Poetry, stories and school spirit outnumbered conventional acceptance speeches at this year’s Alumni Achievement Awards Ceremony. Award winners offered advice and anecdotes at a Founder’s Day ceremony last Friday in the Muelder Reading Room in Seymour Library.
After a processional accompanied by music from the Knox College String Trio, Alumni Council Chair and Knox alumna Jean Anderson welcomed faculty, alumni, their families and a few students to the ceremony. She handed the floor to President Roger Taylor, who spoke of Knox’s continuing dedication to providing an affordable education to all students regardless of their financial means.
Knox was recently one of three independent private colleges to present their financial aid and support plans at The White House.
Taylor noted the significance of this feat and its consistency with the principals Knox was founded on.
“Knox’s dedication to this historical mission distinguishes Knox from its peers,” said Taylor.
A Knox professor introduced each award winner. Professor Emeritus of History and Co-Director of the Lincoln Studies Center Rodney Davis introduced the first winner, James L. Hallock ’69.
Hallock, a former history major, expressed his appreciation for Davis’s remarks, noting that Davis was his “favorite history professor.”
Hallocks is the founder and president of Earth Block, Incorporated, a Colorado based firm that uses compress soil as building material. He is currently raising funds to construct earthquake-resistant buildings in Haiti.
Hallock grew up in Galesburg. His mother worked at the Alumni Affairs office, granting him a full scholarship to the college.
“I want to give something back,” said Hallock.
He presented a collection of letters to the school’s Civil War Archives in Davis’s name. The letters were written by his great grandparents during the Civil War. The couple resided in nearby Abingdon, Illinois.
Robin Metz introduced Alex Kuo ’61. Eight books and over 350 poems accompany Kuo’s accomplishments as a professor of literature, writing and ethnic studies.
Kuo was the first Knox student admitted to the renowned Iowa Writer’s Workshop as well as the first Asian-American in the U.S. to have a collection of poetry published.
“I am honored and humbled and happy, as well,” said Kuo.
He spoke of an informal conversation he and Metz had had last year. The two discussed methods to extend poetry reading, writing and appreciation to an older audience.
“One that would include Roger,” said Kuo. “Robin looked up at me and said, ‘I have an idea.’ So I’m gonna read poetry.”
Kuo read his poem, “The River.”
Keith E. Maskus ’76 was welcomed and chided by Professor Roy Anderson. Anderson complimented Maskus’s “irreverent sense of humor” and playfully accused him of being responsible for a naked photo of the 1971 Knox soccer team that appears in that year’s yearbook.
Maskus is a professor of economics and the associate dean for social sciences at the University of Colorado. He is a consultant for the World Bank, the World Health Organization and the World Intellectual Property Organization and has written and edited books on intellectual property rights and the global economy.
Maskus shared a story of the great lengths one Knox professor went to in order to secure a class trip to the Soviet Union in a fragile political climate.
“[He] listed the students as a Canadian tour group,” he said.
The Young Alumni Achievement Award went to Matthew L. Berg ’00. Berg grew up in Africa and attended high school in Springfield, Illinois. With majors in computer science and integrated international studies, Berg currently works with multiple organizations to bring information and communication technology to villages in Africa. He has been featured in CNN’s Business 2.0, Make magazine and in the book WorldChanging. Berg documents his work at buildafrica.org.
“I took the term ‘freedom to flourish’ literally,” said Berg, “especially when it came to things like Flunk Day.”
Berg said that his Knox education helped forward his ambitions and form his identity.
“I do what makes me happy. That’s what flourishing is,” he said.
Student attendance at the event was low, but those who did attend enjoyed the ceremony.
“I think more students should come every year,” said Student Senate President Heather Kopec.
Freshman Hannah Basil walked away from the event with a heightened sense of Knox pride.
“It reminded me that this is going to be a lot bigger than my four years here,” she said.