Six alumni and one friend of Fort Hays State University will be honored at the Alumni Awards and Recognition Banquet Friday, Oct. 4, during Homecoming celebrations.
Four honorees will receive the Alumni Achievement Award, the association’s highest honor, established in 1959 to recognize graduates who have made outstanding and unselfish contributions in service to their community, state or nation as citizens, in chosen career fields or through philanthropic work.
This year’s recipients are Van R. Hoisington, Austin, Texas; Dr. Babak Marefat, Topeka; Ella S. Rayburn, Scanton, Pa.; and Peter J. Werth, Woodbridge, Conn.
One alumnus, Dr. John P. Thyfault, Columbia, Mo., will receive the Young Alumni Award, which is granted to graduates of 10- through 15-year reunion classes to recognize those early in their career for significant business or professional accomplishments, or for service to the university and the Alumni Association.
Leo R. Lake, Salina, a retired educator and administrator, will receive the Alumni Association’s Nita M. Landrum Award, which recognizes alumni or friends who have provided sustained volunteer service for the betterment of the Alumni Association or FHSU, especially in their home communities or at any local level.
Dr. Pete Vander Haeghen, Cocoa, Fla., a retired educator, administrator and private entrepreneur, will receive the Distinguished Service Award, which recognizes an individual who is not an FHSU graduate but is a friend of the university who has demonstrated a continuing concern for humanity on a universal, national, state or community level; who supports spiritual, cultural and educational objectives; and who endorses and exemplifies the highest standards of character and personal attributes.
Van R. Hoisington
Van R. Hoisington graduated from FHSU with an M.S. in business administration. His bachelor’s degree, in oral communications, is from the University of Kansas. He is the founder, president and CEO of Hoisington Investment Management Co., which opened in 1980. It is the sub-advisor for Wasatch-Hoisington U.S. Treasury Fund, which has been ranked No. 1 among bond managers for its rate of return on unleveraged, 100-percent U.S. Treasury bond portfolios.
He has been recognized by Louis Rukeyser as one of the top fixed income investors. HIMCO is also in the top 1 percent in performance results for fixed-income managers for the last decade.
Hoisington has been featured in Institution Investor, Smart Money, The New York Post, Pensions & Investments, Fortune Magazine, CNNMoney.com, Barron’s and many other financial publications for his investment success.
He has twice been featured in Forbes as an outstanding bond and mutual fund manager, has been a frequent speaker at Grant’s Investment Conference and has been a special guest on the PBS show Louis Rukeyser’s Wall Street Week. He has been a guest speaker at Chartered Financial Analyst Institute conferences and has published in the Conference Proceedings Quarterly of the CFA Institute.
Before forming HIMCO, Hoisington was director of national and international macroeconomic studies and Trust Department vice president and economist for United California Bank. Later, he was senior investment officer, executive trust officer and executive vice president for Texas Commerce Bancshares.
His community and professional activities are extensive, including membership in the National Association of Business Economists and service as secretary of the Southern California chapter. He is also a member of the Financial Analysts Federation. He is on the board of directors of Seton Hospital, Austin, chair of the Stewardship Campaign for the United Methodist Church, Houston, Texas, and chair of that church’s administrative board. He is a past vice president of the Austin Lyric Opera Endowment Fund and a past director of the Wine and Food Foundation of Texas. He is a former advisory director of the Texas State Teacher Retirement fund and a former city councilman for Piney Point Village, Houston.
He is a Gold Member of the FHSU Alumni Association, a President’s Council donor to the FHSU Foundation and served the Foundation as a member of its Board of Trustees from 2008 to 2011. He was on the Foundation Investment Committee in 2008 and is a member of the FHSU Leadership Circle.
Babak Marefat, twice graduated from FHSU, with a B.S. in physics in 1993 and a B.S. in chemistry in 1994. He earned his M.D. degree from the University of Kansas School of Medicine, Kansas City, in 1999.
He is a board-certified ophthalmologist with Cotton-O’Neil Clinic, a division of Stormont-Vail Healthcare, Topeka. During his time at KU Medical Center, Marefat participated in aerospace medicine for NASA.
