Top: Dr. Kennedy Reed ’67 receives his Monmouth College Hall of Achievement plaque from President Ditzler during the President’s Homecoming Gala. Middle: Associate professor of psychology Joan Wertz receives the Hatch Award for Distinguished Teaching. Bottom: Bruce Work (representing the Work Family), Michael Sproston '64, Robert Grimm ’96 and Lon Helton ’72.
Monmouth College announced six award winners at its annual President’s Homecoming Gala on Oct. 15. Held in the college’s Huff Athletic Center, the event was attended by approximately 250 alumni, friends, faculty and staff, and featured an address by President Mauri Ditzler and entertainment by the Monmouth College Jazz Combo.
Award winners included Dr. Kennedy Reed ’67, who was inducted into the college’s Hall of Achievement, the highest honor MC bestows upon its graduates, and associate psychology professor Joan Wertz, who received the Hatch Award for Distinguished Teaching.
The Distinguished Alumnus Award was presented to Lon Helton ’72; the Distinguished Service Award went to Michael Sproston ’64; and the Young Alumnus Award was presented to Robert Grimm ’96. The Work family was honored as the college’s Family of the Year.
The plaque for Reed, which joins 27 others in the college’s Hall of Achievement in Wallace Hall, reads: “A theoretical physicist who researched atomic collisions in high temperature plasmas, Dr. Reed has been a leading advocate for increasing opportunities for minority students and professionals in the sciences. He helped establish the National Physical Science Consortium and has received numerous awards, including the 2009 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science and Engineering Mentoring, presented by President Obama.”
Wertz, who joined the MC faculty in 2001, was nominated by a former student who noted how well the professor prepared her for graduate school and the world beyond:
“I have found myself far above the level of my peers because of the training I received in her classes. I left Monmouth College with four significant research projects under my belt and have met people at my current institution without any hands-on experience at all. She has done an exemplary job of preparing her students for what they will face in life after Monmouth College … Dr. Wertz demonstrated a passion and dedication to her job and students, and my experience would not have come close to what it was without her influence.”
Like one of last year’s award recipients, NBA broadcaster Joe Tait ’59, Helton got his start in the entertainment industry at Monmouth’s WRAM radio station. A few months later, he moved over to WGIL in Galesburg. He received his big break after sending an entry tape to a Billboard Magazine contest, which led to a job as the night disc jockey in Denver. Helton then worked in Chicago and, in 1986, moved to Nashville to run the country music office for Radio and Records. Six years later, he became the host of the nationally syndicated “CMT Country Countdown USA.” Helton has interviewed countless stars over the years, from Carrie Underwood to Keith Urban to Willie Nelson. In 2006, he was inducted into the Country Radio DJ Hall of Fame. During last November’s Country Music Awards, Helton was surprised with the National Broadcast Personality of the Year Award, an honor he has received three times in six years.
After his 1964 graduation, Sproston left Monmouth, but just long enough to earn his master’s degree from the University of Iowa. He then returned to his alma mater in the music department, where he served Monmouth students for more than 35 years. In addition to his many musical contributions, he served on several committees, including Faculty Senate and the inauguration committee for President Richard Giese. He has also been an avid and loyal supporter to the college’s annual fund, as well as funding several musical endeavors.
Grimm, who was nominated for his award by MC history professor Stacy Cordery, is professor of the practice of philanthropy and non-profit management at the University of Maryland, where he heads a new program for students who are striving to become effective public leaders and philanthropists. Prior to joining the University of Maryland this year, he was director of research and policy development at the Corporation for National and Community Service.
“Bob is motivated, compassionate, intelligent and extremely capable,” wrote Cordery in her nomination. “He was all of those things as a student, too. We should be very proud to have played a part in Dr. Grimm’s stellar career – a career dedicated to service and to teaching others to give back, a career on a trajectory toward even more prestige and usefulness.”
Monmouth College alumni directories list dozens of members of the Work family, dating from the late 19th century to the 1980s. Among those names are former trustees, alumni board members, and honorary degree recipients representing four consecutive generations of ties to Monmouth College. The family’s award recognizes direct descendants of Robert Marshall Work and the Rev. McLean “Mac” Work, who were half-brothers and sons of Josiah Work. It recognizes their service to Monmouth College and their numerous professional and civic accomplishments in the fields of science, business and education.
“Mac” Work served on the MC senate from 1959 to 1969 and devoted more than 60 years of expertise and counsel to the advancement of the college. Robert Marshall Work came to Monmouth from Fort Morgan, Colo., where he had been district attorney and a prominent public servant. His wife, Roberta Gibson Work, was the sister of Emma Gibson, a longtime MC Latin professor and dean of women. Five of Robert and Roberta’s children attended Monmouth in the 1930s and ’40s, including Mary Work Theis ’42, who is the most senior living alumna of the Work family. She he was in attendance at the gala, along with three other family members.
Nominations for next year’s awards should be sent to Monmouth College’s alumni office.