Alumni Awards to be presented at Cardinal Newman Banquet Feb. 26, 2011


Four alumni will be recognized at the Cardinal Newman Banquet and Awards Ceremony on Feb. 26, 2011 in the Dugan-Gorges Conference Center. Alumni, faculty and staff nominate award candidates throughout the year. Nominations received by the end of each fiscal year are vetted by the Awards Committee of the Alumni Association, and honorees are selected by the Board of Directors.

Here’s a brief look at this year’s honorees and their accomplishments.

Tony SchountzLeon A. McNeill Distinguished Alumni in Science recipient William (Tony) Schountz, Ph.D. ’86 will be honored for his achievements in the field of emerging infectious diseases. An associate professor of microbiology at the University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, Schountz jokingly reports that his lab is “certifiably dangerous.” The internationally known speaker harbors infected bats and deer mice to study the transmission of diseases, such as the hantavirus, from rodents to humans. Over the past five years the National Institutes for Allergy and Infectious Disease have supported his research with more than $750,000 in funding. Schountz holds a master’s degree in virology from Emporia State University, a doctorate in immunology from Kansas State University, and completed a post doctoral fellowship at the University of Tennessee in the study of mammalian molecular genetics. His leadership roles include past president of the Rocky Mountain Branch, American Society for Microbiology, current vice president of the Western Region, National Biological Honor Society, and current president of the board of directors for the Colorado Citizens of Science.

Dennis NewellLeon A. McNeill Distinguished Alumni in Education recipient Dennis A. Newell ‘77 recently completed a year of service with the National Science Foundation in Washington, D.C., as an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator, the first Kansan to be selected for this program since it was founded in 1994. Most of Newell’s 30-plus year teaching career has been at Emporia Middle School, where he is known for classrooms filled with cutting edge technology provided by the numerous grants and awards he has garnered. Newell devoted three summers to research on hydrogen fuel cells and bio-fuels for the U.S. Department of Energy at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, N.M., which stoked his enthusiasm for encouraging students to pursue careers in science, mathematics and engineering. Newell is an active member of the Kansas Exemplary Educators Network and the boards of the Kansas Association of Teachers, the Kansas Association of Teachers of Math, and the Kansas Association of Middle Level Education. He is also past grand knight and district deputy for the Knights of Columbus and recently completed three terms as president of Catholic Charities in Emporia. The self-professed life-long learner is currently pursuing a doctorate in curriculum and instruction.

Don BittnerSpirit of Acuto Transformational Leadership Award recipient Don Bittner, M.D. ’77 learned of the Navy’s need for surgeons while in the U.S. Naval Reserves, and offered himself for active duty despite the significant personal sacrifice of leaving his medical practice. Though Bittner was considered very physically fit by his middle-age peers (he held a Kansas state Olympic lifting record for more than 16 years), he underwent weeks of rigorous training to meet the high standards required for active duty. Now serving in Afghanistan, Bittner is chief medical officer of a large medical battalion of commercial builders. He performs surgery 10 to 12 hours per day on civilians, U.S. soldiers and prisoners, then travels by helicopter to monitor construction crews working under his watch at sites throughout the country. Bittner is a board certified orthopedic surgeon, and received a fellowship to train in hand surgery. The first orthopedist invited to join St. Jude Heritage Medical Group in Fullerton, Calif., Bittner played an integral role in developing the group’s orthopedic department and now serves on the board for this 250-plus member multi-specialty group. Bittner is associate professor and chairman of the Hand Surgery Department for the University of Southern California at Irvine, where he also earned his M.B.A. and was named Teacher of the Year in 2006. He will soon publish a series of books about his personal transformation from a young man with a difficult upbringing to a nationally recognized surgeon, in the hopes of inspiring others to persist in reaching their dreams.

Margaret Knoeber, ASCThe Maria De Mattias Award recipient Margaret Knoeber, ASC ’49, ’53, ’61 attended Sacred Heart Academy at the urging of a cousin. It led to her becoming a professed member of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, with a long-standing commitment to Catholic life and education. During summers between 10 years’ service as an elementary school and music teacher in rural parochial schools, she earned her associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in secondary education. A knack for chemistry sent Sister Margaret to the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a doctorate in organic chemistry under the direction of noted scientist Dr. Ernest Eliel. This experience would launch her service to her alma mater. Her rigorous teaching methods during 10 years as instructor and then associate professor of chemistry at Kansas Newman College struck fear in the hearts of her students at the time, yet fostered many a successful career in chemistry and contributed to the growth of today’s highly successful Science Department. She served as alumni director from 1983 to 1990, during which time she led the college’s 50 Year Anniversary celebrations. She also pioneered interactive television technology in western Kansas, launching a pastoral ministry program for rural communities in the vast Diocese of Dodge City. She served a term as provincial counselor for the ASC, was community archivist at the ASC Wichita Center, and was a member of the Newman Alumni Board of Directors. She continues to display her deep loyalty to Newman as an active alumna, maintaining many relationships with her former students and alumni.

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