MCAA announces 2016 Award Winners, Hall of Honor

alumni awards from 2013

Once again, the MCAA Board has put together another impressive group of alumni to honor at the 2016 Homecoming during the annual Awards ceremony at 10:00 a.m., Saturday, October 15th on The Christy Mall.

This year's honored alumni are:

Hall of Honor — Margaret Bird ’58
Marietta College’s Hall of Honor just got a little smarter.

This year, Margaret Bird ’58 will be added and receive the highest honor given at Marietta. Bird retired in 2001 as a biology professor at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia, after 30 years. For many years, she was the only female faculty member with the biology (and sciences) department at Marshall. She distinguished herself as she taught classes in the principles of organic evolution, genetics, biological literature, and introductory biology for non-majors. Marshall also recognized her talents when she received the Marshall and Shirley Reynolds Outstanding Teacher Award in 1990.

“As a member of MCAA and fellow sister of Sigma Kappa Sorority, I am humbled by Margaret A. Bird and her induction into the Marietta College Hall of Honor,” said Amanda Burtt ’02. “Margaret’s distinguished research and teaching career stood out to us in part due to her impressive academic achievements, but also in her lifelong commitment to the development of her students. She has been a dedicated member of The Long Blue Line serving as instructor, donor, volunteer and role model.”

She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Biology from Marietta, a Master of Science in Zoology from Duke University in 1963 and a Ph.D. in Genetics from North Carolina State in 1970. In 1963, she returned to Marietta take a position as an instructor in the biology department. She spent four years as an assistant professor in the biology department at North Carolina Wesleyan College and from 1967 to 1970 she was an National Science Foundation graduate research trainee in the genetics department at North Carolina State University.

Hall of Honor — Leonard “Randy” Randolph ’65
Known as Lenny during his undergraduate years, Randy Randolph was a standout athlete, as well as student leader. After earning a Bachelor of Science in Biology at Marietta, Randolph went on to earn a master’s degree from Howard University in 1967 and medical degree from Meharry Medical College in 1972.

In 1970, following two years as a high school chemistry teacher and football coach, Dr. Randolph joined the U.S. Air Force while attending medical school. He has commanded hospitals at George Air Force Base, the medical center at Travis Air Force Base, and was acting commander at Wright-Patterson Medical Center. As Central Air Forces Command Surgeon forward, Randolph led the Air Force medical support of the entire theater during Operation Desert Storm.

Prior to his retirement, he served as chief operating officer for the Department of Defense’s TRICARE-managed health care program for members of the uniformed services, their families, and retirees. He also served at the Pentagon as Deputy Surgeon General and as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense. Randolph was also the first African American from any service branch to hold the position of Deputy Surgeon General and Deputy Director of the TRICARE Management Activity.

“For the past 15 years, Dr. Randolph has served his alma mater with commitment and dedication on the Marietta College Board of Trustees,” said Jack Hopkins ’65, MCAA Board member. “We couldn’t have considered an alumnus who has given more generously of himself to society and to his beloved Marietta College.”

Distinguished Alumna — Jacquelen Smith `61
When Jacquelen “Jackie” Smith graduated from Marietta College, she didn’t know the impact she was going to make on the lives of young students. But she devoted her life to teaching English with at-risk high school students in inner-city Dayton, Ohio. This passion and determination to make a difference in others is why she is the recipient of the 2016 Distinguished Alumna Award.

She will be honored during the MCAA’s Award Ceremony at 10 a.m., Saturday, Oct. 15, on The Christy Mall.

“Jacquelen Smith '61 epitomizes service and dedication to education. She has spent her career paying-it-forward and ensuring that students like herself obtain the skills needed to be successful both in and out of the classroom,” said MCAA Board Member Tia Lane ’98. “She is a perfect recipient for this award and we are honored to count her as a member of The Long Blue Line and now as a Distinguished Alumna.” 

On multiple occasions, Smith had the opportunity to leave for more lucrative positions, but she felt she was serving a greater good and remained at the school in Dayton. She felt such a connection to the students because of her own experience at Marietta. Smith said she was not prepared for college-level courses when she entered Marietta College, but caring and nurturing professors offered assistance and showed appreciation for her dedication and willingness to work hard.

Smith also credits Marietta College for helping her develop stronger leadership skills that played a key role early in her career when she was the Dean of Women at a small college. Faced with a tough decision, she confronted the President on behalf of a female student who was kicked out of a sorority because she was dating a black student. She lost her job — something she knew would happen — but she believes she set the right example for her students.

She now heads up a private rescue animal facility and often has 30 or so rescued cats for which she cares and secures adoption. Smith earned a Bachelor of Arts in English in 1961 from Marietta. She also earned a Ph.D. from Indiana University in 1969.

The Distinguished Alumna Award is presented to an alumna who has achieved significant accomplishments, made outstanding contributions in his or her field, or has distinguished himself or herself through service to the community, state, or nation.

Distinguished Alumnus — Donald Knechtges ’64
If you look at everything Donald Knechtges has done since he graduated from Marietta College, it’s pretty clear he can’t sit still.

Prior to forming Business Visions in 2000, Knechtges served in various senior level positions for BF Goodrich, Geon and PolyOne, in sales and marketing, business development, corporate technology, and engineering. In addition to leading the business activities of the Geon Corp., he directed the merger and acquisitions efforts that resulted in the formation of the PolyOne Co. He played an integral role in molding PolyOne into the world’s leading polymer services company, founded Great Lakes Innovation and Development Enterprise (GLIDE).

Knechtges is currently vice president of Great Lakes Biomimicry (GLBio). GLBio was established to create conditions for sustainable, educationally driven, regional economic development, through place-based innovation inspired and tested by nature. He has worked closely with founder Thomas N. Tyrrell on the strategic direction, education, and economic development aspects of GLBio. In 2001, through his company Business Visions, he co-founded GLIDE (Great Lakes Innovation and Development Enterprise) at Lorain County Community College and the Lorain County Community College Foundation Innovation Fund. Don served as the managing director of GLIDE from its inception until July 2007 when he became chief development officer for the Innovation Fund.

“Mr. Knechtges has been a leader in business and in his community through his Board work and his commitment to growth and development across NE Ohio,” said MCAA Board member Kathy Worcester Lentner ’97. “In his current role as VP of Great Lake Biomimicry (GLBio), Mr. Knechtges is focused on driving regional economic development through place-based innovation. His work is helping to advance the image and the sustainability of the region where he has spent his career and his accomplishments make him an outstanding choice for Distinguished Alumnus.”

Knechtges earned a Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry from Marietta and a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering from Case Western Reserve.

The Distinguished Alumnus Award is presented to an alumnus who has achieved significant accomplishments, made outstanding contributions in his or her field, or has distinguished himself or herself through service to the community, state, or nation.

Outstanding Young Alumna — Jerry Tardivo Alcoser ’02
In the spring, Jerry Tardivo Alcoser returned to campus to meet with students and talk about the future of energy. Students responded so well that the Petroleum Engineering graduate was inspired by the experience.
She’ll return to campus again at Homecoming as she’s being honored by the Marietta College Alumni Association as the Outstanding Young Alumna.
“I hired her while I was the recruiting Team Lead for Chevron at Marietta College and she came recruiting with me for two years before I left the company,” said MCAA Board member Travis Wells ’97. “I have heard great things about her work at Chevron while I was there and from colleagues once I left. She has moved up the ‘ladder’ quickly into management roles, which obviously says something about her work.”
She currently serves as manager of business planning and development for Chevron’s deepwater exploration and projects strategic business unit. Alcoser began her career with Chevron in 2002 after graduating from Marietta College. She has held a variety of leadership positions throughout her career, including drilling and completions engineering manager for mid-continent U.S. land, advisor to vice president of drilling and completions, performance engineer and drilling engineer in Angola, and drilling engineer and rig site manager in the
Gulf of Mexico shelf.
She has been a pioneer in the petroleum industry for women. She was one of first female engineers/managers in Angola — where she met her husband, who is at BP, and currently working on a law degree. Alcoser is a frequent presenter at Women’s Leadership conferences, and her former professors are excited to see what the future holds for her.
This award is presented to alumna who has graduated 15 years ago or less, who has made significant accomplishments in business or professional life and/or who has rendered outstanding service to the College or the MCAA.
Outstanding Young Alumnus — Nicholas Gehlfuss ’07
For the past few years, Nick Gehlfuss had one of those faces that people recognized but couldn’t quite figure out why.
With recurring roles in TV shows like “Shameless,” “The Newsroom,” and “Power,” as well as other roles on “The Good Wife,” “Royal Pains” and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” you could see why people thought they knew him.
The days of anonymity are long gone since Gehlfuss is preparing for his second season as Dr. Will Halstead on NBC’s hit show “Chicago Med.”
Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio’s Little Italy, Gehlfuss was more of an athlete growing up. In eighth grade a teacher approached him auditioning for a part in “Treasure Island.” Something clicked and he caught the acting bug. After four years at Marietta, he was ready to head out to Los Angeles or New York City to see if he could make it. Instead, he decided to get more training at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, where he earned a Master of Fine Arts degree.
The move paid off and Gehlfuss has been working steady since 2010. There were some early struggles during the first two years as he auditioned for plays in New York City. To make some extra money, Gehlfuss played his guitar and sang at two Irish Pubs — a talent he shared at Marietta as part of the choir.
He married Lilian Matsuda in May and they reside in Chicago.
This award is presented to alumnus who has graduated 15 years ago or less, who has made significant accomplishments in business or professional life and/or who has rendered outstanding service to the College or the MCAA.

Liz Tribett MCAA Service Award — Reginald Sims ’75 and Jon Wendell ’68
This honor is presented annually to anyone in the Marietta College community whom the Board considers deserving of recognition for service to the College. The pool of potential winners was so deep the MCAA chose two.

Reginald “Reggie” Sims was an activist as a student when helped found the Black Student Union in the 1970s, and he has remained an activist in his New Jersey community as an Assistant Prosecutor for Essex County.

“Reggie always accepts new challenges with determination, dependability and always with a smile,” said MCAA Board member Patricia Bain Bachner ’77. “Typical of his loyalty and steadfastness, Reggie has received the Perfect Attendance Award during his time at the Prosecutor’s Office.”

Sims served on the MCAA Board and consulted on the redesign of the College’s magazine in 2005. He continues to be active with current African-American students, serving as a mentor and sharing with them the history of black students who came before them.

“During his two terms on the MCAA, Reggie provided valuable insight on issues of diversity, inclusion, and admissions,” Bain Bachner said. “Reggie can frequently be found on campus. He has presented to students and staff about Martin Luther King and has worked hard on Homecoming events and attendance.”

Jon Wendell hasn’t missed a Marietta homecoming since 1998 when fellow classmate Rob Dyson ’68 told him the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity was celebrating the Class of 1968’s 30th reunion.

“Jon started collecting email addresses in a database and encouraged people to come to the next homecoming,” said MCAA Board member Frank Fleischer ’71.

In 2003, Wendell planned a big party on Thursday before Homecoming at Spagna’s on the West side of Marietta.

“This grew into the Lambda Chi Pig roast at the Harmar Tavern that has become an annual event. … Many alumni have started to go to Homecoming and keep up with the activities of the College because of Jon’s encouragement.”

Wendell served on the MCAA Board from 2006-11 and served as the Chair of the Nominating Committee.

Honorary Alumna — Joyce Pennington
This award is presented to an individual who is not an alumnus/a, but has given specific and meritorious service on behalf of the quality and advancement of the College and the MCAA.

How does 37 years of providing motherly love and guidance for hundreds — if not thousands — of students in the McKinney Mass Building sound? Well, Joyce Pennington has earned her spot in The Long Blue Line as this year’s Honorary Alumna.

Pennington is still an Administrative Coordinator at the College. Not only has she assisted countless students, but faculty members and department chairs — sometimes more than she can count.