The Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington will honor distinguished alumni on Friday, with honorees including a university president, a leader in epidemiology, an entrepreneur and a well-known higher education fundraiser.
"We could not be more pleased to honor these exceptional alumni," Interim Dean Mohammad Torabi said. "Their dedication and commitment in their chosen fields is a true inspiration to all of us, and we are thrilled to have them as part of the school's family."
The school has been presenting awards since 1976 to the most prestigious graduates, those who excel professionally and personally. Recipients this year are Curtis R. Simic, president emeritus of the IU Foundation; William Oleckno, professor emeritus at Northern Illinois University; Joe Chin-hsung Kao, president of National Taiwan Sport University; Laura Newton, assistant director of Visit Bloomington; Sandy Searcy, assistant commissioner of the Indiana High School Athletic Association; and Allison Chopra, a fitness and wellness business owner.
The awards ceremony will take place at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 19, in the Grand Hall of the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center at IU Bloomington. Each winner will receive a plaque and will be added to an honor wall at the School of Public Health-Bloomington, formerly the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation.
"Our 2012 alumni award recipients are some of the most distinguished and dedicated alumni," said Natalie Kubat, director of donor and alumni relations for the School of Public Health-Bloomington. "We are proud to be recognizing them and their accomplishments."
W.W. Patty Distinguished Alumni Award
Curtis R. Simic, president emeritus of the IU Foundation, and William Oleckno, professor emeritus at Northern Illinois University, will receive the W.W. Patty Distinguished Alumni Award. This award is the oldest and most prestigious alumni recognition bestowed by the school to a graduate who has demonstrated outstanding personal and professional achievement in his or her career. Recipients reflect the ideals set forth by the school's first dean, Willard W. Patty. Under his leadership, the school rose to national stature and produced some of the finest professionals in the fields of health, physical education and recreation.
Simic, president emeritus of the IU Foundation and national leader in development, earned a bachelor's degree in physical education in 1964. Riding in the Little 500 and serving on the IU Student Foundation while a student at IU, he continued his career by taking on positions of increasing responsibility in development, alumni and external relations in public and private institutions: Yale, the universities of Tennessee, Alabama and Oregon, and the University of California-Berkeley, where he served as vice chancellor for development and president of the University of California-Berkeley Foundation.
Upon his retirement at IU, Simic received Indiana University's highest honor, the University Medal, from IU President Michael A. McRobbie and the IU Board of Trustees. In celebration of his career, friends and colleagues gave $1.3 million to establish Onward! The Curtis R. Simic Scholarship for Leaders at IU Bloomington. On Oct. 26, he will be presented IU's Distinguished Alumni Service Award, the university's highest award given only to an alumna or alumnus
Currently he is serving as consultant and mentor to the leadership of colleges and universities, both public and private, and institutionally related foundations.
Oleckno is Distinguished Teaching Professor Emeritus at Northern Illinois University, where he developed and directed the undergraduate and graduate programs in public health from 1980 to 2003. He earned a doctorate in health and safety in 1980; a Master of Public Health from the University of Pittsburgh; and a Bachelor of Science from the IU School of Medicine, where he would later coordinate its environmental health sciences program.
His teaching, research and professional service have focused on issues in environmental health, epidemiology and disease prevention. He has worked as a consultant, research associate and practitioner in these areas.
Oleckno is currently consulting in the development of an innovative interdisciplinary doctoral program in health sciences at Northern Illinois University and also teaches on a part-time basis. He is an active member of the local Citizen Environmental Commission, where he recently developed an ordinance promoting and regulating the use of wind energy conversion systems in the city of DeKalb.
Mobley International Distinguished Alumni Award
Joe Chin-hsung Kao will receive the Mobley International Distinguished Alumni Award. Named in honor of former Dean Tony Mobley, this annual award recognizes outstanding professional achievement outside the United States.
As president of National Taiwan Sport University since 2010, Kao represents the great heights to which school alumni can rise. Kao earned his Doctor of Philosophy in human performance in 1993 after having received business degrees from universities in Taiwan.
Kao has served as honorary president on the Board of Directors for the Taiwan Society on Sport Management since 2008 and served as president for the executive committee of the Asian Association for Sport Management. Kao has presented and spoken at numerous international conferences. He also served as an exchange scholar at Beijing Sport University in 2000, 2007 and 2010, at Macau University in 2001 and at Macau University of Science and Technology in 2006.
John R. Endwright Distinguished Alumni Service Award
Laura Newton will receive the John R. Endwright Distinguished Alumni Service Award. This award recognizes alumni for outstanding service and contributions. The award is a reflection of former Dean Endwright's commitment to strong ties between the school and its graduates.
Newton, assistant director of Visit Bloomington, earned a bachelor's degree in recreation in 1987. She began her career in the meeting/hospitality industry at Visit Bloomington the following year, assisting with all areas of marketing, including tourism, motor coach, convention, sports and niche development. Newton earned the professional designation of Fellow Certified Destination Management Executive through Destination Marketing Association International in 1999. She is active in many community organizations including the IU Alumni Association, Monroe County History Center, Meals on Wheels and the Monroe County Humane Society.
Anita Aldrich Distinguished Alumni Award
Sandy Searcy, assistant commissioner for the IHSAA, will receive the Anita Aldrich Distinguished Alumni Award. This award is presented to graduates who have demonstrated outstanding achievements in professional excellence, service to the community and loyalty to Indiana University relative to the advancement of girls and women. Recipients have made a significant difference in the lives of girls and women relative to participation in sports and fitness activities as well as the pursuit of healthy lifestyles.
Searcy received a bachelor's degree in sport science in 1986 and a master's degree in sport administration and physical education in 1987. Before joining the IHSAA, she had a lengthy career as a swim coach at Bloomington High School North, where she coached the girls' team from 1984 to 1999 and the boys from 1986 to 1996. She also served as girls' athletic director and taught physical education. While still a student at IU, she coached the boys' swim team at Bloomington High School South.
At the IHSAA, Searcy is responsible for softball, boys' and girls' swimming and diving, and volleyball. Additionally, she organizes the IHSAA Student Advisory Committee and IHSAA Student Leadership Conference. She has served leadership roles in state and national sports organizations, including the National Federation of State High School Associations' National Student Leadership Planning Conference, Gymnastics Rules Committee, Softball Rules Committee and Spirit of Sport Committee.
Early Career Outstanding Alumni Award
Allison Chopra, a fitness and wellness entrepreneur, will receive the Early Career Outstanding Alumni Award. This award is given to alumni who through exceptional achievement have distinguished themselves by their professional accomplishment, community service or service to the university. The recipient must have received his or her degree from the school within the past 10 years, and be 40 years old or younger.
Chopra received a master's degree in fitness management in 2007. She is the owner and operator of Urban Fitness Studio, a private personal training studio in downtown Bloomington, and Urban Cycle Studio, a dedicated spinning studio next door. She has personal training, wellness coaching and management experience in recreational, corporate and private fitness settings.
Outside entrepreneurship, Chopra is a member of the City of Bloomington's Urban Economic Association and active leader at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Bloomington.