Michelle Widger
UNK Alumni Association, 308.865.8474

Five University of Nebraska at Kearney alumni have been named recipients of Distinguished Alumni Awards. 

The five will receive the awards at the 28th annual UNK Homecoming Alumni Banquet set for 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 5, in the Nebraskan Student Union on the campus. Tickets, which are $20, are available through the UNK Alumni Association by calling 308.865.8474 or by e-mail:

The five Distinguished Alumni Award recipients include Dwayne ‘Butch’ Brown of Kearney, Class of 1969; Kevin Rader of Carmel, Ind., Class of 1984; Judy Henggeler Spohr of Burbank, Calif., Class of 1963; and Dr. Don Unger of Fort Collins, Colo., Class of 1965 and Master of Science Class of 1969, will receive Distinguished Alumni Awards. Jeff Stelling of Kearney, Class of 1993, will receive the Distinguished Alumni Service Award. 

Dwayne ‘Butch’ Brown is president and general manager of Brown Transfer in Kearney, a third generation company that is 82 years old. He has been a long-time supporter of the university.   

Brown is active in local, state and national organizations. He is past president of the Kearney United Way, past president of the Kearney Area Chamber of Commerce and past chairman of the board of Kearney State Bank and Trust Company. He is past chairman of the board of the Nebraska Motor Carriers Association, past board member of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce, a member of the Nebraska Diplomats and the University of Nebraska Foundation board of directors. Brown also served on the executive board of the American Trucking Association. Brown is a Kearney native.

Kevin Rader is a 12-time Emmy Award-winning reporter with more than 25 years in the broadcasting industry. He now works for NBC affiliate WTHR in Indianapolis after getting his start with NTV in Kearney. He also worked at stations in Green Bay, Wis., and Cheyenne, Wyo. 

Rader has won two regional Edward R. Murrow Awards and a national Edward R. Murrow Award for writing, the highest honor for broadcast writing. Among the stories he has covered are the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Oklahoma City bombing, the Kosovo Refugee Camps in Macedonia, and the Mike Tyson and Orville Lynn Majors trials. Rader is a Lexington native. 

Judy Henggeler Spohr is a retired elementary teacher who spent 37 years in the East Los Angeles Public School District.

During those years she was recognized as a master teacher for her work in education. She was the first non-Hispanic to receive the Cesar Chavez Lifetime Achievement Award recognizing her contributions to the children of Los Angeles, the Platinum Apple Award for United Teachers Los Angeles recognizing the top 20 teachers in the district, and she twice was a nominee for the Los Angeles Music Center’s BRAVO Award for her contributions in the area of fine arts. 

Since retiring, she has continued her consultant work and is involved in her real estate properties in the Burbank/Glendale area. 

Spohr has two master’s degrees, one in education from California State Los Angeles and the other in psychology from California State Northridge.

Spohr was president of the UNK Alumni Association in 1999 and served two terms as president of the Southern California Alumni Association. Her philanthropy has supported scholarship programs, the Gold Torch Mentoring Program, Foster Field improvements and the Southern California Endowment, designed for student scholarships and the library. Spohr is an Omaha native. 

Dr. Don Unger spent 40 years in education, retiring in 2004 as superintendent of the Poudre School District in Fort Collins. During his 38 years with the Poudre School District, he served as a science teacher, department chair, teacher association president, administrator and for the last 11 years, the superintendent. 

The Poudre School District, with more than 24,500 students at 46 sites, is one of the largest in Colorado. During his tenure as superintendent, Poudre was a 10-time gold medal winner for outstanding scores and graduation rates. Dr. Unger has served a wide variety of civic and professional organizations. He was a member of the board of the Colorado Association of Teacher Educators, Fort Collins Chamber of Commerce, United Way of Fort Collins, St. John’s Lutheran Church and Rotary Club. He is a past president of the National Staff Development Council.

Dr. Unger earned his Ph.D. from The Ohio State University, where he received awards for Outstanding Leadership in Education and Outstanding Leadership in Education Administration. 

Retirement has been anything but that for Dr. Unger, who is still working on a number of programs. He has chaired, and is currently a member of, the group that assists poorly funded school districts with their capital construction needs. He is a board member of a community group that is working to establish a fully accessible park for the handicapped, and he is working with another group to complete a Children’s Garden.

In addition, he is on the Poudre Valley Hospital Foundation board, which is raising funds to purchase and renovate a large building for the Children’s Clinic, an organization that provides health care for low-income families. He also serves on the board for “The Center,” an agency that works with juvenile offenders. For the past 14 years, he has been an external board member for the College of Applied Human Sciences at Colorado State University. Dr. Unger is a Hayes Center native. 

Jeff Stelling of Kearney, the recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Service Award, developed a one-handed saxophone for Dr. David Nabb. Dr. Nabb, a woodwinds professor at UNK, lost motor skills on the left side of his body after he suffered a paralyzing stroke in 2000. That stroke meant Dr. Nabb couldn’t play woodwind instruments, including his passion, the saxophone. It also meant he couldn’t teach music. That’s when Stelling entered the picture. 

Stelling, who has Stelling Brass & Winds, a instrument repair business, in Kearney, created a solution. Working with Dr. Nabb, and with support from Yamaha Corporation, Stelling developed an artist-quality saxophone that can be played with one hand. 

Two initial instruments were demonstrated at the World Saxophone Congress in 2003 and his creations have made a difference to others with use of only one arm, including a teenager in South Carolina who lost an arm in an accident. An accomplished musician himself, Stelling played the trombone in the Kearney Symphony Orchestra for 20 years. He was the brass coach and symphony board president.   

Dr. Eugene Rousseau, chief consultant to Yamaha Corporation on saxophone construction since 1972, said, “Jeff is not a repairman. He is a master craftsman . . . a genius master craftsman.”