Coe, Mathiesen, Olson, Srivastava among distinguished alumni to be honored by UNK

KEARNEY – The University of Nebraska at Kearney Alumni Association has announced 11 alumni to be given awards during homecoming festivities in September.

In its 38th year, Distinguished Alumni Awards will be presented at an 11:30 a.m. luncheon Sept. 14 in the Nebraskan Student Union Ponderosa Room. Tickets are $25 per person ($30 after Sept. 5) and can be purchased at or by calling the UNK Alumni Association at 308-698-5271.

The 2018 UNK Alumni Association’s Distinguished Alumni Awards go to Michael Coe of Crete, Roger Mathiesen of Kearney, Sandra Olson of Grand Island and Rakesh Srivastava of Hastings.

The Jim Rundstrom Distinguished Service Award is being given to Mat and Amy Cope of Kearney, and the Distinguished Young Alumni Award will be presented to Erica Lee of Tarzana, California.

The College of Education Distinguished Educator of the Year is Donald Clark of Kearney, and this year’s Don Fox Lecturers are Dr. Kathleen McDonald of Friendswood, Texas, and Dr. Susan Fanta of Yankton, South Dakota.

The Gary Thomas Distinguished Music Alumna award goes to Kelly Miller of Winter Park, Florida.

Distinguished Alumni Awards

Michael Coe
Michael Coe

Michael Coe (1968, MSE 1974) of Crete recently retired after 42 years of teaching and working in professional teacher certification. Coe taught high school science at Crete High School and science methods courses at Doane University.

Coe’s dedication to the education of young people led him to become involved with teacher training, evaluation and certification.

He is a member of the Instruction Professional Development Commission, which is a part of the Nebraska State Education Association. Coe has served on the Nebraska Council of Teacher Education, was an advisor to the Nebraska State Board of Education on certification and was a member of more than 10 Nebraska college and university accreditation visitation teams. He is also active with the National Commission on Teacher Education, National Science Teachers Association, National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, NCATE Board of Examiners and served as an accreditation team member on more than 20 site visits to colleges and universities across the United States.

While at Crete High School, Coe started the trap shooting team, which garnered several state championships. He is also a hunter safety course instructor and serves as curator for the Crete Public School Arboretum (the first and oldest in the state of Nebraska). Coe has been recognized as an outstanding educator by Channel 10/11 and the Nebraska Wildlife Federation.

Coe, an Orleans High School graduate, earned his degree in biology in 1968, a master’s in education in 1974 and a biology specialization in 1975, all from Kearney State College.

Roger Mathiesen
Roger Mathiesen

Roger Mathiesen (1973, MSE 1977) of Kearney recently retired after teaching and coaching for 43 years. Mathiesen started his career at Shelton Public Schools before spending 41 years with Kearney Public Schools.

Mathiesen’s track and field coaching career is highlighted by a national record of 123 consecutive regular season team championships and 16 state championships. He is a member of the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame, named coach of the year by the Nebraska Coaches Association four times and was the 2001 National High School Coaches Association National Coach of the Year.

Mathiesen was selected as teacher of the year by various regional and statewide organizations and was honored as an Admiral in the Nebraska Navy.

Mathiesen, a native of Hebron, received his bachelor’s degree in history and political science in 1973, and earned a master’s in education in 1977 from Kearney State College.

Sandra (Bishop) Olson (1971) of Grand Island is a professional registered parliamentarian and a retired teacher. Olson has spent more than 45 years in the classroom.

Sandy Olson
Sandy Olson

Olson taught business courses at Centura High School, Grand Island Senior High School and Wood River Jr. Sr. High School over the course of 33 years. She also was an adjunct instructor for Central Community College, Doane College and Kearney State College.

Olson joined the National Association of Parliamentarians in 1989 and is a National Association of Parliamentarians teacher-trainer of parliamentary educational courses. As a professional registered parliamentarian, Olson volunteers her time to educate all ages on parliamentary procedure.

Olson has been recognized with many awards, including the Nebraska State Business Education Association Distinguished Service Award, Nebraska State Parliamentarian of the Year, Nebraska State Outstanding Secondary Business Education Instructor, and teacher of the year by various regional and statewide organizations. She has also served on Nebraska FBLA State Board of Directors and is currently serving as the state parliamentarian for the Nebraska State Business Education Association.

Olson, a Gibbon High School graduate, earned a Bachelor of Arts in education, comprehensive business major with an endorsement in vocational education, in 1971 from Kearney State College.

Rakesh Srivastava
Rakesh Srivastava

Rakesh Srivastava (2002, MSE 2005) of Hastings is CEO and president of Innovative Prosthetics & Orthotics. Srivastava grew Innovative Prosthetics & Orthotics from two to 32 staff members within four years, with clinics in Hastings, Grand Island and Omaha. It is now a global company with four clinics in India.

Srivastava is part of the Cyborg Beast research team at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO), where it is developing an affordable and innovative prosthetic hand created utilizing 3D printing. Srivastava serves as an adjunct faculty member for the department of biomechanics at UNO. He recently received the Fellow of the Academy designation from the American Academy of Orthotists & Prosthetists.

Srivastava has published several papers and spoke at conferences throughout the United States and India. He is a member of the American Board of Certification for Orthotist & Prosthetist, a planning commissioner for the City of Hastings and chairman for the Voice of Differently Abled (VODA) in New Delhi, India. Srivastava served as associate director of telecommunications at UNK from 2005-08.

