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Washburn University Alumni Fellows

The Alumni Fellows program recognizes alumni each fall who have distinguished themselves in their careers. Fellows are invited to campus to interact with students and faculty in the classroom and other academic settings and then honored during an awards luncheon. Each spring, faculty and staff submit nominations for Fellows to their respective dean. A fellow is selected from the School of Applied Studies, School of Business, School of Law, School of Nursing and Washburn Institute of Technology. Because of its size, the College of Arts and Sciences selects up to three Fellows.

The 2019 Alumni Fellows honorees are listed below. The Alumni Fellows luncheon was held on Friday, Nov. 8, 2019, at the Bradbury Thompson Alumni Center.

 

The 2019 Alumni Fellows

 

School of Applied Studies

Trey Cocking, bs '02, deputy director, League of Kansas Municipalities

Acceptance speech

Trey CockingTrey Cocking grew up in Derby, Kansas, and resides in Topeka where he is deputy director of the League of Kansas Municipalities. Advocating on behalf of more than 500 Kansas communities, he manages legislative activities in the Kansas State Capitol and coordinates six lobbyists, city officials across Kansas and contract lobbyists representing their stakeholders. He represents membership in front of several Kansas legislative committees. Cocking was city manager of Atchison, Kansas, from 2009-17 where he managed a $25 million budget and 128 employees in public works, police, fire, finance and other departments. He was city administrator of Cherryvale, Kansas, from 2006-09 and budget analyst for the State of Kansas from 2005-06. Cocking received the Washburn University Alumni Association Graduate of the Last Decade Award in 2012. He was in the Leadership Kansas class of 2017, earning the Class Distinguished Leader Award, and is a member of the Kansas Association of City/County Management, serving as president in 2014.

How has Washburn contributed to your success: I think the course of my life was forever changed my freshman year when I stayed in Topeka over Labor Day weekend while my roommates went home. I ended up meeting the men of Kappa Sigma fraternity, and that led to being involved on campus, serving in Washburn Student Government Association and, as fate would have it, meeting my wife, Jen (ba '04, jd '12). Washburn has served as the foundation of my professional and personal life.

 

College of Arts and Sciences

Priti Lakhani, ba '91, principal, Edicine Health

Acceptance speech

Priti LakhaniDr. Priti Lakhani grew up in Topeka and resides in Lawrence, Kansas. She is principal of Edicine Health where she advises multiple U.S.-based health systems and non-profit organizations by deconstructing inefficient systems, overhauling existing procedures and creating approaches to use data technology to improve patient and provider experiences. Roles within Edicine Health include serving as interim chief medical information officer at Einstein Healthcare Network and medical director for YMCA of Greater Kansas City. Throughout her career, she has advised major worldwide hospital corporations on strategy, financials, governance and patient experience and safety. Lakhani received a doctor of podiatric medicine from Des Moines University (Iowa) and a master’s of health care management from Harvard University. She is a board-certified surgical podiatrist who spent 15 years treating debilitating foot conditions. She credits her time in Mumbai, where she saw several people die of preventable causes, to her passion for medicine, specifically diabetic podiatry. She is currently involved in projects across four continents to improve community health outcomes, including efforts to decrease maternal fetal deaths in East Africa.

What are your greatest memories of Washburn: I am a founding member of Washburn’s Biology Club. We did it because all the cool kids have clubs like the French Club, College Republicans and College Democrats. We had our own political agenda, and it was biology.

 

School of Law

Nancy Moritz, bba '82, jd '85, judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

Acceptance speech

Honorable Nancy MoritzThe Honorable Nancy Moritz was born in Beloit, Kansas, and grew up in Tipton, Kansas. In 2013, President Barack Obama nominated Moritz to the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. The United States Senate confirmed her to that position in 2014. The Tenth Circuit is based in Denver, Colorado, and reviews legal cases from Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming. She previously served on the Kansas Supreme Court starting in 2010 and before that on the Kansas Court of Appeals starting in 2004. She was a United States assistant attorney in Kansas City, Kansas, and later in Topeka, working in the civil division and then as the appellate coordinator. Moritz served for nearly two decades on the board of editors of the Kansas Bar Journal and was the first woman to chair that organization. She delivered meals for Meals on Wheels for many years and served on the Kansas CLE Commission and the board of governors of Washburn University School of Law.

What are your greatest memories of Washburn: I have so many fond memories of my time at Washburn, but one favorite is from Homecoming weekend, 1979. Under cover of night, my fellow Carruth Hall dormies (who wish to remain unnamed) and I scurried down to White Concert Hall where we dumped loads of laundry detergent into the fountains. Luckily, 35 years later, the suds had dissipated, and Washburn University graciously hosted my formal Investiture as a member of the Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit at the unmarred White Concert Hall. I have never been more proud to be an Ichabod (and happy that the statute of limitations had run)!

 

School of Business

Brad Owen, bba '80, shareholder and treasurer, Mize Houser and Company, P.A.

Acceptance speech

Brad OwenBrad Owen grew up and resides in Topeka. He is shareholder and treasurer in the accounting firm of Mize Houser and Company P.A. He works primarily in the accounting and auditing practice areas serving clients in a variety of industries, including financial institutions, not-for-profit organizations, restaurants and professional service organizations. He is also responsible for several areas of firm administration and provides technical support on accounting and auditing matters. He is licensed as a certified public accountant in Kansas and Missouri and is a member of the Kansas Society of CPAs and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Owen serves on the boards of the Topeka Community Foundation and the Kansas Dental Lifeline Network. He is an advisor to several not-for-profit organizations and has served on the boards of Ronald McDonald House in Topeka and the Phi Delta Theta House Corporation.

