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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 2021 Alumni Award recipients were honored on Aug. 7. Check back later for information on the 2022 honorees.

 

 

2021 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.

Michael J. Kuckelman, bba '86, jd '90

Michael KuckelmanMichael Kuckelman is a founder and shareholder at Kuckelman Torline Kirkland Law, a firm in Overland Park, Kansas, started eight years ago. Prior to that, he practiced for Kansas City, Missouri, firm Blackwell Sanders (now Husch Blackwell) and was a member of the Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee appointed by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York to litigate the 9/11 World Trade Center litigation, which resulted in a $1.2 billion settlement for the plaintiffs. Kuckelman is a member of the bars of Kansas, Missouri and New York, as well as England and Wales. He is a member of the Washburn University Alumni Association and Foundation board of directors and board of trustees, as well as the Washburn University School of Law Alumni Association board of governors. He and his wife Jo are co-presidents of Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas Snowball 2020. His also chair of the Kansas Republican Party and sits on the Benedictine College board of directors. He offers pro bono attorney service to families adopting children.

What are your fondest memories of Washburn: They tend to center around my time at Alpha Delta fraternity. I will be forever grateful for the friendships and growing up that occurred at Alpha Delta. It has a lifelong impact. I met my wife, Jo, at Washburn. Many of my close friends today are friends dating back to my time at Washburn. Since we are both Washburn graduates, it is fun for us to attend the Washburn Wednesdays and visit with other Washburn graduates and reminisce about the great memories we all share from our days at Washburn.

Jeanne Vawter, ba '70, m ed '93

Jeanne VawterJeanne Vawter has lived a life of service to the Topeka community and to Washburn. She retired in 2010 as principal of Jardine Middle School, a position she held since 1998. There, she implemented flexible scheduling, allowing staff to meet as teams and improve student success. She was assistant principal for two years before that and was a teacher, science department chair and curriculum coordinator in nine years at Robinson Middle School. She was a member of the Washburn Alumni Association board of directors for eight years and served as president. Vawter serves on the SILVERBACKKS board of directors as president and on the CASA citizens review board. She volunteers with League of Women Voters, Child Care Aware Designers’ Showhouse, with Zeta Tau Alpha sorority and in her grandchildren’s elementary schools.

What are your fondest memories of Washburn: I have three. First, in elementary school, we lived on campus so my dad could attend college and law school. Many friends were made, and a lot of mischievousness was created. Second, as a student, my favorite time of year was fall and Homecoming – decorating houses, sharing friendships and the smell of a burning woodpile and leaves. Finally, since we have become alumni members, we have formed so many great friendships and experiences. We count our Washburn friends as part of our family.

 

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.

Patty Dick, b ed '71

Patricia DickPatricia Dick is considered a pioneering legend in Topeka, increasing access to physical education and organized sports for females throughout her coaching and teaching positions at Washburn University and Washburn Rural High School. She taught PE at WRHS from 1971-77, starting the girls’ sports program. After that, she went to Washburn University where she taught and coached until 2000. An educator first and a coach second, Dick had to schedule games for the sports she taught, staff the games and provide transportation for road games. She was head softball coach for seven years and head women’s basketball coach for 23 years. She was able to award three full-ride scholarships for the first time in 1983-84, and the team won a conference championship and advanced to the NAIA national tournament for the first time that year. She won three CSIC and two MIAA conference titles in her career. After leaving Washburn, she became executive director of the Arthritis Foundation of Kansas from 2000-15. She has been a trustee of the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame, a member of the YMCA board of directors, and she started and operated a girl’s summer basketball league for more than 18 years.

How has Washburn contributed to your life: Going to Washburn University helped build my skills to enjoy a 30-year career teaching physical education and coaching numerous sports including as head basketball coach at Washburn for 23 years.

 

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.

Dr. David G. Woods, b music '65

David WoodsDavid Woods has worked his entire life to bring music and fine arts education to thousands of students and improve community access to the arts. He served as dean of the School of Fine Arts at the University of Connecticut from 2000-12 and retired from the faculty in 2015 with dean emeritus status. There, he developed the first and only partnership with the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. Prior to that, he served as dean of the School of Music at Indiana University, dean of the College of Fine Arts at the University of Oklahoma, director of the School of Music at the University of Arizona and chair of the division of music education at Iowa State University. Woods has written numerous books and articles on music education and has developed music curriculum for all levels. Residing in Topeka upon retirement, he serves on the boards of the Topeka Symphony Orchestra endowment, the Sunflower Music Festival and Pine Ridge Health Center. A Washburn Alumni Fellow honoree in 1992, he and his husband, Dr. Ted Yungclas, fund a Washburn music faculty development endowment and provided the lead gift for new Marching Ichabods uniforms last year.

How has Washburn contributed to your life: I will never forget standing in Moore Bowl playing the Star-Spangled Banner with tears running down my cheeks with pride for our country and for Washburn University. Profs. Everett Fetter, James K. Van Slyke and Floyd Hedberg were instrumental in preparing me for a career not only in music education, but in arts administration.

 

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.

Shelbie Konkel, ba '14

Shelbie KonkelShelbie Konkel was appointed senior advisor to Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly in December 2020. She previously served as chief of staff to Lt. Gov. Lynn Rogers and as the deputy executive director of the Governor’s Recovery Office which invested and administered the state’s discretionary allocation of CARES Act funding. Konkel has extensive experience in the Kansas legislature, working previously as the caucus and communications director for the House minority leader and as the legislative director to the Senate minority leader. She also worked on various federal and state campaigns. Since graduating, Konkel has been a member of the Washburn Alumni Association Young Alumni Council, served as general advisor to the Washburn Chapter of Zeta Tau Alpha and has been a volunteer coach for the Washburn debate team.

How has Washburn contributed to your life and career: Washburn truly shaped who I am today – both personally and professionally – by providing me with unique opportunities that taught me more about myself and the world around me. One of those experiences was a legislative internship in the Kansas Senate in 2012 that really helped start the trajectory of my career. Countless other opportunities – like studying abroad in Cuba, volunteering in the Topeka community, and competing on the debate team – taught me to respect and appreciate others’ opinions and perspectives and the experiences that shaped them. Throughout all of those experiences, I was supported and encouraged by Washburn faculty and staff that are still, to this day, just as invested in my success as they were the first day I set foot on campus.

Michael Wilhoite, ba '10

Michael WilhoiteMichael Wilhoite worked in 2019 and 2020 as special teams assistant coach with the New Orleans Saints in the NFL and he is starting his first year this season as linebackers coach with the Los Angeles Chargers. The NFL veteran played seven seasons as a linebacker and on special teams from 2011-16 for the San Francisco 49ers and in 2017 for the Seattle Seahawks. He had 298 career tackles, four interceptions and two forced fumbles. He started his professional career with the United Football League in 2011 before being signed to the 49ers practice squad in 2011. After 12 weeks on the practice squad, he earned a spot on the active roster in 2012 and helped them to the Super Bowl that season and was the team rookie of the year. By his third season, he earned a starting spot as a linebacker. Wilhoite was the 49ers community service player of the year in 2014. He held a reduced-price youth football camp at Washburn in 2016 that had nearly 190 attendees.

What are your fondest memories of Washburn: Friends and family are two of the most important parts of my life and my spiritual peace. Washburn extended my family the day I stepped on campus. My fondest memory was Senior Day in 2009 and getting the chance to watch all my brothers being celebrated, walking out with their family and hearing their stats and accomplishments over the loudspeaker.

 

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.

Wayne and Nancy Cottril

Wayne and Nancy CottrilWayne and Nancy Cottril have been Washburn football season ticket holders since 1983 and basketball season ticketholders since 1984. They have developed a closeness with the women’s basketball team, visiting with players after practices and games. The Cottrils have an endowed basketball scholarship in their name, they provided the naming gift for the women’s basketball locker room and they give annually to other athletic and music scholarship funds. They appreciate the personal thank-yous, hugs and notes they get from scholarship recipients and players.

What are your fondest memories of Washburn: Wayne's memory is from September 1983. Our son, Mark, was a freshman football player and we came to Moore Bowl for the first game of the season. We stood at the top of the stairs trying to pick a place to sit when we noticed a nice young woman in animated conversation with her seat mate. Nancy always said God told her we should take the seats next to this woman and we did. By the time the game was over, we felt like we made new friends. She and her husband insisted we sit with them at the next game, and this couple became our dear friends, Connie and Al Carson. Nancy's memories are about basketball. The men's team went to the national tournament in 1991. We would have won the championship with different officials! The Lady Blues won the national championship in 2005. We recently found old tapes of those games and I found myself getting very nervous again, and I knew who won! Those young men and women will always be an enjoyable part of our Washburn experience.

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1729 MacVicar Avenue
Topeka, KS 66604 Phone: 785.670.4483
Email: contactus@wualumni.org