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K-State Today

October 18, 2016

College of Human Ecology celebrates eight alumni and friends with luncheon and awards

Submitted by Anne Rubash

A university president, a luxury wedding planner and a physician for K-State Wildcat football are among those being recognized at the College of Human Ecology's annual Celebration of Excellence at Kansas State University.

For 2016, eight honorees were selected across disciplines for their contribution to the college, devotion to their area of specialization and the difference they make for people. They all live out the college's motto, "In a world that focuses on things, we focus first on people."

John Buckwalter, dean of the college, will present the awards at a luncheon Friday, Oct. 21, at the Holiday Inn at the Campus. 

The eight awardees are Brett Horton, David W. Andrews, Haley Van Wagenen, Heidi Pickerell, Keith Wright, Nellie Sparkman, Tracy Gault-Shields, and Kristie Stirewalt-Winter and Michelle Stirewalt-Hutton, sharing an entrepreneur award.

Brett Horton

Horton is a 1991 graduate in restaurant, hotel and institution management and has been selected for the executive leadership award. Horton is the senior director of operations for the WinShape Foundation, recently promoted from director of WinShape Retreat, Mount Berry, Georgia. 

On a daily basis, Horton manages the WinShape Retreat, formerly the Normandy-inspired educational dairy farm of Berry College. Today, the buildings offer meeting space, activities, meals and overnight stays to those who are interested in a spiritual haven that is free from media and outside influence. Groups of all sizes utilize WinShape Retreat for marriage, leadership, ministry, corporate and relationship programming. Horton oversees the Cathy Family operation, which consists of an 80-room facility, 100-acre campus, and all sales, events and food service that result in grace-based hospitality. 

From K-State, Horton traveled to West Virginia to the Greenbrier Hotel and Resort for the first three years of his career. His next leap was to the Broadmoor Hotel and Resort, managing one of its restaurants. While at the Broadmoor in Colorado, Horton earned a master's degree in finance. Soon after, Horton acquired his doctorate in restaurant, hotel, institution and tourism management from Purdue University, also developing a passion for teaching as he took a faculty position at Iowa State University and then James Madison University. His passion for students fueled his desire to make a difference one student at a time.  

David W. Andrews

Andrews earned a master's degree in child development in 1980 and is the recipient of the distinguished service award. He recently became president of National University, California's second-largest private, nonprofit university, which serves 30,000 students. With three decades of acclaimed higher education experience in a broad range of academic and educational leadership posts, Andrews is leading National's commitment to transforming higher education through innovation, collaboration and an exceptional student experience.

Prior to coming to National University, Andrews was dean of the School of Education at Johns Hopkins University. During his tenure, the school established a reputation for quality that earned it U.S. News & World Report's No. 1 ranking of graduate schools of education for two years in a row. While at Hopkins, Andrews helped found the nonprofit organization Deans for Impact and led the design and build of the first new public elementary school in East Baltimore in more than 25 years. Before his work at Johns Hopkins, Andrews led a merger that resulted in the creation of the College of Education and Human Ecology at Ohio State University and was the new college's founding dean. 

Andrews earned his bachelor's degree in psychology from Auburn University, a master's degree in child development from K-State and a doctorate, also in child development, from Florida State University. His scholarly work has focused on intervening in the life course of high risk students.

Haley Van Wagenen

Van Wagenen will receive the rising professional award and upon graduation from K-State's interior design program in 2008, she began working at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, SOM, in Washington, D.C., where she gained experience working on large projects in the government sector. An interest in history and a desire to promote sustainability took her to the University of Pennsylvania, where she earned a master's degree in historic preservation and a certificate in ecological architecture. Van Wagenen's thesis work focused on using building information modeling to create living models of historic buildings to aid in renovations and reuse. As a full-time student in Philadelphia, she worked part time for SOM New York, splitting time between the two cities for work and studies. After earning her master's, she joined the New York office full time, and began to focus on global corporate headquarters for financial institutions and technology companies.

