March 06, 2017 8:45AM
In conjunction with its 2017 Apple Day observance, Pittsburg State will honor two alumni with its Dr. Ralf J. Thomas Distinguished Service Awards. This year’s honorees are Al Brown, a senior technical service representative for household, industrial and chemical blow molding at Chevron Phillips Chemical Company in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and Homer Cole, a retired businessman and former mayor of the City of Pittsburg.
The Ralf J. Thomas Distinguished Service Award is given to those who have rendered significant volunteer service to Pittsburg State University in such areas as Alumni Association activities, the PSU Foundation, PSU athletics, academic departments and student service programs. It is named after Dr. Ralf J. Thomas, who served the university for more than five decades, as a faculty member, administrator and volunteer in the Office of Alumni Relations.
Al Brown is a senior technical service representative for household, industrial and chemical blow molding at Chevron Phillips Chemical Company in Bartlesville, Oklahoma.
Brown served in the U.S. Army National Guard as a combat engineer platoon leader from 1988 until 1993, when he earned a bachelor’s degree in plastics engineering technology from PSU. Upon graduation, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant and was assigned to the Quartermaster, serving in Honduras, Kuwait and at Fort Hood, Texas.
Brown began his career in industry as a blow molding process engineer in 1997 and joined the Chevron Phillips Chemical Company in Bartlesville in 2005. In his current position, Brown provides expertise that helps his company develop and evaluate new products and applications and answer customer questions about polyethylene. He is the inventor of patent-pending technology that uses sound to 3-D print large objects such as cars and boats in a matter of minutes.
Brown remains closely connected to PSU and serves on the Plastics Engineering Technology Council. He has been an important advocate for the university and its plastics program with high school students and has worked with industry partners to secure donations of materials and equipment that are so vital to our technology programs.
Homer Cole has worn many hats: a World War II airman, a businessman, a teacher, a coach and certainly a devoted Gorilla fan.
Cole entered the Air Force soon after his high school graduation in 1943 and by 1945 was a member of a B-17 Flying Fortress crew, based in England, that flew 20 missions over Germany.
After the war, Cole returned to Pittsburg, married his high school sweetheart, Evelyn, and enrolled at Pittsburg State. At PSU, Cole played on the university’s basketball team, setting a record of 110 games played. It was a record that stood for many years. Cole earned a bachelor’s degree in education in 1950.
In 1954, Cole was named director of Joplin Parks and Recreation. He left that post in 1960 so he and Evelyn could manage a new bowling alley in Joplin. The Coles returned to Pittsburg in 1965, when they purchased Holiday Lanes Bowling Alley. They sold that business and retired in 1984.
In retirement, Cole embarked on a mission of community service. He was elected to the City Commission in 1987 and later as mayor, led a grassroots effort to build a community center for senior citizens.
A member of Elks Lodge 412 for 50 years, Cole has been instrumental in developing the Elks Student Government Day.
A faithful and proud Pitt State alumnus, Cole has been a passionate supporter of Gorilla athletics and is a familiar figure at athletic events.