Monday, April 17, 2023

Eleven University of Iowa students, faculty, staff, and alumni received awards April 11 at the 106th Finkbine Dinner Celebration. Sara Sanders, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, hosted the program, and Executive Vice President and Provost Kevin Kregel presented the awards, including the Hancher-Finkbine Medallions and Distinguished Student Leader Certificates.

The Hancher-Finkbine Medallions represent leadership, learning, and loyalty, and were presented to students Selveyah Gamblin, Manuela Lizarazu, Kate Conlow, and Nathen Spitz; faculty member Christopher Merrill; staff member Robert Kirby; and alumnus Kevin Gruneich.

Students Abigail McKenna, Di Shaun Walker, Megan Sinik, and KaLeigh White were awarded with Distinguished Student Leader Certificates.

In 1917, William Finkbine and Carl Kuhnle hosted the first awards dinner to recognize contributions of men in the University of Iowa student, faculty, and staff community. In 1921, Finkbine’s daughter, Dorothy Finkbine Souers, and her aunts introduced a similar dinner for women. The events were combined in 1972 and are supported by an endowment established by the elder Finkbine, as well as other alumni, friends, and the UI Center for Advancement.

Hancher-Finkbine Medallion recipients

Undergraduate students

Selveyah Gamblin of Peosta, Iowa, is a fourth-year double major in ethics and public policy, and political science on the pre-law track. She is an advocate for fellow Hawkeyes in her role as the Undergraduate Student Government director of justice and equity and served in the UI Honors Program as an outreach ambassador. Gamblin was also awarded the 2022 Wynonna G. Hubbard Scholarship during the Celebration of Excellence and Achievement Among Women.

Manuela Lizarazu, from Bogota, Colombia, is a fourth-year biomedical engineering and neuroscience student. She is a member of the Iowa women’s golf team and received the Big Ten Medal of Honor in 2022. She was selected to attend the Big Life Series in Selma, Alabama, an event focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion and hosted by the Big Ten Conference. Lizarazu was named an Iowa Neuroscience Institute Summer Scholar in 2022 and will obtain a full-time position as a neuroscientist at Eli Lilly after the completion of her degree.

Graduate students

Kate Conlow, of Iowa City, Iowa, is a third-year law student. She serves as the editor in chief of the Iowa Law Review and leads a staff of more than 60 students in editing and publishing five issues, conducting a symposium on religious freedom, and several other important strategic initiatives, including developing a new website for the Review. As a student attorney, Conlow prepared an advocacy piece seeking the transfer of an incarcerated client who had been improperly moved to a higher-security institution. Conlow founded the UI Prison Writing Project and has volunteered her time to create a permanent home for the project within the College of Law.

Nathen Spitz, from Osage, Iowa, is a fourth-year student in the Carver College of Medicine. As a student, he created an LGBTQ+ mentorship program for aspiring queer psychiatry medical students and served on the executive board of American LGBTQ+ Psychiatrists. Spitz was president of Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society, a member of the Carver College of Medicine Wellness Committee, and a founding member of the UI Suicide Task Force. He volunteers time to the UI Mobile Clinic, Iowa Harm Reduction Alliance, and the Iowa City Free Mental Health Clinic.

Faculty and staff

Christopher Merrill is the director of the International Writing Program, a role he has held since 2000. Merrill has published seven collections of poetry, including Watch Fire, for which he received the Lavan Younger Poets Award from the Academy of American Poets. His work has been published in almost 40 languages and has received awards from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial and Ingram Merrill foundations. In 2012, Merrill was appointed to the National Council on the Humanities by President Barack Obama. He also led the initiative that resulted in the selection of Iowa City as a UNESCO City of Literature.

Robert “Bob” Kirby is the director of the Iowa Center for Research by Undergraduates (ICRU) and is considered a longtime leader within the UI Honors Program. Kirby established the UI Honors Program’s external advisory board and has formed many student organizations within honors and the ICRU, including the honors outreach ambassadors, the honors peer mentors, and the ICRU ambassadors. Kirby also developed SURF and FURF (spring and fall undergraduate research festivals) to showcase undergraduate student research, and promoted undergraduate research to state legislators through the Research in the Capitol trips.


Kevin Gruneich, a 1980 graduate of Iowa, is known as one of the top publishing analysts in the world. He retired from a senior leadership position at the Bear Stearns Companies in 2004 and remains actively engaged in private business ventures and on several corporate and philanthropic boards. Gruneich is inspired to help open doors for many students at his alma mater, and his foundation helped fund Iowa’s Business Hub, a study center at the Tippie College of Business.