Kent State Alumni Association Names 2022 Alumni Award Recipients

Seven Golden Flashes to be honored during Homecoming weekend for their professional and civic contributions and dedication to the university

Kent State University is known as a thought leader in research, innovation and academics, preparing graduates to leave the university and push boundaries in their professions and communities. The university recognizes alumni who, through leadership, character and hard work, are making a difference in the world. Sponsored by the Kent State Alumni Association, the Alumni Awards are the university’s highest alumni honors. Recipients are selected based on their exceptional professional and civic contributions and for their outstanding support of the university.

“For nearly 65 years, the Kent State Alumni Association has recognized the university’s most distinguished alumni in this way,” said Barbara Smith, a 1984 Kent State graduate who serves as president of the Kent State Alumni Association’s National Board of Directors. “The Alumni Award nominations we receive tell compelling stories of incredible accomplishments and astounding generosity. This class of award recipients truly encompasses what it means to be a Golden Flash, and each one is so deserving of this honor.” 

The 2022 Alumni Award recipients include six alumni and one student who will be honored in the following categories:

Raj Aggarwal of Chesterland, Ohio, is the 2022 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient. 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. Aggarwal is an acclaimed scholar and business leader. He has been a consultant to the United Nations, World Bank and several Fortune 100 companies and nonprofits. He received a Master of Business Administration in 1970 and Doctor of Business Administration in 1975, both from Kent State, and a mechanical engineering degree from the Indian Institute of Technology.

Kathryn M. Tschiegg of Orrville, Ohio, was named the 2022 Distinguished Citizen Award recipient. This award recognizes individuals who have unselfishly and generously contributed their time and talents for the enrichment of others and betterment of their community. A registered nurse, Tschiegg is the founder and executive director of Central American Medical Outreach (CAMO), a nondenominational, Christian-based, humanitarian organization that brings medical services, education and community development to Central America. Tschiegg graduated from Kent State University at Stark with a Bachelor of Business Administration in 1992.

Gary P. Jacobson, Ph.D., of Brentwood, Tennessee, is a 2022 Professional Achievement Award recipient. The Professional Achievement Award pays tribute to the superior achievements of alumni in their chosen field. This award showcases a record of significant professional achievements, complemented by a history of outstanding contributions. Jacobson is a professor in the Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and has spent more than 40 years making a difference for people facing issues with their hearing and balance. He received a Doctor of Philosophy in audiology from Kent State in 1978. He also has a bachelor’s degree from California State University, Fullerton, and a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. 

Robert C. Lape of Olmsted Township, Ohio, was also named as a 2022 Professional Achievement Award recipient. He has had a career of excellence in performance and leadership spanning 70 years. Lape met his professional destiny when working for the WKSU radio station and earning his undergraduate degree in radio speech and journalism. His career was filled with incredible experiences and well-deserved recognition in both radio and television. He was awarded a Bachelor of Science from Kent State in 1955.

Howard Ruffner of Pasadena, California, was named the 2022 Kent State Advocacy Award recipient. The advocacy award honors graduates who have contributed significant time and talent to Kent State on a consistent basis, bringing favorable attention to the university. Ruffner was a sophomore broadcast journalism major when he witnessed a watershed moment in American history, the Kent State shootings on May 4, 1970. He has dedicated much of his life to educating others about the shootings through his photography. He earned a Bachelor of Science from Kent State in 1971.

Brenna Parker of Washington, D.C., is the 2022 Outstanding New Professional Award Recipient. This award honors the achievements of recent graduates who show great potential in their profession and a commitment to their community. Parker oversees all digital strategy, content and partnerships for Vice President Kamala Harris. Parker has also executed campaigns for organizations such as Civic Nation, ACRONYM, When We All Vote, Reach Higher, Apple and YouTube. Parker received a Bachelor of Science from Kent State in 2017.

Hannah Balash of Boardman, Ohio, was named the 2022 Golden Flash Award recipient. The Golden Flash Award is presented to a current student who promotes Kent State spirit, pride and tradition. Balash is a leader on campus and involved in several student organizations. Last summer, she worked in Washington, D.C., as a legislative intern for the office of U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, who serves eastern and southeastern Ohio. Balash received an Associate of Arts from Kent State Stark in 2021 and is on track to earn a bachelor’s degree in December 2022. She is also dually enrolled in a Kent State graduate program to receive a master’s degree in economics.

A special reception honoring the seven award recipients will be held at the Kent State University Hotel and Conference Center on Friday, Sept. 30.

For more information about each of this year’s Alumni Award recipients, visit

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Media Contacts:
Melanie Secre,, 330-672-8057

Leigh Greenfelder,, 330-672-7108

POSTED: Thursday, September 29, 2022 10:54 AM
UPDATED: Monday, April 15, 2024 06:19 AM
Division of Philanthropy and Alumni Engagement