Three alumni with diverse careers that span the fields of business, law and athletics, will be awarded the 2009 Meritorious Achievement Award at Pittsburg State University during commencement activities May 15-16.
The PSU Alumni Association established the award in 1958 as the highest award 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 Craig Cave, founder of Technical Machine Sales, Inc., in Longview, Texas; the Honorable Fernando J. Gaitan, Jr., a United States District Judge for the Western District of Missouri; and Mark S. Hittner, a National Football League official and part-owner of a Kansas City-based financial services firm.
Following are biographies of the recipients:
Craig Cave, of Longview, Texas, has an extensive history in the fields of machine and manufacturing sales. In 1986, Cave founded (and is today president and owner) of Technical Machine Sales (TMSI), a metalworking machinery company in Longview that focuses on designing, building, remanufacturing and selling computer-controlled machine tools.
Cave's work history in the area of manufacturing goes back to the 1960s, when he held his first machinist job with Astro Instrument Corporation in Joplin, Mo. He has been a trailblazer in the field ever since, founding and operating multiple companies. In the late 1990s, TMSI was nominated by Lockheed Martin as Small Business of the Year for its work creating a 7-Axis Special Machine - a machine used to convert rocket launchers from coordinate-controlled to GPS. The Pentagon presented TMSI with the Project Managers Award for its success creating the machine.
TMSI, which sells new and used computer-controlled machine tools throughout North America and to more than 20 foreign countries, also designs and builds turnkey manufacturing facilities. A facility was recently built in Indonesia, and another in Saudi Arabia is underway.
After growing up in Dodge City, Kan., Cave received an associate of science degree from Dodge City Junior College before transferring to Kansas State College (PSU). Here, he earned a bachelor of science education degree in 1964 and a master of science degree with a major in industrial education in 1967.
As well as being an innovative entrepreneur, Cave is known as a generous philanthropist. He is a longtime donor to the Neal McCoy East Angel Network, which benefits families of children with serious illnesses; the Boys and Girls Club; the Longview Police Department's drug awareness program; and Longview-area churches for building projects.
Cave is a member of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, and in 1980 was the first-ever recipient of their Outstanding Young Manufacturing Engineer Award. Since 1988, he has been a member (and served as former chairman) of Machinery Dealers National Association. He is also a member of the international Tube and Pipe Association, and has donated his time serving on the board of Trinity School of Texas. Active in Boy Scouts of America, he achieved the rank of Life Scout, and has spent summers cooking and teaching Morse code at Boy Scout camps.
Cave lives with his wife of 36 years, Susie Cave. They have two children, Ryan and Ashley, and three grandchildren.
Fernando J. Gaitan, Jr., of Kansas City, Mo., is a United States District Judge for the Western District of Missouri, a position he has held for 18 years. Currently serving as Chief Judge of the district, Gaitan has a long legal career, which began in the 1970s when he served in his first position as counsel for Southwestern Bell Telephone Company.
Soon, Gaitan pursued the other side of the bench, and in the 1980s received gubernatorial appointments to serve as a state trial judge for the Sixteenth Judicial Circuit in Kansas City, and later as an appellate judge for the Missouri Court of Appeals-Western District. In the 1990s, he was appointed to the federal bench by George H.W. Bush, where he continues to serve.
After an appointment by Chief Justice William Rehnquist, Gaitan served as a member of the Federal-State Jurisdiction Committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States from 1997-2003. In 2007, he began serving as a member of the Eighth Circuit Judicial Council. He has also served as a transferee judge by appointment of the Multidistrict Litigation Panel.
Raised in Kansas City, Gaitan earned a bachelor of science degree in psychology from PSU in 1970, and a juris doctorate from the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law in 1974. Judge Gaitan has been a member of numerous non-profit boards during his career, and has spent 25 years as a St. Luke's Hospital board member. He is a member of local, state, and national bar associations, and is a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation. He serves as an adjunct faculty member with the UMKC School of Law, and is an honorary board member with the DeLaSalle Education Center in Kansas City.
He has been honored many times for his professional achievements, which include the distinction of being the youngest person ever appointed as a trial judge for the Sixteenth Judicial Circuit. His appointment to the Missouri Court of Appeals made him the second African-American judge in Missouri's history.
He has been named by a national legal magazine as one of the 500 leading judges in America, and was honored by UMKC School of Law with the creation of the Hon. Fernando J. Gaitan, Jr. Award, which is presented each year to the outstanding student participant of the school's Youth Court. He has received the UMKC Alumnus of the Year Award, the PSU Outstanding Alumni Award, the Difference Maker Award from the Urban League of Greater Kansas City, the Centurion Leadership Award from the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, and has been inducted into the Missouri Walk of Fame.
Gaitan has been married to his wife Sylvia, for 34 years. They have two children, Avier and Trey.
Mark S. Hittner, a former standout PSU athlete who lives in Kansas City, Mo., is a National Football League official and part-owner of a Kansas City-based financial services firm.
Hittner has worked as a referee in the NFL for the past 12 years. He served as an official in the last three of six Super Bowls, most recently in Super Bowl XL on Feb. 5, 2006, between the Seattle Seahawks and the Pittsburgh Steelers. He works as a head linesman and wears the uniform number 28.
In the NFL, Hittner has officiated 10 post-season assignments including Super Bowls XXXVI, XXXVIII, and XL, in addition to four wild-card, one divisional, and two conference championship games.
Hittner played college football at PSU from 1976-1979, where he was an all-conference quarterback. He was named team MVP his junior and senior years. He was also team captain his senior year, and set a record as PSU's second-leading career passer in yards (4,830). He began officiating junior high and high school football in 1980, and spent 13 seasons as a college football official in the Big Eight/Big Twelve Conference beginning in 1984.
After finishing his bachelor of science degree in business administration in 1979, Hittner worked as an accountant for Phillips Petroleum in Bartlesville, Okla. He moved to Kansas City in 1986, and spent the next 12 years in insurance sales. He founded his own investment firm, Mark Hittner Financial, in 1998, and renamed the business as Premier Financial Partners with the addition of new co-owners a few years ago.
In addition to his dual roles as investor and NFL official, Hittner serves on several committees with the St. Gabriel Catholic Church in Kansas City. He is also a member of the Kansas City Chiefs Ambassadors Group and the Gladstone (Mo.) Area Chamber of Commerce, and frequently gives presentations of his NFL officiating experiences to local organizations.
Hittner and his wife of 26 years, Rebecca, have three sons, Jason, Grant, and Lincoln, and four grandchildren.
©2009 Pittsburg State University