Three alumni, faculty member honored at annual alumni awards dinner

Distinguished Alumni Award winnersFour individuals, three alumni and a faculty member, were honored during Kennesaw State University’s 26th Annual Distinguished Alumni Awards Dinner, hosted by the Office of Alumni Relations the evening of Friday, Oct. 20 inside the Renaissance Atlanta Waverly Hotel and Convention Center. The event, held in conjunction with Kennesaw State’s 2017 homecoming week, was sponsored by Nationwide.

Three deserving alumni – Don Russell Clayton ’80, ’81; Connie L. Engel ’14; and Carl J. Frinzi Sr. ’83 – each were presented with a 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award. The Distinguished Alumni Award program was created in 1992 to recognize KSU’s most accomplished graduates on an annual basis. A distinguished alumnus/alumna is one who promotes the ideals and mission of the University and demonstrates distinguished achievement in his or her chosen field at a local, regional or national level, adding to the prominence of Kennesaw State.

Clayton earned a Bachelor of Science in social science education after receiving his Associate of Science in pre-law, both from what was then known as Kennesaw College. He later acquired a Master of Education and Specialist in Education at Georgia State University. In 2007, Clayton gave an extensive collection of work by the Italian-born, Georgia artist Athos Menaboni to Kennesaw State’s Zuckerman Museum of Art, and the Don Russell Clayton Gallery was established through his facilitation of a $1 million gift from the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation. Clayton, a lifelong Cobb County resident, has established three scholarships and a legacy gift for the KSU College of the Arts, and currently serves on the Dance Theatre Advisory Board. Clayton spent 37 years working in the Cobb County School District, mostly at two high schools (Wheeler and McEachern) and a pair of middle schools (Pine Mountain and Lindley).

“It is hard to imagine 40 years after starting college at KSU that I have been named a distinguished alumnus – it is humbling and I am grateful,” Clayton said. “I am proud the University continues to be an important part of my life, especially the College of the Arts. It has been rewarding to see – first hand and year after year – the many accomplishments of the faculty and their students. I look forward to many more years of supporting the University in any way I can.”

Before acquiring her Master of Business Administration at Kennesaw State, Engel graduated from the University of Iowa with a Bachelor of Arts in communications. A trustee of the KSU Foundation since 2005, she is a past chair of the board. Engel served as chair of the Foundation from 2012-14. She joined the board’s Executive Committee in 2006 and later was chair of the Real Estate Committee that spearheaded the purchase of 100 acres of land for what is now the KSU Sports and Entertainment Park. Engel, who has a long history of generous giving to Kennesaw State, has been an Executive-in-Residence Emeriti at the Coles College of Business since 2011. An accomplished real estate professional for three decades, she presently is a partner at the Atlanta office of Childress Klein, and has been in charge of development and leasing at the Atlanta Galleria for more than 20 years.

“During my association with KSU, I have served as the chair of the KSU Foundation, been an Executive-in-Residence at the Coles College of Business, and I graduated from the Coles College with my MBA,” Engel said. “This long association has been a life highlight. It is with humility that I accepted the Distinguished Alumni Award. I am grateful but I feel that what KSU has given me far exceeds the contribution I have made to the University. I look forward to many more years working with the faculty, staff and administration but, most importantly, I look forward to watching the students become productive citizens wherever their lives lead them.”

Frinzi obtained his Bachelor of Science in civil engineering technology from Southern Technical College, which became Southern Polytechnic State University before its consolidation with Kennesaw State. He joined the KSU Foundation as a trustee earlier this year after being a part of the SPSU Foundation since 2008. Frinzi, who has a long history of giving to Southern Poly and now Kennesaw State, also has served on the SPSU/KSU Construction Industry Advisory Board since 2011. Frinzi established the Carl Joseph Frinzi Sr. Endowed Scholarship and for construction management students, he has arranged field trips to his projects, guest-lectured in classes, and provided internships and jobs. Since 1983, Frinzi has worked for construction companies in metropolitan Atlanta and is currently with Batson-Cook Construction, where he is vice president of the company’s Multi-Family Wood Frame Division.           

“I am deeply honored to receive this prestigious award,” Frinzi said. “To be among the group of alumni that were nominated for this award is an honor. I came to Marietta in 1978 to earn a degree in civil engineering. Many years after graduating, I realized that the University had a tremendous impact on my entire family. Getting involved in the University Foundation and the Construction Management Industry Advisory Board was my way of giving back to the community and the institution that had such a positive impact on my life. My decision to start the Carl Joseph Frinzi Sr. Scholarship was a way that I could help hard-working students meet their goals, earn their degree, and allow them to have the same career opportunities that I had.”  

Receiving the Betty L. Siegel Award was Tyra Burton, a senior lecturer in the Department of Marketing and Professional Sales who was nominated by alumni and chosen as Kennesaw State’s faculty member of the year for 2017. The Siegel Award, established in 2005, is named in honor of KSU’s second president who served 25 years in that role. The annual award recognizes exceptional service to the University and is bestowed upon an outstanding member of the Kennesaw State faculty. The individual who receives the award embodies the qualities of leadership, scholarship, and service to KSU while displaying a strong commitment to his or her students, colleagues, and the surrounding community.

Burton began her current position in the Coles College of Business in August 2003 after teaching at Berry College, Shorter University and the Georgia Institute of Technology. At KSU, Burton is a highly regarded instructor for honors courses, along with upper-level marketing and study abroad classes. Burton, the former vice president of communications for Georgia Romance Writers, co-authored her first book, “Socially Engaged: The Author’s Guide to Social Media,” which was published in October 2014. She has a Master of Science (1992) and Bachelor of Arts (1990), both in marketing, from Georgia Tech and Georgia State University, respectively. Burton also has completed other post-graduate work at Georgia Tech and the University of Limerick in Ireland.  

“Receiving Kennesaw State’s Betty L. Siegel Award is a true blessing and humbling experience,” Burton said. “As a professor, you often wonder if you are making a difference in the classroom, and this award, more than any other, touches my heart and lets me know that I have impacted my students’ lives in ways I could not imagine. I truly believe that inside and outside of the classroom we have the opportunity to have dialogues and learn from one another – teacher to student and student to teacher. I am grateful to the Alumni Association and to my former students who nominated me.”

Dr. Stephen W. Plate, director of the KSU School of Music, presented the award to Clayton while Engel was introduced by Dr. Kathy Schwaig, dean of the Coles College of Business. Frinzi accepted accolades from Dr. Khalid Siddiqi, chair of the Department of Construction Management, while Dr. David Burns, chair of the Department of Marketing and Professional Sales, provided information on Burton.   

Master of ceremonies for the event was Ashlie Wilson Pendley ’96, ’15, a member of the Kennesaw State Alumni Association board of directors and a Distinguished Alumni Award winner herself in 2008. Also speaking during the ceremony were KSU President Samuel S. Olens and Associate Vice President for Advancement, Alumni and Development Melisa Baldwin.