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Seven honored at Alumni Awards banquet
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HAYS – Six alumni and one friend of Fort Hays State University were honored by the FHSU Alumni Association at the Alumni Awards and Recognition Banquet on Friday, Oct. 7, during Homecoming festivities.
In addition, Gary Sherrer, Broomfield, Colo., received the Presidential Award, the university’s most distinguished recognition.
Three alumni received Alumni Achievement Awards, the association’s highest honor, for outstanding, unselfish contributions in service to community, state or nation, both as citizens in their chosen careers and through philanthropy.
Recipients were Les Anderson, Valley Center; Patty (Sander) Billinger, Overland Park; and Lyle Staab, Hawthorn Woods, Ill.
One alumnus received the Young Alumni Award, which recognizes 10- to 15-year graduates for professional and educational achievement, community activities, honors and awards or other accomplishments. This year’s recipient was Jesse Shaver, M.D., Ph.D., Cary, N.C.
Larry Dreiling, Hays, received the Nita M. Landrum Award for alumni or friends who have provided sustained volunteer service for the betterment of the Alumni Association or FHSU, especially in their home communities.
Steve Shields, Manhattan, received a Distinguished Service Award, which recognizes individuals who demonstrate a continuing concern for humanity, who support spiritual, cultural and educational objectives, and who endorse and exemplify the highest standards of character and personal attributes.
Alumni Achievement Award
Les Anderson
Les Anderson, Valley Center, graduated from FHSU with a Bachelor of Arts in English in 1970. He earned a Master of Arts in journalism in 1971 from the University of Missouri, Columbia. He is a professor of communication at the Elliott School of Communication at Wichita State University, where he has taught writing, editing and community journalism courses for more than 35 years. He joined the faculty in 1977.
He worked at The Hays Daily News while studying at FHSU and at The Missourian, on the sports desk, while earning his master’s degree at the University of Missouri. From 1971 to 1974, he worked at The Wichita Eagle. He helped start the weekly Wichita Sun in 1974 and, in 1975, he started The Ark Valley News, Valley Center, a weekly he published until selling it in 2007.
He was president of the Kansas Press Association from 1996 to 1997 and was a member of its board of directors for eight years. He was also president of the Kansas Newspaper Foundation from 1997 to 1998.
Alumni Achievement Award
Patty (Sander) Billinger
Patty Billinger, Overland Park, earned a Bachelor of Arts in political science from FHSU in 1992 and a Master of Science in political theory in 1994. She is the regional management officer for the Social Security Administration Office of Disability Adjudication and Review in Region VII, one of only 10 similar positions in the nation.
She began her federal career as a claims representative in the Hays field office from 1994 to 2000, then was promoted to management support specialist and operations supervisor in the Wichita office. She was promoted to field management officer and regional director for operations and administration in the Kansas City Regional Office of Disability Adjudication and Review. She oversees the operational, workload and strategic planning activities for the Kansas City Region, consisting of approximately 400 employees, including 72 judges in hearing offices located in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Iowa. Most recently, she led Region VII in opening two new hearing offices in Topeka and in Columbia, Mo.
Billinger was instrumental on both the national and regional levels in Social Security’s transition from paper folders to an electronic disability hearing process.
Alumni Achievement Award
Lyle Staab
Lyle Staab, Hawthorn Woods, Ill., graduated with a Bachelor of Science in finance from FHSU in 1977. After completing a Master of Business Administration from the University of Notre Dame in 1979, he started with Corning Inc. as a supervisor of accounting. His career since has led him to leadership positions in manufacturing, restructuring, accounting and commercial operations in the medical diagnostics and consumer products industries.
He is vice president for global instrument manufacturing for Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics, responsible for analyzer and parts manufacturing and repair activities at six plants in the United States, Ireland, the United Kingdom and Belgium. Previously, he was vice president for integration, managing the consolidation of commercial, manufacturing and product development activities around the globe after Siemens’ acquisition of three leading in-vitro companies. In other roles, he has served as managing director of commercial and manufacturing companies in Ireland and Canada; as executive director of manufacturing operations for a facility producing both instrumentation and biological reagents; as business controller for worldwide diagnostics and housewares businesses and for Latin American operations; and as plant controller for Corning’s largest packaging and distribution center.
