WMU News

Distinguished alumni honored at Homecoming

Oct. 8, 2004

KALAMAZOO--Three prominent leaders in education, government and business have been selected by the Western Michigan University Alumni Association to receive the 2004 Distinguished Alumni Award.

The recipients are: Dr. Robert Bruininks of Minneapolis, president of the University of Minnesota; Richard G. Haworth of Holland, Mich., chairman of the board of the office furniture manufacturer Haworth Inc.; and Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick of Detroit, a veteran member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Distinguished Alumni Award was initiated in 1963 and is the alumni association's most prestigious honor. It recognizes graduates who have achieved a high level of success in their respective professions. Only 122 men and women have won one of these awards.

This year's winners will receive their awards during the annual Distinguished Alumni Awards Dinner, which has been scheduled on campus in conjunction with WMU's Homecoming and will take place at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 15, in the Bernhard Center. A long-standing commitment in Europe will prevent Haworth from accepting his award in person, but his wife, Ethelyn, another WMU graduate, will represent him.

The deadline for dinner reservations is Wednesday, Oct. 13. To make a reservation, call the WMU Alumni Association at (269) 387-8777 or log on to <www.wmich.edu/alumni>, click on "Events" and complete the online reservation form on the Distinguished Alumni Dinner page.

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Robert Bruininks became the University of Minnesota's 15th president in November 2002, just months after his selection as interim president. He has risen through the ranks since coming to the university in 1968 as an assistant professor of educational psychology.

Prior to his presidential appointments, the Byron Center, Mich., native had been executive vice president and provost since 1997. In this role, he served as the senior academic officer for the University of Minnesota System, which has a $1.8 billion annual budget and enrolls some 60,000 students on four campuses, and served as the chief academic officer for the Twin Cities Campus, which consistently ranks among America's top-20 public universities.

He also was dean of the College of Education from 1991 to 1997, chairperson of the department of Educational Psychology from 1978 to 1985, and directed three national centers at Minnesota during the late 1980s.

All of the centers, including the Institute on Community Integration that Bruininks helped found, focus on improving the educations and lives of people with disabilities through activities such as research, teaching, training and outreach.

Bruininks earned a bachelor of science degree in education from WMU in 1964 and master's and doctoral degrees in education with an emphasis in special education from George Peabody College (now Vanderbilt University) in 1965 and 1968, respectively.

He has received numerous awards and honors, including being named Minnesotan of the Year in 2004 and being elected a fellow of the American Association on Mental Retardation, the American Psychological Association and the American Psychological Society.

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Richard Haworth has led Haworth Inc. through its evolution from a small company with a single-product line to a global corporation that has $1.23 billion in annual sales and employs 8,500 people in 120 countries. He has been chairman of the board since 1994.

Armed with a bachelor of business administration degree from WMU in 1964, Haworth began his career as an assistant sales manager for Modern Partitions Co., a contract furniture manufacturer founded in 1948 by his father, G.W. Haworth. The elder Haworth graduated from WMU in 1937 and won the alumni association's Distinguished Alumni Award in 1986.

The younger Haworth was drafted by the army in 1967 and returned to the family business two years later following his honorable discharge as a first lieutenant.

He was quickly promoted to executive vice president with responsibility for manufacturing and product development. Under his tutelage, Modern Partitions developed a number of products that were industry "firsts." These successes prompted the company to adopt a new strategic direction in the 1970s as well as a new name--Haworth Inc.

Appointed president and chief executive officer in 1976, Haworth not only led the company but also continued to take an active role in product development. He holds 13 Haworth Inc. patents and has been praised for cultivating an environment in which people can be creative and entrepreneurial, a combination that often is cited as the reason for his company's success.

Haworth has been involved in numerous community and professional activities and also has maintained close ties to his alma mater, serving on the WMU Board of Trustees from 1991-2001 and as its chairperson in 1997.

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Carolyn Kilpatrick has been representing Michigan's 13th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1996. Regarded as a hard worker with a thoughtful style, she was appointed by her peers to the House Appropriations Committee, which authorizes spending for all levels of the federal government.

Kilpatrick, the only Michigan Democrat on that powerful committee, also serves on two of its subcommittees: the Transportation, Treasury and Independent Agencies Subcommittee and the Foreign Operations Subcommittee.

As such, she plays an integral role in determining the funding of a variety of important programs, including the U.S. highway system, Peace Corps, National Transportation Safety Board and Agency for International Development.

Kilpatrick has helped bring a NASA educational program to her home district and worked with Fannie Mae to secure $18 million in home mortgages for moderate income families. In addition, she has been a leader in successfully compelling federal agencies to increase their contractual opportunities with minority businesses and has taken a special interest in assisting minority-owned and minority-targeted media and advertising firms that face discrimination.

The congresswoman earned an associate of science degree from Ferris State University in 1965, a bachelor of science degree from WMU in 1972 and a master's degree from the University of Michigan in 1977.

After graduating from WMU, she began her professional life as a business teacher in the Detroit Public Schools. In 1978, she was elected to the Michigan House of Representatives, where she was a member of several key committees and the first African American woman to serve on the state's Appropriations Committee.

Among Kilpatrick's many accolades are being selected as the first chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus' Political Action Committee, being named a future leader on Capitol Hill by the congressional newspaper, and receiving a 2004 Women of Achievement and Courage award from the Michigan Women's Foundation.

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

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