Fall 2006

Best & Brightest


For the 51st time, members of the  university community have come together to select the best and brightest Shockers for recognition of outstanding service and achievement. The 2006 honorees will be presented their awards during a gala ceremony slated for Thu., Jan. 25, 2007, at the Wichita Marriott.

Bob WhiteBob White '71/76

Receiving the WSU Alumni Achievement Award, the highest honor bestowed by the alumni association upon a university graduate, is Bob M. White ’71/76. Timing is the thing with White — that and hard work, sky-high goals and a taste for fun, no matter how serious the business at hand.

Anecdotes abound. There’s the snake-in-the-fishing-buddy’s-tent story — nonpoisonous, of course! There’s the Quaker-boy-turned-rock-‘n’-roll drummer tale. (“I must have played Wipe Out by the Surfaris a million times,” he admits.)

And, perhaps most on point, there’s the account of White’s climb from part-time bookkeeper to chief executive officer and owner of multimillion-dollar Garvey International.

Renamed White International, the corporation is a grain feed, material handling and horticulture company headquartered in St. Charles, Illinois, where White oversees operations in commodity trading, feed processing, export trading, bulk storage and handling and numerous other areas. He has also garnered a reputation for acquisition and diversification, and has enjoyed success in the railway and marine industries, as well.

A member of the Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame, White has devoted much time and effort to community enrichment. He sat on the board of the WSU Alumni Association for three years, was instrumental in the creation and maintenance of the Chicago-area Alumni Chapter and sits today on the WSU National Advisory Council to the WSU Foundation, as well as the National Advisory Council to the Barton School of Business.

White's lifetime of service has earned him accolades from the National Association of Accountants, Boy Scouts of America, the City of St. Charles, Cowley County Community College and Wichita State.

Paul AllenPaul Allen '70

Paul S. Allen ’70, the chief executive of Wichita-based Allen, Gibbs & Houlik LC, CPAs and Advisors, is the WSU Alumni Recognition Award honoree. Allen is a man who knows opportunity when he sees it.

In 1987, he was nearly 20 years into his career with international accounting giant KPMG. When that firm merged with another company, Paul and five like-minded partners recognized a niche that was going unfulfilled.

Middle-sized companies — too big for local CPA firms, but not big enough for accounting's "Big Eight" — were in need of top-notch accounting and consulting services, and all too often unable to procure them.

Allen, Gibbs & Houlik, L.C., was formed to meet the needs of that in-between market — and there has been no looking back. Today, as chief executive officer, Allen oversees one of the largest CPA and advisory firms in the Midwest. With its more than 100 employees and its eight business divisions, Allen, Gibbs & Houlik successfully serves a wide range of clients.

In addition to his numerous professional affiliations, Allen has contributed a great deal of sweat equity toward making Wichita State and the wider Wichita community better places in which to live, learn and work.

He is or has been a board member of the Wichita Metro Area Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition, United Way of the Plains, the Salvation Army, the Wichita Convention and Visitors Bureau and the WSU Alumni Association, of which he is a past president. He also sits on the WSU Foundation's National Advisory Council and that body's audit committee.

Ron KopitaRon Kopita

Ron Kopita, WSU vice president for Campus Life and University Relations and an associate professor in counseling and educational psychology, has been named the University Recognition Award winner.

Student advocacy is, and always has been, the name of the game for Kopita, who came to Wichita State in 1999 from California State University, Northridge, where he was twice honored with the "Associated Student Administrator of the Year" award — which is given to administrators viewed by students as being active on student-rights issues.

In his position as WSU's vice president for campus life and university relations, he has more than lived up to the hype, proving a popular "go-to guy" for students with questions or concerns about university policy.

As an associate professor in education, Kopita is also a well-respected psychologist who has presented more than 200 professional papers and workshops at both the state and national level. And since signing on at WSU, he's become an incorrigible Shocker, vigorously participating in programs affiliated with the alumni association, athletics, College of Health Professions, the WSU Foundation, the university technology committee and others.

