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University Relations

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April 8 , 2008
Contact: Lindsey Hoover, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, (785) 864-3663.

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences to honor distinguished alumni April 11

LAWRENCE — The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Kansas will honor recipients of the Alumni Distinguished Achievement Award during its annual Deans Club Banquet at 5:30 p.m. Friday, April 11, at the Ballroom in the Kansas Union.

The awards are the highest honor bestowed by the College on alumni in recognition of contributions to their communities, professions or KU.

“It is an honor to recognize this year’s four College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Distinguished Alumni Award recipients,” said Dean Joseph E. Steinmetz. “Their achievements have made a tremendous impact on the world and we in the College are proud to recognize their contributions at this time as graduates of our outstanding academic programs.”

Recipients are Mary Dawson of Pittsburgh, Pa.; James Gunn of Lawrence; Thomas Rudkin of Los Gatos, Calif.; and George Sheldon of Chapel Hill, N.C. Brief biographies of award winners and a summary of campus events are below.

Mary Dawson

Mary Dawson is an acclaimed paleontologist at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, one of the largest of its kind in the world. She serves as curator emeritus of vertebrate paleontology and as an adjunct professor in the Department of Geology and Planetary Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh. Most of her research materials are fossils she has collected worldwide, with emphasis on Arctic regions and eastern Asia. Dawson received her doctorate in paleontology from the Department of Zoology (now part of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology) at KU in 1957, a time when few women received doctoral degrees in any subject, especially paleontology. Dawson will have a luncheon with Natural History Museum faculty and graduate students. Reservations are required.

James Gunn

James Gunn is widely acknowledged as one of the most influential authors, scholars and educators in science fiction. He has penned 28 books, edited 12 books and written more than 100 published stories. Gunn is professor emeritus of English and director of the Center for the Study of Science Fiction at KU. He is most well-known as the author of “Alternate Worlds: The Illustrated History of Science Fiction” and as editor of the six-volume anthology “The Road to Science Fiction.” Other works include “The Listeners,” “The Immortals,” “The Joy Makers” and “Isaac Asimov: The Foundations of Science Fiction.” Gunn was named the 2007 Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. He received a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1947 and master’s degree in English in 1951, both from KU. Gunn will give a reading titled “The Best of James Gunn” at 4 p.m. April 11 in the auditorium of the Spencer Museum of Art. The reading is open to the public.

Thomas Rudkin

Thomas Rudkin is best known for his role as one of two engineers who wrote the first version of the software program PowerPoint. He has worked at Intel and Microsoft and as a self-employed information designer. Rudkin and his wife, Jann, are loyal KU graduates committed to the success of KU. Tom serves on KU’s International Programs advisory board; they both serve on the Biodiversity Institute/Natural History Museum advisory board and are longtime supporters of scholarship halls, the renovation of Spooner Hall for the Commons and the International House for visiting scholars. Rudkin received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from KU in 1973 and a master’s degree in computer science from the University of Wisconsin. Rudkin will give a presentation at 4 p.m. April 10 at Spooner Hall. The presentation is open to the public.

George Sheldon

George Sheldon has served as chair of surgery for 17 years and professor of surgery and social medicine at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. He was a fellow in internal medicine at the Mayo Clinic, resident in surgery at the University of California-San Francisco and fellow in surgical biology at Harvard Medical School. Sheldon is one of fewer than 20 surgeons in the past 100 years to be president of all the major surgical organizations, including the American College of Surgeons, the American Surgical Association, the American Association for the Surgery of Trauma and the American Board of Surgery. Sheldon is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Science and has an Honorary Fellowship in the Royal College of Edinburgh and the Royal College of Surgeons of England. He is currently editor-in chief of, an Internet portal, and Centennial History of the American College of Surgeons. A Salina native and past student body president of KU, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history in 1957 and his doctor of medicine degree in 1961, both from KU. Sheldon will give a lecture titled “The Role of the 18th Century Scottish Enlightenment in Revolutionary War Period Medical Education” at 2 p.m. April 11 at Spooner Hall. The lecture is open to the public.

The Alumni Distinguished Achievement Awards are presented annually to select graduates of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Nominees must have graduated from the College a minimum of 10 years ago. The awards recognize excellence in many different areas, including but not limited to, the arts, public service, business and academia. More information and nomination forms are available at the College Web site under the “Alumni & Friends” link.


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