Outstanding Alumni

Arthur F. Beyer Distinguished Alumnus

Gregory Zolnerowich earned a Bachelor of Science in 1980 and a Master of Science in 1983, both from Midwestern State University. He earned his Ph.D. from Texas A&M in 1995.

Zolnerowich is Professor of Entomology at Kansas State University. At KSU, he was named the College of Agriculture’s David J. Mugler Outstanding Teacher in 2013, and he received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in 2012.

As curator of the KSU Museum of Entomological and Prairie Arthropod Research, he is responsible for a collection of approximately 365,000 insect and arthropod specimens. Zolnerowich has served on the board of directors for the Friends of Konza Prairie, a group whose mission is to promote understanding and appreciation for the prairie ecosystem and grassland conservation and management.

At MSU, Zolnerowich’s minor was in speech, what he calls a “rather odd” combination with his biology major, but that speech knowledge has helped him with teaching and research presentations. When he first arrived at Texas A&M University to earn his Ph.D. in entomology, he felt intimidated. “The campus was huge, the Department of Entomology was large, and I was competing with students who had their undergraduate degrees in entomology, but the broad training I received at MSU served me well. It made me a more well-rounded and knowledgeable student, enabling me to become a better teacher.”

Zolnerowich’s professors at MSU were an inspiration to him not only because of their knowledge, but also for their teaching style. “Since I’m engaged in teaching and research, I think about the faculty members like Norman Horner, Art Beyer, and Walt Dalquest who influenced me,” Zolnerowich said. “Walt Dalquest was a walking encyclopedia of natural history and Norman Horner had a nice relaxed style in the classroom. When I interviewed for my KSU job, I also had to do a teaching seminar. I used overheads and colored Sharpies just like Norman did.”

In addition to the formal classroom teachings, Zolnerowich follows the examples set by Horner, Dalquest, and Beyer in engaging his students in outdoor and hands-on activities. “That is rooted in the field trips taken with Horner and Dalquest, and the campus walks to learn plants with Beyer,” he said.

Having Beyer as a teacher wasn’t all fun for Zolnerowich. “He would always call on me to answer a question whenever I didn’t know the answer,” Zolnerowich said. “I hated his use of multiple-multiple choice questions on his exams. Now I use them on my exams and the students always write on my teaching evaluations that they hate those questions.” Zolnerowich remembers Beyer’s energy and dynamic teaching style and is grateful to receive the tribute that bears his name. “It’s quite an honor, and I am grateful and humbled.”

Lamar D. Fain College of Fine Arts

Emily M. Jones earned a Bachelor of Arts from Midwestern State University in 1998 with a major in theatre and a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Arkansas in 2010 with an emphasis in directing. Jones participated in the Shakespeare in London program with King’s College London Study Abroad.

She has taught at Lindenwood University in Saint Charles, Mo., since 2010, and is now Chair of the Department of Theatre and Associate Professor of Theatre. She serves on the board of directors of ACT INC theater group in St. Louis, Mo.

Jones said that the well-rounded program at MSU enabled her to become a successful teacher in the “best of ways,” preparing her for all facets of theatre – acting, directing, stage managing, technical theatre, design, and theatre management and marketing.

During her time at MSU, Jones made everlasting friendships and came to think of the campus as home. “We all get together every chance we get, and it feels like we are right back on the roof of the theatre on a hot summer night talking about how auditions went and predicting who will be cast in which roles,” she said. “I drive onto campus and still feel like I’m where I should be.”

Prothro-Yeager College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Dr. Dustin Tahmahkera earned his Bachelor of Arts in 1999 and Master of Arts in 2002, both from MSU. He earned his Ph.D. in American Culture Studies from Bowling Green State University in 2007.

Tahmahkera was Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at Southwestern University from 2009-2015 and is now Assistant Professor of Mexican American and Latina/o Studies and affiliate faculty in Native American and Indigenous Studies at The University of Texas at Austin.

Tahmahkera credits his professors with giving him many good memories of his student days at MSU and for helping him center his studies. As an undergraduate student, Tahmahkera said he was not focused, but the late Dr. Jeff Campbell motivated him with his method of multimedia teaching. “It was dazzling and it inspired me to teach similarly today,” Tahmahkera said. “If it weren’t for him, I may have never pursued grad school.”

