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Alumni Awards

Each year a highlight of the University’s Founders Day celebration is the opportunity to showcase stellar alumni. The following individuals were chosen for recognition and will be honored at an awards dinner on February 16. Additional details on this special evening and registration is available online.

Distinguished Alumni Award  

R. David Edmunds, M.A. ’66, L.L.D. ’02, was a Bloomington High School teacher when he began his master’s degree in social sciences education at Illinois State. His thesis, “A History of the Kickapoo Indians in Illinois, 1750-1834,” was just the start of his Native American research. After completing a doctorate at the University of Oklahoma, Edmunds went on to become one of the nation’s most prolific writers of Native American history.

A descendent of Cherokee ancestry, Edmunds has written more than 100 essays, articles, or short publications. He has authored or edited 10 books, including The Shawnee Prophet, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

He is a consultant on Native American history to tribal governments and Hollywood filmmakers. Edmunds has worked on more than a dozen films or documentaries for PBS, the History Channel, and commercial television. He has also been an editorial consultant to many of the nation’s leading publishers and university presses as well, and held advisory positions for numerous museums and federal agencies—including the U. S. Department of Justice, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Smithsonian Institution, and the National Park Service.

Edmunds has served as the president of both the Western History Association and the American Society for Ethnohistory, and as a distinguished lecturer for the Organization of American Historians. He has received numerous accolades, including an honorary degree from Illinois State, and an Award of Merit from the American Indian Historians Association. He has served on the faculty at the University of Wyoming, Texas Christian University, The University of California at Berkeley, UCLA, and Indiana University.

He currently holds the Watson Professorship in American History at the University of Texas at Dallas. At present, his research focus is upon the history of Native American identity, Native Americans in the Midwest and on the Great Plains, and Native American biography.

 Outstanding Young Alumni Award                     

Amar Kamath, M.B.A ’97, is on the executive team of BioReference Laboratories, which is the third largest publicly held clinical laboratory in the United States. Beyond leading marketing, he is involved in business development, intellectual property management and licensing, and new market strategies.

Kamath came to ISU as an M.B.A. student. It was his first international travel and first airplane trip. While completing the degree, Kamath sold educational books door to door. Since then he has worked at three hospitals, including an internship at BroMenn. He spent the last decade advancing in the for-profit healthcare sector.

Kamath works on clinical, molecular, and cancer diagnostics. His aims to provide cost-effective diagnostic services to help physicians more effectively diagnose and treat patients. He focuses on reducing sexually transmitted infections, personalizing cancer therapies, and diagnosing genetic disorders early.

He is involved in philanthropic organizations such as Kiva, a microlending organization; Sierra House, a transitional shelter for homeless youth; and several patient support organizations.

The 2010 recipient of the College of Business Early Career Achievement Award, Kamath visits ISU twice annually to serve on the College of Business Advisory Council. He is making efforts to establish a COB Alumni Network in the New York City area.

 Alumni Achievement Award

Connie Mueller, M.S. ’84, holds a master’s in Family and Consumer Sciences, where she taught eight years and served as preceptor for the ISU Dietetics Internship Program. She retired after 16 years as Bloomington District 87’s school nutrition director.

A member of the School Nutrition Association (SNA), she served as the Midwest regional director. She is chair of the SNA Governing Council, the SNA media spokesperson, and Illinois SNA past president. She chairs the American Dietetic Association (ADA) School Nutrition Services Dietetic Practice Group.

Mueller served on the National Advisory Council of the National Food Service Management Institute, and is a member of the National Dairy Council speakers bureau. She is the SNA author for the Joint Position Paper of the American Dietetic Association, the SNA, and the Society for Nutrition Education on Comprehensive Nutrition Services.

She received the 1998 SNA FAME Award for Silver Rising Star; the 2004 Award of Excellence for Outstanding Management, Leadership, and Innovation from the American Dietetic Association; and the 2005 Award of Excellence in Management Practice from American Dietetic Association Foundation.

She was ISU’s 2010 Outstanding Alumni for the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, as well as 2010 Illinois School Nutrition Director of the Year.

 E. Burton Mercier Alumni Service Award

Marian Kneer ’49, M.S. ’57, has dedicated her life to education and athletics, working as a proponent for physical education in schools for more than 60 years. She worked for the inclusion of females in sports at the national level, actively pioneering the inclusion of women’s high school sports before the passage of Title IX.

An athlete herself, Kneer was a premiere catcher for the Peoria Caterpillar Dieselettes in the 1940s.  She was heralded as the “world’s greatest softball catcher.” She went on to author many books and articles in the world of athletics and physical education.

Kneer has been honored repeatedly and is a member of the ISU Athletics Percy Hall of Fame, ISU’s College of Education Hall of Fame, the Illinois Softball Hall of Fame, and the Illinois Coaches Association for Girls and Women Hall of Fame.

She served as president of the National Association for Sport and Physical Education and the Illinois Association for Health, Physical Education and Sports. She has been inducted into the Hall for Fame for each association, and awarded their highest honors.

Kneer is a generous donor to ISU, with the Marian Kneer Softball Stadium dedicated during the 2009 season.

 Senator John W. Maitland Jr., Commitment to Education Award

David Wiant dedicated 36 years to higher education, with 28 years at Illinois State. He established and developed the University’s personnel program. He advanced to assistant vice president of Administrative Services, yet maintained oversight of the personnel office. Despite retiring in 1986, his success in personnel work resulted in organizations with delicate personnel problems seeking his counsel.

He remains active in the McLean County area and supports the University. In 2006, his children established the Dave and Jo Wiant Endowed Scholarship within Mennonite College of Nursing in celebration of his 80th birthday. He has helped spearhead fundraising for Athletics scholarships as a past president of the Redbird Education Scholarship Fund.

Wiant has served as vice president for The Redbird Club and has held season tickets for Redbird athletic events. For his dedicated service, he was awarded the Stretch Miller Award from Athletics and the E. Burton Mercier Outstanding Service Award.

Nominations sought for alumni awards

Do you know of an alumnus who deserves to be recognized? Nominate the individual for an award!

The Alumni Association awards program recognizes professional and service accomplishments of alumni. Nominations for the 2013 recipients are currently being received. Award recipients will be honored on Founders Day in February of 2013. Nominations for 2013 are due by May 31.

Details and an online nomination form are available at Alumni.IllinoisState.edu/Awards. Contact Gina Bianchi at glbianc@IllinoisState.edu or by calling (309) 438-7380.

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