Faculty, students, family and friends gathered in Kresge Hall Friday, Feb. 17 to celebrate the achievement of five Knox graduates in their fields of work.
President Teresa Amott, Student Senate President Gordon Barratt and 21 previous award winners gathered to recognize and congratulate the 2012 award winners.
They included Mary Lu Hudson Aft ‘60 for non-profit and volunteer management, Peter Leibig ’73 for health care administration, James Solomon ’74 for botany, Lynn Wright ’63 for space program technology and Norman Golar ’02 for higher education and writing.
“I thank you for being the embodiment of Knox,” President Amott said during the opening remarks. “We are very, very happy to welcome you home.”
Aft was introduced by her husband of 50 years and 2002 Alumni Achievement Award winner Richard Aft. Her experiences at Knox, most notably being a resident assistant for one of the Little Rock Nine, became motivation for her career in non-profit management that eventually had her named the 1999 Woman of the Year by the Cincinnati Enquirer.
“I want to thank Knox for giving me this honor and instilling in me the responsibility that each of us has in giving back,” Aft said.
Leibig, introduced by Business Professor John Spittell, currently runs a health services clinic in the Denver-Boulder area. The clinic has four sites and net assets of over $31 million, providing approximately 40,000 medical visits per year from a staff of over 300 people.
“I never planned to do what I do,” Leibig said. “My classmates years ago didn’t even know I existed, and most never would’ve been guessed I’d be back here four years later to receive this prestigious award.”
Solomon, introduced by Professor of Biology Stuart Allison, is the curator of the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Herbarium, the second largest in the United States and fifth largest in the world.
The position, Allison said, is “comparable in complexity and importance to the position of the head librarian at the Library of Congress.”
“I certainly don’t remember all the details of everything I did at Knox,” Solomon said. “I do know, however, that the overall result was a well-rounded background in the liberal arts that gave me a very good foundation for being able to operate in the real world.”
His high school math teacher, Emile John, inducted Wright. Wright worked on all 17 Apollo missions during a 30-year career at IBM, including being on the flight control team during missions 8-13. Specifically, he designed the braking system for the lunar modules.
“Thanks to Dr. Stevens (former mathematics professor at Knox),” Wright said, “I was in the right place at the right time. Thanks to Knox, I had the right skills.”
Professor of English and Associate Dean of the College Lori Haslem introduced Golar, the Young Achievement Award winner. He is currently an assistant professor and chair of the English department at Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Golar described accepting his award as “very emotional moment.”
“I had no idea my journey would place me here today,” Golar said. “Thank you, Knox, for loving me and not allowing me to stay for more than four years.”
Joyce Hertko ’82, Alumni Council Chair, expressed that the founders would be proud of all Alumni Achievement Winners past and present, and that they “may even be dancing” over the diversity of the group gathered.
After the event, many were still bewildered as to the recognition they had received.
“Wow, how did that happen?” Wright asked outside Kreske.
Mary Lu Aft still could not believe that she was an award winner until she was standing at the podium. Her husband had told her that she had won.
“I thought he was kidding,” she remarked.
All five winners continued to stress the favorability of the liberal arts education Knox offers.
“My world blew open,” Golar said of his experience at the college.
“It taught me how to manage my time,” Solomon said, adding that he never expected to join the college choir during his years at Knox.
Although each winner suggested that current Knox students should take advantage of all the freedom the Knox curriculum has to offer, Leibig offered a piece of advice for those still not sure as to what they want to major in.
“Pick two classes that you have no idea about and take them,” he said.