distinguished Alumni awards

2019 Distinguished Alumni

The UCM Alumni Foundation presented the Distinguished Alumni Awards to the following exceptional alumni in 2019:

Debby Ballard, Class of 1974
Distinguished Alumni Award

Maj. Gen. Pat Cavanaugh, Class of 1970
Distinguished Alumni Award

Dr. Paul Hsu, Class of 1978 
Distinguished International Alumni Award

Larry W. Jennings, Class of 1981
Distinguished Alumni Award for Service  



Debby Ballard, '74


Debby Ballard is the director of community affairs at Sprint, leading the Overland Park, Kansas-based company’s local and national outreach programs. She also serves as president of the Sprint Foundation, prioritizing causes that include "making lives better for kids, particularly urban kids, and for women.”


Ballard earned her bachelor’s degree from UCM in home economics and has received an honorary doctorate from William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri. Growing up as the child of a minister and a kindergarten teacher helped instill in her an appreciation of lifelong learning and shape what she describes as her fearless attitude toward life.


In 2016, Debby Ballard received the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce's highest honor, the Athena Leadership award. She is a trustee of the University of Missouri-Kansas City and has served as chair of the board of both the Kansas City Zoo and the Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey. She is a past president of the Jackson County chapter of Links Inc. and has been a board member of the Kansas City Repertory Theatre, Central Exchange, Francis Family Foundation, Truman Foundation and CTIA The Wireless Foundation.



Maj. Gen. Pat Cavanaugh, '70


After graduating from the University of Central Missouri with a bachelor’s degree in political science, Pat Cavanaugh was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Signal Corps through UCM’s Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), where he was a charter member. He served 11 years in Germany, three years in Korea and completed several war zone assignments in Iraq, Bosnia and Kosovo. Cavanaugh later earned a master’s degree in communications from the University of Northern Colorado and pursued extensive additional officer training in the military.


Major General Pat Cavanaugh retired from active duty from the U.S. Army in 2002 with many decorations and awards, concluding his military career as the commanding general of both Fort Gordon in Georgia and the U.S. Army Signal Center. He then worked as a consultant and project manager before fully retiring in 2013.



Paul Hsu, '78


Born in Taiwan, Paul Hsu came to the University of Central Missouri on a scholarship to earn his master’s degree in industrial management and system engineering. Education has been one of the keys to his success, and Hsu went on to complete a Ph.D. (1992, LaSalle University) and Harvard Business School’s Executive Educational Program (1995).

Hsu’s entrepreneurial story begins in 1984 with his first business, Manufacturing Technology Inc., a supplier of electronics to the U.S. military. Hsu built three successful companies following MTI beginning with Total Parts Plus Inc., an internet-based data content company providing electronic component obsolescence management and engineering services; ActiGraph LLC, an electronic medical device manufacturer of a product that collects biometric data; and Crestview Technology Air Park, an airport development providing infrastructure for aerospace and technology-driven solutions in Northwest Florida.

Hsu is the Chairman and Founder of the HSU Educational Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preparing K-20 students in the high-demand career fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics with a mission to encourage excellence in teaching and innovation in the classroom.

Hsu has served in multiple presidential appointments for each administration since President George W. Bush and was recently named by President Donald Trump as Chairman of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI). Hsu's entrepreneurial principles include: “Stay curious – Never say no before you say maybe – Be bold – Strive to understand what makes people tick – Build relationships – Build wisely – Welcome new ideas, even from unlikely sources – Adhere to strong values.”


Larry W. Jennings, '81


Larry Jennings, a Warrensburg native, earned his bachelor’s degree in broadcast media with a minor in safety. He cites his family’s involvement in the community as “probably the biggest influence” on his decision to pursue a career in service.


Jennings started as a volunteer firefighter in 1976 for the Johnson County Fire Protection District. He was a fire scene investigator from 1987 to 1992 for Missouri’s Fire Safety Division. He then spent 15 years as an investigator for American Family Insurance’s special investigations unit. Jennings has been the fire chief of the Johnson County Fire Protection District 1 in Warrensburg since 2007. In 2009, the Fire Fighters Association of Missouri named him Chief of the Year, and he currently serves as the organization’s first vice president. Jennings also serves as director for the Professional Fire and Fraud Investigators Association.