In addition to treating patients at his Topeka clinic, Marefat provides complimentary service and treatment at free clinics in Topeka, including Marian and Health-Access indigent clinics.
He was instrumental in the software development of a collection of ophthalmology templates for electronic paperless charting of handheld computers.
Marefat’s community involvement has included serving every year since 1998 as a volunteer and a camp physician at the Philmont Scout Ranch, New Mexico, the national center for the Boy Scouts of America. In Topeka, he has served as event chair for the Topeka Heart Ball Leadership Team and chair for two years of the American Heart Association Heart Gala. He is a volunteer lecturer for the Baker School of Nursing and has worked with medical informatics since 1993 to improve the safety and accuracy of medical charting.
A large portion of his humanitarian and philanthropic work is in support of worldwide nursing charity work. He has financed college tuition for orphans from Rwanda; been a major donor to the Shakuru Project in Tanzania, which provides secondary education for more than 500 women; and is a supporter of the Global Grassroots Project for social change to support vulnerable women in Rwanda and the Congo.
For the women of one village on the border of Namibia and Angola, in Africa, he financed a water tank that, in addition to providing clean water for the village, helped reduce dramatically the number of rapes and HIV infections among the village women. Before the gift of the water tank, the women had to walk two miles to a well. Many were raped along the way, contributing to an epidemic of HIV and fistula as well as mental trauma.
In 2008, he volunteered with Himalayan Health Services as part of a mobile clinic that treated patients in Buddhist monasteries. The crew of three physicians and one dentist treated more than 300 patients daily. Marefat continues to support this medical mission financially and with gifts of medicine each year.
Ella S. Rayburn
Ella S. Rayburn, retired historian and curator, Scranton, Pa., graduated from FHSU with a B.A. in history in 1970 and an M.A. in history in 1976. She retired in 2007 after a 33-year career with the U.S. Department of the Interior as a park ranger and historian for the National Park Service.
During her time with the National Park Service, she was a museum curator and created the service’s steam locomotive museum. At the Steamtown National Historic Site in Scranton, where she worked from 1987 to 2007, she established the cultural resource division working with industrial and railroad objects, including steam locomotives, rail passenger and freight cars, and other artifacts and records.
During the development phase of the Steamtown project, she worked with architects, exhibit designers and installers to prepare 1,200 items for exhibit and worked on the museum design, production and installation.
Steamtown’s two museums are the largest in the National Park Service system. The Steamtown project was a new park requiring, among other things, a computerized museum catalogue program for more than 100,000 artifacts and 1,200 linear feet of archives.
Before going to Steamtown, she was the historian of the William Howard Taft National Historic Site, Cincinnati, Ohio, and a member of the team that completely restored Taft’s birthplace.
Her National Park Service career began at the Fort Union National Monument, Watrous, N.M., from 1974 to 1976, and then progressed through Independence National Historic Park, Philadelphia, Pa., from 1976 to 1978.
While at Petersburg National Battlefield, Petersburg, Va., Rayburn supervised living history activities, taught 19th-century muzzle-loading small arms and artillery, among other specialties, and was the first historian at the newly acquired City Point property from which General Ulysses S. Grant directed the end of the Civil War.
She is a Gold member of the FHSU Alumni Association and a Diamond-level donor to the FHSU Foundation. Her proceeds from a book she co-authored, Old City Point and Hopewell, the First 370 Years, go to support the Historic Hopewell Foundation, which interprets the long history of Hopewell, Va.
She is a member of the Lackawanna Historical Society, Scranton, for which she has been a member of the board of trustees since 1997 and chair of the Collections Committee since 1998. Her memberships also include the Architectural Heritage Association, the American Association of Museums and the American Association of University Women.
Her awards and honors include the Midwest NPS Regional Director’s Award for 1988 for her work as a curator at the Taft National Historic Site and a Special Achievement Award for the opening and dedication of the City Point Unit of Petersburg Battlefield.
Peter J. Werth
Peter J. Werth, founder, CEO and president of ChemWerth Inc., Woodbridge, Conn., graduated from FHSU in 1959 with a B.S. in chemistry. He earned an M.S. in organic chemistry from Stanford University. He founded ChemWerth in 1982 to develop active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) to produce generic drugs.
