February 27, 2018 10:00AM
A reception will be held from 2 to 2:45 p.m. in the upper level of the Wilkinson Alumni Center, 401 E. Ford, prior to the Apple Day convocation, which will be held at 3 p.m. in the Overman Student Center.
The award was started in 1991. In July 2000, it was renamed the Dr. Ralf J. Thomas Distinguished Service Award in memory of a retired faculty member who volunteered his service to the PSU Alumni Association for 22 years and was the first recipient of the award. This year's Distinguished Service Award recipients have given generously of their time and talent for the betterment of Pittsburg State. They are:
Dr. Richard Peterson
Dr. Richard Peterson, of Langdon Lane Animal Hospital, donated his services to PSU Nature Reach from its inception in 1985 until Fall 2017, when he retired and closed his practice.
Without the donation of his services to that program, countless birds of prey and other wildlife would not have survived, nor would Nature Reach still be in existence.
Peterson is a Pittsburg native and the son of a PSU alumna. Following graduation from KU in 1969 with his bachelor's degree in zoology, he served as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army. He graduated from KSU with a doctor's degree of veterinary medicine, then practiced as an associate veterinarian in Tulsa, Oklahoma, before opening Langdon Lane Animal Hospital in 1979.
"Dr. Peterson provided expert advice and care for our educational outreach animals, as well as the injured and orphaned wildlife that came to us for rehabilitation," said Chris Pistole, a previous director.
Among Peterson's contributions: he was instrumental in performing surgery on an endangered species — a peregrine falcon — and helping it to recover. The bird eventually was sent to the University of Minnesota Raptor Center and into the hands of a licensed falconer who could reintroduce it to the wild.
Current director Delia Lister said she considers herself lucky to have worked with Dr. Peterson for the past decade, as she has learned much from him and has witnessed his compassion for animals and people.
"I consider him an integral part of our team," she said. "It would be nearly impossible to put a dollar value on all he has given us over the past 30 years."
Peterson also was a charter member of Sunrise Rotary and served as a Rotarian for many years. He served on the Pittsburg School Board and was its president. Prior to becoming a veterinarian, he served as a military policeman from 1969-1973. He and his wife, Marilyn (BSED '70) raised twin girls and twin boys in the Pittsburg community.
Frank Naccarato served as a volunteer assistant football coach at Pittsburg State from 1992 until 2014 – a span of 23 years of service to his alma mater.
As a student, Naccarato was a four-year member of the Pittsburg State baseball team under Coach Al Ortolani. The Frontenac native earned a bachelor’s of science in education degree from PSU in 1972.
Naccarato then served as head football coach at Galena High School from 1981-91, leading GHS to a pair of CNC League titles, three district championships and a bi-district championship.
Simultaneous to teaching, he volunteered as the Gorillas wide receivers coach from 1995-2014 after assisting with the running backs in 1992 and the offensive line from 1993-94.
Early in his career, he helped with opponent scouting and was involved in recruiting and summer camps. He performed many duties during his tenure on Pittsburg State’s staff similarly to a full-time assistant coach.
Naccarato helped the Gorillas reach four trips to the NCAA Division II National Championship Game – in 1992, 1995, 2004 and 2011. He also found time to earn a master’s degree in school administration from PSU in 1994.
As a position coach, he mentored nine NCAA Division II All-America players and 23 Gorillas who earned All-MIAA accolades.
His hours of service are difficult to fully calculate as well as appreciate in scope, noted Associate Athletic Director Dan Wilkes.
"It’s safe to estimate he volunteered his time to Pittsburg State in excess of 1,000 hours a year for more than two decades – easily more than 23,000 volunteer hours of service," Wilkes calculated.
Naccarato battled major knee replacement surgery and a life-threatening battle with cancer. Ultimately, he retired from volunteer service following the 2014 football season to spend more time with his family, including his young grandchildren.
He retired from high school teaching in 2007 after 28 years of service in the Galena USD 499 school district. He and his wife, Mary, have two daughters.
Dr. Mindi Garner
Dr. Mindi Garner, DO, FACP, is a board-certified physician of internal medicine who has contributed to the premedical program at Pittsburg State. She grew up in Parsons, Kansas, and graduated from PSU in 1994 with a bachelor's degree in Biology Pre-Medicine.
She graduated from Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine in 2000 and completed an Internal Medicine residency at University of Tennessee-Memphis in Memphis, Tennessee, in 2003.
Later that year, Garner opened her Pittsburg clinic — the first and only completely paperless electronic medical record office in the area. She opened a satellite clinic in Girard, Kansas, in 2007, and retains active medical staff privileges at Via Christi Hospital in Pittsburg and Girard Medical Center.
"Dr. Garner has remained intricately tied to the students at PSU by starting a program that allowed her to both mentor pre-medical students and give them the ability to make money with adjustable hours while learning the language and art of medicine," said Dr. Kathleen Sandness, medical director at Pittsburg State's Student Health Services.
Garner sponsors Premeds with Promise, which provides early clinical exposure to premed majors and ultimately better prepared future physicians. Her goal is to provide state-of-the-art health care for the local community while cultivating youth and advance the practice of medicine.
She also identified the need for a coordinated curriculum to help retain students in the health care field, and helped to orchestrate a symposium at the Overman Student Center of speakers from insurance companies, hospitals, electronic medical records, and IT departments.
Additionally, Dr. Garner began her MBA studies in 2014 in the Kelce College of Business.
She and her husband, Kevan Schupbach, have two daughters. Her step-son and step-daughter both attend PSU.