Meet Our 2021 A&S Alumni Award Winners!

A&S Week Alumni Award Winners 2021
News Source: 
College of Arts & Science

2021 A&S Distinguished Alumni Award Winners

The College of Arts and Science has built a proud tradition of honoring our alumni through its annual Distinguished Alumni Awards. Each year, award winners are chosen from nominees put forth by fellow alumni, faculty, staff, and A&S supporters. The Distinguished Alumni Award recognizes individuals who have brought distinction to themselves and the College of Arts and Science through their accomplishments. They have truly achieved excellence in their field. The Distinguished Recent Alumni Award has the same criteria and is awarded to an alum who has graduated within the last ten years. The Distinguished Service Award recognizes alumni whose efforts on behalf of the college have greatly enhanced the quality of its programs to the benefit of students, faculty, and alumni.

We are delighted to introduce you to our 2021 A&S Alumni Award Winners!

Due to ongoing COVID-19 safety measures, they each accepted their awards virtually. We were able to capture and share short videos of the virtual acceptance ceremonies that are both fun and inspiring. Each of these incredible A&S alumni have amazing stories to tell. Additionally, their nominators were able to share a full picture of their many accomplishments. 

We also asked each of them to share their thoughts and advice by giving them five questions.

Their acceptance ceremony videos and Q&A are below. Thank you to everyone who helped make this possible.

Most of all, congratulations to our 2021 A&S Alumni Award Winners!

2021 Distinguished Alumni Award Winners

Azeema Akram, BA '08

What does this award mean to you? I feel humbled and privileged to receive this award because we have many talented and accomplished alumni across the nation. This award is meaningful to me because my journey to embracing my full self began at Mizzou. I can say with pride that being a Tiger set the groundwork for who and where I am today.  

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment so far? This is hard to answer because I have so much more to accomplish in my career. I am proud to be a leader who makes an impact, both in my career and outside it. In my career, I am proud to serve the people of the State of Illinois as an Administrative Law Judge at the Illinois Commerce Commission. Outside of my career, I am proud to serve in various roles that educate the public and advocate for people with disabilities. I am also proud to be one of the 34 Deaf and Hard of Hearing Bar Association attorneys sworn into the United States Supreme Court Bar.

Please share a memory of Arts and Science or your department. I have many great memories of my time in the College of Arts and Science because I truly enjoyed most of my classes, the instructors who taught them, and the friends I made in them. Studying abroad was a requirement to graduate with an International Studies degree, and my summer in London was filled with fun memories. When not in class, I spent time traveling all over the U.K. with a group of Mizzou Journalism students. I saw Stonehenge, Shakespeare’s Birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon, and Anne Boleyn’s childhood home in Hever, England. My class instructor was also a fencing enthusiast, so one day we learned how to fence and participated in basic fencing matches with each other. We also saw "A Midsummer Night’s Dream" at the world-renowned Globe Theatre, where we got “groundling” tickets (standing seats close to the stage). There is so much more I could say, but ultimately—studying abroad was one of the most enjoyable and educational experiences of my Mizzou years.

Who was your favorite instructor at Mizzou? It’s not easy to pick one! I enjoyed Cross-Cultural Psychology with Professor Etti Naveh-Benjamin, who is the Associate Director of the Multicultural Certificate Program (which I completed). I also enjoyed the two classes I took on the Roman Empire with Professor Lawrence Okamura. I cannot recall their names, but my professors for Gender in India and Geography of the Middle East were also excellent and engaging. Although I did not have a class with her, Professor Joan Hermsen served as a faculty advisor to my sorority, the Beta Beta Chapter of Sigma Lambda Gamma National Sorority, Inc., and has been a consistent source of support for me since my undergrad years.

What advice would you give to a future Tiger? Enjoy your time at Mizzou—your education, experiences, and connections will last a lifetime! Get curious and explore opportunities that interest you. Study abroad if you can! With everything going on in our world today—your voice needs to be heard more now than ever. I encourage future Tigers to consider how you can get involved in public service to amplify the voices and experiences that need to be heard.

Jay Nouss, BA '76

What does this award mean to you? I was thrilled to receive this award! When I reflect upon all the incredible people who have attended Mizzou, I am truly humbled to be recognized in their exalted company by this award. My family and friends know that I am a huge, huge fan of Mizzou, the College of Arts and Science and its Department of Economics. When I meet a fellow Mizzou student or grad, I greet them with “You must be smart!”  At first, they seem puzzled and then smile. If they were lucky enough to pursue an Economics degree at Mizzou, I follow up with “Oh, you received your degree in “The Study of Truth,” a Dr. John Kuhlman-ism!

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment so far? As a business lawyer for 41 years, it is hard to identify a single “greatest” transaction, financing, deal, or client. I have been very fortunate to serve many, many great clients and to assist them in solving their most significant financial issues and helping them achieve their entrepreneurial and economic goals. I have done this utilizing many of the skills and talents that I learned from my courses in Economics and Accounting at Mizzou. On the personal side, my greatest accomplishment was clearly meeting and marrying my best friend and wonderful wife of 38+ years, Lisa, and raising two great children with her!  

