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The Alumni Fellows Luncheon recognizes alumni who have distinguished themselves in their careers. Fellows are invited to campus to interact with students and faculty in the classroom and other academic settings. Each spring, faculty and staff submit nominations for Fellows to their respective dean. A fellow is selected from the School of Applied Studies, School of Business, School of Law, School of Nursing and Washburn Institute of Technology. Because of its size, the College of Arts and Sciences selects up to three Fellows. The 2016 Alumni Fellows were recognized during a ceremony on Nov. 11.
Andy Brown, bas ’10, executive director, Headquarters, Inc.
Andy Brown was born in Topeka and resides in Lawrence, Kansas, where he has been executive director of Headquarters, Inc. since 2014.
He oversees the Kansas Suicide Prevention Resources Center and other counseling services at Headquarters. He restored the organization’s 24-hour counseling center and established the Douglas County Suicide Prevention Coalition. He serves the Governor’s Behavioral Health Services Planning Council, where he is chair of the suicide prevention subcommittee.
Brown served in the Army Reserves after high school, earning the Army Service Ribbon and other commendations, before completing his education in social work. He worked at various human services organizations in Lawrence, including as development director of the Lawrence Community Shelter, before going to Headquarters.
How has Washburn help you in your career: After high school I joined the Army Reserves and tried unsuccessfully to pursue a degree at KU. Later, as a more mature adult, I returned to school. It was the academic forgiveness program and scholarship opportunities at Washburn that helped me finish my undergraduate degree while working full-time in Lawrence. Service learning opportunities were also helpful.
Rita Verschelden Etzel, R.N., practical nursing ’71, retired registered nurse
Rita Etzel was raised in Saint Marys, Kansas. She now resides in La Mesa, California, where she is a retired registered nurse.
Etzel worked 23 years at Sharp-Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa in orthopedics, neurology and same-day surgery. During that time, she mentored dozens of nursing students under the hospital’s preceptorship program, receiving several commendations for those efforts. She retired in 2013.
After receiving her LPN at what was then Kaw Area Vocational Technical School, Etzel worked at Stormont Vail Health before she and her family moved. She returned to school 15 years later to earn an associate’s degree and RN certification while raising three sons. She also served as a den mother, assistant Scoutmaster and district commissioner for Boy Scouts of America.
What are your favorite Washburn memories: The camaraderie, common purpose and diversity in age and ethnicity of my classmates. Because of my experiences raising a family while in nursing school, along with my husband, Paul, I established four pilot scholarships at Washburn Tech for re-entrant students with a preference toward those with minor-dependent children.
Marc A. Fry, bsn ’96, director, critical care and emergency nurse course, Brooke Army Medical Center
Marc Fry was born in Topeka and resides in San Antonio, Texas, where he is course director of the critical care/emergency nurse program for the Army Nurse Corps at Brooke Army Medical Center. He began that duty in July. With 20 years of experience as chief, head or staff Army nurse in emergency or critical care departments, he oversees all Army nurses training for the same field.
Fry has served as an Army nurse since 1996 with work at Fort Riley in Kansas, Fort Still in Oklahoma, Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii and Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Maryland. He also served overseas in Afghanistan, Iraq and Germany. In Germany, he was commander of operations and readiness where he assisted in planning operations in Africa, Spain, Poland and the United Kingdom.
His military honors include the Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, the NATO Medal and many more.
How did Washburn contribute to your career: Washburn School of Nursing set me up for success in the military as a nurse. The challenging curriculum taught me the value of hard work, dedication and commitment toward completing a goal. I worked tirelessly to emulate the commitment to nursing my instructors had.
Greg A. Greenwood, bba ’88, senior vice president of strategy, Westar Energy
Greg Greenwood was born in Chanute, Kansas, and resides in Topeka where he is senior vice president of strategy at Westar Energy. He is responsible for federal and state regulatory affairs and customer care.
Greenwood has been at Westar since 1993 when he started as a staff accountant and joined the executive team in 2003 as vice president and treasurer. He became vice president for major construction projects in 2006, overseeing $2.5 billion worth of infrastructure projects before taking his current role in 2011.
He serves on the Washburn University Foundation Board of Directors and is the current investment committee chairperson. He also serves on the Board of Trustees and audit committee for Easter Seals Capper Foundation and on the Board of Directors for American Red Cross. He is a certified public accountant and completed the MIT nuclear reactor technology course for utility executives.
