Alumni Association to recognize award winners at Homecoming banquet

Six alumni and friends of Fort Hays State University will be honored with awards from the FHSU Alumni Association at the Alumni Awards Banquet Friday, Sept. 26, during Homecoming celebrations.

Three alumni will receive 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 are Dr. Rick Kellerman, a physician and professor who is chair of the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Kansas School of Medicine, Wichita; Dr. Stephen Scheck, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Western Oregon University, Monmouth; and Rick Smalley, chief executive officer for Dickinson Financial Corporation, Kansas City, Mo.

One young alumni, Simin Marefat will receive the Young Alumni Award. It is given to 10- to 15-year graduates in recognition of professional and educational achievement, community activities, honors and awards or other accomplishments.

The Alumni Association will also present Dr. Earl Merkel, a family physician in Russell, with a Distinguished Service Award, which honors individuals who have demonstrated a continuing concern for humanity at a universal, national, state or community level, who endorse and exemplify the highest standards of character and personal attributes, and who demonstrate a continuing concern for improving the quality of life.

Dr. Edward Stehno, FHSU professor emeritus of educational administration and counseling, will receive a 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.

Dr. Rick D. Kellerman, Wichita, graduated from FHSU in 1975 with a B.A. in chemistry. He earned his M.D. from the University of Kansas School of Medicine in 1978.

"Having worked with Rick over the past 20 or so years, I am very impressed with his leadership skills," said colleague Dr. John Dorsch. “I am, however, even more impressed with the kind of person that he is. He keeps an open-door policy for everyone. He makes himself accessible to medical students, resident physicians, faculty members, or anyone who asks for some of his time to help with a problem. He is a source of encouragement for all of us.”

He is nationally known in family medicine, having served on the board of the American Academy of Family Physicians and as president of the AAFP. He has also served as president of the Kansas Academy of Family Physicians. After completing his residency in 1981, Kellerman won an Academic Faculty Fellowship for 1981-82 and then established and operated until 1988 a private practice in Plainville. He then became residency director of the Smoky Hill Family Medicine Residency in Salina, a position he held until 1996. He assumed his current post as chair of the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Kansas School of Medicine, Wichita, in January 1997.

While a student at FHSU, he was a member of Phi Kappa Phi and the Seventh Cavalry leadership fraternity. He won the Torch Award at the end of his senior year and, in 1985, received a Young Alumni Award. In his professional life, the Smoky Hill Family Medicine Residency Program received the Outstanding Rural Health Program in America Award from the National Rural Health Association while he was the program director. He was the inaugural recipient of the Kansas Board of Regents Faculty Award in 2003, was graduation marshal for the KU School of Medicine in 2000, and is a member
of Alpha Omega Alpha, the medical honorary society.

Dr. Stephen H. Scheck, Independence, Ore., graduated from FHSU with a B.S. in zoology in 1975 and an M.S. in biology in 1977. He earned a Ph.D. in zoology in 1980 from Iowa State University of Science and Technology, Ames.

“As dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Western Oregon University, Dr. Scheck is an outstanding manager, scholar, teacher and leader with a strong commitment to the liberal arts as well as an understanding of contemporary issues facing the liberal arts in the context of a comprehensive public liberal arts institution,” said Dr. Jem Spectar, former provost of Western Oregon University. “Dean Scheck is a dedicated leader who demonstrates deep integrity and imparts warmth and wisdom in all of his interactions.”

He is a researcher in animal ecology and physiology, diabetes, the effects of space travel on living organisms and nanotechnology in instruction. After earning his Ph.D., Scheck was an assistant professor of biology at Pepperdine University, Malibu, Calif., from 1980 to 1982, and a professor of biology at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, Calif., from 1982 to 1995, when he became assistant dean of science. He held that position until 2001, when he became associate dean at Loyola Marymount. From 2004 to 2005, he was acting dean of the Frank R. Seaver College of Science and Engineering at Loyola. He assumed his present position as dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Western Oregon University, Monmouth, in January 2006.

His awards include recognition from Sigma Xi, the scientific research society, the Group Achievement Award from the Cosmos 2T Comparison Study Team of NASA, and the Outstanding Educator Award from Loyola’s College of Science and Engineering. He has also received approximately $1.25 million in research grants and awards.

Rick L. Smalley, Shawnee, graduated from FHSU with a B.S. in business in 1971 and an M.S. in business administration in 1973. He is the chief executive officer of Dickinson Financial Corp., a $5.6 billion multi-bank holding company with headquarters in Kansas City, Mo. The company owns and manages commercial banks, operating 200 branch offices in 17 states. He is also president and CEO of Bank Midwest N.A., Kansas City; chairman of the board of Southern Commerce Bank, Tampa, Fla.; SunBank, Phoenix, Ariz.; Armed Forces Bank of California, San Diego; and the Armed Forces Bank, Fort Leavenworth, Kan., a national bank with branches on 33 military installations throughout the United States.

“Rick’s accomplishments are a tribute to his Fort Hays State education and his determination to succeed,” said Don Giles, president and CEO of Armed Forces Bank. “Fort Hays should be proud to acknowledge him as one of its distinguished graduates. He is a fine family man, a man of integrity and a leader in the field of banking. Rick serves his employers, employees and the community with the highest standards. He is also a very good friend to me.”

He is serving a second term on the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.
His career since leaving FHSU included time as a staff accountant for Arthur Anderson, as a senior manager of Baird Kurtz and Dobson, a public accounting firm, and as chief financial officer and chief operating officer of Home Savings Association. He has been Dickinson CEO since 1997.

