March 06, 2018 2:00PM
Every year since 1907, students and the community have paused to reflect on a series of events in the Kansas Legislature that in effect assured that Pittsburg State would not only continue, but would take its place among the institutions of higher learning in Kansas.
Founded in 1903, the Kansas State Manual Training Normal School Auxiliary began in a borrowed building in downtown Pittsburg. The effort to secure state support to build a permanent building for the new school met with strong opposition from other state schools.
The school’s founder and principal, R.S. Russ, along with faculty and the Pittsburg mayor, lobbied hard in the legislature to get the lawmakers to pass the appropriation. In doing so, Russ broke a legislative rule by sitting in a legislator’s seat during the session. The Pittsburg delegation was fined a barrel of apples for the impropriety, which was paid and distributed among the legislators.
The appropriation was approved, however, and when the triumphant Pittsburg delegation returned to Pittsburg, a joyful assembly of students followed the legislature’s lead and fined the faculty a barrel of apples, which they paid and distributed to the students. They have done so every year since.
In addition to handing out apples on the Oval this morning, this year's activities ranged from an apple scavenger hunt that netted finders a bit of cash, to the popular apple dessert contest judged by celebrities that included TV news anchors and the PSU Homecoming King and Queen.
This afternoon, this year's three Ralf J. Thomas Distinguished Service Award recipients, Dr. Richard Peterson, Dr. Mindi Garner, and Frank Naccarato, were recognized at a public reception at the Wilkinson Alumni Center, and were recognized at the annual all-university Apple Day convocation.
Also recognized at that convocation were several other award recipients:
Good Apple Award
The keynote speaker was Pittsburg State's first Good Apple Award winner, Nick Popejoy, a 2014 graduate who teaches and coaches for Webb City School District. The award was established to honor a recent graduate who is putting into practice what it means to be a Gorilla, and in doing so, is making an impact in his or her career field and the community.
Gloria Flynn, Kristen Livingston, and Barbara McClaskey were recognized with the Dr. Robert K. Ratzlaff Outstanding Faculty Awards, created to recognize those faculty members who make lasting impressions on students. This year, more than 32 instructors were nominated.
Flynn, an assistant professor in Teaching & Leadership, serves as a mentor to special education teachers in the community and teaches courses tailored for inclusive teaching in the classroom.
She has published works about the impacts of after-school programs for children in poverty, and the attrition rates of early career teachers.
The students who nominated Dr. Flynn noted her genuine care for each individual's success and her determination to continue teaching classes while undergoing 16 rounds of chemotherapy treatment for cancer this academic year.
Livingston, the assistant director for Student Diversity and now the faculty advisor to the public relations and advertising club, We Rise, and the Students for Sustainability, also facilitates the new Gorilla Media Group.
One of her students said, “She has more faith in me than I do sometimes, and it is nice to know that even when you are down on yourself, you have a teacher who won’t give up on you and will work with you to get you to where you want to be.”
McClaskey, a professor in nursing, is receiving this award for the third time since starting here at Pittsburg State in 1992.
She has presented research at three national conferences this year, coordinates the PSU Red Cross Blood Drive, and advises the Kansas Association of Student Nurses, the Catholic Student Organization, and Omicron Delta Kappa Honor Society.
Her students say that she is “a major source of light and joy at McPherson Hall; she is such an inspirational person and plainly put, she may be the next Mother Theresa.”
Professors Beyond the Classroom Grant Awards
New at this year's Apple Day is the presentation of the Professors Beyond the Classroom Grant Awards. These awards, funded by the PSU Student Government Association, were awarded to five faculty who will use the money to positively impact students.
Voya Outstanding Employee Recognition Awards
Recipients of the Voya Outstanding Employee Recognition Awards will each receive a $750 stipend. This year’s Unclassified Staff honoree was Aaron Hurt, the Assistant Director of International Recruitment & Undergraduate Admissions.
This year’s University Support Staff honoree was Tracey Eagon, the senior administrative assistant for the Kansas Center for Career & Technical Education, based here on campus, which provides professional development for teachers.
The Golden Gorilla Award
The Golden Gorilla Award was established in 1997 to recognize students for their significant achievements in service, campus and community involvement, and academics.
Students receiving the award this year were: Victoria Ho, Alexandra Battitori, Jodi Stuhlsatz, Abigail White, Kolleen Gladden, Caitlin Martin, Elena Flott, Brittany Worthington, Bianca Rodriguez, Piper Misse, Emily Dickey, Skyler Jones, Lauren Sullivan, Jacob Brown, Lindsey Chambers, Amber Demaranville, Malory White, Ryan Cipriani, Christen Miller, Jaina Mills, Talia Ayala Feliciangeli, Long Xiao, Cara Zacny, Amanda Robinson, Zachary Denton, and Bethanne Elliott.
This year’s Convocation marked the 14th year of awarding Centennial Scholarships. Any undergraduate student enrolled at PSU during the Spring 2018 and who will be attending during the Fall semester was eligible, provided they attended Apple Day. Given by the PSU Foundation, this year's recipients were Madison Westervelt ($500) and Kayla Masisak ($1,000).
Apple Dessert Contest
The contest winners in the Apple Pie division were Ashley Wadell (1st Place), Madeline McCoy (2nd Place) and Brad Stefanoni (3rd Place). The contest winners in the Apple Dessert division were Kiralyn Mosier (1st Place), Madeline McCoy (2nd Place), and Heather Busch (3rd Place).