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Barton Commencement 2022
The Barton Community College graduating class of 2022 celebrates after receiving their degrees at the college’s 52nd annual commencement ceremony Friday.

The Barton Community College graduating class of 2022 celebrates after receiving their degrees at the college’s 52nd annual commencement ceremony Friday.  

Barton recognizes Student Ambassadors of the Year

Barton’s “The Rock” Award winner Abigail Hodges, left, is shown with Ambassadors of the Year award winners Wittney Hammeke and Haley Troyer, right.

Barton Community College has announced its 2021-22 Brant J. Ballhorst Student Ambassadors of the Year. Named in memory of Brant J. Ballhorst, the award recognizes two outstanding Student Ambassadors each year. The winners this year were Haley Troyer and Wittney Hammeke of Ellinwood.

This year marked the 18th anniversary of the award. 

The Admissions office also named Abigail Hodges of Bennington as the recipient of this year’s “The Rock” award, which is presented to students who go above and beyond the call of duty in assisting the Admissions office. The award recipients were chosen by their peers and Barton’s Admissions staff.

Ambassador of the Year: Wittney Hammeke

Hammeke will graduate this year after one year at Barton. She will attend Kansas State University next year where she will study secondary education with an emphasis in English. She has been involved in student ambassadors, PTK, CSO/SPARK and BCCAE. She is the daughter of Clint and Karrie Hammeke. 

Ambassador of the Year: Haley Troyer

Troyer has been involved in Hilltop Singers, Concert Choir and student ambassadors. She will attend Barton in the fall and then transfer to Kansas State University where she will continue to study elementary education. She is the daughter of Matt and Tammy Troyer.

The Rock Award: Abigail Hodges

Hodges is a sophomore and is involved in student ambassadors, CSO/Spark, PTK and BCCAE. She plans to attend the Emporia State University next year. She is the daughter of Jeff and Sara Hodges. 

About Brant J. Ballhorst and the award

From Smith Center, Ballhorst was a 2002 Barton graduate and former Student Ambassador. Despite health concerns throughout his time at Barton, he was the model Ambassador. He balanced a challenging course schedule and golf team commitment with his role as a Student Ambassador. Ballhorst was a respected peer and cherished friend of many on campus. His determination and dedication touched the lives of everyone he met.

He graduated from Barton with a degree in pre-pharmacy and attended the School of Pharmacy at the University of Kansas. He was a student at KU until his death on Aug. 5, 2004. He always had a good attitude about his illness and joked that it was good education for his major. He was the son of John and Gayle Ballhorst of Smith Center.

Barton will continue to honor Ballhorst’s achievements, character, personality and work ethic by awarding future Ambassadors of the Year in his memory. A permanent plaque dedicated in his honor is displayed in the corridor of the Kirkman Activity Center on Barton’s campus.

McKown honored with Distinguished Service Award

David McKown accepts the Distinguished Instructor Award on behalf of his late brother Bill McKown from Executive Director of Institutional Advancement Lindsey Bogner Friday night at the 52nd annual Barton Community College commencement.

The Barton Community College Foundation honored Bill McKown as the 2022 recipient of the Distinguished Service Award (DSA) at the college’s 52nd annual commencement Friday night. Bill’s Brother, David McKown, accepted the award on his behalf. 

The DSA was created in 1981 to recognize individuals that have shown genuine regard for and performed outstanding service to Barton Community College.

McKown was known for his infectious smile across the Barton County campus, taking classes, attending games, and supporting students, faculty, and staff with a kind word. A lover of the arts, McKown took numerous classes at Barton in the Fine Arts department and was awarded Best-in-Show at the Barton Student Exhibition Show for his graphic design work two years in a row. 

McKown was injured in a car accident as a freshman at the University of Kansas in 1975, paralyzing him from the shoulders down and leaving him a quadriplegic for 39 years. After the accident, he dedicated himself to living a normal life. 

After McKown graduated from Barton, he received a bachelor’s degree from Friends University. He lived and worked in Great Bend, became a community leader, completed college, served others as a volunteer, board member, scout master, camp director, disability advocate and more. He was an active member of numerous civic and cultural organizations.

In 2013, McKown was inducted into the Great Bend High School Hall of Fame for his numerous achievements. In 2021, the Great Bend Zoo placed the Bill McKown Memorial Gazebo at the fishing pond at the zoo.

Throughout his life, McKown supported Barton as a community leader, student, and friend. Even after his passing, he continued to support the Foundation and the College with a generous planned gift, allowing for the creation of the “How to Build a Metal Horse” educational kiosk in the gallery, detailing the bronze sculpture pouring process, equipment for the Ceramics Department and chairs, drafting tables, and computers for the art department, and the “Winged Aspiration” sculpture was commissioned and erected in the circle drive of the Fine Arts Building. “Winged Aspiration” is a large casting of a wax model created by L.E. Gus Shafer, the Gallery’s namesake.  

“McKown’s dedication to our Foundation, our college, and our mission is truly inspirational for all of us who follow after him,” said Lindsey Bogner, Executive Director of Institutional Advancement. “For years to come, whenever a student steps into the arts classrooms, a visitor enjoys the Shafer Art Gallery, or our eyes fall upon the Winged Aspiration statue as it reaches into the sky, we will all be heirs of his generosity and vision.”