From screenwriters to doctors, we honor them all. Missouri State University’s alumni exemplify what it means to be a Citizen Bear.
Each year, the Missouri State Alumni Association honors a group of its outstanding alumni.
About the 2019 awards ceremony
The event is open to the public. Tickets are $30 per person. Call 417-836-6554 to make reservations by June 14.
Bears of Distinction
Read about our Bears of Distinction and their awards.
- Lifetime Achievement Award: Kay Alden Nelson (1970) has written for daytime television for more than 40 years. She has won six Daytime Emmy Awards and two Writers Guild Awards. She has been the head writer for “The Young and the Restless” and “The Bold and the Beautiful.” Onscreen and offscreen, she uses her platform to address critical issues, such as homelessness, cancer, date rape and childhood poverty. Alden Nelson also comes back to Missouri State to teach classes and workshops.
- Outstanding Alumnus Award: Randy Mooney (1981) owns and operates Mooney Dairy with Jan Mooney, his wife. He has been the chairman of the Dairy Farmers of America board since 2010. He has served in leadership roles for the National Milk Producers Federation. He is also a member of the board of directors for Hiland Dairy and Missouri State Milk Board. Mooney has received many leadership awards for agriculture and dairy farming.
- Outstanding Young Alumnus Award: Dr. Chad Walesky (2007, 2009) is a research fellow at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He researches new ways to identify how liver cancer develops. His research has appeared in prestigious journals including Hepatology and Nature. Walesky has also won many awards, including the American Society for Investigative Pathology 2017 Young Scientist Leadership Award.
- Excellence in Public Affairs: Michael Cossins (1991) is the president and owner of the Integra Group, Inc. He created his company to solve software engineering problems for businesses and to benefit the global community. The Integra Group has partnerships with four charities: Habitat for Humanity, Give Hope Global, Midwest Food Bank and the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation. In addition, Cossins gives employees two paid days a year to help the charity of their choice.
- Volunteer Group of the Year: Matt Bekebrede (2004), Angie Fellers-Beard (Fellars Food Service Equipment), Brian Inman (1987) and Sara Marquart (1988) comprised the Hospitality Leadership Wine Tasting and Silent Auction Planning Committee. Each member also serves on the Hospitality Leadership Advisory Board. Since the event started in 2013, it has generated more than $100,000 for the benefit of hospitality leadership students.
Bears of Excellence
The Bears of Excellence recognizes accomplished alumni from diverse academic, professional and personal backgrounds.
This year’s Bears of Excellence are:
- David Rush (1983) is a United States Magistrate Judge, Western District of Missouri, Springfield Division. He presides over the Re-Entry Court, a supervision program for federal criminal defendants with addiction issues. He has been a member of the Springfield R-12 School and Community Drug Use, Prevention and Health Advisory Council. He is a board member and mentor at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Springfield. Rush has won many awards for his work in and out of the criminal justice system.
- Dr. Jessica (Trout) Snider (2002) is a hematologist/oncologist at Mercy Health System. She is on the clinical board for Mercy Health System and is board certified in internal medicine, hematology and medical oncology. She served as the American Cancer Society Cattle Baron. She is also on the Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks board.
- Sandy (Percival) Miller (1985) is an anchor for FOX 2 News in St. Louis, Missouri. She is an Emmy Award-winning journalist for excellence in reporting. She is active in the community with the Missouri Humane Society, United Cerebral Palsy and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, among others. She has been the emcee for Missouri State University’s St. Louis MarooNation Ball the past four years.
- Rebecca McLean (2004) is the assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction for the Neosho School District. She implemented a 1:1 computer program, standards-based grading and a comprehensive literacy model. She has raised over $150,000 in community donations to support classroom literacy. She serves on boards for Bright Futures, United Community Fund Board and Advocates for Better Choices.
- Karen Rapier (1993) is a senior merchant and buyer at Walmart. She has held positions in buying and planning for many areas at Walmart and JC Penney. She was team captain of the 1992 Missouri State Final Four Lady Bears basketball team. In 2001, she took the Lady Bears back to the Final Four as an assistant coach to Cheryl Burnett. She was also an assistant coach and recruiter for the University of Michigan. She was named to the 40 under 40 list by the Springfield Business Journal in 2000. Rapier is a member of the Missouri State University Athletics Hall of Fame and the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame.