Among all the hustle and bustle of homecoming weekend at Missouri Western, with all its flashy parades, thrilling events, and roaring football fans, the much more serene alumni awards banquet is a startling change of pace. On Friday, October 15, 2021 however, the 39th annual Alumni Awards Banquet was held in honor of Missouri Western students and staff, both current and former. 

Every homecoming season, Missouri Western hosts this special dinner, consisting of a cocktail and conversation portion, followed by dinner and the main program. The banquet is held for the enjoyment of the friends and family of Griffon honorees who were chosen  for their outstanding contributions to MWSU, the community, and/or their specialized fields. This year’s honorees were Teresa Fankhauser, Stephanie Stewart, Krystal Graham, Tom Richmond, Susan Campbell, Derek Coats, Dan Ramming, Gary Baumann, Isaiah Colbert, Mackenzie O'Neill, and Liam Nevin.

Professor Stephanie Stewart recalls the purpose of the award as stated by Missouri Western, “The Distinguished Faculty Award is given to a current faculty member in recognition of one’s lasting influences on students, excellence in teaching, professional/career accomplishments and professional and ethical standards.” She humbly explains, “Honestly, I feel like I just did my job the best I know how.  I am constantly looking for ways to improve how I teach my students so that it will be more meaningful.”

Alumni and Faculty aren’t the only ones recognized for their outstanding citizenship. The banquet also recognizes new graduates and honors them with student awards as well. Liam Nevin, an international student from Brisbane Australia, was awarded the International Student of the Year award. 

In Nevin’s words, “this particular Student Leadership Award is for International students. It's given to students that I guess show outstanding leadership in the campus community, so it's an honor to be recognized for it.” 

“I'm fortunate that I have been in the US for a long time now, so I understand what goes on and how hard being an international student can be,” Nevin explains. “I love to help out others that are going through tough times with being so far away from home as I have experienced the same things or similar things. I didn't have any other international students when I was at my first school over here so I had to learn things the hard way for myself so I think it's vital to pass on things others may not know or help out when they need a ride to get groceries or to the airport etc.”

In stride with Nevin, Professor Stewart also admits, “I love finding ways to help students make connections with the information.  I enjoy helping them see that they are capable of so much more than they ever knew.  In December of 2018, I co founded the Freudenthal Center for Parkinson's Disease.  This is an organization that focuses on the wellness of people with PD by offering fitness and wellness classes for free.  I have been able to take on my volunteer role at the Center because of my schedule's flexibility.  I am also able to take students to the Center (nursing and others from Health Exercise Science, Music, Marketing,etc.) so that they can experience the interactions with these individuals living with PD.”

As manifested beautifully in their own testimonies, the Griffon awards banquet honors alumni who have poured selflessly into their communities, using their experience and knowledge from their time at Missouri Western. Each individual, although unique in their service, shares a common love for others and passion for learning. As Griffons, we take the time to honor their hard work and service, building our school pride and setting the tone for homecoming weekend.

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