Van Wagenen has recently joined SOM's London office, where she leads interior design initiatives on projects in Europe. She travels weekly to Geneva, Switzerland, where she serves as the on-site client contact for one of the major international organizations headquartered there. The 2.2 million-square-foot project involves renovation of a historic building and the design of a new office building on the campus.

Van Wagenen is a certified interior designer in the state of New York, holds a National Council for Interior Design Qualification certificate and has earned the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED AP BD+C credential. She takes time to give back to K-State through video conferencing with interior design classes and hosting design study tour students at SOM's London office.

Heidi Pickerell 

As a 1996 graduate in family studies and community services, and gerontology with an emphasis in long-term care administration, Pickerell is the recipient of the public advocacy award. She has built on her K-State education in community services, gerontology and long-term care administration in her current role as president and chief executive officer of Meals on Wheels of Shawnee and Jefferson Counties. She has both a heart for client needs and almost two decades of experience with executive management. In her previous role as vice president of program development for Midland Care Connections Inc., Pickerell became well versed in state and federal regulations, grant writing and strategic planning. These skills benefited the Midland clients, who are hospice patients, respite care clients and elderly, not unlike those Pickerell helps every day at Meals on Wheels. 

With her desire to serve, Pickerell is president of the Meals on Wheels Association of Kansas and president of the Topeka American Business Women's Association Career Chapter. She volunteers in her community — on the local school board and as PTO president for 13 years. Pickerell stays in touch with K-State by speaking to gerontology students about career opportunities in aging.                        

Keith A. Wright

Because of his ongoing involvement with K-State, Wight will be recognized with the friend of the college award. Since he has been a lifelong K-State fan, there was only one university for Wright to attend, so he walked onto the football team to play two seasons under coach Vince Gibson. When a chronic back condition ended his football dreams, Wright focused on academics and earned a bachelor's degree in pre-medicine in 1976. His next steps were a University of Kansas Medical School medical degree in 1979 followed by a three-year residency at Baptist Medical Center in Kansas City, Missouri, which exposed Wright to sports medicine. 

Wright moved to Bolivar, Missouri, to join other family physicians in the creation of the Bolivar Family Care Center. In 1991, Wright returned to Manhattan to become the medical director for coach Bill Snyder's football program's medicine department. He also went into private practice with Manhattan Family Physicians and in 2000 began Stonecreek Family Physicians with fellow physicians.

In his voluntary role as K-State football's team physician, Wright also is directly involved in educating K-State students about sports medicine. He has allowed students to obtain observation hours with him both at Stonecreek, as a general practitioner, and in the training room at K-State, treating athletes. At least once per year, Wright visits the classroom and provides didactic instruction on various sports medicine topics. He has worked side by side educating and instructing K-State athletic training staff and athletic training students on a daily basis as they all support the 'Cats.  

Wright's involvement in the community isn't limited to giving back to K-State students, as he is a senior aviation medical examiner for the FAA, medical director for Manhattan's Homecare and Hospice, keyboardist in the Manhattan Barefoot Dixieland Band, First United Methodist Church choir member and Colbert Hills' Champions Club member.

Nellie C. Sparkman 

Starting her own successful business has earned Sparkman the entrepreneur award just five years after receiving her 2010 degree in hospitality management. As she grew up in the restaurant and catering industry, Sparkman was groomed for a career in event planning. She started Events by Nellie while still in school at K-State in 2007 and over the last nine years has coordinated hundreds of events. Sparkman plans and implements events ranging from nonprofit galas to luxury weddings. Her niche as one of Kansas City's premier wedding planners has made her a preferred event planner for elite venues such as the Brass on Baltimore, the Hilton President, the Bauer and the Grand Plaza event space.

Experience is evident in Sparkman's approach to diverse events and the wants and needs of her Events by Nellie clients. In addition to a family history of food, beverage and catering, Sparkman took advantage of her time at K-State to work in the hotel industry and after graduation took a position in Ireland with a national hotel chain. Upon returning to Kansas City, she worked in nonprofit and corporate event planning coordinating fundraising events and large auctions; event management in hotels — local and international; and catered small birthday parties and large award celebrations.

Simultaneously, Events by Nellie continued to grow and in 2016, with more than 30 weddings and events to coordinate, Sparkman took the business full time. Also in 2016, she was chosen to plan and execute a 48-hour proposal for Helzberg Diamond's national Valentine's Day campaign, "We Propose, You Propose." Events by Nellie's weddings have been featured on theknot.com, in EA Bride, Borrowed & Blue, BeSpoke Bride, Glamour & Grace, and Sparkman has earned Wedding Wires Couples' Choice award in 2015 and 2016, and The Knot Best of Weddings recognition in 2016. In July 2016, Sparkman launched and co-produced a unique bridal show alternative, Bridal Bash, in Kansas City. She remains connected to her K-State roots through presenting on campus to hospitality management classes and continually taking on hospitality students as interns for Events by Nellie.

Tracy Gault-Shields

Gault-Shields is the recipient of the partner award for the ways in which she supports students in the College of Human Ecology. For more than a decade, she has been with Darden, parent company of more than 1,500 restaurants, including Longhorn Steakhouse, Olive Garden, Yard House, Bahama Breeze, Seasons 52 and The Capital Grille. She is a talent acquisition manager and is responsible for recruiting and hiring top-notch managers for the Longhorn Steakhouse brand in the Eastern, Midwestern and Western regions of the U.S. Gault-Shields staffs management at 129 restaurants in 17 states.   

Gault-Shields knows it is important to have an enjoyable career and she loves meeting and networking with new people and accepting the challenge of finding the right person to become a part of the Longhorn Steakhouse family. She spends time on college campuses, where she can share with students about Longhorn Steakhouse and Darden, but also discuss other pertinent issues college students face in the business world.

Since 2005, Gault-Shields has hired 16 hospitality management students from K-State, and beginning in 2015, when Longhorn Steakhouse began its internship program, the first intern at the Longhorn Steakhouse in Manhattan was a K-State hospitality management student who was hired into management following his internship. Between presenting to classes on campus and attending K-State's hospitality career fair each year, Gault-Shields is a genuine partner to furthering the education and professional experiences of K-State students.

Michelle Stirewalt-Hutton and Kristie Stirewalt-Winter

Commonly known as the Trasey Twins, Stirewalt-Hutton and Stirewalt-Winter will accept the entrepreneur award as co-owners of TwinFitness, a female-centered, private personal training studio in Overland Park, Kansas. Founded in 2003, TwinFitness has a goal of inspiring every woman to be her very best. From their two locations and alongside their 13 employees, Hutton and Winter offer comprehensive personal training, nutrition coaching and preparation for fitness, figure and bikini competitions. 

With their 2007 K-State bachelor's degrees in exercise science and nutrition, the twins utilized their education to specialize in training the female body for competition. They have furthered their education through certifications in endocrinology, nutrition coaching from Precision Nutrition, and personal training and group exercise instruction from the American Council of Exercise. To provide comprehensive resources to their clients, the twins created an online nutrition program that compliments their personal training business and developed their own supplement line, formulated especially for women.

After graduating from K-State, Stirewalt-Hutton and Stirewalt-Winter began competing in fitness and bikini competitions. They have collectively walked the stage for more than 80 shows, earned more than 900 trophies from National Physique Committee, or NPC, competitions, and for eight years straight have won the best team award at the biggest NPC show in Kansas City. In 2011, both Winter and Hutton earned their International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness, or IFBB, bikini pro cards, marking each as a professional bikini competitor.

As industry experts, they have trained more than 5,000 clients and customers. The twins are a dynamic pair who have written three cookbooks together and been featured in many fitness-based magazines, including Flex, KC Fitness, NPC News Online and Oxygen. They have the expertise, education and personal training experience to lead their TwinFitness clients to success in achieving their goals.