This award is made by Graceland University in recognition of those who have demonstrated special contributions of time, talents, resources and personal sacrifices to benefit Graceland. The recipients must be living but need not be Graceland alumni. The Board of Trustees asked the Alumni Association to establish this award as an additional way to honor the people who support Graceland and university programs in an exceptional way.
2022 Recipient – Kent Bradford ’79
Kent Bradford is a 1979 graduate of Graceland. After completing his bachelor’s degree, Kent continued his education at Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Missouri, where he received a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Finance & Management. Kent spent over 25 years in the telecommunications industry spanning various businesses and technical disciplines including network engineering, information systems (IT) development & strategic planning, and marketing product development. He subsequently worked for 10 years as a National Account Director for several international corporations, where he focused on recommending and implementing software solutions for Fortune 500 strategic accounts.
Kent is also passionate about volunteering and supporting Graceland University. He is a pastor and member of the Standing High Council for the Community of Christ Church. Kent serves as the President of Blue Springs, MO School District’s Board of Education and is the Chair of the Board of Directors for The Groves retirement community. Kent has spent the last two years working as the Owner’s Representative for the Morden Center renovation, and is the day-to-day contact with the architect team and construction team. Kent stated, “This has been a rewarding opportunity to give back to the University and future generations of students. I want to thank the Athletic Department and the Facilities Services staff for their support and patience during the construction phases. It has been a true partnership with President Draves, and I am grateful to give back to Graceland in this way!”
Dr. Ron Gillilan just turned 87, and has been working in the medical field for 5o years.
Growing up in rural Ohio, this bright high school student with stellar grades had no money to even think about college. As fate would have it, a local farmer volunteered to foot the bill for his education but made him promise to return the favor for someone else down the road.
Ron and wife Carol have lived up to that commitment by helping med school students land residency’s and fellowships. They have also hosted a number of Graceland students and connecting them with summer internships at St. Agnes Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland.
It’s at St. Agnes where Gillilan pioneered an observational study that linked a belief in a higher power with successful rehab after major heart surgery. Ron is a cardiologist and an Evangelist in Community of Christ and he looks forward to the results of his study being published soon. As the backup Medical Director of Preventative Cardiology, Gillilan has already been schooling young “Docs” as he likes to call them on a better bedside manner.
Dr. Gillilan recently wrapped up 12 years serving on the Graceland Board of Trustees. He says he will always cherish the opportunity to help guide Graceland.
Bob Bell ’86 received the Graceland Award of Recognition. Bell was a high school senior in Port Huron, Michigan, when Graceland football coach Dan Hanton ’65 urged him to visit the campus with six friends. Bell fell in love with Graceland and enrolled in the fall of 1977.
Bell is not shy about admitting that he had a rough start at Graceland. “I didn’t actually make the dean’s list, but I sure made the dean’s office,” he shared. Once he “got his head on straight,” he turned things around and earned a Bachelor of Arts in physical education and health with an elementary education endorsement. That foundation sustained him through 17 years of teaching in elementary and high school classrooms as a special education specialist.
Bell always looked up to those in the military and was just 26 when he joined the Army Reserves. He has been to Korea three times, Bosnia and Germany, and he served three tours of duty in Iraq. He trained soldiers at the Rock Island Arsenal in Illinois for four years before hanging up his military uniform in 2013. Thank you, Bob, for your service to our nation.
Bell donned the Lamoni Police Department uniform in 2014 and served as police chief from 2015-19. It was in this role that he worked side by side with Graceland’s dean of students Dave Schaal ’80, turning college students in the right direction through personal mentoring and counseling. Schaal commented, “Bob has a real knack for connecting with young people, sharing his own journey while helping students see the light. He’s been invaluable in our mission here at Graceland.”
Steve ’77 and Jeanie Upson
Steve ’77 and Jeanie Upson also received the Graceland Award of Recognition. To say that Steve and Jeanie love getting their hands dirty is an understatement. The couple thrive on getting the most out of mother earth, and Graceland has reaped the fruits of their labor.
Steve came to Graceland from Tulsa, Oklahoma, in the fall of 1973. He later transferred to Oklahoma State University, where he earned his Bachelor of Science in horticulture in 1978 and went on to earn his Master of Science in horticulture from Kansas State University in 1980.
Over the years, Steve has served as a county and district horticulture educator with the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service and as manager of a commercial market garden operation east of Kansas City, Missouri. In addition to his consultation services, he is an active participant in the newly formed Noble Foundation Institute Center for Pecan and Specialty Agriculture, where he serves as a technical advisor and educator in the areas of raised-bed and container gardening, commercial market gardening, and high tunnel (hoop house) construction and management.
Jeanie is from Skiatook, Oklahoma, and received her Bachelor of Arts in elementary education from Cameron University. She has been a Title I elementary reading specialist for Ardmore City Schools for the past 32 years.
Graceland sustainability coordinator, Jen Abraham-White ’08, had this to say about the Upsons, “Their continued commitment to Graceland’s sustainability program has been remarkable: remarkable because they decided to buy in to a vision that had little support – their hands planted a seed; remarkable in the way that they have driven thousands of miles, back and forth from Oklahoma, to help construct a better and greener Graceland; and remarkable in that they so generously and graciously share personal savings from years of hard work in fields of service to educate a new era of students and impact posterity.”
2018 Don Hickman 2017 Gretchen Booz 2016 Dean Limric 2016 Soon Ja Limric 2016 Bill Morain 2016 Sherry Morain 2016 Steve Veazey 2015 Gail Brown 2014 Cal Closson 2013 Randy Heintz 2013 Laurie Heintz 2012 Joe Booz 2011 Dick Otis 2011 Carolyn Otis 2010 Riri Mariteragi 2009 Orman Brooner 2009 Colleen Brooner 2008 Tracy Bridge 2008 Chris Bridge 2007 Joe Madaffari 2005 Don Compier 2004 Denise Dudley 2003 Joe Shelton 2002 Lee Ackerley 2002 Bob Ackerley 2001 Richard Hettrick 2001 Patricia Hettrick 2000 Floyd Young 1999 Clara E. Morrell 1999 John Rasmussen 1999 Mary Anne Rasmussen 1999 Marvel Hansen 1998 Donald Hickman 1998 Beverly Hickman 1997 Phillis Davison 1997 Jack Davison 1996 Jim Ash 1996 Pam Ash 1995 Marilyn Smith 1995 John Hinkle 1994 Wayne Thompson 1994 Velma Ruch 1994 Everett Graffeo 1994 Byron Constance 1993 Wanda Talcott Ingram 1993 Arthur Kensler 1993 Hal Talcott 1993 Cherry Newcom 1992 Ella Wiley 1992 Alice Long 1992 Aubery Long 1992 John Wiley 1991 Doris Anderson 1991 Janet Barnhard 1991 Bob Anderson 1991 Bill Barnhard 1990 Denise Leichter 1990 Shirley Remmenga 1990 Bob Fitzgerald 1990 Roy Lockyer 1990 Jan Fitzgerald 1989 Lowell Kuhn 1989 Jim Braby 1989 Carol Kuhn 1988 Christy Christenson 1988 Bettye Kuhnert 1988 Carl Mesle 1988 Charlotte Gould 1987 Elon Tucker 1987 Donald Guinnee 1987 Dorothy Hice 1987 Elmo Gamet 1987 JR Shaw 1987 Hal McKain 1987 Cleo Moon 1987 Helen Guinnee 1987 Judy Closson
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