Students, faculty, staff, and alumni honored at Finkbine Dinner

Students, faculty, staff, and alumni honored at Finkbine Dinner

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One of institution's highest honors recognizes leadership, learning, and loyalty

University of Iowa students, faculty, staff, and alumni received some of the institution’s highest honors Thursday, April 24, at the 97th annual Finkbine Dinner for Representative Student Leaders.

Hancher-Finkbine Medallions recognizing leadership, learning, and loyalty went to students Wanakee Carr, Benjamin Gillig, Ericka Tank, and Katherine Valde; law faculty member Eric Andersen; staff member Patrick Dolphin-Leahy; and alumnus Thomas Hanson.

Sophia Blitz, Rachel Nash, Anthony Cyr, and Mark Van Heukelom received Distinguished Student Leader certificates. The Philip G. Hubbard Human Rights Awards (which include a $1,500 scholarship) went to Hilary Moise and Simone Renault.

For additional information about these awards and to see photos of this year's recipients, visit here.

Elise Borja and James Morris received the Robert F. Ray Faculty Representative Award, which honors outstanding student-athletes and gives $1,000 grants to recipients entering graduate or professional school at the UI.

Dennis Maki received the M.L. Huit Faculty Award, and Sarah Vigmostad received the James N. Murray Faculty Award.

In 1917, William Finkbine and Carl Kuhnle hosted the first awards dinner for UI men. In 1921, Finkbine’s daughter Dorothy Finkbine Sauers and her aunts introduced a similar dinner for women. The events were combined in 1972, and to this day are supported by an endowment established by W. Finkbine, as well as other alumni, friends, and the UI Foundation.

Read on to learn more about this year’s honorees.

Eric Andersen

Hancher-Finkbine Faculty Medallion

Andersen is a professor and senior associate dean in the UI College of Law. He received his Juris Doctorate from Brigham Young University, and afterwards practiced with Vinson & Elkins law firm in London and Washington D.C.

Prior to joining the UI faculty, he held clerkships with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr. and U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit Judge J. Clifford Wallace.

According to nominators, Andersen’s leadership as associate dean is “valued and admired” throughout the college. He is a past UI Faculty Senate and UI Faculty Judicial Commission member, and a current member of the Iowa Law School Foundation Board on which he has served for eight years.

Sophia Blitz

Undergraduate Distinguished Student Leader Certificate

Blitz is a senior from Fairfield, Iowa. She is majoring in industrial engineering with a minor in computer science. Blitz has served as a teaching assistant for the past five semesters, and is team manager for the Hawkeye Ballroom Dance Company.

She is also a member of Tau Beta Pi, and has served as spring formal committee chairwoman for the Society of Women Engineers for two years. In all her leadership roles, nominators say she is “effective and enthusiastic, never afraid to go the extra mile.”

Blitz has interned at FAST Enterprises American Profol, Inc. and Bellwether, where she served as a programmer and developer. Most recently, she was part of a team from the student organization Women in Informatics and Computer Science that developed an application chosen as a finalist in a New York City Dept. of Education challenge that encouraged software developers to create apps enhancing math education.

Elise Borja

Ray Faculty Representative Award

Borja is a senior chemistry major from Waukesha, Wisconsin, and a student athlete on the UI Women’s Swimming and Diving team, where her main event is freestyle.

She is a member of the 400-freestyle relay team that set at record at the 2014 Big Ten Conference championships, and has been named Meet Captain by her peers on multiple occasions.

Borja is a three-time Academic All Big Ten selection and a 2012-13 Big Ten Conference Distinguished Scholar. She has been named to the Dean’s List six times and recently became a member of a Department of Chemistry research group that works with atmospheric particles and microscopy of nanomaterial.

Wanakee Carr

Hancher-Finkbine Graduate/Professional Student Medallion

Carr is a fourth-year medical student and a Des Moines, Iowa native. She is the current president of the Carver College of Medicine Student Government, where she recently oversaw the college’s most fiscally successful Crista Gala.

Other achievements include a term as co-mayor of the William Bean Learning Community and research assistantships in the Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation and the Department of Health and Human Physiology.

