Four individuals honored during annual alumni awards event

2015 Alumni AwardsOct. 14, 2015 – Four individuals were honored during Kennesaw State University’s annual Alumni Awards Ceremony and Banquet, hosted by the Office of Alumni Relations last Friday. The event, held in conjunction with Kennesaw State’s 2015 homecoming weekend, took place inside the Embassy Suites by Hilton hotel in Kennesaw.

Receiving the Betty L. Siegel Award as KSU’s faculty member of the year was James Wermert, a senior lecturer in management and entrepreneurship for the Michael J. Coles College of Business. Besides teaching strategy and International management the past 10 years at Kennesaw State, he is also a seasoned executive with more than 40 years of experience. In addition to his full-time teaching responsibilities, Wermert provides business development, strategy/planning consulting, and organizational design and development services to companies in the health services and pharmaceutical industries. During his career, Wermert’s work has taken him to all 50 states and 34 countries. He has a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and an MBA from Harvard Business School. Dr. Kathy Schwaig, dean of the Coles College of Business, presented Wermert with his award.

“At 66 years of age, I’m happy to still have some impact,” Wermert said. “And coming from the alumni, the 2015 Betty L. Siegel Award makes that case to me in a big way. Thankfully I have always understood that the student is my most important customer.”

The Siegel Award, created in 1992, is named in honor of Dr. Betty L. Siegel, past president of KSU. 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.

Three prominent alumni – Aridth Gibbons, Chris Ragsdale and Greg Teague – each earned a 2015 Distinguished Alumni Award. The Distinguished Alumni Award program was also established in 1992 to honor Kennesaw State’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 KSU.

Gibbons, a 1995 graduate of Kennesaw State’s College of Science and Mathematics with a bachelor’s degree in biology, works for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Viral Special Pathogens Branch, studying highly infectious viruses, many of which cause hemorrhagic manifestations in humans. At the CDC, she was a part of the response team fighting to control the 2014-15 Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, helped track the Hantavirus in Montana, and was deployed to Uganda in 2012 to battle the Marburg virus. Gibbons played on two NAIA district championship basketball teams at KSU and later served a four-year stint in the U.S. Air Force. She also spent time at The Cleveland Clinic, one of the nation’s top hospitals. Giving Gibbons her award was Dr. Donald McGarey, interim chair of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology.

Also picking up a Distinguished Alumni Award was Chris Ragsdale, who recently received a master’s degree in educational leadership with summa cum laude honors after earning his bachelor’s in information systems in 1992 with cum laude distinction, both from Kennesaw State. He serves as superintendent of the Cobb County School District, the second largest school system in Georgia which ranks 24th nationally. Ragsdale leads a district of 114 schools with more than 111,000 students and 16,000 employees. Prior to joining Cobb County Schools in 2006, he spent 14 years as the chief information officer for the Paulding County School District. Ragsdale began his professional career with positions at the IBM Corporation and then BellSouth Communications. Dr. Arlinda Eaton, dean of the Bagwell College of Education, handed the award to Ragsdale.  

“I am very honored to be recognized by Kennesaw State University as a Distinguished Alumni Award recipient,” Ragsdale said. “My education prepared me to create and rise to opportunities in my career, which is the purpose of education.”

Greg Teague was also a recipient of a Distinguished Alumni Award. Teague, who earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering technology at Southern Polytechnic State University in 1996, is president of Croy Engineering in Marietta. A certified professional engineer in Georgia, he has facilitated extensive public involvement and consensus building on projects such as the Cobb County Northwest Corridor Alternatives Analysis Study and Environmental Assessment, renovation of Cobb County’s only domestic violence shelter, and the Skip Spann Connector that will connect KSU’s main campus to the economic center on Chastain Road. During his career, Teague has served as a design engineer and project manager for several projects and was previously the public works director for the City of Marietta. Presenting Teague’s award was Dr. Thomas Currin, dean for the Southern Polytechnic College of Engineering and Engineering Technology.

“It is a great honor to be the first Southern Poly graduate to receive the KSU Distinguished Alumni Award,” Teague said. “The new KSU is positioned to advance the fields of engineering, architecture and construction management to previously unimagined heights. I look forward to helping KSU become one of the top engineering schools in the nation.”

Master of ceremonies for the event was Ashlie (Wilson) Pendley, a 1996 Kennesaw State graduate and member of the KSU Alumni Association Board of Directors who was recognized with a Distinguished Alumni Award in 2008. Also speaking during the ceremony were Dr. Daniel S. Papp, president of Kennesaw State, and Michael Harders, vice president for university advancement and development.