Annual awards honor students, staff, faculty, and alumni
Wednesday, April 19, 2017

University of Iowa students, faculty, staff, and alumni received some of the institution’s highest honors on April 11 at the 100th Finkbine Dinner. Vice President for Student Life Tom Rocklin was emcee, and UI President J. Bruce Harreld presented the Hancher-Finkbine Medallions and Distinguished Student Leader certificates.

Rocklin, who will retire in July after serving the UI in various capacities for 30 years, received a special medallion to recognize his exemplary living, learning, and leadership.

Hancher-Finkbine Medallions recognizing leadership, learning, and loyalty went to students Noaquia Callahan, Jasmine Mangrum, Benjamin Ross, and Rachel Zuckerman; Department of Biostatistics faculty member Joseph Cavanaugh; staff member Nancy Jones; and alumna Cathy Zaharis.

Ally Disterhoft, Lauren Freeman, Thomas Laehn, and Devan Rittler received Distinguished Student Leader certificates. The Philip G. Hubbard Human Rights Awards (which includes a $1,500 award) went to Sabra Cacho.

Disterhoft and Anthony Gair received the Robert F. Ray Faculty Representative Award, which honors outstanding student-athletes and provides $1,000 grants to recipients entering graduate or professional school at the UI.

Keith Mueller received the M.L. Huit Faculty Award, and Jason Harshman 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.

Keith J. Mueller
Marion L. Huit Faculty Award

Keith J. Mueller is Gerhard Hartman Professor and head of the Department of Health Management and Policy in the College of Public Health. He is also the director of the Rural Policy Research Institute Center for Rural Health Policy Analysis. Mueller has served as president of the National Rural Health Association, as a member of the National Advisory Committee on Rural Health and Human Services (as well as the Advisory Panel on Medicare Education for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services), and currently serves on the Advisory Committee to the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research. He has published more than 60 scholarly articles in health-services research and policy and received numerous awards recognizing his contributions. Mueller has directed major health-services studies funded by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Mueller has also testified on numerous occasions before committees of Congress and in other forums, including the Institute of Medicine and the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission.

Jason Harshman
James N. Murray Award

Jason Harshman is assistant professor of social studies and global education in the Department of Teaching and Learning in the College of Education. Harshman inspires students to transform K–12 social studies through his commitment to competence in global education and acquiring a deep knowledge and respect for difference. His rigorous course instruction is characterized by students taking responsibility for learning through collaboration and innovative technology—Jason’s approach allows for rich, engaging discussions. In his third year as a tenure-track professor, Jason has six refereed publications, one book, and five book chapters in print, with a second book in process. He singlehandedly revived, edits, and publishes a state journal and is an invited journal editor on global education. As chair of the college’s diversity committee, Harshman has fostered relations between students and faculty. His activist leadership has raised the committee’s already prominent profile and was recognized in the MLK Research Session and in the upcoming College Diversity Conference. Harshman is also member of the advisory board for Iowa’s Center for Human Rights and serves as chair of the International Visitors and Scholars Committee.

Sabra Cacho
Phillip G. Hubbard Human Rights Undergraduate Award

Sabra Cacho is majoring in international studies with a certificate in critical cultural competence and an art minor in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Cacho, from Muscatine, Iowa, has devoted herself to studying the connections between art and education, identity and social justice, and local and global collaboration as the means of fighting for equal rights for all people at the UI. She is the 2016–17 director of the multicultural student fashion show “Walk It Out,” actively promotes dialogue about race- and gender-based discrimination through leadership of VIBE (Various Identities Born Equal), and creates performance and fine arts work addressing and educating about violence against women. Cacho was involved with the Human Rights Student Collective and was part of the organizational team that spearheaded “Refugee Relief Week” in November 2016. Cacho has a joint internship with the Iowa United Nations Association and the UI Center for Human Rights and is organizing the April 2017 “March to Help Refugees.”

Ally Disterhoft
Robert Ray Faculty Athletic Representative Award and Distinguished Student Leader Award, Undergraduate

Ally Disterhoft is a senior women’s basketball student-athlete from North Liberty, Iowa. She is double majoring in accounting and finance and will graduate in December 2017. As a first-year student, Disterhoft was one of 30 students selected to the President’s Leadership Class. She is a member of the Beta Gamma Sigma National Scholastic Honors Society for business students, a distinction reserved for students who have earned grade-point averages that place them in the top 10 percent of their class. Additionally, she is a Hawkinson Institute of Business Finance Scholar; she was selected as one of the top finance students at the Tippie College of Business based on her leadership, academic performance, and interpersonal skills. As a member of the Hawkeye Women’s Basketball program, Disterhoft is a four-time letter winner. She was recognized by league coaches for the First Team All–Big Ten Team and Second Team All–Big Ten by the media. She captured repeat honors for being named to the WBCA Allstate Good Works Team. This year she became the second Hawkeye in Iowa women’s basketball history to surpass 2,000 career points. She is the program’s all-time leading scorer and ranks second on the team in points (16.6) and rebounds (5.4). Disterhoft received First Team All–Big Ten honors her senior year and was named Capital One First Team Academic All-American of the Year, becoming only the fifth scholar-athlete to win Academic All-American of the Year honors in back-to-back years.