Carr is an executive officer for the Executive Council of Graduate and Professional Students (ECGPS), the recruitment chair for the UI chapter of the Student National Medical Association, and a past peer mentor and Iowa Medical Student Surgical Interest Society treasurer.

Anthony Cyr

Graduate/Professional Distinguished Student Leader Certificate

Cyr, a Cedar Rapids native, is completing his final year in the Carver College of Medicine Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP)—a combined M.D. – Ph.D. degree path. He is the past recipient of the Senior Medical Student Department of Surgery award and the Ruth L. Kirschstein National research Service award.

In 2010, Cyr received the Tutor of the Year award while serving as a research mentor for undergraduate students and a teaching assistant in the Department of Biochemistry.

Cyr is a past mayor of the Flock Learning Community—a role for which he received the Flock Community Leadership award—and a member of the Medical Student Promotions Committee, among others. He is also active with the Iowa City Free Medical Clinic where he has volunteered as an examiner and served on the board of directors.

Patrick Dolphin-Leahy

Hancher-Finkbine Staff Medallion

Dolphin-Leahy has been employed at the Iowa Memorial Union for nearly 30 years, and is currently a facilities mechanic for IMU Event Services. His nominators describe him as a skilled carpenter, plumber, and electrician who “works diligently to create safe, welcoming spaces for students.”

Over the years, Dolphin-Leahy has provided both planned and emergency maintenance support for large student events such as Dance Marathon and On Iowa! In recent years, he has served as a mentor to student mechanics.

Dolphin-Leahy is noted as “vital” to planning meetings for various IMU construction projects and has helped put the building back into operation following the 2008 flood.

Benjamin Gillig

Hancher-Finkbine Graduate/Professional Student Medallion

Gillig is a doctoral student in the Higher Education and Student Affairs Program in the College of Education. Originally from Coralville, he is a Presidential Graduate Fellow and a member of the Center for Research on Undergraduate Education (CRUE).

During his time at the UI, Gillig has authored articles for publications such as the Journal of Higher Education, and taught or co-taught six masters level courses. In 2013, he arranged a tour of the College of Pharmacy by Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad.

As president of the Executive Council of Graduate and Professional Students, Gillig is described as a “strong advocate for fellow students” and “instrumental” to work-force development efforts, among others.

Thomas Hanson

Hancher-Finkbine Alumni Medallion

Hanson received his degree in mechanical engineering in 1960. Two decades later he founded Chicago based Thermal Air Systems, which later became Fleming Hanson Sales—the largest agency of its kind in Illinois.

Inspired by his own career and educational experiences, Hanson then endowed the Hanson Center for Technical Communication in the UI College of Engineering, along with his wife.

The Hansons have made contributions in support of the Seamans Center, the Hydraulics Laboratory, and other UI entities. Hanson is a current UI Foundation board member and a co-chair of the For Iowa Forever More campaign.

Dennis Maki

M.L. Huit Faculty Award

Maki is a professor in the Rehabilitation and Counselor Education program in the College of Education. He received a doctorate from the University of Wisconsin in 1979 and a Master of Arts from Michigan State University in 1975.

Over the course of his nearly 35-year career, he has made what nominators call “substantial contributions to his profession and to the lives of students.” Maki is the former chair of his department and is described as a mentor to both students and faculty.

Under his guidance, a number of UI programs and centers have been established, including the Office on Graduate Teaching Excellence and the Iowa Center on Assistive Technology for Education and Research.

Hilary Moise

Philip G. Hubbard Graduate/Professional Human Rights Award

Moise is a third year law student from Iowa City. For the past two years she has served as a research assistant to the College of Law Citizen Lawyer Program, where she oversees various pro bono projects with nonprofits and community organizations.

Since 2013, Moise has also worked in the College of Law legal clinic, where she represents and assists low-income and underserved clients in areas such as disability rights and child support.

Currently, Moise is a board member for the Equal Justice Foundation and partners with the Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa as a community organizer. She is described by nominators as passionate about representing and supporting low-income and immigrant workers.

James Morris

Ray Faculty Representative Award

Morris is a senior political science major in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and a native of Solon, Iowa. He concluded his athletic career at the UI last fall as the Hawkeyes finished their season with an appearance at the 2014 Outback Bowl.

