2014 Distinguished Alumni

The 2014 Distinguished Alumni Award recipients include (from left) William Shiang, Claire M. Schenk, Barbara Willis Brown, Robert “Bobby” Norfolk and Kathleen Boyd-Fenger. (Photo by August Jennewein)

The University of Missouri–St. Louis Alumni Association honored five alumni with a 2014 Distinguished Alumni Award at the university’s Founders Dinner Sept. 26.

This year’s accomplished awardees are a diverse bunch. Whether it’s on a stage, in a courtroom, a classroom, lab or clinic, their outstanding careers and commitment to service have at least one thing in common, according to UMSL Chancellor Tom George.

“Their accomplishments bring honor to each of them, and in turn, they shine a bright light on this university,” said George, who presented the awards.

This year’s recipients include the following individuals:

Kathleen Boyd-Fenger, PhD education 2012, has devoted her career to students who face tremendous challenges, helping them turn their struggles into strengths. She is the Head of School at Logos School, a St. Louis organization that provides hope and a path to success for struggling students and their families. Boyd-Fenger has impacted hundreds of young people over the course of her many years at Logos and has strengthened the organization and the larger community. A graduate of Logos herself, she is a daily reminder to Logos students that there are no limits to what they can achieve. She is an advocate for the education and mental health of at-risk youth on a daily basis. Those who know her are struck by her vision, fortitude, compassion and wit.

Barbara Willis Brown‘s remarkable drive and dedication were evident even as an undergraduate. Active as a mentor and tutor to other chemistry students at the time, Brown (BA chemistry 1984, OD 1988) has continued to impact the people and programs around her. In the College of Optometry, she provided formative leadership for more than a decade. Her commitment to making a difference shows in her work as a practicing optometrist, her continued contributions to UMSL, and her passion to improve the quality of vision and life for the people of Haiti. She shares that passion with UMSL students who have volunteered with her on multiple service trips. As one student said, “If Dr. Brown sets her mind on something, it is getting done no matter the extra work associated with it.”

Internationally known performing artist Robert “Bobby” Norfolk, BGS 2003, started telling tales when his son was very young. Reading books at bedtime, Norfolk found that vivid pictures came to mind. He began to do his own theatrical versions of the stories. Through dynamic storytelling, Norfolk learned that he could draw on his background as an actor and comedian to connect with audiences of all ages. He is a three-time Emmy Award winner and Parents’ Choice honoree. A native St. Louisan, he has served on the planning committee for the St. Louis Storytelling Festival since 1981. Norfolk’s warmth, energy and expertise inform his creative performances, magically weaving in valuable lessons.

Claire M. Schenk, BA psychology 1977, entered law school at a time when the practice included few women. Her accomplishments in the public and private sectors have set her apart as a dedicated attorney and a trailblazer for others pursuing careers in law. Now a partner with Thompson Coburn, Schenk also spent 14 years serving with the U.S. Department of Justice. She has coordinated civil fraud cases at national, state and local levels. Schenk is an ardent supporter and member of the College of Arts & Sciences’ Dean’s Leadership Council, presenting on the topic of white-collar crime and providing significant guidance to UMSL students. Her top priorities include education and literacy.

William Shiang’s influence has been felt across the world during his tenure with the Dow Chemical Company—and even before. Born in Taiwan, he moved with his family to Brazil and eventually to Missouri as a young person. He made his first impact in the hotel and restaurant industries. Shiang (BA chemistry 1984 and PhD chemistry 1989) quickly worked his way up before opting to pursue a chemistry education in his late twenties. He was considered the go-to person in the lab even as a student. Shiang’s cultural skills, scientific knowledge, problem-solving abilities and personal leadership make him a tremendous asset and role model. With assignments ranging from Michigan, to Switzerland, to China over the years, he has set the standard for the phrase “lifelong learning.”

Visit www.umslalumni.org or call the Office of Alumni Relations at 314-516-6453 for additional information on the UMSL Alumni Association. To view a short video that debuted at the Founders Dinner, featuring a handful of new UMSL students, click here or below.

Evie Hemphill

Evie Hemphill