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Alumni Association honors 12 for achievement, service

One University of Iowa graduate wrote a moving multimedia piece for ESPN that inspired thousands to become organ donors. Another took his UI engineering research back to his home country of Chile to improve air quality there. Yet another has dedicated his business skills to creating affordable housing—including the development of what is now Mayflower Hall.

These three are among 12 notable alumni and friends selected by the UI Alumni Association (UIAA) to be honored at the 2013 Distinguished Alumni Awards luncheon June 8 at the Levitt Center for University Advancement.

Presented annually since 1963, the Distinguished Alumni Awards are the Alumni Association’s highest honor. They recognize the outstanding achievements and service of UI alumni and friends. This year’s awards are given in four categories: Achievement, Service, Faculty/Staff, and Young Alumni.

“The Alumni Association is celebrating its 50th year of recognizing the outstanding efforts of alumni and friends,” says Vince Nelson, president and CEO of the UI Alumni Association. “Whether through their professional work or their service to the community, they make a difference not only at our institution but around the world.”

The Distinguished Alumni Award for Achievement is given for significant accomplishments in business or professional life or for distinguished human service. This year’s recipients are:

Mary D. Nettleman (M.S. ’93)

nettlemanNettleman has demonstrated impressive scholarship, clinical and academic service, and leadership throughout her 25-year career in public health care. Currently vice president for health affairs and dean of the Sanford School of Medicine at the University of South Dakota, she is a nationally recognized expert in areas, including epidemiologic and health outcomes research. Among her many honors are a UI College of Public Health Outstanding Alumni Award, a Distinguished Faculty Award from Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, and a Certificate of Appreciation from the U.S. Army for Service to the Congressionally Directed Medical Research on Gulf War Illness.

Stephen S. Rasmussen (B.B.A. ’74)

rasmussenRasmussen is the perfect role model for students in the Tippie College of Business. As chief executive officer of Nationwide, he provides strategic leadership for one of the country’s largest insurance and financial companies. In addition to a successful Fortune 500 career based on hard work and ethical behavior, he has demonstrated incredible loyalty to his alma mater: in recognition of Iowa’s impact on his own career achievements and the insurance industry as a whole, Rasmussen helped secure a $1.5 million pledge from Allied Insurance in 2003 to establish the UI’s Vaughan Institute of Risk Management and Insurance.

Cynthia Board Schmeiser (B.A. ’72, M.A. ’73, Ph.D. ’83)

schmeiserSchmeiser has made an impact both at ACT—where she spent her professional career before retiring as president and COO of its Education Division—and in the entire field of educational measurement and testing. A prolific author, admired leader, and nationally respected expert, she championed the Common Core Standards movement that has transformed the way America educates its youth. Colleagues describe her as a “true educator” who has used her scientific acumen to enhance millions of individual lives, improve the school system, and benefit society.

Theodore (Ted) M. Seldin (B.A. ’53, J.D. ’55)

seldinSeldin has used his business skills and social conscience to help provide homes for seniors and low-income families—and also for UI students. As principal and CEO of the Seldin Company, a diversified commercial and multifamily developer and real estate asset manager, Seldin works at the state and national level to promote quality, affordable housing. Decades ago, he achieved the same goal on the UI campus when he developed the Mayflower Apartments as a private residence hall and later sold the property to the university at a greatly reduced price. In honor of his work, Seldin recently received the UI College of Law Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award and the National Affordable Housing Management Association’s Industry Statesman Award.

Marita G. Titler (M.A. ’78, Ph.D. ’92)

titlerTitler is an internationally recognized nurse scholar and leader who has revolutionized patient care. Through the Iowa Model of Evidence-Based Practice to Improve Quality of Care and the National Nursing Practice Network, she has ensured that research findings can be applied in practice. Currently holding several leadership positions at the University of Michigan School of Nursing, Titler is the recipient of many honors. Over the course of her career, she has been awarded some $170 million in research funding from organizations including the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the National Institute for Nursing Research.

The UIAA will also present three Distinguished Alumni Service Awards, honoring graduates who have provided commendable service to their nation, their communities, and their UI family. This year’s recipients are:

Robert T. Anderson (B.A. ’67, M.A. ’72)

andersonAnderson has a visionary commitment to cultural exchange that has cultivated a more peaceful and understanding world. As president and founder of the nonprofit Iowa Resource for International Service (IRIS), he has built bridges between the University of Iowa, the state of Iowa, and the globe—most notably in republics of the former Soviet Union and developing world nations. Through IRIS and other projects, he’s arranged hundreds of international exchanges that give citizens of other countries meaningful connections with Iowans, while specifically exposing them to the crucial roles that a free press and library system play in society.