In his freshman year, Morris moved into the Hawkeye starting lineup as middle linebacker. Since then, he has started 42 games and totaled 400 tackles, placing him sixth on the UI’s career chart.

Morris has been honored with the Iron Hawk Award; the Players Choice Award, Defense; and the Big Ten Sportsmanship award, to name a few, and has previously earned a spot on the Capital One Academic All-American team.

Rachel Nash

Graduate/Professional Distinguished Student Leader Certificate

Nash is a second year student in the Master of Public Health program from Chicago, Ill. She leads a community service-learning project in conjunction with the Center for Disabilities and Development, and serves as a graduate assistant.

Currently, Nash is a patient educator and lab technician for the UI Mobile Clinic, a public relations coordinator the Ponseti International Association, and a public relations liaison for the Community and Behavioral Health Student Association.

She is a 2013-14 student representative for the College of Public Health Board of Advisors, the MPH Board of Advisors and the College of Public Health Awards Committee.

Simone Renault

Philip G. Hubbard Undergraduate Human Rights Award

Renault is a senior biology and international studies major on the pre-medicine track with a minor in philosophy, in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. A Hubbard, Iowa native, Renault traveled to Gambia this past summer and helped design strategies for school injury prevention and girls’ health and wellness.

Renault is now working with Gambia’s Expanded Program on Immunization to develop an electronic childhood immunization register. She co-founded a student organization that raises funds and awareness for global vaccine access, and has been named a Champion by the United Nations Foundation’s Shot @Life campaign.

With the help of the John PappaJohn Entrepreneurial Center, Renault is developing a start-up nonprofit to revolutionize educational sponsorship models for girls. She currently serves as a teaching assistant for an MIT development economics.

Ericka Tank

Hancher-Finkbine Undergraduate Student Medallion

Tank is a senior human physiology major on the pre-medicine track, and a Spanish minor. Originally from Manning, Iowa, Tank completed a summer research fellowship at the American Physiological Society, where she received the organization’s David Bruce Undergraduate Abstract Award.

Other honors for Tank include the UI Hospitals and Clinics' Making a Difference Award in recognition of her more than 160 hours of volunteer service and exceptional patient care.

Tank has been actively involved in Dance Marathon in various leadership roles, and is a past resident assistant for the Realizing Educational and Career Hopes Program (REACH) that assists and empowers students with cognitive disabilities.

Katherine Valde

Hancher-Finkbine Undergraduate Student Medallion

Valde is a senior political science and history major in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences from Coralville, Iowa. She is an Old Gold and Presidential scholar, and a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

With support from the Department of History Undergraduate Research Fellowship, Valde conducted original thesis research in Argentina, in addition to studying abroad in Cuba, Mexico, and India.

She is a fellow for the Iowa Center for Undergraduate Research, has served as a teaching assistant for the Iowa Policy Research Organization. Valde is the current UI Student Government president and treasurer for the Johnson County League of Women Voters.

Mark Van Heukelom

Graduate/Professional Distinguished Student Leader Certificate

Van Heukelom is graduating this spring with a Juris Doctorate from the UI College of Law and a Masters of Business Administration from the Tippie School of Management. He has received three Dean’s Awards for Academic Excellence and a Faculty Award for Academic Excellence.

Van Heukelom’s leadership activities include serving as the community relations coordinator for the ECGPS, a consultant for the Interval Revenue Service Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program, and the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Corporation Law.

In addition, he is a co-founder of the Alcohol Diversion Program of Johnson County, whereby students with alcohol related charges may earn a dismissal in exchange for attending alcohol education classes.

Sarah Vigmostad

James N. Murray Faculty Award

Vigmostad is an assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. Prior to joining the faculty, she received her doctorate, master of science and bachelor of science in biomedical engineering from the University of Iowa.

According to nominators, her teaching innovations “have had a huge impact on how engineering is taught.” Vigmostad uses inquiry-based learning to encourage students to ask challenging questions and engage in the process of discovering solutions.

She actively mentors both graduate and undergraduate students through a variety of groups and programs, including the UI chapter of the Society of Women Engineers. Vigmostad is a past recipient of the College of Engineering Outstanding Teacher Award.


Belinda Marner, UI Student Life, 319-335-3557
Amy Mattson, University Communication and Marketing, 319-384-0070


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