Top priorities throughout his career have included fire suppression and fire safety training for firefighters and residents, resulting in a Johnson County Training and Safety Division and the purchase of a fire and weather safety trailer used for community education. Jennings makes numerous presentations for UCM and has trained and mentored students, volunteers, interns and student residents for decades.



2018 Distinguished Alumni  

Randall Harbert

Randall Harbert is the chief agency sales and marketing officer for State Farm Insurance and has been recognized by Business Insider as one the 50 Most Innovative Chief Marketing Officers in the World.

At UCM, he pursued leadership experiences as a member of Alpha Kappa Lambda, had an exciting career as a collegiate golfer, and was the male recipient of the Charno Award. Harbert said it was the mentors at UCM, like graphic arts professor Jim Hoisington, who helped him excel.

After graduation, he started his professional career with positions in both pharmaceutical sales and branding. In 1992, he left his marketing position at H.J. Heinz to become an agent for State Farm, where he quickly rose through the ranks. Harbert and his wife, Kelly, have served on the UCM Alumni Foundation Board, helped create UCM's State Farm Marketing and Sales labs and helped bring the State Farm Marketing and Sales Competition to UCM. They also have endowed the Randall and Kelly Harbert Marketing Professorship.

“I learned to be a good student at the University of Central Missouri,” Harbert said. “What I learned here is that if you work hard, the rewards can be great, and that’s my biggest takeaway.”

Rebecca Morlando

Rebecca Morlando is the Lean Six Sigma Manufacturing and Supply Chain director for 3M’s Safety and Graphics Division. She oversees operations in more than 20 countries, with revenues in excess of $4.5 billion.

“I fell in love with 3M,” Morlando said. “How can you not? As a chemist, as a natural scientist? We take great scientists, we solve big problems, and we impact lives around the world.”

A Warrensburg native whose educator parents helped develop her love of learning, Morlando earned her undergraduate degree in chemistry from UCM in 1993, then attended the University of Missouri to earn a doctoral degree in chemistry in 1997. She then launched her professional career with 3M, a company where she had worked part time during her dissertation. She became a plant manager in 2003. Since then, she has climbed the professional career ladder with positions continually increasing in responsibility and scope. Her work takes her to countries across the globe, and in 2018 she had worked on every continent except Antarctica.

As Morlando travels the globe, she recognizes that the roots of her leadership reach back to lessons learned in her Warrensburg home and on the UCM campus. 


Richard Phillips

Richard Phillips has been honored for his 50-plus years of service in education with the Missouri Pioneer in Education award and the Friend of Education award. He completed his undergraduate degree at UCM and started his career as a teacher and coach at Odessa High School, followed by three years in Pleasant Hill. After earning a master’s degree, he returned to UCM in 1970 to obtain an education specialist degree.

Phillips had moved to a superintendent position when the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) asked him to be assistant director for supervision of instruction. He accepted the role with DESE and began a 14-year journey as the main architect of the state’s classification and accreditation effort. In 1993, he accepted a position as the assistant superintendent at Fort Osage High School. Then, in 2010, he was invited back to Jefferson City as the interim deputy commissioner of DESE.

When Phillips became president of the UCM Alumni Board of Directors in 2004, he said he was able to view the university through a different lens. He then served two terms as president of UCM's Board of Governors. Phillips is also a past president of the UCM Alumni Foundation Board and was inducted into the UCM Athletics Hall of Fame in 2013.

Rafie Hamidpour

Rafie Hamidpour, originally from Iran, earned undergraduate degrees at Arizona State University and the University of Missouri – Kansas City in mathematics and engineering. While working as an engineer in Kansas City, he commuted to UCM to pursue a master’s degree in industrial management, which prepared him for additional graduate study.  He went on to earn doctoral degrees in engineering and bioscience.

Hamidpour, who is also a prolific author, has engineering specialty offices in California, Kansas, Missouri and Virginia. In addition to engineering, he is a medical researcher and herbal medicine investigator through his company, Pars Bioscience. The company conducts pharmacological studies exploring the benefits of herbal medicines such as sage, saffron and camphor as anti-cancer agents. Hamidpour now holds nine certificates of registration from the Library of Congress and a number of patent registrations in the United States and Canada. His first patent was for developing a motion control system.

“I liked the courses at UCM,” Hamidpour said. “It is a good state university. I really enjoyed the research, and the master’s program set me up for my Ph.D.”