It has been his creative energy in large measure that is behind the introduction in 2000 of Wichita State's fall Convocation event. His upbeat attitude has made him a favorite of students, faculty and staff alike.

Joyce DiDonatoJoyce DiDonato '92

Joyce A. DiDonato ’92, an internationally lauded mezzo-soprano who has distinguished herself by winning many of the opera world’s most respected awards and honors, will be presented the Young Alumna Award.

DiDonato has enjoyed a fast-paced rise to international fame since her graduation from Wichita State in 1992. She came to WSU with every intention of becoming a vocal music teacher, but after taking to the stage in her third year at WSU, the world of opera had her hooked. And today, the world of opera is hooked on her — and her rare and acclaimed voice.

This "mezzo-soprano for the next generation," whose 2001 debut at Italy’s world-famous La Scala opera house earned her immediate praise, has garnered accolades from every corner of the globe. Among her many plaudits is the ultra-prestigious Richard Tucker Foundation Award, which she won in 2002.

WSU Professor Emeritus of Music George Gibson describes Joyce and her talents this way: “Her voice is vibrant, well focused and tremendously agile. Those qualities alone distinguish her among mezzos, but she can also sing the long lyric lines — a combination that is extraordinary when paired with her wonderful range, stage presence and acting ability.”

Throughout her stellar rise, she has maintained strong ties to her alma mater. This proud Shocker, for example, returned to campus to be featured as a WSU Distinguished Alumni Speaker in the alumni association’s Rise and Shine Breakfast Series in 2004

Ginger CoxGinger Cox

Ginger Cox, who has been a WSU staff member since 1978, is the Laura Cross Distinguished Service Award honoree. Cox has served as assistant to the vice president for Campus Life and University Relations since 1997.

A tireless supporter of Wichita State University and its mission of higher education,  Cox has, through sincere dedication, become well respected for her broad base of WSU-related knowledge. "Ask Ginger" is a phrase heard often in administration offices.

She has worn many hats in her 28 years at Wichita State. As a student, she focused on business education. As a university volunteer, her service and gift for leadership have enriched the Council of University Women, the Senior Honor Men and Women Committee, the Gore Scholars Alumni 50th Anniversary Event and many others — including the WSU Alumni Association.

And as a university employee, she has excelled in a number of positions. Starting as a clerk for the coordinator of orientation and advising services back in 1978, she moved up to accountant, then manager of the campus post office and then served as secretary for the associate vice president for student affairs, before sliding into her present position.

Ruth and Harold ScheerRuth and Harold Scheer

Harold and Ruth ’48 Scheer of Wichita will take home the first-ever Award of Distinction. This new, nonannual award will be presented only when merited for significant contributions to the university and/or society — contributions of a unique order.

Harold, a retired dentist, and Ruth, a musician and author of a number of children’s books (and Kansas Mother of the Year in 1987!), are unflagging WSU supporters.

They have dedicated more than just their time, care and effort to Wichita State over the years: they’ve also sent multiple generations of their ever-expanding family through the university.

Counting Ruth (who earned her degree in English at the University of Wichita in 1948), six of her 10 children and seven of her 30 grandchildren, the Scheers are thus far responsible for 14 graduates of WSU — and four more are set to earn degrees by 2008!

The Scheers are well known for decades of community involvement. Their family musical group The Scheer Delights performed locally for many years, and both have devoted much of their free time to such causes as the Wichita Symphony, Botanica The Wichita Gardens, Wichita Music Theater and Grand Opera, the Sedgwick County Zoo, the Kansas Aviation Museum and many, many others.


Shocker Faces

Shocker personalities show up everywhere. Take a look!

Best & Brightest

Meet the 2006 WSU Alumni Awards honorees.

Xs & Os Over Breakfast

More than 350 Shockers showed up bright and early to hear WSU coach Mark Turgeon talk Xs and Os.