KU News Release

April 8, 2011
Contact: Kathryn Nemeth Tuttle, Student Success, 785-864-4060

KU announces winners of 2011 Chancellor’s Student Awards

LAWRENCE — Ten graduating seniors at the University of Kansas have received 2011 Chancellor’s Student Awards and will be recognized formally as part of the 139th Commencement.

The awards recognize students’ academic, volunteer and leadership accomplishments during their time at KU. The winners are:

Donald K. Alderson Memorial Award: Gerald Francis Wohletz Jr., Lawrence

Class of 1913 Award: Joseph Benjamin Deneault, Topeka, and Angela Ndhuya Oguna, Nairobi, Kenya

Alexis F. Dillard Student Involvement Award: David Jeremy Cohen, Leawood, and Tonia Nicole Salas, Wichita, Kan., and Alameda, Calif.

Rusty Leffel Concerned Student Award: Michael Wade Smith, Goodland, Kan., and Naperville, Ill., and Alexander R. Earles, Salina and West Des Moines, Iowa

Caryl K. Smith Student Leader Award: Emily Anne Loyd, Lawrence

Agnes Wright Strickland Award: Mathew James Lawrence Shepard, Lenora, and Caitlin Maureen Wise, Mulvane

Marlesa Roney, vice provost for Student Success, and Kathryn Nemeth Tuttle, assistant vice provost for Student Success, recently visited the students in class to present the awards. Winners receive cash prizes, except recipients of the Agnes Wright Strickland Award, who receive lifetime membership in the KU Alumni Association.

Recipients will be honored at a reception Saturday, May 21, at the Kansas Room in the Kansas Union. The honorees also receive special recognition during the Commencement ceremony May 22 in Memorial Stadium. In addition, their portraits will be in the Commencement program.

The Chancellor’s Student Awards committee selects the winners from throughout the university from nominations submitted by students, faculty and staff. The selection committee includes students, faculty and staff.

The purpose of each award and profiles of the recipients are listed below.

The Class of 1913 Award annually goes to a graduating man and woman who show evidence of intelligence, devotion to studies, personal character and promise of usefulness to society.

The Donald K. Alderson Memorial Award goes to a graduating senior who has demonstrated loyalty to and interest in the university and who has been active in events and services that benefit other students. The award was established in memory of Alderson, former dean of men and dean of student services.

The Alexis F. Dillard Student Involvement Award goes to a graduating student who has unselfishly contributed to the university through campus involvement. The award was established in 1993 by Dillard’s family and friends to remember and honor him.

Rusty Leffel Concerned Student Awards annually go to students who demonstrate a concern for furthering the ideals of the university and higher education. The award was established by a group of seniors in 1973 to honor their fellow student, Leffel.

The Caryl K. Smith Student Leader Award goes to a graduating fraternity or sorority member who has demonstrated commitment to the local chapter, the KU greek community, the university and the Lawrence community. The award was established in 1993 to honor Smith, a former dean of student life.

The Agnes Wright Strickland Awards were established in 1953 in memory of Strickland, a member of the Class of 1887. The awards annually go to graduating seniors in recognition of their academic records, demonstrated leadership in matters of university concern, respect among fellow students and indications of future dedication to service in the university.

Profiles of the award winners, listed by their hometown, are below.

From Lawrence 66046
Gerald “Jerry” Francis Wohletz Jr. will receive a bachelor’s degree with majors in American studies and communication studies. A first-generation college student, he has funded his education completely with scholarships and jobs — including working on his parents’ farm and as a freelance violinist. Wohletz entered KU with a National Merit Scholarship sponsored by UPS and a Summerfield scholarship, KU’s premier four-year scholarship offered to top male graduates of Kansas high schools. Wohletz said he learned on the farm: “Nothing is impossible; the job always gets done.” On campus, he has held jobs focused on assisting new or prospective students. He worked for three years with KU’s ambassador program in the Office of Admissions, coordinating 110 student volunteers to provide campus tours and correspond with prospective students. Within the ambassador program, Wohletz is recognized for increasing volunteer retention rates and the numbers of new volunteers. He also has worked for two years as an assistant for KU Info, the campus information desk, and a year as an orientation assistant in New Student Orientation. Since 2003, Wohletz has helped his parents produce and market vegetables on their farmstead: Tomato Allie. He created and marketed the family’s brand. When he wasn’t helping with the farm, he was employed in local restaurants. Since grade school, Wohletz has also freelanced as a solo violinist. At KU, he has volunteered his violin skills with KU’s Music Mentors program teaching youngsters who may not have opportunities for private music lessons. Wohletz is a member of the Board of Class Officers and served as vice president of the junior class. He is a member of the Rock Chalk Revue advisory board, representing the non-greek community for the annual benefit event sponsored by fraternities and sororities. This year, he has served on the Provost’s Strategic Planning Committee, providing perspectives related to admissions, advising and retention of students. He is a member of the University Honors Program. After graduating, Wohletz is moving to Rochester, N.Y., where he hopes to be employed in higher education or with a nonprofit group. He is the son of Gerald and Jane Wohletz and a graduate of Saint Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park.

