WMU News

Three earn Distinguished Alumni Awards

Oct. 1, 2003

KALAMAZOO -- Three prominent graduates of Western Michigan University have been selected to receive the WMU Alumni Association's Distinguished Alumni Award for 2003.

The honorees are Susan B. Anthony, a world renowned opera singer who currently spends much of her time in Europe; Dr. J. Thomas Dickinson of Pullman, Wash., an internationally recognized researcher and physics professor at Washington State University; and Dr. Antonio Flores of San Antonio, Texas, the president and chief executive officer of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities.

WMU will recognize the trio (Dickinson in absentia) during Homecoming festivities at a reception and dinner at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 10, in the East Ballroom of the Bernhard Center.

The event will mark the 40th anniversary of the Distinguished Alumni Award, which is the Alumni Association's most prestigious honor. Counting this year's recipients, only 119 men and women have received one of the awards. Those wishing to attend the dinner may make a reservation by calling (269) 387-8777.

In honor of WMU's 100th birthday, both Anthony and Dickinson are returning to campus this fall for the University Centennial Scholar and Artist Series. Anthony will be in residence Oct. 2 through 11 and Dickinson Oct. 20 and 21.

Related stories
Susan Anthony gives rare U.S. performances
Antonio Flores speaks during Hispanic Heritage Month
Homecoming 2003

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Susan B. Anthony has established a significant presence in the opera world, becoming a favorite of leading theatres in Paris, Tokyo, Madrid, Dresden and Vienna. She was named "Singer of the Year" in both 1995 and 1997 by Opernwelt magazine and has been described as possessing "a voice of pure honey shot with gold, as vast as a blaze of sunshine."

Born and educated in Kalamazoo, Anthony began singing with her church choir as an elementary and middle school student. She later sang in the choir at Loy Norrix High School and at WMU, where she earned a bachelor of music degree in 1975.

While at WMU, Anthony studied with Marcella Faustman and sang in the University Chorale as well as performed in several opera productions. She went on to earn a master's degree in vocal performance from the University of Michigan and to attend the International Opera School in Zurich, Switzerland.

Rather than meteoric, Anthony's rise to the top has been a steady, upward climb, marked initially by changes in opera houses every two years, upgrading each time as her skills progressively improved.

"I wasn't ever 'discovered.' It just hasn't been that kind of career," Anthony says. "But I can't say I've enjoyed my experiences any less for taking a longer route.

"Often, performing several nights a week in different roles either makes you a very strong singer or sends you into another livelihood," she tells aspiring performers. "This business requires perseverance, good nerves, a healthy dose of courage and, above all, an honest love of your craft."

Today, Anthony is a free agent who is lauded by critics the world over and booked into roles years in advance. She has the luxury of choosing the parts she wants and has spent the last few years starring in lavish productions on premier European stages. WMU's Board of Trustees approved an honorary doctor of fine arts degree for her recently, and it will be presented Tuesday, Oct. 7, during her campus visit.

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J. Thomas Dickinson, a member of the Washington State University faculty since 1968, is recognized internationally for his pioneering work in materials science and his contributions in both laser research and nanotribology.

A professor of physics and material science, Dickinson has written or co-written more than 280 articles and book chapters, presented hundreds of invited talks, and been continuously funded in applied surface science for more than 30 years.

He is active in numerous university and professional organizations and was instrumental in initiating WSU's honors science classes and helping to found its Center for Materials Research, which he has twice served as director. The Detroit native and former Kalamazoo resident also serves as WSU's undergraduate physics adviser, frequently involving undergraduate students in his research.

"Take a wide variety of courses," he advises current undergraduate students. "In this day of interdisciplinary research and technology, it really pays to have a broad base of knowledge and skills. Graduate schools view breadth very favorably. Also, find the most productive people--profs and students--and become part of their world."

Dickinson earned a bachelor of arts degree in physics and mathematics from WMU in 1963 and was a member of the first graduating class of what is now the Lee Honors College. He earned master of science and doctor of philosophy degrees in physics from the University of Michigan in 1964 and 1968, respectively.

He has won numerous prestigious awards and honors for his research, teaching excellence and professional activities.

Among those accolades are winning major corporate, state and federal research grants; being named a Fellow of the American Vacuum Society, the leading society for surface science research,

and a Fellow of the American Physical Society; and serving as a visiting lecturer/instructor in Japan, Germany and Austria and a visiting scientist at Stanford University and the NASA-Ames Research Center.

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Antonio Flores has been president and CEO of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities since 1996. The association represents 340 colleges and universities serving more than three-fourths of the United States' 1.6 million Hispanic college students.

At the HACU, Flores serves as the nation's chief spokesman for the higher education needs of the country's youngest and largest ethnic population and promotes collaboration between member institutions and their communities. His duties also include working with the association's governing board on policy and legislative matters and interacting with corporate representatives on resource and program development matters as well as with Congressional leaders on institutional funding and policy matters.

Flores earned a bachelor of business administration degree from the Universidad de Guadalajara in Mexico in 1971 and a bachelor of arts in elementary education from Centro Normal Regional in Mexico in 1967. After emigrating from Mexico in 1972, he earned a master of arts degree in counseling and personnel from WMU in 1977 and a doctor of philosophy in higher education administration from the University of Michigan in 1990

From 1978 to 1996, Flores worked with the Michigan Department of Education, serving as bilingual education consultant, coordinator of Hispanic education/higher education consultant, and, finally, director of support services and programs for the Michigan Higher Education Assistance Authority and the Michigan Higher Education Student Loan Authority.

During his initial employment in the United States, he was a bilingual student advisor at a Milwaukee high school; assistant director of the Upward Bound Program at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee; director of the Upward Bound Program at Hope College, and an adjunct Spanish instructor at Grand Valley State University.

Flores, a longtime community volunteer, has received many awards and honors, including being cited by the state of Michigan as "an exceptional professional in the field of education and an exceptional person" whose "knowledge, leadership and guidance have truly made a difference to the students and citizens of Michigan." In addition, he was named one of the "100 Most Influential Hispanics in the United States" by the editors of Hispanic Business Magazine and one of the "50 Most Important Hispanics in Business and Technology" by the editors of Hispanic Engineer & Information Technology magazine.

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Media contact: Jeanne Baron, 269 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

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