historical Society and Friends of the Free State Capitol, among others. She is a 2021 graduate of Kansas Emerging Leaders and a 2022 Topeka’s Top 20 Under 40 honoree. She has also written book reviews for “Kansas History: A Journal of the Central Plains.”

How has Washburn contributed to your life and career: Washburn immediately set me up for success not only academically but socially, professionally and financially. The history department in particular – its faculty and generous supporters and donors – enriched my educational experience beyond expectation. From working with professors my first semester to do honors projects and research, presenting at out-of-state history conferences, traveling to Canada to do archival research (thanks to an extremely generous donor), to getting an internship that would turn into my first real job, studying history at Washburn has truly been one of the best decisions I have made. 


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.

Matt Pivarnik

Matt Pivarnik head shotAcceptance Speech Video

Matt Pivarnik is president and CEO of the Greater Topeka Partnership, which was created in 2018 when the Greater Topeka Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Topeka Inc., GO Topeka, Visit Topeka and other economic development organizations merged. Pivarnik came to Topeka in 2016 to lead the chamber and GO Topeka. In completing Momentum 2022, GTP boasted a 24 percent increase in household income and a $2 billion increase in the gross domestic product. GTP, Pivarnik and several community leaders are currently embarking on Momentum 2027 to capitalize on that success. Pivarnik was previously executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Tulsa Regional Chamber, working with the organization for 16 years. He is the past-chair of the Chamber of Commerce Executives of Kansas, the US Chamber Institute for Organization Management’s national board of trustees and the board of regents for the US Chamber’s Institute for Organization Management at the University of Arizona. He serves or has served with several other organizations as well.

How has Washburn contributed to your life and career: Washburn University has been an integral part of my personal and professional life since my family first stepped foot in Topeka. The University is an integral part of our economy and future and is also a major contributor to our quality of place and life. And now my youngest son is fully immersed into the benefits as a student-athlete.

Laura Stephenson

Laura Stephenson head shotAcceptance Speech Video

Laura Stephenson is interim provost and vice president for academic affairs at Washburn University. She moved into that role in May 2022 after serving as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences since 2014. In her current role, she leads academic and faculty affairs of all academic units at Washburn and establishes academic priorities. In all her roles, she has been involved in several academic program expansions and creations. She has been integral in the recently announced seven-year plan to transform the learning spaces at Washburn, a plan that will involve several buildings and academic programs. She came to Washburn in 1985 as an assistant professor of psychology, served as chair of the psychology department from 2000-03 and became an associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences in 2004. Her psychology work has been in child clinical psychology and family therapy, and she worked at several medical centers and mental health agencies before beginning her career as an educator.

How has Washburn contributed to your life and career: Just as Washburn has transformed the lives of so many students, Washburn has shaped my life in unexpected ways, challenged me, supported me and inspired me. I came here expecting to spend a few years teaching and then move on to clinical practice, never imagining that I would end up devoting my career to higher education. This is such a special place where people aspire to our motto, “Non nobis solum.” Each day I am greeted with kindness, generosity and beauty. Being a part of Washburn has been a blessing for which I am exceedingly grateful. I am proud to be an Ichabod.

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1729 MacVicar Avenue
Topeka, KS 66604 Phone: 785.670.4483