Anthony Gair
Robert Ray Faculty Athletic Representative Award

Anthony Gair is a 2016 graduate of the UI who earned a degree in communication studies and a Certificate in Entrepreneurial Management. He is currently pursuing his master’s degree in sport and recreation management. A native of New Orleans, Louisiana, Gair and his family relocated to Plano, Texas, due to Hurricane Katrina. He completed his final season of eligibility this past fall as a five-year member and letter winner of the UI football program. Gair, a young entrepreneur, is the founder of Track Slides, a product geared toward track athletes to avoid dull spikes, and also Puzzle Greetings, the reinvention of the traditional greeting card to connect people around the world piece by piece. Gair is a member of the Founder’s Club at the UI, which is supported by the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center, and competed in the Rose Francis Elevator Pitch Competition, winning second place in the Business Model Competition and third place at the Hawk Pitch Competition. Gair plans to pursue his desire to play in the NFL and continue his business endeavors.

Lauren Freeman
Distinguished Student Leader Award, Undergraduate

Lauren Freeman is an honors student double majoring in political science and economics in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Born and raised in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Freeman grew up eager to attend the UI. As the current undergraduate body vice president, she has worked on countless initiatives this year, supporting senators and other executives on behalf of the institution. Through UI Student Government, she organized monthly Lean In Circles, is co-chair of UISG’s Housing Affordability Task Force, and is dedicated to promoting women’s leadership on campus. Freeman has become a passionate advocate for college affordability, especially through the reduction of non-tuition expenses. Academically, she challenges herself to learn new information and skills by engaging in academically rigorous coursework and opportunities. Freeman has also served as an undergraduate teaching assistant for the Iowa Policy Research Organization class, represented the UI as a finalist for the prestigious Harry S. Truman Scholarship Award, and is member of Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society.

Thomas Laehn
Distinguished Student Leader Award, Graduate/Professional
Thomas Laehn is pursuing a JD at the University of Iowa College of Law. In 2016, Thomas was named Top Overall Advocate following the law school’s annual Van Oosterhout-Baskerville Moot Court Competition. The distinction was based on both the quality of his written brief, which he submitted prior to the competition, and his performance in a series of oral arguments. He was one of four students selected to participate as a student advocate in the university’s 2016 Supreme Court Day event. As a student advocate, Thomas argued a mock case before the actual justices on the Iowa Supreme Court. He also served as a member of the law school’s six-member national moot court team. In addition to his involvement in moot court competitions, he served as president of the University of Iowa College of Law’s Federalist Society during the course of the 2016–17 academic year and oversaw the society’s 2016–17 speaker series. During his time in law school, Thomas has published academic articles in both a peer-reviewed interdisciplinary journal and a university law review.

Devan Rittler
Distinguished Student Leader Award, Graduate/Professional

Devan Rittler is pursuing a JD at the UI College of Law. She is the editor in chief of the Journal of Gender, Race & Justice and has been an active volunteer with the Equal Justice Foundation, serving as the 2016 auction co-chair to plan the college’s main fundraiser to support students in unpaid public-interest positions. The event raised more than $14,000. Rittler has also volunteered her legal skills to aid community members in need and worked with a team of fellow volunteers to develop and organize presentations to educate community members about recent developments in immigration policy. In addition, Rittler volunteered with the Wrongful Convictions Unit of the Iowa State Public Defender and edited online educational articles for clients of Iowa Legal Aid. She’s also a regular volunteer with various community organizations, including the North Liberty Community Pantry and the Johnson County Crisis Center.

Benjamin Ross
Hancher-Finkbine Undergraduate Student Medallion

Benjamin Ross is an honors student from Rockford, Illinois, double majoring in vocal performance and music education in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the College of Education. During his time at Iowa, Ross has worked directly with students to show them how college can be “a place where people are able to explore who they want to be” and “how they want to be it.” In his role as president of Delta Lambda Phi (DLP), he increased chapter membership from 12 to 30, planned some of DLP’s first large-scale programs, and advocated for trans students’ rights in the university health care system. An avid performer at Iowa, Ross has been a soloist with the UI Symphony Orchestra multiple times and has performed in five operas at the UI. His commitment to opera was rewarded with the Eileen Muriello Memorial Scholarship last semester. He has also served as a participant and site leader for the UI’s Alternative Spring Break program.