On Washburn’s contribution to your success: I remember sitting for the CPA exam shortly before graduation. At one of the breaks, I overheard a group from another university express frustration that one of the exam questions was on a topic not covered in their classes. How thankful I was that Dr. Walt James, Dr. Richard Moellenberndt and others had fully prepared us for the exam and for being able to apply that knowledge in the real world of business.

 

School of nursing

Melissa Perkins, bsn '08, family nurse practitioner, Guthrie Army Health Clinic, Primary Care Clinic

Acceptance speech

Melissa PerkinsMelissa Perkins grew up in Leavenworth, Kansas, and resides in Fort Drum, New York, where she is an Army family nurse practitioner at Guthrie Army Health Clinic providing primary care to service members, families and retirees. She maintains preparedness for deployments to provide combat medicine or humanitarian aid. Perkins previously deployed as an emergency nurse in Afghanistan and served as a clinical nurse officer in charge for the medical-surgical-pediatric inpatient unit and the orthopedic-podiatry outpatient clinic at Evans Army Community Hospital in Fort Carson, Colorado. She earned a doctor of nursing practice from the Uniformed Services University, graduating in 2018. There, she completed courses in military mountain medicine, winter skills training and avalanche rescue. She completed the Wilderness Medical Society’s fellowship in the Academy of Wilderness Medicine. She also went to Rwanda and trained Rwanda military nurses in combat trauma medicine, a pilot course that fell under initiatives of the Department of State and United States Africa Command.

How has Washburn contributed to your success: Washburn offered opportunities that were outside of my comfort zone and provided an environment that helped me push through my self-doubts. There are so many examples of this including working as a research assistant studying venomous snakes, a Finnish nursing rotation and a marathon training class. These led to profound personal and professional growth and great memories.

 

College of Arts and Sciences

Richard D. Ross, ba '71, jd '75, retired reporter of decisions, Kansas Supreme Court and Court of Appeals

Acceptance speech

Richard RossRichard Ross grew up in and resides in Topeka. He retired in 2016 as reporter of decisions for the Kansas Supreme Court and Court of Appeals, a position he held since 1977. In his career, 132 volumes of official court decisions bear his name as reporter. He was a charter member and president of the international Association of Reporters of Judicial Decisions and was editor and co-author of “Judicial Opinion Writing Manual” for the American Bar Association. Ross earned the Ruth Garvey Fink Award from the Washburn University Alumni Association in 2007 and the Distinguished Service Award in 2017. He serves as a trustee and previously as a director for the Washburn University Alumni Association and Foundation and was president of the Alumni Association’s board of directors and the Mulvane Art Museum’s board of directors. He created and chaired the Mulvane Art Fair in 1993 and received the first Richard Ross Mountain Plains Award in 2017 presented to individuals instrumental in the success of the fair.

How has Washburn contributed to your success: Perhaps the biggest contribution to my life’s fulfillment was the opportunity Washburn afforded me to study abroad. It opened my eyes to the world, and I’ve never stopped exploring it. In February 2019, 50 years after our semester at the University of Copenhagen, Steve Hornbaker and I returned to Denmark to commemorate our life-changing experiences.

 

Washburn Institute of Technology

Michael W. Trimble, certificate '03, certificate '12, as '14, certificate '16, maintenance manager, Bimbo Bakeries USA

Acceptance speech

Michael TrimbleMichael Trimble grew up in Topeka and now lives in Commerce City, Colorado. He is maintenance manager at Bimbo Bakeries, leading a team of 18 skilled individuals consisting of 14 mechanics, one parts clerk, one control clerk and two supervisors. Trimble manages the maintenance department of a two-line bread/bun high-speed commercial bakery. His Washburn Tech certificates are in machine tool, advanced system technology and computer repair and networking. His associate of science degree is in technology administration. He was a member of the National Honors Society.

How has Washburn contributed to your success: Washburn has been key to the growth of my career. It gave me the tools to get into maintenance as a mechanic. It taught leadership skills to get me to a supervisor level. It has been supporting me through the years to reach for more knowing I can contribute to myself and others. I wouldn’t be where I am without Washburn.

 

College of Arts and Sciences

Robert O. Viets, ba '65, retired CEO, CILCORP Inc. and Central Illinois Light Company

Acceptance speech

Bob VietsRobert Viets grew up on a farm near Brazilton, Kansas, and resides in Naples, Florida. Retired, he served as CEO of CILCORP Inc. in Illinois from 1988-99. There, he played a significant role in deregulation of retail energy markets and was the first to demonstrate the benefits by opening customer test markets to competition. CILCORP’s financial returns to shareholders during his time as CEO were among the highest in the electricity and natural gas utility industry. In addition to his economics degree from Washburn, Viets earned a juris doctor from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, and worked as a certified public accountant. He joined Central Illinois Light Company, a predecessor to CILCORP, in 1973 and advanced through financial and operating positions before becoming CEO. Viets has served on boards of several publicly traded companies, including CILCORP Inc. and RLI Corp. He has served as chair of several non-profit boards including Methodist Health Services Corporation, Advanced Medical Transport and Heart of Illinois United Way Campaign. He received the President’s Award from Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, and has chaired its board of trustees. He received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from Washington University and has served on the transition teams for two Illinois governors.

How has Washburn contributed to your success: My time at Washburn and in Topeka was a learning, working and growing experience that provided an education from a highly respected university and a great respect for its faculty and the people with whom I worked.

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