Dr. Tom Hoffman encouraged Tahmahkera to embrace his scholarly interests in media and popular culture and told him about Bowling Green State University, where Tahmahkera went on to earn his doctorate. “Dr. Hoffman brings an incredible performance and discussion-based style to the classroom,” Tahmahkera said. He now calls Hoffman not only his professor, but also his dear friend.

College of Science and Mathematics

Dr. Fred Stangl earned his Bachelor of Science in 1979 and his Master of Science in 1981, both in biology from Midwestern State University. He earned his Ph.D. from Texas Tech University in 1984.

Stangl was Professor of Biology at MSU from 1984-2012 and is now Professor Emeritus. He has been a research associate at The Museum at Texas Tech since 1989. Stangl was named an honorary member of the Texas Society of Mammalogists in 2013.

In 1990, Stangl was named Hardin Professor of the Year, and in 1993 was named Student Government Professor the Year. He received the MSU Faculty Award in 1993 and three times was named Mortar Board Professor of the Year. Stangl has received the Texas Academy of Science Outstanding Service Award twice. He has served on advisory boards for River Bend Nature Works, NORTEX Regional Planning Commission, and the mammal advisory board for Texas Parks & Wildlife.

Stangl credits former professors, now friends and colleagues, with helping him make the transition from student to professor. Most rewarding to him is following in the footsteps of former students such as Dr. SueAnn Berend and Dr. Tom DeLizio who have been named Distinguished Alumni.

Robert D. and Carol Gunn College of Health Sciences and Human Services

Melissa M. Reese graduated summa cum laude from Midwestern State University in 2007 with a Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene. She graduated with honors from the University of Oklahoma with a Master of Public Health and in 2014 was named Outstanding Graduate Student in the OU College of Public Health, Health Promotion Science program.

Reese is program manager for MobileSmiles Oklahoma, a nonprofit dental care program that travels the state delivering free dental care and education. She has received numerous U.S. Public Health Service Awards for her work with the medical ship the USNS Mercy, Habitat for Humanity and other charitable medical organizations.

While practicing on dental hygiene dummies, Reese would get too nervous to finish her assignment because professors were standing over her with red pen in hand, critiquing her work. Assistant Professor of Dental Hygiene Barbara Curran helped Reese conquer that apprehension by standing back, letting her work and giving her one-on-one instruction.

Reese said that Dental Hygiene Department Chair Barbara DeBois is the model for her professional life now. “I respected her and her ability to ward off problems. When I was a student, I used to say ‘When I grow up I want to be like Mrs. DeBois.’”

Gordon T. and Ellen West College of Education

Reese Inman earned a Bachelor of Science in Education from Midwestern State University in 1989. 

Inman taught his entire career in the Wichita Falls Independent School District. During his more than 16 years at Barwise Junior High School, he was history department chair and sponsor of the Plastic Model Building Club. He retired in June 2015. Inman was nominated for Teacher of the Year four times and received the West Foundation Teaching Excellence award three times. 

Inman said that the professors who prepared him for his career in education stand out most in his memories of MSU. “Dr. Ann Estrada had high expectations and desired for all of us to be completely prepared to take on the task of being a teacher,” Inman said. “Dr. Clarence Darter guided me through the necessary planning stages to complete my degree, and Dr. Steve Tipps challenged us to keep looking for methods that would help kids learn regardless of abilities.” 

Drs. Mike Collins and Dirk Lindemann were the models in the history department who prepared Inman for the subject that he taught for most of his career – Texas history. “They fueled the desire to learn about history and the connections that make it interesting.”

Dillard College of Business Administration

David Ickert graduated from MSU in 1974 with a Bachelor of Business Administration. Ickert is vice president of finance for Air Tractor Inc. in Olney, Texas. Air Tractor manufactures agricultural and forestry airplanes that are sold around the world using programs of the Export-Import Bank of the United States. Because of his international financial knowledge, Ickert has served on numerous committees on foreign trade and economics, including presidential forums, and has testified before various U.S. Senate and House committees.