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PSU honors 2014 Outstanding Alumni

Pittsburg State University will honor three alumni with its 2014 Dr. Kenneth K. Bateman Outstanding Alumni Awards during Homecoming activities Oct. 10-11.

Pittsburg State University will honor three alumni with its 2014 Dr. Kenneth K. Bateman Outstanding Alumni Awards during Homecoming activities Oct. 10-11.

The recipients were selected based on their professional achievements and community and organizational involvement. The award recipients will speak to students in various classes on Friday, Oct. 10, and will be introduced at a public reception in their honor at 4:30 p.m. that day in the Wilkinson Alumni Center. They will ride in Saturday’s Homecoming Parade in the morning and will be recognized at the Homecoming football game that afternoon.

This year’s recipients are: Emily Brown, project executive and director of training and development for McCownGordon Construction in Kansas City, Mo.; Benjamin Burns, vice president-internal audit & due diligence at Leggett and Platt, Inc., in Carthage, Mo.; and James Whitford, the co-founder and executive director of Watered Gardens Gospel Rescue Mission in Joplin, Mo.

Emily Brown mug shotEmily Brown

Emily Brown earned a bachelor’s degree in construction management from PSU in 2001. She began her career in construction management with JE Dunn Construction, where she served an internship her senior year in college.

In 2006, Brown joined McCownGordon Construction, where she served as a project manager for three years before being named project director in 2011. In 2013, she was promoted to her current position, in which she oversees approximately $50 million in projects annually. Her area of specialty is health care, law firm and public works clients.

Professionally, Brown is an American Hospital Association certified healthcare constructor (CHC) and is a LEED accredited professional by the U.S. Green Building Commission. She is a committee chairman for the National Association of Women in Construction and serves on the advisory board for the PSU School of Construction. In 2013, Brown was named the project manager of the year by the American Subcontractors Association.

Brown and her husband, Chad Brown (MBA 1996), live in Shawnee, Kan. They have a son, Jake, who is 7.

Brown is active in her community where she is a graduate of the Shawnee Tomorrow Leadership Program. She is an ambassador and committee chairman for the Susan G. Komen the Cure. Additionally, she is a volunteer with the Shawnee, Kan., Police Department.

Benjamin Burns mug shotBenjamin Burns

Benjamin Burns earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Pittsburg State University in 2000 and an MBA from Pittsburg State in 2001. Currently he serves as the vice president of internal audit and due diligence at Leggett and Platt, Inc., in Carthage, Mo.

Leggett and Platt is an S&P 500 diversified manufacturer that began as a pioneer in the manufacture of mattresses. Today, the company conceives, designs, and produces a diverse array of products. The company has 18,000 employee-partners and 130 facilities in 17 countries.

Burns began his professional career with the Allstate Corporation in Chicago. He joined Leggett and Platt in 2003 and was appointed to his current position in 2012.

Burns is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), a certified fraud examiner and holds a certification in risk management assurance. He is an active member in the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the Institute of Internal Auditors-Ozarks Chapter and the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners.

Burns currently serves as an advisory board member for the Pittsburg State University Department of Accounting and Information Systems and the internal audit educational partnership program.

Burns and his wife, Becky, live in Joplin, Mo., and have two daughters, Addison and Avery.

James Whitford mug shotJames Whitford

James Whitford is the co-founder and executive director of Watered Gardens Gospel Rescue Mission, a 46-bed shelter for the homeless and outreach to the poor in Joplin, Mo. He is also the founder and director of the True Charity Initiative (TCI), an educational and public policy effort, calling communities to effective charity and freedom from welfare.

Whitford earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from PSU in 1997 and a master’s degree and physical therapy degrees from the University of Kansas Medical Center. He earned a doctorate in physical therapy from KU in 2008.

Whitford worked as a staff physical therapist at Mt. Carmel Medical Center (now Via Christi Hospital) from 1997 until 2011. In 2000, he was certified as a wound care specialist and founded an outpatient wound care clinic that he operated for 10 years.

In 2000, Whitford founded the True Charity Initiative. More recently, Whitford co-founded the Watered Gardens Rescue Mission. Today, Watered Gardens meets more than 20,000 basic needs each year in Joplin and the surrounding area. Whitford currently sits on the national board for the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions.

Whitford and his wife, Marsha, have five children: Nash, Caleb, Stevie, Ethan and Kelsey. They live in Webb City, Mo.

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