Kenneth C. Leuer (B.S.C. ’56)

leuerLeuer personifies selfless service and sacrifice—displaying character, leadership, and professionalism whether on the UI wrestling mat or in the highest ranks of the U.S. Army. An all-American wrestler and NCAA champion, Leuer followed graduation with a decorated 32-year military career. His various international assignments with the U.S. Army Infantry culminated in distinctions that few infantry officers ever achieve, including the role of Commanding General of the U.S. Army Infantry Center at Fort Benning, Ga., the Army’s largest post. Leuer’s lifetime example of service continued after active duty, when he became a regional CEO/president of Goodwill Industries and elevated his branch from financial hardship to international recognition.

Robert R. Shreck (B.S. ’71, M.D. ’74)

shreckShreck divides his time between private practice at Des Moines’ Medical Oncology and Hematology Associates, where he is a founding member and partner, and helping new generations of medical students achieve their own dreams. Over the years, he’s exhibited loyal support for medical education at Iowa in many ways—from providing clinical training through the UI’s volunteer community-based faculty program to offering tuition assistance through a student scholarship. His work on the Carver College of Medicine alumni advisory board, the UIAA board of directors, and the UI Foundation’s “Iowa First: Our Campaign for Breakthrough Medicine” steering committee further illustrates Shreck’s devotion to ensuring that Iowa remains a top-ranked medical school.

The Distinguished Faculty/Staff Award is granted to retired or former UI faculty and staff in recognition of significant achievement or specific meritorious service on behalf of the quality and advancement of the university. This year’s recipients are:

Portrait of Nathan E. (Gene) Savin

savinSavin is a professor emeritus of economics, whose groundbreaking research in econometrics—the application of mathematics and statistical methods to economic data—has been cited thousands of times by leading scholars. Savin has been named a fellow in the Econometric Society and the American Statistical Association, and his work has been published in top research journals. Outside of his research and the classroom, he has shown a deep commitment to his community and the arts, supporting such organizations as the UI College of Business, Hancher Auditorium, the UI Museum of Art, and the Hillel Foundation.

Robert T. Soper (M.D. ’52)

soperSoper devoted his entire professional life to the UI, the Carver College of Medicine, and the people of the state of Iowa. The UI Hospitals and Clinics’ first pediatric surgeon, he served for 25 years as the only pediatric surgeon in the entire state. His lasting contributions to his field include training hundreds of medical students and dozens of surgeons, as well as inspiring in his colleagues a dedication to learning and patient care. He was professor emeritus from 1997 until his death in October 2012, and his legacy continues through an endowed surgery chair established in honor of Soper and his wife in 1998.

The Distinguished Young Alumni Award honors UI graduates under the age of 40 at the time of their nomination who have attained significant accomplishments in their personal or professional lives. This year’s recipients are:

Wayne A. Drehs II (B.A. ’00)

drebsDrehs, an Emmy Award–winning journalist for, has been recognized as a leader in multimedia storytelling. Going beyond words, he incorporates video, audio, and cutting-edge design to leave his audience with a lasting impression. Drehs weaves broader themes of the human experience into his sports narratives, such as in his piece about the death of a university mascot that aired on the Oprah Winfrey Show and prompted thousands of Americans to become organ donors. He recently shared his knowledge with aspiring UI journalists through the prestigious Hearst Professional-in-Residence visiting lecture series.

Marcelo Mena-Carrasco (M.S. ’03, Ph.D. ’07)

menaMena-Carrasco, director of the Center for Sustainability Research at the Universidad Andres Bello Santiago in Chile, continues the civil and environmental engineering research he began at the UI to improve air quality in his home country. Described as an international game-changer who understands well the social, economic, and political consequences of local environmental quality, Mena-Carrasco possesses the rare ability to translate engineering research into improved public policy. In confronting the complex mechanisms of climate change and pollution, this inspirational and dedicated engineer has already made a positive and lasting impact.

Additional information about current and past award recipients is available at

Story Source: UI Health Care Marketing and Communications, 200 Hawkins Drive, Room W319 GH, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1009

Media Contact: UI Alumni Association, 319-335-3294 or 800-469-2586; Sara Epstein Moninger, University Communication and Marketing, 319-384-0045