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K-State Today

October 22, 2014



College of Arts & Sciences hosts Eisenhower Circle Celebration fifth anniversary, honors distinguished alumni

By Tom Roesler

Eisenhower Circle Celebration 5th Anniversary

The College of Arts & Sciences at Kansas State University will celebrate the fifth annual Eisenhower Circle Celebration on Thursday, Oct. 23.

Established in 2010, Eisenhower Circle Celebration is a special event recognizing the college's alumni award recipients, student scholarship winners and loyal alumni and friends who give $250 or more to the college annually. The Eisenhower Circle recognition society is named for Milton S. Eisenhower, the ninth president of the university and for whom Eisenhower Hall is named. The hall is home to the dean's offices of the College of Arts & Sciences.

"We are very excited to celebrate five years of this event," said Peter Dorhout, dean. "There are so many generous supporters to our college and the Eisenhower Circle Celebration allows us to thank them in style. It also gives us a great platform to recognize our outstanding alumni who are making a difference in their careers as well as the students in our college who are doing great things. It is a tremendous event for the College of Arts & Sciences."

Paul Laugesen, who was commissioned by the K-State Air Force ROTC program and graduated with a bachelor's degree in mathematics in 1983, will receive the Alumni Merit Award. Sara Baer, who earned her doctorate in biology in 2001, and Damon Hininger, a 1991 bachelor's graduate in sociology, will both receive the Young Alumni Award.

Dorhout will make the award presentations at the K-State Alumni Center.

Laugesen currently works for the Department of Defense. He lives in Hanover, Maryland, with his wife, Catherine, and was co-nominated by Andrew Bennett, mathematics department head, and retired Lt. Col. Jonathan Snowden, former commander of Detachment 270, K-State's Air Force ROTC program, for his distinguished career and his continued support of K-State and the College of Arts & Sciences.

"Paul has excelled in his service to our nation as one of the university's highest-ranking government alumni," said Bennett. "He is a model for our students who aspire to both academic excellence and public service."

Baer is a professor of ecology in the plant biology department at Southern Illinois University. She is involved in several areas of genetic variation, plant-soil interactions and ecosystem function, including collaborative U.S. Department of Agriculture-funded research with scientists from the Ecological Genomics Institute at K-State. She has been funded by the prestigious Mellon Foundation to expand her research to the grasslands of Africa, and she continues to lead the restoration ecology aspects of the Konza Prairie LTER program.

Baer lives in Carbondale, Illinois, with her husband, Matt, and children, Sadie and Rowland. She was nominated for the Young Alumni Award by John Blair, university distinguished professor and Edwin G. Brychta professor of biology.

"Since graduating, Sara has launched a career that is remarkable, not only for her academic achievements to date, but also for her dedication to mentoring and training students at all levels, for her community outreach and engagement activities, and for her work to promote ecological restoration and conservation efforts, regionally, nationally and internationally," Blair said.

Hininger, who was nominated by Betsy Cauble, sociology, anthropology and social work department head, earned his bachelor's degree in sociology from K-State before going on to earn an MBA from the Jack Massey School of Business at Belmont University. Today, he is the president and chief operating officer of Corrections Corporation of America, which is the nation's largest provider of partnership corrections to federal, state and local government, operating more than 60 facilities, including more than 40 company-owned facilities, with approximately 90,000 beds, in 19 states and the District of Columbia. In addition to providing the residential services for inmates, Corrections Corporation of America facilities offer rehabilitation and educational programs, including education, vocation, religious services, life skills and employment training and substance abuse treatment.

Hininger, who lives in Brentwood, Tennessee, with his wife, Carrie, and children, Robert and Millie, was named among America's "20 Most Powerful CEOs Age 40 or Under" by Forbes magazine in 2011. The list features the nation's leading group of young top executives of the country's biggest publicly traded companies.

"Damon is very deserving of the Young Alumni Award," Cauble said. "He is always positive and focused on helping students achieve their dreams. Faculty and students enjoy his class visits and one of our former students raved about his internship with Damon's company, Corrections Corporation of America. Opportunities like the internship would not have happened without Damon's commitment to Kansas State University and our students. Our department is so fortunate that he remains a very active alum."