At FHSU, he was a graduate teaching assistant in the Business Department and a member of Sigma Chi. His professional activities include serving as advisory director of the Academy Bank of Colorado Springs, serving on the Advisory Board of CFO and Accounting Outsourcers, director of the 10th District Federal Reserve Bank, and serving on the Federal Affairs Committee of the Kansas Bankers Association.

Simin Marefat, San Francisco, Calif., earned a B.S. in nursing from FHSU in 1995. She is a registered nurse in the Intensive Cardiac Care Unit at the University of California Medical Center, San Francisco. She has adopted as her mission using her skills and knowledge as a nurse to help those in Third World countries gain access to health care and health education. She has volunteered her time and used her own funds to travel to 63 countries in order to help the underprivileged.

After leaving FHSU, she worked as a nurse in Texas then at St. Luke’s Hospital Health System in Kansas City, where she trained as a cardiovascular intensive care nurse. She moved to California for a position as a traveling nurse, working in San Diego, Hawaii and other locations.

“In the last decade, Simin has traveled extensively throughout the world, often to the developing world, where she has spent her vacation time and personal finances helping those in need,” said Tanja Gabrovsek, an R.N. and colleague of Marefat in California. “Several years ago she traveled to Africa and volunteered her nursing services to help young orphans whose parents had died of AIDS, and many of whom were infected with
AIDS themselves.”

“This experience deeply affected her,” Gabrovsek said, “and in order to continue to help the orphans while living and working in San Francisco, she began her partnership with the non-profit organization Orphans of Rwanda. Simin, with the help of friends, organized several fundraising events in the San Francisco Bay area community and she has raised enough money to help finance the construction of a health clinic at the orphanage in Kigali, Rwanda. In fact, her most recent fundraising endeavor has raised enough money to enroll 36 orphans in the local university in Rwanda.”

After becoming aware of the needs served by Orphans of Rwanda, Marefat, who had never before organized anything like a charity benefit, held a silent auction of photographs taken by her and others. That event, at a Community Center in San Francisco in June 2006, raised more than $14,000. In November 2007, she organized another benefit, which was attended by more than 400 people and raised more than $20,000 for Orphans of Rwanda.

Dr. Earl D. Merkel, Russell, graduated from FHSU in 1953 with an A.B. in chemistry. He earned his M.D. in 1957 from the University of Kansas School of Medicine. He is a family physician with Russell Regional Hospital. After his medical internship at Wesley Hospital, Wichita, he moved to Russell and began a family practice that is now 50 years old. He has delivered babies for three generations in some families and cares for four generations in others.

He was recognized as the 2005 Kansas Family Physician of the Year and was a finalist for the 2006 American Academy of Family Physicians Family Physician of the Year Award. An article in Kansas Family Physician magazine quoted a nomination letter from one of his patients and a summary from the KAFP executive director. “If the world thinks the time of the old-fashioned, loving, caring family doctor has passed, they haven’t met Dr. Earl Merkel, who unquestionably meets that criteria,” wrote the patient. Carolyn Gaughan, KAFP executive director at the time, was quoted in the article: “We received numerous letters detailing Dr. Merkel’s love of medicine, his treatment of patients as family members, and his patients’ genuine love for Dr. Merkel.”

During his college career at FHSU, he was a member of Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity. He and his wife, Kathleen, have funded scholarships at FHSU: the Jack Merkel Memorial Loan Fund and the Earl and Kathleen Merkel Scholarship Fund. The Merkels have also contributed to educational funds at the University  of Kansas.
His professional memberships include the Kansas Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Family Physicians, Kansas Medical Society, American Medical Association, Central Kansas Medical Society, Kansas City Southwest Clinical Society and certification by the American Board of Family Medicine since 1970.
From 1960 to 1987, he was also a medical examiner for the Federal Aviation Administration. He is also a member of the Board of Trustees for the FHSU Foundation and a member of the Foundation’s Executive Committee.

Dr. Edward H. Stehno, Hays, is an FHSU professor emeritus of educational administration and counseling. He earned a B.S. in education in 1959 and an M.S. in industrial education in 1960 from Emporia State University. He received his Ed.D. in educational administration from the University of Kansas in 1971. He began his teaching career as an elementary school teacher for the Jamestown Public Schools and as a superintendent of schools for Delphos and Washington County USD 221. He was a professor of education, administration and counseling at FHSU for 33 years, retiring in 2004. He received the 2004 Outstanding Teacher Award and the 1988 Phi Delta Kappa Outstanding Education Award.

Stehno is a member of the FHSU Foundation Board of Trustees. In 2002, he and his wife, Donna ’77, ’83, established the Stehno Family Room at the Robbins Center. At the time, Stehno said, “Fort Hays State University has given the Stehno family a lot over the years. I have had the freedom to grow mentally, make mistakes and experiment with new ideas. I have made great friends and worked with wonderful colleagues and students all over the world. This gift is small compared to what Fort Hays State University has given the Stehno family.”

During his professional career, he was active nationally and internationally in publications, presentations and seminars and in obtaining grants and contracts.
“I have known Ed since he moved to Hays in the ’70s and have known him to be a man of honesty, integrity and trustworthiness through all of our business ventures,” said Charles Brull, a friend and business partner of Stehno’s. “He was respected by fellow businessmen, citizens and employees,” he continued. “Additionally, we have remained business partners for over 20 years.”

In the community, Stehno has also been an active participant in several civic organizations and activities. He serves on the Sister Cities committee for the city
of Hays and was recently appointed to serve on the new governing board for TMP-Marian and Holy Family Schools.

The FHSU Alumni Association, established in 1916, is dedicated to identifying and serving the needs of more than 43,000 graduates living throughout the United States and 64 foreign countries. For more information, visit or e-mail or call (785) 628-4430 or toll-free 1-888-351-3591.

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