Michelle Widger
UNK Alumni Association, 308.865.8474

Five individuals will receive University of Nebraska at Kearney alumni awards at the 27th  annual Homecoming Awards banquet Friday (Oct. 27) at the Nebraskan Student Union.
Distinguished Alumni Awards will be presented to Dr. Norris Haring ’48, Nancy Montanez ’94, Dr. Gary Smidt ’59 and Ron Williams ’71.  Sue Batie ’73 will receive the Distinguished Alumni Service Award.
Dr. Norris Haring  is professor emeritus at the University of Washington where he concluded his higher education career in special education.
Dr. Haring earned his master’s degree from UNL and his doctorate from Syracuse University. He has been coordinator of special education at the University of Maryland and a professor at the University of Kansas where he served as chair in child development at the university’s medical center. Among his positions at the University of Washington was founding director of the Experimental Education Unit of the College of Education and Child Development and Mental Retardation Center.
His extensive writings have been major contributions to understanding education students with emotional behaviors.
When Dr. Haring was at the University of Kansas, he was instrumental in founding, and served as founding president and the first editor of the Journal of the American Association for the Education of the Severely and Profoundly Handicapped.
For his work, Dr. Haring has been recognized by Syracuse University with an honored alumnus award, the UNL Teacher College Alumni Association Award, the U.S. Department of Education award for dedicated service, contributions and research with severe disabilities, and the Distinguished Career Award.
Nancy Montanez  (Milford)  Johner is U.S. Department of Agriculture Undersecretary of Agriculture for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, a position she was appointed to in June. Montanez is responsible for the Food Stamp Program and National School Lunch and School Breakfasts programs and 13 other food and security programs.
Montanez had been Nebraska Health and Human Services director, a position to which she was appointed in 2004 by Gov. Mike Johanns. In that position she oversaw one of the largest departments in Nebraska state government with more than 5,000 state employees with a budget of $300 million.
She rose through the ranks in the department after graduating with a degree in social work. Montanez was the leader of the Health and Human Services Western Service Area from 2001 to 2004. She was a service area administrator for the department in  Gering for two years before that.
The daughter of migrant workers, Montanez knew at age 10 that she wanted to be a social worker. But she didn’t start college until her late 20s.
Dr. Gary Smidt  ( Hastings )  is professor emeritus in the College of Medicine at the University of Iowa where he was a professor of physical therapy. He earned his master’s degree and his Ph.D. from Iowa.
Dr. Smidt has written extensively, been active as a speaker on his specialty and has exceptional professional experience.
He was editor of the Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Therapy from 1990 to 1998. He was president of Smidt L.C. Publication Services Corporation and president of SPARK Instruments and Academics, Inc. Early in his career, Dr. Smidt was a United States Public Health Service officer in New York and a clinical practitioner in Chicago.
He was primary inventor on three U.S. patents for dynamometers/muscle testing apparatuses. He is the author of two books and more than 100 publications in 12 peer-reviewed medical journals.
Dr. Smidt, who was inducted into the UNK Athletic Hall of Fame in 1989, now lives in Lakeville, Minn.
Ron Williams  (Denver)  is president and chief executive officer of Gary-Williams Energy Corp, a Denver-based private company. He is responsible for policy development, planning and overall management of all operations. They include refining, wholesale marketing and oil and gas exploration activities.
Williams is a member and past chairman of the board of directors of The Children’s Hospital in Denver and a member of the board of The Children’s Hospital Foundation. He currently serves as co-chair of the Imagine the Miracles Campaign for The Children’s Hospital.
He is on the board and executive committee of the National Western Association, vice chairman of The Piton Foundation that is funded by Gary-Williams, and he is a member of the board of the Denver Public Schools Foundation.
Sue Batie   (Overton)  has been a key ingredient in the Southern California Alumni Association for more than 30 years. She has been a member of the board of directors since 1978 and has served as secretary, vice president and president. She is currently treasurer. During her presidency, the Southern California group decided to start an endowed fund for scholarships and the library. That fund now has reached more than $125,000.
Batie graduated from San Pedro High School in California and returned to Southern California after graduation with a degree in political science to work in the banking industry.
When she was a student, Batie was active in the Lock and Key Political Science Society with projects that included raising funds for scholarships and the George W. Norris Lecture, still an annual event with the department.
In addition to her service to UNK, she is a member of the Friends of KOCE-TV, the PBS affiliate in Orange County, since its inception in 1985. She has held nearly every office, including president, and has twice been named Volunteer of the Year.
The five will be honored at the Homecoming Awards banquet on Friday, Oct. 27. Tickets are $20 and are available by contacting the UNK Alumni Office at 308-865-8474 or emailing