Please share a memory of Arts and Science or your department. My first class on my first day as a Freshman was Econ 51 with Dr. John Kuhlman. I left that class with a new perspective on how to approach my life— empowered with confidence to explore, to experience everything, to try new activities, to attempt new feats, and to lead. 

Who was your favorite instructor at Mizzou? Dr. John Kuhlman, Professor of Economics. Close seconds were Dr. William Bondeson, Honors College Humanities, and Dr. Fred Spiegel, Political Science.

What advice would you give to a future Tiger? Work hard, study hard, and play hard—these will be some of the most enjoyable years of your life! Explore, discover, and experiment with everything, especially activities and pursuits you have never tried. Be willing to fail, but never, ever be willing not to attempt. 

Jim Simón, MS '78, PhD '80

What does this award mean to you? The award has made me think back to all the people that have affected my career and how much I owe to them and the University of Missouri. I thank God for his direction and the many great people with whome I have had the privilege to interact .

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment so far? The ability to contribute to multiple technologies that are helping to improve health.

Please share a memory of Arts and Science or your department. When I was a first year graduate student I made a key to get into a room that had a free phone (Watts line) so I could call home. I made the copy by making a mold of the key using plaster of Paris, then melting metal and pouring it in the mold to make the key. It worked well when I tried it out on several doors, but not so well when I used it to get into the phone room. The key broke off to the point that it was impossible to get it out. I had to confess to Professor Troutner. My punishment was to be the TA for Chem 5 for engineers instead of Chem 1 for nursing majors.

Who was your favorite instructor at Mizzou? Even though I did not have him for a class, Professor Wynn Volkert was always available to consult and helped me tremendously with my research. He and professor Troutner were outstanding.

What advice would you give to a future Tiger? Enjoy your time at MIZZOU, the beauty of the campus, and the great people you meet. You are making life-long friends and memories.

2021 A&S Recent Alumni Award Winner

Mary Fama, BFA '12

What does this award mean to you? This award makes me very reflectful of the career I've had since graduating eight years ago. It's been a fast and wonderful journey, filled with learning experiences and challenges, and this award makes me feel incredibly grateful to the family, friends and mentors who have helped me every step of the way. 

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment so far? Becoming an Art Director! I recognize that this level is highly sought after and rarer to reach at such a young age, so I am really lucky that my bosses and colleagues saw it in me to promote me to this level. 

Please share a memory of Arts and Science or your department. Spring semester of my senior year A&S finally offered a course in calligraphy, something I'd been wanting to take for years! I loved every minute of it, even squeezing into the smallest corner of the basement classroom and leaving class covered in ink. That spring we took old pens and nibs and ink to a local elementary school and taught the kids calligraphy. It was such an amazing afternoon watching their little hands make proper letterforms in this ancient medium. To this day I practice calligraphy (admittedly, in a more modern way) and am glad I had the chance to take that course!

Who was your favorite instructor at Mizzou? From day one I knew Deborah Huelsbergen would be an important person in my life. She was my advisor when I first walked into the A&S building and someone I looked forward to learning from early on. Having classes with her throughout the years just solidified that. She is almost never without a smile on her face, always around for an encouraging talk, and your biggest fan even when you're long gone from Mizzou. 

What advice would you give to a future Tiger? Be yourself! Be proud of who you are, enjoy every moment, and allow yourself to grow and learn. Also, connect with your professors! You never know when they'll nominate you for an award :) 

A&S Distinguished Service Award Winner

Bill Moyes, BS '75, M.Ed '79, EdS '83, EdD '92

What does this award mean to you? The one object of my greatest passion is Marching Mizzou. Marching Mizzou was the highlight of my undergraduate experiences. To be rewarded for my support of Marching Mizzou is very exciting, yet humbling, as it’s really more about what the students can gain from me.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment so far? My greatest accomplishment so far would be earning my doctoral degree. I am the first person in my family lineage to have reached that level of education, even though many of my earlier ancestors were wise in their own ways. They just lacked the resources to pursue higher education.

Please share a memory of Arts and Science or your department. My most precious memory of undergraduate years would understandably revolve around Marching Mizzou. In 1975, we became the first American university marching band to ever tour the United Kingdom. Indeed, when we set foot on the hallowed soccer pitch at Wembley Stadium, we were first met by apprehension. By the time we were finishing our on-field performance, we had them singing along to the Tiger Fight Song, except they were singing “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary.” Same melody; different lyrics. That won their hearts and we received thunderous applause from a crowd of over 125,000 fans.

Who was your favorite instructor at Mizzou? Dr. Alexander L. Pickard, professor of music and director of Marching Mizzou, was my favorite instructor as well as the greatest influence on my young life as a college student. I came to college from a rather sheltered high school life and quickly became thrust into new experiences in college under his leadership. He could be stern and demanding of excellence in a very loving manner. There was never any doubt who was in charge, but he led in a manner where you just knew what you should be doing. He had a great sense of humor and became a lifelong friend of mine.

What advice would you give to a future Tiger? College students today face so many personal and societal challenges that we never had to face as undergrads of the seventies. Personal strength and confidence are important traits to develop. Stay true to your core beliefs, but don’t be afraid to question them and learn from others. Try listening more than talking. Always respect other people even when you wholeheartedly disagree with them.

For a list of past award winners, visit https://coas.missouri.edu/arts-and-science-awards.

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