Young Alumni Award
Jesse Shaver
Jesse Shaver, Cary, N.C., earned a Bachelor of Science in chemistry from FHSU in 2001. He earned a Ph.D. in molecular physiology and biophysics in 2007 and an M.D. in 2009 from Vanderbilt University, Nashville. He is a scientist with Vadum Inc., Raleigh, N.C., a defense firm that provides research and engineering solutions for counter-electronic warfare, radio frequency measurement and signatures intelligence.
The 10 years since his graduation from FHSU have included not only his postgraduate studies but also research and development of optical, mechanical and electronic instruments and systems. He holds two patents on a device to measure physiological characteristics of the cornea (transparency, hydration and thickness). During his doctoral research, he also designed and built new general-purpose signal recovery systems for measurement of extremely weak optical signals in the presence of strong noise and interference.
His broad-based research includes the areas of robotics; low-level photo detection; optical and electronic medical device development; corneal biophysics; microfluidic devices; micro electro-mechanical systems; advanced microscopy; and ophthalmic device development. He has experience with a variety of laser-based instruments used in medical and military applications.
Nita M. Landrum Award
Larry Dreiling
Larry Dreiling, Hays, earned two Bachelor of Arts degrees from FHSU in 1980, one in political science and the other in communication, and added an M.S. in communication in 1985. He is a senior field editor for High Plains Journal, Dodge City. He has also worked as news director for KAYS Radio and Television and at The Hutchinson News and The Ellsworth Reporter.
Dreiling was the 2000-2001 president of the American Agricultural Editors Association and the 2005-2006 president of the Association of North American Agricultural Journalists.
He served two four-year terms on the Alumni Association Board of Directors, holds a platinum life membership in the Association, and was communications director of the Boot Hill Chapter. He was a member of the Athletic Association Advisory Board and is an alumni representative on the Tiger Auction Planning Committee. He has been a member of the Tiger Athletic Club since 2001 and is an advocate in FHSU’s Legislative Support Network. He is a past president and a two-time Paul Harris Fellow of the Hays Rotary Club and is a member of the Hays Chamber of Commerce and the Kansas Calvary.
Distinguished Service Award
Steve Shields
Steve Shields, Manhattan, earned a Bachelor of Science in social work from Kansas State University in 1994 with a secondary major in gerontology and long-term care administration. He attended FHSU from 1974 to 1976. Shields is founding CEO and chair of Kinmundy Ralston Corporation of Milwaukee, Wis. He is CEO and principal of Action Pact Development LLC, an international company that specializes in organizational and strategic planning, architectural design and construction, financial forecasting, and project development for the senior living service sector.
Shields is a pioneer of the “Household Model,” which transforms institutional nursing homes into comfortable houses that provide good living for frail elders. From 1994 until January of this year he was CEO and president of Meadowlark Hills Retirement Community, Manhattan and became an internationally known senior living provider that pioneered and shaped the “Household Model” into reality. Shields conducted a two-year international speaking tour in 28 states and abroad to communicate the need for change in long-term care. He has been featured on CBS, the Public Broadcasting System and in the National Video Series of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Presidential Award
Gary Sherrer
Gary Sherrer, Broomfield, Colo., recipient of only the sixth Presidential Award ever given by FHSU, is a former Kansas lieutenant governor and former chair of the Kansas Board of Regents. He became lieutenant governor in 1996. He served until 2003, which also made him the longest-serving lieutenant governor in Kansas history. He was appointed to the Board of Regents in 2007 by then-Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and served until June 2011.
Sherrer began his career as a public school teacher, specializing in speech and debate, before entering the field of banking. He was secretary of the Kansas Department of Commerce from 1995 to 2002 and led the efforts that resulted in 42,000 new Kansas jobs, training more than 100,000 Kansas workers and making $2 billion in capital improvements.
He was a founder of Leadership Kansas and twice served as its chair.
During his tenure as chair of the Kansas Board of Regents, Sherrer helped to initiate Foresight 2020, a strategic plan for all of higher education in the state of Kansas.
He earned a B.S. in education from Emporia State University.
The Fort Hays State University Alumni Association, established in 1916, is dedicated to identifying and serving the needs of more than 48,000 graduates living throughout the United States and 73 foreign countries. For further information about the awards program, visit, e-mail or call 785-628-4430.