May 17, 2010 12:00AM
Three alumni who have shown outstanding leadership and achievement in their fields were awarded the 2010 Meritorious Achievement Award at Pittsburg State University during commencement activities May 14-15.
The PSU Alumni Association established the award in 1958 as the highest award given to graduates based on career achievement. Candidates for the award have demonstrated substantial professional growth and advancement over an extended period of time. The candidate's activities, including participation and leadership in civic and professional organizations at the local, state and national levels, are also considered by the awards committee in selecting the recipients.
This year's recipients are Inez Kaiser of Overland Park, Kan., a speaker, consultant, and founder and CEO of the public relations firm Inez Kaiser and Associates; Paula F. Baker of Joplin, Mo., the CEO of Ozark Center and CCO for Freeman Health System; and James L. Harlin of Edmond, Okla., the founder and president of FiSource, Inc., an actuarial and financial consulting firm.
Inez Y. Kaiser
Dr. Inez Y. Kaiser, of Overland Park, Kan., is the founder and CEO of Inez Kaiser and Associates, Inc., the first public relations firm in the U.S. to be opened and operated by an African-American woman.
Kaiser earned a bachelor's degree in education from PSU in 1941 and a master's degree from Columbia (N.Y.) College in 1958. She also studied at Chicago University, Rockhurst University and Dartmouth College. In 1986, Lincoln University awarded her an honorary doctor of law degree.
Dr. Kaiser began her career as a teacher in the Kansas City schools and in 1960, made history opening her firm. Now well into her 90s, she has been a pioneer recording a long list of "firsts" as an African-American and as a woman. Among them: member of the Public Relations Society of America, which has named two scholarships in her name; member of the Advertising and Sales Executive Club; inducted into the Hall of Fame for Women in Public Relations; member of the Chamber of Commerce of Kansas City; member of the Kansas City Women's Chamber of Commerce, member of the American Marketing Association and member of the American Women in Radio and Television. She was also the first African American woman to write a soul food cookbook, "Soul Food Cookery."
In addition, Kaiser was one of four Americans selected by CBS Television to participate in the worldwide broadcast of "What's Right with America." She was selected to represent U.S. women at the United Nations Conference on the Economic Status of Women in Liberville, Gabon. The U.S. Department of Commerce named her the National Business Advocate of the Year in 1997.
An adviser to Presidents Nixon and Ford on issues relating to minority women in business, Kaiser worked with Lever Brothers, Sears & Roebuck, 7-Up and Pillsbury on marketing to African-American consumers.
Inez and her late husband, Richard Kaiser, Sr., were married for 58 years. Their son Richard Kaiser, Jr., lives in the Kansas City area. She also has three grandchildren.
Paula F. Baker
Paula F. Baker, of Joplin, Mo., is the chief executive officer of Ozark Center and the chief clinical officer for Freeman Health System.
Baker earned a bachelor's degree in education from PSU in 1980, and a master's degree in clinical psychology from PSU in 1999. As CEO leading the Ozark Center, which employs 400 and treats approximately 12,000 patients each year, Baker has overseen a 10% growth in patient volume and revenues, the creation of the Ozark Center for Autism, and developed the largest psychiatric group in the four-state region.
As CCO of Freeman, she provides leadership for all nursing and ancillary patient services, including Critical Care, Emergency/Trauma, the Heart & Vascular Institute, Maternity Center/Neonatal Intensive Care, Pediatrics, and Psychiatry. She is also responsible for directing service development for the Health System.
In 2008, Baker was appointed by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon to the Commission on Autism Spectrum Disorders, and in 2006 was appointed by the Missouri Attorney General to the Community Advisory Council for the Missouri Foundation for Health. She is involved with a variety of organizations, including the Ronald McDonald House, Rotary International and Phi Kappa Phi. She is also on the board of directors for Ascent and the Talkington Foundation, two area non-profit organizations, and is a trustee of the PSU foundation. She is a member of the PSU Heritage Society, and past-president of the Joplin chapter of the PSU Alumni Association.
Baker has been recognized by the Joplin Tri-State Business Journal as one of 2007's 10 Most Influential Women and Joplin Business Journal's 2008 Women of Distinction. She also received the Making a Difference for Women Award from the Joplin Soroptimist Club in 2008. She has won numerous alumni awards from PSU, the 2008 Visionary Leadership Award from the Missouri Hospital Association, and was recognized by the Missouri House of Representatives in 2004 for Distinguished Leadership in Behavioral Healthcare.
Paula and her husband, Gene (BSE '78), have been married for 30 years.
James L. Harlin
James L Harlin, of Edmond, Okla. is Founder & President of FiSource, Inc., an actuarial and financial consulting firm that works with technology and insurance companies primarily in the areas of strategic development, mergers and acquisitions. Prior to his current activities in FiSource he was the Chairman and CEO of Chase Insurance for JPMorgan Chase & Co.
Harlin received a bachelor's degree in education from PSU in 1970, and a master's degree in mathematics from PSU in 1971.
Harlin has been a national leader in the corporate insurance world, first spending 17 years with the Horace Mann Life Insurance Company in Springfield, Ill., where he served as chief actuary, director, and executive vice president. He served as CEO of the John Deere Life Insurance Company, the Mid-Continent Life Insurance Company, and most recently JPMorgan Chase Insurance operations. Under his leadership, Chase Insurance became the largest bank insurance business in America.
Over the years, he has been involved in numerous civic projects and has been engaged in fundraising for educational, business, political, charitable and religious organizations. He is currently a trustee with the PSU Foundation and serves on the investment committee. In 1981, he was honored with the PSU Outstanding Alumni Award. His professional designations include: Fellow in the Society of Actuaries, Member of the American Academy of Actuaries, Chartered Life Underwriter, Chartered Financial Consultant, and Fellow of the Life Management Institute.
Jim and his wife, Joy, have been married 40 years. They have two sons, Tim and Todd, also of Edmond.