Rachel Zuckerman
Hancher-Finkbine Undergraduate Student Medallion
Rachel Zuckerman is an honors student from Detroit, Michigan, double majoring in political science and journalism and earning a Critical Cultural Competence Certificate in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. She is the current undergraduate president of UI Student Government. Under her leadership, UISG has worked with university administration to secure $200,000 to make structural improvements to the UI’s cultural and resource centers, helped organize a national “Mental Health Monday” campaign in support of federal mental health legislation, and successfully advocated for the creation of a new student mental health fee to hire eight new counselors by 2018. During her time as a student, Zuckerman has held a wide variety of campus leadership roles, including working as a resident assistant, serving as the undergraduate representative on the UI Council on the Status of Women, and on the Dean’s Student Advisory Board in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Jasmine Mangrum
Hancher-Finkbine Graduate/Professional Student Medallion
Jasmine Mangrum is pursuing a joint Doctor of Pharmacy and Master’s in Public Health degree. She served as the president of the Class of 2018 in the College of Pharmacy, was a student representative to the Iowa Pharmacy Association, and serves as the vice president of patient care and health fair coordinator for the American Pharmacists Association Academy of Student Pharmacists. Mangrum has worked extremely hard to move the UI community to become more inclusive and diverse, focusing on sustainable, long-term goals. Her work as current graduate student body vice president has constantly demonstrated her strong leadership skills in advocating for minority students on campus. She also serves as co-chair of the President’s Black Student Advisory Committee, is a council member for the Office of Graduate Inclusion, and was a key member in initiating the new Campus Inclusion Team.

Noaquia Callahan
Hancher-Finkbine Graduate/Professional Student Medallion
Noaquia Callahan, from Long Beach, California, is pursuing a PhD in history in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. She is the recipient of the U.S. Fulbright Scholar Fellowship in conjunction with Germanistic Society of America Award. Callahan founded the UI’s Diversity International Scholarship Academy (DISA), a peer-mentorship program that helps underrepresented minority students at the UI apply for highly competitive international education scholarships, grants, and fellowships. She has also served as the Presidential Charter Committee Appointee on Diversity, an International Classroom journey ambassador, a grant reviewer for Graduate and Professional Student Government, and a panelist for UI’s Rewiring the Classroom. Callahan designed and taught a UI undergraduate-issues course for the Department of History, “By Whatever Means Necessary: African American Activism in Global Perspective.” In 2016, she gave paper presentations on “A Rare Colored Bird,” an original to both the American Historical Association conference and International Council of Women’s Congress. Additionally, she has lectured at Howard University, the University of Halle, and Universität Rostock.

Joseph Cavanaugh
Hancher-Finkbine Faculty Medallion

Joseph Cavanaugh is departmental executive officer and faculty member in the Department of Biostatistics. Throughout his career, he has served as an associate editor and referee for the Journal of the American Statistical Association, The American Statistician, and the Journal of Forecasting. He is the two-time winner of the American Statistical Association Section on Physical and Engineering Sciences Outstanding Presentation Award and recipient of the Faculty Service Award in the College of Public Health. He has earned the teaching award for Outstanding Graduate Students at the University of California, Davis; the Provost Outstanding Junior Faculty Teaching Award, William T. Kemper Fellowship for Excellence in Teaching, the Gold Chalk Award at the University of Missouri; and the Faculty Award for Teaching at the UI’s College of Public Health.

Nancy L. Jones
Hancher-Finkbine Staff Medallion
Nancy L. Jones is director of the Writing Resource Center at the UI College of Law. As the longest-serving staff member teaching in the Hubbard Law School Preparation Program, Jones is committed to students and supporting their well-being and professional development. In 1990, she created the first law-based writing resource center in the country, a model now used by numerous law schools. Through a highly effective professional development program, Jones teaches her staff to be educators to help students become more effective and sensitive writers so they can anticipate what their audience needs to know, to imagine themselves in shoes of their client, and to consider what opposing counsel will address. In addition to supporting students on campus, she developed an online legal writing course for student externs spending summers outside of Iowa City. Jones remains active in the national nonprofit organization the Legal Writing Institute and has published and presented numerous articles on writing for legally trained audiences.

Catherine Zaharis
Hancher-Finkbine Alumni Medallion
Cathy Zaharis, born and raised in Iowa, graduated from the UI with a BBA in finance in 1982. In 2008, she joined the Tippie College of Business where she is currently the director of professional/employer development in the Department of Finance. She is an exceptional leader in the college, volunteering on the Investment Advisory Committee for the Krause Fund and as a mentor for the Women in Business program. Cathy has been a dedicated member of the UI Foundation Board of Directors since 1999. As chair of the board, she provided vital leadership to the foundation throughout For Iowa. Forever More: The Campaign for the University of Iowa. Zaharis also demonstrates generous philanthropy through her support of the Dr. George M. Zaharis Medical Scholarship, a fund she established in 2003 in memory of her father, a 1959 graduate of the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine.