Alumni Life

Sharing the Love

Illustrations by Jason Zehner '10

Innovative, generous, tenacious, committed—those are just a few words that describe the 2016 Kent State Alumni Award recipients, who were commended for their dedication to their professions, communities and Kent State at a special ceremony on September 30.

Sponsored by the Kent State Alumni Association, the alumni awards are the university’s most prestigious honor. The following seven recipients epitomize the characteristics of Kent State graduates—and all share a love for Kent State.

George Newkome, BS ’61, PhD ’66 illustrated by Jason Zehner '10Distinguished Alumni
George Newkome, BS ’61, PhD ’66

Medina, Ohio; Professor, Departments of Polymer Science and Chemistry, the James and Vanita Oelschlager Professor of Science and Technology, and Vice President for Research Emeritus at The University of Akron

Educational experience: My training as an organic chemist taught me to see the tree in the forest and to have an entrepreneurial
can-do spirit, a hallmark of Northeast Ohio.

Staying connected: Serving on the Kent State University College of Arts and Sciences Advisory Board has allowed me to be a part of a dynamic and growing college. I’m especially proud of forming the Northeast Ohio Student Venture Fund to help Kent State students participate in new start-up companies.

Why I love Kent State: It laid the foundation for my academic career and my ability to do creative chemistry research.
I’m still an active researcher with over 500 publications and over 60 patents.

H. John Visser, DPM ’78 illustrated by Jason Zehner '10
Professional Achievement
H. John Visser, DPM ’78

St. Louis, Mo.; Reconstructive foot and ankle surgeon

Memorable moment at KSU: Attaining #1 status in calculus and inorganic chemistry

Point of pride: Being inducted into the Kent State School of Podiatric Medicine Hall of Fame

Why I love Kent State: The warm, supportive atmosphere at the regional campuses. Coming out of high school, I lacked confidence in my academic abilities. Kent State University at Geauga allowed me to take core courses for pre-med. With the smaller class sizes and encouraging teachers, my confidence level increased astronomically. After two years at Kent State, I transferred to Hiram and graduated magna cum laude.

Karen Jones Bankston, BSN ’84, MSN ’90 illustrated by Jason Zehner '10
Professional Achievement
Karen Jones Bankston, BSN ’84, MSN ’90

Cincinnati, Ohio; PhD, University of Cincinnati; Associate Dean, Clinical Practice, Partnership and Community Engagement, University of Cincinnati

Memorable moments at KSU: Spending time with my classmates in the School of Nursing lounge; going to Ray’s Place on the last day
of clinicals

Points of pride: Being assigned CEO of the Drake Center for Post-Acute Care, a beloved hospital in Cincinnati. And all the individuals I’ve mentored, watch grow and now see in leadership roles—knowing I was a part of their success is my success.

Why I love Kent State: I was a nontraditional student, and Constance Stopper was very supportive. She and the other faculty made sure that we all understood the importance of being a professional nurse. I am proud to be a Kent State nurse.

Brooks Sumberg, BA ’72 illustrated by Jason Zehner '10Distinguished Citizen
Brooks Sumberg, BA ’72

Westport, Conn.; Peace Corps veteran; founder of Harvest Now

Point of pride: My charity, Harvest Now, feeds 35,000 people, including prisoners who grow the food and patrons at food banks.

Inspiration for giving back to community: The satisfaction I get from helping prisoners by giving them a project to work on that provides food for poor people.

Why I love Kent State: I transferred from Northern Michigan University because I wanted to be at a more cosmopolitan place. Kent State was accepting, and they welcomed me.

Gary Brahler, BS ’89 illustrated by Jason Zehner '10
Kent State Advocacy
Gary Brahler, BS ’89

Bay Village, Ohio; First Vice President-Investments at Polcar, Brahler, Heil, Belden Wealth Management Group of Wells Fargo Advisors; chair of the investment committee for Kent State University Foundation and chair of the Kent State University Foundation Board

Memorable moment at KSU: As a student ambassador, I had the opportunity to greet Elie Wiesel [Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor], walk him around campus, take him to the president’s office and walk him to his speech. It was a thrilling event.

Reason for supporting Kent State: Because of what is happening here and the outstanding programs we have. Kent State gives students the opportunity to transform their lives.

Why I love Kent State: I met my wife here, I had a great time, I had fabulous professors, and I spent a lot of time (believe it or not) at the library. 

Damian Beauchamp, BS ’12 illustrated by Jason Zehner '10Outstanding New Professional
Damian Beauchamp, BS ’12

Durham, N.C.; Chief of Staff and Principal Chemist, 8 Rivers Capital, LLC

Kent State strengths: It provides exceptional classroom education while allowing one-on-one, hands-on research experiences with faculty who care deeply for their students. Today’s world demands multifaceted skill sets for success; Kent State allows students to become diverse and effective problem solvers.

Career inspiration: When I was 18 years old, I lost a dear friend in a tragic accident; from then on I wanted to make a positive impact on the world. In an organic chemistry course, Professor Alex Seed encouraged me to consider pursuing chemistry. Chemistry touches almost every aspect of life, so it seemed a good field of study.

Why I love Kent State: The campus, the atmosphere downtown and especially the recent renovations that have transformed the entire feel of the city and the campus.

Jordan Provost, BME ’17 illustrated by Jason Zehner '10
Golden Flash
Jordan Provost, BME ’17

Navarre, Ohio; Student assistant in the Kent State University Bands Office and apprentice conductor for the Canton Youth Symphony

Career aspiration: To pursue a master’s degree in music education and become
a teacher.

Biggest accomplishment: So far, it’s been conducting the award-winning Canton Youth Symphony Advanced Orchestra at the final concert of the season in May.

Why I love Kent State: The sense of community is ever-present. When I was in 8th grade, I attended my piano teacher’s recital at Kent State and was enthralled with the cool things happening here. I came in 2012 for the summer institute, and I fell in love with the piano faculty. And the campus is just beautiful—it’s a great combination of a suburban community and a college town.

illustrated by Jason Zehner '10


Now accepting nominations for the 2017 Alumni Awards. Submit your nomination at


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