Sarah Osborne


Sarah Osborne has been recognized as a Next Generation Leader by the Kansas City Business Journal and a Felllow of the Society of Actuaries. She began work as an actuary at Assurant Employee Benefits, and in 2010 she advanced to the vice president position with Lockton Companies. Since 2016, she has served as the senior vice president and chief actuary and analytics officer for GEHA.

Osborne entered college at the University of Central Missouri in the late 1990s, where she was an outstanding student of actuarial science. She was involved with the Student Government Association, the Actuarial Organization, Kappa Mu Epsilon and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. She was also a UCM cheerleader and a Charno Award winner. She credits the late Sherralyn Craven, professor of actuarial science, as a strong influence in her successful academic and professional careers.

Osborne volunteers with the United Way of Greater Kansas City and serves on the Phoenix House Board of Directors, assisting women and children in need.


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Charno awards

The UCM Alumni Foundation recognizes one outstanding male and one outstanding female graduate each year with the George S. Charno Senior Award. Visit ucmfoundation.org/charno-awards to learn more!

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Watch videos of past Distinguished Alumni Award recipients on YouTube.




Barry Davis is a regional managing partner for BKD, one of the nation’s largest certified public accounting and advisory firms with 35 offices in 16 states, more than 2,700 employees including 270 partners, and more than $550 million in annual revenues. Davis joined BKD two years after earning an undergraduate accounting degree from Central Missouri in 1981. He was honored this fall at the 2017 Distinguished Alumni Dinner during Homecoming. READ MORE

Karen LeDoux is a retired major general in the U.S. Army. Her last assignment was as the commanding general of the 88th Regional Support Command at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, overseeing base operations for the Army Reserve across 19 states. As a civilian, she is a program vice president at the Logistics Management Institute with an ERP business modernization portfolio. She was honored this fall at the 2017 Distinguished Alumni Dinner during Homecoming. READ MORE

Rob Ruth keeps busy between his family, career, community, church and alma mater. This 1975 alumnus grew up in Warrensburg, graduating from WHS in 1971. At UCM, he pledged Sigma Phi Epsilon and was president of the Physical Education Club. He also was a four-year starter for Mules Baseball and all-MIAA player in 1974-75, helping the team win the MIAA title and make their first appearance in the World Series. That 1974 team, including Ruth, is now a member of the UCM Athletic Hall of Fame. Rob was honored this fall at the Distinguished Alumni Award Dinner during Homecoming. READ MORE

Chang Bin Yim is the retired vice president of Textile Rubber and Chemical, a chemical and technology company with manufacturing and distribution facilities throughout the world. He came to Warrensburg from Seoul, South Korea, and earned degrees in math and chemistry in 1963. After earning a master’s degree in statistics from the University of Missouri, he started his career with Textile Rubber. This fall, Chang was honored at the Distinguished Alumni Award Dinner during Homecoming. READ MORE 

LaTanya Buck is the first person appointed as dean of diversity and inclusion at Princeton University, an Ivy League school considered one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious. She holds two degrees from Central Missouri: a bachelor’s in public relations in 2002 and a master’s in college student personnel administration in 2004. She earned a Ph.D. in higher education administration from Saint Louis University. LaTanya was honored this fall at the Distinguished Alumni Award Dinner during Homecoming. READ MORE




Adrian Andrews has lived on high alert during his 28 years with the U.S. Secret Service, leading federal and state undercover stings and providing protection detail for presidents, vice presidents and foreign dignitaries. He was honored by the UCM Alumni Foundation in October as a 2016 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient.  READ MORE 


Rick Mustion’s extraordinary professionalism, competence, commitment and character are credited with his military achievement becoming a major general. The two-star designation is the highest permanent rank given during peacetime in the uniformed services, requiring final approval by both the Senate and President. He was honored by the UCM Alumni Foundation in October as a 2016 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient. READ MORE 


Dan Power has succeeded in three career paths – education, real estate and finance – and along the way, has helped every community where he and his wife, alumna Shirley Barr, lived and raised their family. He was honored by the UCM Alumni Foundation in October as a 2016 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient for Service.  READ MORE


read about our 2015 da winners

Watch videos of past Distinguished Alumni Award recipients on YouTube.



If you know of alumni deserving of such recognition, please contact us for a nomination form at alumni@ucmo.edu. Suggestions will be reviewed by a committee and those individuals selected for formal nomination will be contacted for additional information.

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