Kent State Honors Seven Alumni With 2019 Alumni Awards

The Kent State University Alumni Association is proud to announce its 2019 Alumni Award recipients. Recipients are chosen based on their exceptional contributions in their chosen profession, in their communities and at Kent State. Sponsored by the Kent State Alumni Association, the Alumni Awards are Kent State’s most prestigious honors given to alumni. 

“The alumni association received many outstanding nominations that truly represent the diversity and success of our graduates,” said Lori Randorf, assistant vice president of alumni relations at Kent State. “These alumni award recipients exemplify the characteristics of Kent State graduates and the impact they have on their professions and society.”

The following are the alumni who are being recognized in each of the six categories. 

Matthew Likens, president and CEO of GT Medical Technologies Inc. and a resident of Mesa, Arizona, has been awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award. Likens graduated from Kent State in 1975 with a Bachelor of Business Administration. The Distinguished Alumni Award honors a Kent State graduate who has made outstanding contributions in their chosen profession, demonstrating extraordinary service to Kent State as well as their community, state and nation. The Distinguished Alumni Award is the most prestigious honor given by the Kent State Alumni Association.

Judy Isaacson Elias, founder of Heroes to Heroes Foundation and a resident of Fort Lee, New Jersey, has been awarded the Distinguished Citizen Award. Elias is a 1982 graduate of Kent State, having earned a Bachelor of Arts in social work. The Distinguished Citizen Award honors a Kent State graduate who has accomplished extraordinary service to the public through a nonprofit organization and exceptional community service. This award recognizes individuals who have unselfishly and generously contributed their time and talents for the enrichment of others and the betterment of their community.  

David Jarzen, Ph.D., a research associate at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and a resident of Lakewood, Ohio, has been awarded the Professional Achievement Award. Jarzen is a two-time graduate of Kent State, having earned a Bachelor of Science in biological science in 1967 and a Master of Arts in botany in 1969. 

Cheryl Thompson-Stacy, Ed.D., president emeritus of Lord Fairfax Community College and a resident of Stephens City, Virginia, has also been awarded the Professional Achievement Award. Thompson-Stacy is a three-time graduate of Kent State. She earned a Bachelor of Business Administration in 1979, a Master of Education in 1982 and a Master of Business Administration in 1993.

The Professional Achievement Award pays tribute to the superior achievements of alumni in their chosen profession. This award showcases a record of distinguished career achievements, complemented by a history of outstanding contributions.

Sandra E. Zirke, chief operating officer emeritus of Neola Inc. and a resident of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, has been awarded the Kent State Advocacy Award. Zirke graduated from Kent State in 1968 with a Bachelor of Science in Education, returned and earned a Master of Education in 1973 and in 1980 earned an Education Specialist degree. The Kent State Advocacy Award honors Kent State graduates who have contributed significant time and talent to Kent State or the Kent State Alumni Association on a consistent basis, bringing favorable attention to the university.

Connor Whelan, director of marketing and external engagement at the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns and a resident of Lafayette, Louisiana, has been awarded the Outstanding New Professional Award. Connor earned a Bachelor of Science in sports management from Kent State in 2016. The Outstanding New Professional Award honors a recent Kent State graduate who shows outstanding achievement in their chosen profession and in their community. This award spotlights future leaders among Kent State alumni who show continued dedication to their community, profession and the university. 

Elena Neoh, a current Kent State student studying human resource management and music technology, has been awarded the Golden Flash Award. Neoh is on track to graduate in spring 2020 with a Bachelor of Business Administration. The Golden Flash Award honors a Kent State student who promotes Kent State spirit, pride and tradition.

All award recipients will be honored at a special ceremony to be held at the Kent State University Hotel and Conference Center on Sept. 20. 

For more information on this year’s recipients or to submit an award nomination for next year, visit www.kent.edu/alumni/alumni-awards

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Media Contacts:
Melanie Secre, msecre1@kent.edu, 330-672-5368
Emily Vincent, evincen2@kent.edu, 330-672-8595

WRITTEN BY:
Alumni Association