Faculty and students honored at annual awards ceremony


The annual Torch, Pilot, and Lighthouse Awards were presented on Tuesday morning in the Memorial Union Atrium. A number of faculty, students, and their supporters gathered to honor outstanding individuals and their excellence shown during their time at Fort Hays.

Sponsored by the Alumni Association, the awards honor both students and faculty members. Alumni Engagement Strategist Carolyn Tatro opened the ceremony by explaining each award.

The Torch Award for an outstanding graduating senior was established in 1974. Students are nominated by faculty and chosen to be finalists by a committee of faculty members, administrators, and an alumni administrator. The recipient is chosen based on classroom excellence, community involvement, and leadership.

“In other words, the Torch Award is granted to a well-rounded, dedicated student,” Tatro said.

Honoring graduating graduate students, the Lighthouse Award was recently established in 2018. Its nominees and finalists are chosen in the same way as the Torch Award. This award was named after the book Lighthouse on the Plains: Fort Hays State University, 1902-2002, by Dr. James Forsythe.

“The Lighthouse Award is granted on the basis of classroom excellence, graduate research, creativity and scholarly activities related to their academic discipline, leadership activities as a graduate student, and engagement in campus, community, and national organizations,” Tatro said.

Lastly, the Pilot Award recognizes an outstanding faculty member. Like the Torch Award, it was established in 1974. Candidates are nominated by students, and then finalists are selected by a committee of graduating seniors, fellow faculty members, and administrators. The award is given based on professional excellence and commitment to teaching.

The Pilot Award recipient was announced first at the ceremony. A total of 28 candidates were nominated and then narrowed down to the following five finalists.

  • Dr. Anthony Gabel, associate professor, Management
  • Dr. Christine Hober, professor, Nursing
  • Dr. Robert Lloyd, assistant professor, Robbins College of Business and Entrepreneurship (international faculty)
  • Dr. Helen Miles, assistant professor, Health and Human Performance
  • Mr. Kenneth Windholz, instructor, Psychology

This year’s recipient was Kenneth Windholz. After Tatro made this announcement, she gave a few words about Windholz from the student nominations. Windholz is regarded as an exceptional instructor, knowledgeable, approachable, and a great supporter of students.


“I am at a loss for words to express my sense of gratitude to the students who nominated me, for whom I get up every morning, spend the entire day, oftentimes long into the evening, and throughout the weekends, as every single colleague I know and am associated with at this university does. I have never been associated with people like you all,” Windholz said.

The Torch Award was given next. A total of 21 candidates were nominated, from which five finalists were chosen.

  • Makenna Allen, Marketing, concentration in Digital Marketing
  • Alec Bevis, Chemistry, emphasis in Biochemistry
  • Spencer Manning, Political Science, minor in Spanish
  • Riley Sanford, Geology and Spanish
  • Mackenzie Wertz, Medical Diagnostic Imaging, emphasis in Ultrasound 

Alec Bevis was chosen as this year’s recipient. Bevis was described by his faculty as someone who is a dedicated member of many organizations and a tutor and mentor to other students. He has also served as a captain of the men’s soccer team.

“While I am very honored to be the recipient of this Torch Award, I think this award speaks more to people that have gotten me to this position over the years,” he said.

Announced last was the Lighthouse award. A total of 11 candidates were nominated and then again narrowed down to five finalists

  • Samuel Ayers, English
  • Alison Helget, History
  • Mary Kathy Robb, Master of Fine Arts in Ceramics
  • Madison Shandy, Speech-Language Pathology
  • May Yu-Harper, Master of Business Administration in Digital Marketing  

For the first time, the Lighthouse Award committee selected two recipients. The first was Alison Helget. Helget has presented at several conferences and roundtables around the country. She has been involved both on campus and in the community, serving as co-founder of the interdisciplinary journal of the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, as well as being a lead researcher for Imagine Ellis County.


“Dr. Winchester, Dr. Perez, Professor Marquess, you guys have taught me more about being a scholar, a historian, and a woman,” Helget said. “Even better than that, we just added two more incredible women to [the history] department, Dr. Nickell and Dr. Guha. That department is going places. We have such great undergraduate and graduate students coming up through the ranks. I know we’re going to be such a staple of the university.”

The second recipient was Mary Kathy Robb. Tatro described Robb as a person who has flourished as an artist, inspiring others as she has stayed true to herself. In her recommendation, Linda Ganstrom noted Robb’s dedication to her craft.


“Although my parents are no longer here, I feel like deep down, making them proud of me was at the heart of what drove me to finally finish and complete this journey. I feel like the best is yet to come for me, and I owe that to Linda for keeping me going,” Robb said.

Tatro summed up the value of the impact each individual has on the university prior to announcing the recipients.

“Choosing our recipients is not an easy task, because we know that we have the best and the brightest students and faculty here on our campus, who embody what it means to be a Fort Hays State Tiger.”

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