He is also on the boards of directors for Scidose, a specialty pharma development company; Innopharma, a pharma R&D company; VM Pharma, a pharma R&D company targeting chronic pain; UConn Ventures, formed to capitalize on the discoveries and inventions by the staff; VM therapeutics, a pharma R&D company targeting neuropathic pain; Altos Therapeutics, a pharma R&D company targeting gastroparesis.
Werth is involved in several startup companies as an Angel investor. Two of these companies (Putney and Piedmont) are developing generic drugs for companion animals. Alopexx Vaccines licensed technology from Harvard to develop a vaccine to kill multiple types of bacteria.
Werth began his career with Hewlett-Packard in 1961. In 1964, he worked as a staff scientist at Spindletop Research before taking a job as head chemist for Upjohn Pharmaceuticals (now Pfizer). In 1965, he became manager of Upjohn’s R&D department. From 1975 to 1983, he was vice president of sales and marketing for Ganes Chemicals.
ChemWerth was founded in 1982, a virtual generic API development company. The company holds exclusive U.S. rights to sell more than 100 APIs and represent 29 FDA approved China-based pharma factories. He has established an office in Shanghai to monitor product quality, provide regulatory and GMP compliance services to partner factories to meet FDA standards.
He founded the Werth Family Foundation (WFF) in 2000 to make a difference, by supporting specific projects in educational, cultural and medical-related programs. The Werths directly and through the WFF made donations of more than $15 million.
WFF endows the Werth Center For Coastal Marine Studies at Southern Connecticut State University and at Hartford High School and CPEP, which completed a wind turbine solar panel energy generating system for a school in Nepal.
WFF supported educational endeavors including expanding educational programs of Long Wharf Theatre; Cardinal Sheehan Center, supporting educational programs; and long-term support for the Housatonic Community College Museum of Art. Werth is a major contributor to the construction of a new basketball practice facility at the University of Connecticut.
WFF gives strong support to health and welfare programs, which include Women’s Health Research at Yale, Healthy Eye Alliance, Gaylord Hospital, Columbus House, Boys & Girls Village, and AmeriCares. WFF funded the building of a primary school in Dzongsar, China.
John P. Thyfault
John P. Thyfault graduated from FHSU with a B.S. in health and human performance in 1998 and an M.S. in exercise science in 1999. He received a Ph.D. in exercise physiology from the University of Kansas. He was a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Physiology at East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine, Greenville, N.C., from 2002 to 2005.
He is currently an associate professor in the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology and the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Missouri, Columbia. Thyfault, who joined the departments as an assistant professor in 2005, is also director of the MU Healthy Activity Center. From 2005 to 2011, he was also a health scientist for the Harry S. Truman Memorial VA Hospital-Research Division, which is adjacent to MU.
Thyfault is a former president of the Central States Chapter of the American College of Sports Medicine and is on the national Health-Fitness Content Advisory Committee for the ACSM. He is also a member of the American Physiological Society and the American Diabetes Association.
He has several publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals and has also served as a peer reviewer for scientific journals and for funding agencies, including the National Institutes of Health and the American Heart Association.
Thyfault’s work has also been covered in international and national media including the New York Times, Outside Magazine, Men’s Health, the Lawrence Journal-World, Men’s Fitness, the Kansas City Star, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Washington Post and Genetic Engineering News.
He has been a primary investigator or a co-investigator on several national grants, including a five-year NIH grant to study aerobic fitness, mitochondrial dysfunction and fatty liver disease, which are his major research interests; a three-year Veterans Health Administration Career Development Award to study physical inactivity in association with insulin resistance in skeletal muscle; and an American Heart Association Grant studying the negative interactions between statins and exercise responses.
He is a Silver member of the Alumni Association and a Bronze donor for the FHSU Foundation. He serves or has served on 10 committees at the University of Missouri. He won his university’s Gold Chalk Award for excellence in graduate teaching in 2011 and the Research and Creativity Award from MU’s College of Human Environmental Sciences in 2010.
Leo R. Lake
Leo R. Lake graduated from FHSU in 1957 with a B.S. in elementary education and in 1961 with an M.S. in education administration. He has been an ambassador and advocate for education in general and FHSU in particular ever since. He has twice been a member of the Alumni Association Board of Directors, from 1986 to 1989 and again from 2009 to 2012.
In 2007, 50 years after his undergraduate class graduated, he became a member of the Alumni Association’s Half Century Club and, two years later, became the club’s president, a position he held until 2012. He also played a leading role in helping to establish the Half Century Club’s Dr. Edward H. Hammond Leadership Scholarship.
Volunteerism for FHSU and for many other worthy causes are in his blood.
Since his graduation in 1957, Lake has spent countless hours promoting FHSU across the state and country. He readily participates in alumni gatherings, attends student recognition programs, offering prospective students sage advice on the importance of attending a quality institution such as FHSU and drives the FHSU entourage as needed during President Hammond’s annual media tour stop in Salina.
During his long career in education, Lake was called on many times to consult with university leadership on the institution’s education programs, devoted many hours to service on ad hoc committees to deal with educational issues and, as a superintendent, he hired countless graduates. His son, Rodney Lake, a 1980 FHSU graduate notes that his father’s devotion to the university in time, service and support has spanned more than six decades.
Lake has also devoted time and energy in the service of education and educators. He has served in the Kansas governor’s Education Cabinet under Gov. John Carlin, 1986; been executive director of the Kansas Association of Retired School Personnel as well as the organization’s membership and convention chair and historian. The United School Administrators of Kansas honored Lake, who was a leader during a transition period following the sudden death of the organization’s executive director.
Over his career, his membership and participation have benefited the United School Administrators, the American Association of School Administrators, the Kansas Association of School Administrators, the Kansas State Teachers Association and the Lions Club. He holds Platinum membership status in the FHSU Alumni Association.
Following his retirement, Lake has unselfishly devoted his time and talent working with senior citizens. He served on the Salina RSVP Board and spends many hours each week at the Presbyterian Manor assisting in many different activities to help the residents.
Pete Vander Haeghen
Pete Vander Haeghen has more than 35 years of experience in higher education, including 10 years teaching in the classroom and at a distance and various administrative positions at Coastline Community College, Fountain Valley, Calif., and William Rainey Harper Community College, Palatine, Ill. He retired early to pursue his entrepreneurial instincts.
With a partner, he founded Professional Focus Inc. to develop graduate level professional development courses to train K-12 and community college educators to use the Internet for curriculum research and development.
He is a member of the board of governors of William Howard Taft University, Denver, and is also a member of its business faculty and helped the university develop its doctorate of business administration program.
Along the way, he was instrumental in helping FHSU make a connection with a brand new, privately owned college in China: Sias International University. He is founding president of the Sias International University Foundation.
He has served in leadership positions on several professional organizations during his career, including the Northern Illinois Learning Resources Consortium, the Illinois Audio Visual Association, the Chicago Audio Visual Roundtable, the Instructional Telecommunications Consortium and the Newport Mesa American Cancer Society Board of Directors.
Vander Haeghen has a focus on distance education and the utility of technology in its delivery. As administrative dean of the senior management team of Coastline College from 1994 to 1999, he was instrumental in developing joint venture agreements to design, produce and distribute multimillion-dollar tele-courses worldwide.
He was awarded two regional Emmys as executive producer of two college-level tele-courses. He also implemented Coastline’s first distance-learning program for military personnel and developed projects for Thailand, Taiwan and Japan.
As a consultant for Chapman University, Orange, Calif., he redesigned the university’s distance-learning program and designed and implemented marketing efforts for more than 50 military and civilian academic centers worldwide.
He has also served on the accreditation teams of five post-secondary higher education institutions and two private universities. His service to FHSU in helping forge its connections to China has been invaluable and, on his part, voluntary.
Sias founder Shawn Chen asked for his help in finding a U.S. partner to deliver education to the university he was starting in China. Vander Haeghen led him to FHSU and accompanied Chen to the university when Chen was making his first contacts.
Vander Haeghen has since helped in many other ways in strengthening the relationship between FHSU, Sias and China, from attending graduations to making connections for students, helping them with research and giving them work.