What is your favorite Washburn story: My then-current girlfriend (and now wife of 28 years) and I were two of the original officers of the Student Alumni Association under the leadership of Elsie Lesser (ba ’65). We took a trip to Ames, Iowa, for our first big conference and won the talent competition with our adaptation of “Heard it Through the Grapevine,” while dressed as giant raisins.
Natalie G. Haag, jd ’85, general counsel and executive vice president, Capitol Federal Savings Bank
Natalie Haag was born in Holton and resides in Topeka where she has been general counsel and executive vice president of Capitol Federal Savings Bank since 2012. She provides legal advice on regulatory, contractual, litigation and employment issues.
Haag worked at Security Benefit Corporation for nine years prior to that as second vice president, director of governmental affairs and assistant general counsel. She was general counsel and chief of staff for Kansas Governor Bill Graves. Early in her practice, she prosecuted and worked for firms in Topeka and Wichita.
She is the immediate past president of the Kansas Bar Association and is a representative on the Supreme Court Nominating Commission. She won the KBA Outstanding Service Award in 2008 and was a YMCA Women of Excellence recipient in 2016.
What is your best memory of Washburn: In one word, it would be ‘friends.’ It is difficult to pick one event because my Washburn memories involve reams of quiet moments with friends, engaging in debates with classmates and professors, times full of laughter, others full of stress and a few more involving tears. All of these created life-long friendships and respect for my Washburn peers. I wouldn’t trade a single moment.
Tim Laird, M.D., ba ’87, family physician, Health First Medical Group
Dr. Tim Laird was born in Topeka and resides in Melbourne, Florida, where he has been a family physician with Health First Medical Group since 2002.
Laird earned his M.D. on an Army scholarship and served in the Army Medical Corps from 1991-97, practicing at Fort Leavenworth after his residency. He began civilian practice in Liberty, Missouri.
Laird’s leadership roles include serving as regional medical director for Health First, president of the medical staff at Viera Hospital and chief of medicine at Cape Canaveral Hospital. He also served on the boards of Health First Physicians and Kansas City Academy of Family Physicians. He volunteers at Brevard Health Alliance and volunteered at the Kansas City Free Health Clinic. He holds academic appointment as clinical assistant professor at Florida State University School of Medicine.
How did Washburn contribute to your career: I remember being surprised at Georgetown that I was better prepared than some of my classmates who graduated from famous colleges in the Northeast. Parasitology and embryology at Washburn were tougher and more comprehensive than those subjects in medical school, and chemistry and biology came in handy when treating people in remote areas such as Micronesia.
Tonja J. Speer, ba ’87, ma ’90, executive director, vice president, Wyandot Center for Community Behavioral Healthcare, Inc.
Tonja Speer was born in Dighton, Kansas, and resides in Kansas City, Missouri, where she has worked for Wyandot Center for Community Behavioral Healthcare since 1990.
She has served as executive director and vice president of Wyandot Center since 2010, overseeing 250 employees and a comprehensive outpatient mental healthcare program. She started as a mental health therapist working with children’s services, sexual abuse services and other services. Before that, she did graduate work at Washburn’s psychological services clinic and Family Service and Guidance Center in Topeka.
Speer is a licensed clinical psychotherapist and has been awarded for her work in community crisis response and leadership. She has trained and responded to disasters in Missouri and Kansas including floods, tornadoes and mass shootings.
How did Washburn contribute to your career: The undergraduate and graduate programs provided me a solid foundation to begin my career, practical skills to bring to the work and an on-going framework of learning and exploring. I now have the privilege of supporting Washburn master-level students as interns, and I continue to see the quality education and career preparedness they bring to the experience.
J. Anthony Ware, M.D., ba ’74, senior vice president, product development, Lilly BioMedicines
Dr. Anthony Ware was born in Topeka, Kansas, and resides in Indianapolis, Indiana, where he has been senior vice president of product development for Lilly BioMedicines since 2009.
He is responsible for development, global registration and launch of drugs in neuroscience, immunology, cardiovascular and other fields. He joined Eli Lilly in 2001 as vice president of cardiovascular research and clinical investigation.
From 1986-97, Ware was on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and was a physician at Beth Israel Hospital where he directed the coronary care and vascular biology units. He was chief of cardiology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center from 1997-2001 and was named to the Best Doctors in New York from 1999-2001. He sits on the board of directors of BioCrossroads and has sat on committees for National Institute of Health and the American Heart Association.
How has Washburn helped you in your career: The individualized attention of the chemistry and biology faculty provided me with a scientific foundation that allowed me to compete with those from elite backgrounds throughout my academic and industry career.