Hays chamber doles out honors at annual banquet

The Hays Area Chamber of Commerce honored five individuals and one business at its annual banquet Thursday on the campus of Fort Hays State University.

The guest speaker was Thomas More Prep-Marian alum Mayo Schmidt, former CEO of ConAgra.

The chamber’s highest honor, the Hall of Fame Award, was given to Bob Lowen, executive director of Heartland Community Foundation. Lowen served as director of FHSU University Relations for 33 years and also was well-known as the public address announcer for FHSU basketball games, where he was behind the microphone for 25 years.

After his retirement from FHSU, Lowen worked at Hays Medical Center Foundation for eight years and FHSU Foundation for a year. He was inducted into the Tiger Sports Hall of Fame in 1991 and earned FHSU’s Distinguished Service Award in 1992.

Lowen and his wife, Bev, have six children, 12 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

The Hall of Fame Award is sponsored by Golden Belt Bank.

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Heartland Building Center was named winner of the James Motor Co. Small Business Achievement Award. The business was founded in 1892 as Schwaller Lumber and renamed in 1990. Verlin and Elaine Pfannenstiel became sole owners of the business, which has 65 employees in four locations, in 1987, with son Curt becoming a co-owner in 2001.

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The Girl Scouts of Kansas Heartland Business Woman of the Year Award was given to Angie Zimmerman, program services director at Living Independently In Northwest Kansas Inc. Zimmerman — a mother of four — is a member of Hays Area Young Professionals, an alum of Leadership Hays, and is active with Lupus Awareness and research.

She has advocated for the disabled for 23 years and for victims of domestic violence for 11 years. She also serves as a board member with Statewide Independent Living Council of Kansas.

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The Rising Star Award, sponsored by Eagle Communications, was awarded to Mark St. Peter, sales representative with Nex-Tech. The award recognizes a young professional between the ages of 21 and 40.

St. Peter is a member of HAYP, Sunrise Rotary Club and Hays First United Methodist Church, and is active in Cub Scouts and youth sports. He and his wife, Avry, have four children. He is attending FHSU seeking a business management degree and will travel to Haiti this spring to assist at an orphanage.

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Eagle Communications marketing specialist Andy Stanton was named the Sam’s Club Citizen of the Year. Stanton, a facilitator for Leadership Hays and a coach and volunteer for the Hays Hurricanes youth swim team, is a longtime advocate for international and domestic adoption. He and his wife, Dana, have three children.

Stanton is a member of the HaysMed Diabetes Solutions group and has volunteered design and multimedia work for various community entities.

Related story: Aim for great, featured speaker advises Hays business community.

Even more: Chamber photo highlights from the gala.