From Lawrence 66047
Emily Anne Loyd is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in journalism with concentration in strategic communications. Active in the campus greek community, Loyd is a past president of Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority. Under her leadership, the chapter’s grade point average increased to 3.3 from 3.14 on a scale of 4.0. To do this, Loyd implemented study hours and invited professional speakers to encourage members to strive for academic excellence. She also served as membership chair for the formal recruitment of new members in fall 2009. Within the campus Panhellenic Association, in her sophomore year, Loyd was the appointed officer for the Adopt-A-School program that recruits 50 KU students to volunteer weekly in local schools. As a freshman, Loyd was vice president for administrative affairs for the Junior Greek Council, coordinating meetings for the 75-member council and serving on the executive board that implements programs for greek freshmen. She is the co-membership chair for the campus chapter of Mortar Board national honor society and a member of the Order of Omega Society, the national group recognizing excellence in academic achievement and leadership in the greek community. She is a 2011 nominee for the Panhellenic Outstanding Senior Award. Loyd also has volunteered with Natural Ties, a campus group that matches college students with local residents who have developmental disabilities, and with Alternative Winter Breaks, where she served a week with Teach for America in Chicago. She has worked as a brand management intern with Sullivan Higdon & Sink agency in Wichita; as an employee for KU Info, the campus information desk; and as a marketing intern with Capital Federal Savings in Topeka. Loyd notes that her involvement in the greek community has provided valuable skills. “I would not have gained the leadership, organizational or public speaking skills I now have if not for the opportunities and experiences offered through greek life, Panhellenic and my sorority.” She hopes to work in an advertising agency in the Midwest. She is the daughter of Herb and Melanie Loyd and Peggy and Carl Ricketts. Loyd is a Lawrence High School graduate.

From Leawood 66209
David Jeremy Cohen will receive a bachelor’s degree in accounting and is also a master’s student in accounting. While working on his graduate degree, Cohen will have an audit internship with PriceWaterhouseCoopers LLP in Kansas City, Mo. Cohen has served as treasurer of the Student Senate, managing a $24 million budget provided by student fees that serves to fund a wide range of campus activities. For this academic year, Cohen served as a teaching assistant for an undergraduate accounting course in the School of Business. This spring, he also served as teaching assistant for an introductory accounting course in KU’s School of Law. Cohen served on the university’s anti-hazing task force and reestablished Zeta Beta Tau, a nonpledging, nonhazing greek social fraternity at KU. He has served three terms as the fraternity’s president and is a voting member of the board of directors for Zeta Beta Tau International. Cohen described the combination of his work on the university’s anti-hazing task force and hazing charges involving KU’s Interfraternity Council this past year as an invaluable experience. He said that his efforts to establish new leadership immediately within IFC taught him that the ethical decisions individuals make in private are far more vital than their public actions. He is a 2011 nominee for the IFC Outstanding Senior Greek Man award. This March, Cohen received a R.E.S.P.E.C.T. Positive Code of Conduct award for outstanding personal and professional conduct in the School of Business. R.E.S.P.E.C.T. stands for responsibility, enthusiasm, self-esteem, professional integrity, equity, compassion and teamwork. Cohen has volunteered with the Alternative Breaks program serving in Israel and Tampa, Fla. A member of Hillel, he has participated in leadership and service missions to Israel. He has also worked with the ATM/debit maintenance team for the Union Bank of Missouri. He holds the rank of Eagle Scout in Boy Scouts of America. He is the son of Howard and Debbi Cohen and graduate of Blue Valley North High School.

From Lenora 67645
Mathew James Lawrence Shepard is graduating with bachelor’s degrees in two majors: economics and environmental studies. Next fall, he plans to pursue a master’s degree in higher education and student affairs at the University of Vermont. A first-generation college student, Shepard found that his friends, advisers and mentors at KU not only inspired his career plans but also served as his family, especially during trying personal events. Shepard entered KU with a Summerfield scholarship, the university’s premier four-year scholarship offered to top male graduates of Kansas high schools; a Dane G. Hansen Leader of Tomorrow Scholarship; and a Horatio Alger National Scholarship, which specifically assists high school students who have overcome great obstacles and who have a commitment to use their college degrees in service to others. Shepard is president of KU’s Torch Chapter of Mortar Board. He also is vice president of the senior class and the Board of Class Officers and served on the 2010 Homecoming Steering Committee. He has served as president of the All Scholarship Hall Council, providing leadership for the 13-member executive board and the 12 scholarship hall presidents. In January, Shepard was named a NASPA Undergraduate Fellow, a mentoring program for undergraduate students wishing to explore and better understand the field of student affairs or higher education. A trombone player, he has participated in the Marching Jayhawks. He also has sung bass for the University Singers and the KU Men’s Glee Club. His campus jobs have included working as a coordinator in New Student Orientation, an assistant in the Office of the Provost and as a hall proctor in the Krehbiel Scholarship Hall. Shepard is a member of the University Honors Program and University Scholar Program, a KU mentoring program for 20 outstanding sophomores. He is a Norton Community High School graduate.

From Salina 67401 and West Des Moines, Iowa
Alexander R. Earles is planning to attend law school. This spring, he will receive a bachelor’s degree with majors in communication studies and political science. Active in campus government, Earles has served as legislative director for the Student Senate this academic year and as development director since December. As the legislative director, Earles leads the Student Awareness Legislative Board, serving as a lobbyist on behalf of KU students with the Board of Regents and with state and federal governing bodies. As development director, he has created and maintained an alumni database to plan and coordinate alumni events. In the 2009-10 academic year, Earles served as chief of staff for the Student Senate executive branch. He is founding father and current president of the KU chapter of Delta Lambda Phi, a national social fraternity for gay, bisexual and progressive men. In January, Earles was named a Man of Merit by the Emily Taylor Women’s Resource Center. Men of Merit distinction recognizes KU men who positively define masculinity by challenging norms, taking action and leading by example while making outstanding achievements and contributions to KU and/or the community. He is a member of the Board of Class Officers. He has served on the student advisory board for the Dole Institute of Politics since his freshman year. Summer jobs for Earles have included working as a staff assistant for Log Cabin Republicans, a national gay and lesbian Republican grassroots organization in Washington, D.C. Last year, he worked as a peer adviser for the University Advising Center, assisting and advising incoming and transfer students to KU. He is the son of Robin Earles (West Des Moines, Iowa) and stepson of Patricia Ramirez-Ceberg Earles (Salina). He is a Southeast Saline Senior High School graduate.

From Mulvane 67110
Caitlin Maureen Wise is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in management and leadership from the School of Business. After graduation, she plans to travel as a collegiate consultant for her sorority, Delta Gamma. Wise said she had never thought of herself as a leader but began to run for offices as she became involved in campus organizations that she believed in. During 2010, Wise served as president of the Panhellenic Association, working with 13 campus sorority chapters with a total membership of 1,700 women. Under her leadership, the association worked to influence social norms by decreasing risky behaviors within the greek community. Within Delta Gamma, Wise has served on the sorority’s national human dignity curriculum committee. She has served as chapter vice president of social standards and as chapter finance director. Last fall, Wise directed the Homecoming Steering Committee, responsible for planning and marketing a week of events. Wise works as a new student orientation assistant, helping more than 5,000 new students and their parents or guests navigate orientation. She is also employed part-time with KU Info, the campus resource for questions from both within and outside the campus. She is a member of Mortar Board national honor society and of the Order of Omega, a national greek honor society. Wise is on the Board of Class Officers and has served on a Student Union Activities committee. She is a member of the Student Alumni Association and was a member of the KU women’s club volleyball team. Within the Lawrence community, Wise volunteers with Big Brothers Big Sisters and with the Lawrence Arts Center Children’s Holiday Shop. She has volunteered with the Center for Community Outreach with the Daily Bread Program. As co-coordinator for the program, Wise worked with KU Dining Services to schedule food donations for distributions to local pantries. She is the daughter of Jackie and Forrest Wise and a graduate of Mulvane High School.

From Wichita 67205 and Alameda, Calif.
Tonia Nicole Salas will graduate with a bachelor’s in human biology. She is the undergraduate leadership coordinator for KU’s Student Involvement and Leadership Center. Last fall, she received one of two ExC.E.L. Awards recognizing excellence in community, education and leadership at KU. She was honored by the Emily Taylor Women’s Resource Center as a KU Woman of Distinction for her community commitment. As a member of the KU Dance Marathon, Salas worked with campus fraternities and sororities, scholarship halls and other student organizations to raise more than $70,000 to benefit the Children’s Miracle Network in the past three years. Salas has been involved in Mentors in the Lives of Kids, a campus organization devoted to working with local Boys and Girls Club programs. She was a peer leadership consultant for Ascend KU, a comprehensive leadership program to help undergraduates develop leadership skills. She is a member of Mortar Board honor society. She was an officer for standards in her sorority, Kappa Kappa Gamma, where she was recognized as an Outstanding Woman in a Living Organization. Salas also served as head recruitment counselor last fall for freshmen women seeking to join a sorority. She is the daughter of Pedro Salas, Alameda, Calif., and Joanne and Bill Collier, Wichita, and is a Maize High School graduate.

From Topeka 66610
Joseph Benjamin Deneault will receive a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering. He has maintained a 4.0 grade point average, the highest attainable, and earned 90 percent of his college expenses through scholarships and employment. Since his junior year, Deneault has served as an undergraduate researcher with the KU Biodiesel Initiative, working with Susan Williams, associate professor of chemical engineering. Williams and her research team investigate processes to create fuel from waste products. Deneault entered KU with a Summerfield scholarship, the university’s premier four-year scholarship offered to top male graduates of Kansas high schools. During his sophomore and junior years, he worked as an instructor and tutor for the Kansas Algebra Program at KU, teaching college-level math to a class of 20 students. Deneault has completed internships with CRB Consulting in Kansas City, Mo., and Hill’s Pet Nutrition Plant and the Kansas Department of Transportation, both in Topeka. Concerned that his public speaking skills were weak, Deneault joined a local chapter of Toastmaster’s International. He recalled, “It was truly amazing how working on my public speaking skills helped me improve and understand the power of getting out of my comfort zone and bettering myself.” For the past two years, he has served as a KU Engineering Ambassador, which includes leading tours for prospective students. He has been elected treasurer of the KU chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers for two years. He is also a member of Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society. Following graduation, he will be working as an assistant chemical engineer with Burns and McDonnell, consulting engineers in Kansas City, Mo. His goals include earning a professional engineer’s license and eventually attending graduate school to prepare to teach at the university level. Deneault noted, “The scholarships and support I have received from generous donors has eased the financial burden of college for me and for that I will be forever grateful.” He hopes one day to “be able to provide to future generations what has so generously been provided to me.” He is the son of Edward and Kathy Deneault and a graduate of Hayden High School, where he was the 2007 class valedictorian.

From Goodland 67735 and Naperville, Ill.
Michael Wade Smith is graduating with bachelor’s degrees in English and American studies. Elected KU student body president last spring, Smith has lobbied for higher education in Kansas and the nation’s capitol. He has worked to involve KU students who had not envisioned a role for themselves in campus activities. Smith plans to earn a doctorate in communications and serve two years in the Teach For America program, where he will be teaching middle school English in Newark, N.J. “I want to give back to a community of students that have not been given a fair chance at some of the experiences that I have had.” He also hopes to “create a microcosm of the experience of KU in an inner-city classroom on the east coast.” Smith entered KU with considerable public speaking experience and even some professional opera training all initiated by residents of his maternal grandmother’s community of Goodland in northwestern Kansas near the Colorado border. He is the grandson of Margarita Diaz and the late Jose Diaz of Goodland and son of Celia Diaz Smith of Goodland and Reginald L. Smith of Naperville, Ill. As a multiethnic minority in a rural white community of less than 5,000 residents, Smith said he discovered at a young age the power of language and of how to use language to be an insider whether visiting his father in Chicago or his mother in Goodland. His father is a 1984 KU graduate and former NFL player. As a Goodland High School senior, he was elected national president of Family, Career and Community Leaders of America, allowing him to travel widely beyond Kansas, making speeches, including addressing the White House Conference on School Safety. During his freshman year at KU, Smith established his own motivational and youth leadership training business, Excite.Engage.Empower. His service to KU began with winning one of the five Student Senate seats for freshmen. He now serves on the boards of directors for Kansas Athletics Inc., the Emily Taylor Women’s Resource Center and the KU Memorial Corporation, where he was chair. Last fall, he won one of two ExCEL Awards, recognizing excellence in community, education and leadership at KU. He was also named a Man of Merit by the Emily Taylor’s Women’s Resource Center. He is a member of the University Honors Program.

From Alameda 95401 and Wichita, Kan.

From Naperville 60564 and Goodland, Kan.
Michael Wade Smith. SEE SHERMAN COUNTY

From West Des Moines 50266 and Salina, Kan.
Alexander R. Earles. SEE SALINE COUNTY

From Nairobi
Angela Ndhuya Oguna, a transfer student from Kenya, is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and has maintained a 4.0 grade point average, the highest attainable. She has also worked 20 hours a week to supplement college expenses. Her first jobs were in food service but she quickly moved to KU’s Information and Telecommunication Technology Center as an undergraduate research assistant. She also landed a summer internship with Black & Veatch Corp. in Kansas City, Mo. This academic year, Oguna is an intern with the Kansas City Board of Public Utilities. Oguna was one of 17 students nationally to receive a U.S. Department of Energy Development Research Grant from the American Public Power Association for projects related to improving efficiencies and lowering service costs. Her undergraduate research project, funded through the University Honors Program, identified technologies that municipal utilities could use to improve performance and lower customer costs. In 2010, Oguna was one of 32 students nationally and the first ever from KU to win a Google Anita Borg Scholarship, a highly competitive scholarship to encourage women to pursue careers in computer science and technology and to become leaders. She came to Kansas through a childhood friend of her father’s who had learned of her top performance on the Kenyan college entrance exam. Although her father had died 15 years before Oguna had finished high school, his friend kept in touch with her family and encouraged her to attend the KU School of Engineering, where his sons had earned their degrees. In 2008, Oguna transferred to KU from Jomo Kenyatta University College of Agriculture and Technology. As a campus food services employee, Oguna not only got her first taste of pizza, she also learned how to prepare it and to interpret dining hall customers’ hurried orders. Within two weeks, she was promoted and “for the first time, walking home that evening in the biting cold did nothing to dampen my spirit.” Oguna lived in Watkins Scholarship Hall, where as the Academic Resource Chair she revived the Women of Watkins mentoring program to provide a link and networking base between current and past residents of the hall. This year, Oguna has served as president of KU’s National Society of Black Engineers. As the society’s secretary in 2008, Oguna noted that 75 percent of the incoming class did not return because of failing grades. She formed a mentoring program to ensure that future incoming classes would have a better experience. The following year, with one exception, all freshmen earned a grade point average above 3.0. She was in the University Scholars Program and is a member of Tau Beta Pi, an engineering honorary society. She is the daughter of Grace Oguna of Nairobi, Kenya.


The University of Kansas is a major comprehensive research and teaching university. University Relations is the central public relations office for KU's Lawrence campus.

kunews@ku.edu | (785) 864-3256 | 1314 Jayhawk Blvd., Lawrence, KS 66045

KU Today

Subscribe to our daily newsletter covering research, academics, media coverage, campus news, events & more. Subscribe




The University of Kansas prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, religion, sex, national origin, age, ancestry, disability, status as a veteran, sexual orientation, marital status, parental status, gender identity, gender expression, and genetic information in the university’s programs and activities. Retaliation is also prohibited by university policy. The following persons have been designated to handle inquiries regarding the nondiscrimination policies and are the Title IX coordinators for their respective campuses: Executive Director of the Office of Institutional Opportunity & Access, IOA@ku.edu, 1246 West Campus Road, Room 153A, Lawrence, KS 66045, 785-864-6414, 711 TTY (for the Lawrence, Edwards, Parsons, Yoder, and Topeka campuses); Director, Equal Opportunity Office, Mail Stop 7004, 4330 Shawnee Mission Parkway, Fairway, KS 66205, 913-588-8011, 711 TTY (for the Wichita, Salina, and Kansas City, Kansas, medical center campuses).