Scott and Carol Pfeifer Strawn, class of 1976 and 1975, respectively, from Solon, Ohio, will receive the university's most prestigious recognition, the Class of 1914 Award, given to individuals from the university community who have served Wittenberg above and beyond what might be expected of any contributor to the college's welfare.
Wittenberg will also present Alumni Citation Awards to three individuals who have brought honor to Wittenberg by their exceptional accomplishments in which service to humanity is placed ahead of personal gain or recognition. Those receiving the awards this year are Helen "Copey" Copenhaver Hanes, class of 1939, from Winston-Salem, N.C.; Brenda Eagan Brown, class of 1995, from New Castle, Pa.; and Maureen Sanders Ruettgers, class of 1967, from Carlisle, Mass. In addition, Ann Bixel, class of 2005, from Boston, Mass., and Caitlin Coleman, class of 2005, from Libertyville, Ill., will each receive a G.O.L.D. Service Award for sharing their time and talent with the university, while Jayne Gerber Barnes, class of 2003, from Williamsport, Ohio, and Lauren Schmidt Hissrich, class of 2000, from Los Angeles, Calif., will each be honored with an Outstanding Young Alumna Award for professional achievement.
A self-employed CPA who provides business advisory services for small businesses and individuals, Scott Strawn worked for Peat, Marwick, Mitchell and Co. (now KPMG) and for Reliance Electric/Rockwell Automation before launching his own firm. A member of Beta Theta Pi fraternity, Strawn has served his alma mater in significant ways, including as a founding member of the Parents Leadership Council and as a volunteer at college fairs in the Cleveland area. In addition, Strawn served on the Parents Leadership Committee, is a member of the university's Benjamin Prince Society (BPS) and currently serves as vice president of the Cleveland-area Wittenberg Alumni Association Chapter. An active member of his church, Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, Strawn is an Eagle Scout and a member of the executive board of the Greater Cleveland Council of the Boy Scouts. More than 20 family members have attended Wittenberg, including his son, John, class of 2007.
Carol Strawn has also devoted her life to young people, including service as a daycare teacher and kindergarten aide. Also a member of the Parents Leadership Council, Parents Executive Committee, BPS and a consistent face at college fairs along with other recruitment and fundraising events on Wittenberg's behalf, Strawn earned her master's degree in early childhood education at Cleveland State and her B.A. in business administration at Wittenberg.
Also a teacher, Hanes taught music and dramatic arts at the Salem Academy of Winston-Salem, N.C., following her graduation from Wittenberg. A stalwart advocate for arts education, the visual arts and the performing arts, and a lifelong philanthropist, Hanes and her late husband, James Gordon Hanes Jr., established the North Carolina School of the Arts and provided financial support for the Diggs Gallery at Winston-Salem State University. Hanes also regularly supports other area schools, colleges, churches, galleries, museums and libraries, including establishing the Centenary Scholarship Endowment Fund at Duke Divinity School. The recipient of several community awards, including an honorary doctorate and the Giannini Society Award, both from the North Carolina School of the Arts, Hanes previously served on the Board of Directors of the Salem College of Winston-Salem.
Eagan Brown founded the Pennsylvania-based Brain Injury School Re-Entry Program known as BrainSTEPS, and currently serves as its statewide program coordinator. To implement the program, Eagan-Brown engaged and collaborated with the state's 29 educational Intermediate Units and 500 school districts. Today the program not only works with students who have had traumatic brain injuries but also helps to train professionals to work with them. In 2008, BrainSTEPS won a National Award for Excellence in Programs and Services from the Brain Injury Association of America, and earlier this year, Eagan-Brown received the Pioneer in Brain Injury Award from the Brain Injury Association of Pennsylvania. Active on several boards and widely published, Eagan Brown, a special education teacher for many years, earned her B.A. in education at Wittenberg and her master's degree from Georgetown University.
Ruettgers shares Hanes' commitment to philanthropic pursuits, having committed her life's work to humanitarian causes in the United States and abroad. Through the Ruettgers Family Foundation, she and her husband Michael have supported AIDS education, women's causes and many other efforts, including the Maranyundo Initiative, which raised $1.8 million to build, furnish and equip the Maranyundo School in Nyamata, Rwanda, as well as The Sharing Foundation, which aims to create sources of uncontaminated water to destitute families in Cambodia. A member of the Board of Trustees of WGBH-Boston, one of America's pre-eminent public-broadcasting producers, Ruettgers earned her B.A. in education from Wittenberg and worked in early education following graduation.
Wittenberg's senior assistant director of admission and coordinator of New England recruitment, Bixel has served her alma mater since her graduation. A leader in recruiting high school students using social media and a personalized communication plan, Bixel, who majored in studio art, coordinates Web-based communication with prospective students, their families, guidance counselors and university administrators, while integrating new media tools into recruitment practices. Based in Boston, Mass., Bixel travels extensively throughout New England in her work, which has resulted in a significant increase of students enrolling at Wittenberg from that region.
Coleman currently serves as the volunteer coordinator for LifeSource Blood Services in Glenview, Ill., where she manages 150-plus volunteers in roles supporting external and internal customers. Committed to community service, Coleman coordinated numerous service-oriented projects for Wittenberg's Office of Community Service while on campus. Additionally, she assisted in the drafting of grant proposals and planned activities related to the university's annual Celebrate Service event. A wish granter and special events volunteer with the Make-A-Wish Foundation and a special events volunteer with the Ronald McDonald House, Coleman majored in communication at Wittenberg.
A sociology major with more than 10 years of paid and volunteer experience working with at-risk youth, children's mental health services and educational leadership, Barnes entered the small business arena last year with her husband, Isaac, class of 1999, and sister-in-law Becky Barnes, class of 2004. Dedicated to providing organically produced products and foods, Honeyrun Farm in Williamsport, Ohio, reflects Barnes' passion for helping people live healthier lives. As part owner, she oversees the business' operations of honey, flower and produce at the farm. At the same time, she works to market local products to surrounding communities while educating consumers on the importance of eating locally.
After working as an intern on the long-running NBC television show West Wing between her junior and senior years at Wittenberg, Schmidt, an English major, returned to the show after graduation and spent six years as a writer's assistant and researcher. In 2003, she was nominated for a Writer's Guild Association award for an episode that she co-wrote, and she had her first solo episode of West Wing air in 2004. She was also a producer for NBC's Private Practice and is currently a supervising producer for Parenthood, a family drama slated to debut on NBC in 2010. In addition, Schmidt shared her expertise and experiences with students as part of a first-ever Screenwriters Institute in June 2009 at Wittenberg. The institute is believed to be the first of its kind nationally with a focus solely on television writing.
Written by: Karen Gerboth
Photo by: Robert Gantt
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