Srivastava, a native of India, graduated from UNK with a bachelor’s degree in telecommunications management in 2002 and a master’s degree in instructional technology with an emphasis in assistive technology in 2006.

Jim Rundstrom Distinguished Alumni Service Award

Mat and Amy Cope
Mat and Amy Cope

Mat (1999) and Amy (Fagot) Cope (1999) of Kearney are the recipients of the service award. Mat is the owner of Cope Ag Service L.L.C. and Amy is the marketing manager for LandMark Implement. Mat previously worked for LandMark Implement and owned N2 Projects Inc. and Curbit,Inc. Amy was an account executive at SCORR Marketing, and the training and learning coordinator for Contryman Associates.

The Copes have been active members of the Loper Gridiron Club for 14 years, serving as leaders for many of those years. Amy served on the UNK Alumni Association Board, was a UNK Gold Torch Society mentor and has been active with the UNK Mentoring for Success program. Mat has been part of the Loper Football Backers board and committees since its inception.

Mat, a Gretna native, received his degree from UNK in industrial distribution in 1999. Amy, a Loomis native, received a degree in organizational communication with a minor in marketing from UNK in 1999.

Distinguished Young Alumni Award

Erica Lee
Erica Lee

Erica (Wendland) Lee (2003) of Tarzana, California, is vice president of digital for Sony Pictures at UM Worldwide. In her 14 years in entertainment marketing, Lee has led digital media campaigns for some of the leading entertainment companies in the world, including Disney Pictures, CBS Television Network and Sony Pictures Entertainment. Her work on Sony Pictures has garnered more than 14 local and national awards.

In 2016, Lee returned to Nebraska to head up the media practice at Omaha-based advertising agency Bailey Lauerman. During her time in Omaha, she was named to the Midlands Business Journal’s list of Top 40 Under 40.

Lee returned to UM Worldwide in Los Angeles in late 2017 to oversee the digital media team on the Sony Pictures account. Her teams at UM Worldwide have led digital media strategy and execution for box office hits “Jumanji,” “Peter Rabbit,” “Sicario,” “Hotel Transylvania 3” and “The Equalizer 2.”

Lee, a native of Oshkosh, graduated from UNK in 2003 with a double major in advertising and public relations as well as a minor in graphic design.

Don Clark
Don Clark

College of Education Distinguished Educator of the Year

Don Clark (MSE 1995) of Kearney taught for 32 years, spending 28 of those at Kearney High School before retiring in 2018.

While employed with Kearney High School, Clark taught mathematics and computer science, and coached girls track and basketball. He was recognized as the 2011 Outstanding Educator for Kearney Public Schools. Clark was active in the Nebraska State Education Association and Nebraska Association of Teachers of Mathematics. He has also been a Nebraska high school football referee for 27 years.

Clark earned his Master of Science in Education in 1995 from UNK.

Don Fox Lecturers

Kathleen McDonald (1987) of Friendswood, Texas, is a doctor with Houston ENT, where she has been the past 19 years. Houston ENT is one of the largest ear, nose and throat groups in the Houston area. McDonald was the first female ENT to join the group. Currently, she practices general ENT with a focus on allergy and sinus issues.

Kathleen McDonald
Kathleen McDonald
Susan Fanta
Susan Fanta

McDonald received her Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry, with a minor in biology, in 1987. She received her Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Nebraska Medical Center in 1991.

Susan (McDonald) Fanta (1989) of Yankton, South Dakota, has been with Yankton Medical Clinic, P.C., since 2002, practicing internal medicine. Fanta also serves as a clinical assistant professor for the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine and serves as chief of staff at Avera Sacred Heart Hospital.

Fanta received her Bachelor of Science degree with double majors in biology and chemistry in 1989. She received her Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Nebraska Medical Center in 1993.

McDonald and Fanta are sisters and grew up near Phillips.

Gary Thomas Distinguished Music Alumna

Kelly A Miller
Kelly Miller

Kelly A. Miller (1993) of Winter Park, Florida, is associate professor and coordinator of music education at the University of Central Florida. She teaches several music education, method, theory, assessment and conducting classes, as well as coordinates and supervises student teachers. She also conducts the women’s chorus, men’s chorus and SoAl Ensemble.

Prior to joining UCF, Miller was an assistant professor at Western Illinois University, conducted at Michigan State University and taught hight school in Michigan, Florida and Nebraska. Outside the classroom, Miller has a private voice studio and leads choral workshops, frequently serving as a clinician and festival adjudicator across the United States. Miller has performed at both divisional and national conventions of the American Choral Directors Association and Nebraska Music Educators Association Convention.

Miller earned a Bachelor of Arts in music education from UNK in 2003, her Master of Music degree in music education from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and her Doctoral of Musical Arts degree in choral conducting from Michigan State University.

UNK Alumni Homecoming Schedule

Friday, Sept. 14
11:30 a.m. – Distinguished Alumni Awards Luncheon (Nebraskan Student Union – Ponderosa)
2:30 p.m. – Chemistry Department’s Don Fox Lecture (Copeland Hall 131)
3:30 p.m. – One Room, One Teacher Induction Ceremony (College of Education Atrium)
5:30 p.m. – Athletic Hall of Fame Banquet (Nebraskan Student Union – Ponderosa)

Saturday, Sept. 15
10 a.m. – Homecoming Parade (Downtown Kearney)
11 a.m. – Alumni Association pregame “Loper Beer and Brats” (Alumni House)
11 a.m. – Loperville Tailgate Party (Cope Stadium)
2 p.m. – Football homecoming game vs Emporia State (Cope Stadium)

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