Three UNK faculty members honored Wednesday with prestigious Pratt-Heins Awards

KEARNEY – Three University of Nebraska at Kearney faculty members were recognized Wednesday with the prestigious Pratt-Heins Faculty Awards for their excellence in teaching, service and scholarship and research.

Kyle Luthans, Miechelle McKelvey and Theresa Wadkins accepted the awards during the annual Faculty/Staff Convocation in the Fine Arts Recital Hall. Each honoree received a plaque and $2,000.

The Pratt-Heins Awards were established to memorialize the exemplary life and public service of Warren Pratt and his daughter Ruth E. Heins. Pratt was a businessman, civic leader and attorney in the Pratt, Hamer and Tye law firm in Kearney. Heins graduated from the Nebraska State Normal School at Kearney in 1914 and taught at Kearney Public Schools.

The Pratt-Heins Foundation has sponsored the awards for the past 41 years. They were presented by foundation trustee Tom Tye.


Luthans joined the UNK faculty in 1999 and currently serves as a professor and chair in the Department of Management. He’s also been the John Becker Endowed Professor of Business since 2011.

A University of Nebraska-Lincoln alumnus, Luthans has published 27 articles in refereed journals, including prestigious publications such as Human Resource Management, the Journal of Management Education and Business Horizons. His research has been cited more than 4,500 times and he’s presented at numerous national and international conferences.

Luthans co-authored an article that received the outstanding paper award from the Emerald Literati Awards for Excellence and his research has received best paper award nominations at the Midwest Academy of Management and Western Academy of Management conferences. He won the UNK College of Business and Technology Outstanding Scholarship Award as both a tenured and nontenured faculty member.

Luthans has also been an invaluable expert in economic development discussions across the state and region. He developed a workshop on positive psychological capital and presented it to numerous businesses and organizations, including the Central Nebraska Human Resource Management Association, Ashley HomeStore, Hall County Housing Authority and Orthman Manufacturing.

Luthans was instrumental in the development of the entrepreneurship minor and the College of Business and Technology’s online degree completion program, and he’s launched several online and blended courses to meet the growing demand for online education at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.


A UNK faculty member for 16 years, McKelvey strives to build relationships across the university and community to achieve a common goal. It’s important to her to see others succeed, whether it be a student in the classroom, a colleague pursuing their own journey in teaching or research, a staff member wanting to improve their work environment or a community member looking to enhance some aspect of their surroundings.

In the Department of Communication Disorders, where she’s a professor and chair, McKelvey helped create an innovative team that engages students and mentors rising stars in the faculty. As a result, her department recently received the Teamwork Excellence Award from UNK Staff Senate. McKelvey also initiated the creation of an online master’s program in communication disorders.

One of her favorite service activities was being the faculty sponsor for the Kearney Student Speech, Language and Hearing Association, a campus organization that raised funds for the National Stuttering Association, Alzheimer’s Association and Kearney Dawn Rotary dictionary drive. She also serves on UNK Faculty Senate, chairing the Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee, and is a past or current chair of the College of Education’s Academic Policies and Standards, Rank and Tenure and Technology committees.

In the community, McKelvey is active with the Kearney Dawn Rotary Club and she leads two support groups for individuals with stroke or other brain injuries.

“She truly defines the UNK model of teacher, scholar, mentor, colleague and volunteer,” Tye said.


A graduate of Kearney State College, Wadkins started her teaching career as a lecturer here in 1990 and steadily advanced to full professor.

She served as chair of the Department of Psychology for seven years and currently leads the long-term care management master’s degree program. She’s also interim chair of the Department of Criminal Justice.

Wadkins is a pioneer in alternative teaching formats. Early in her career, she helped launch telecourses in general psychology and abnormal behavior and society through the personalized system of instruction. Long before COVID, she developed an array of online courses covering topics such as criminal behavior and psychology, memory and cognition and health care ethics.

She frequently collaborates with her colleagues – one example being a death and cemetery culture capstone class she team-taught with history professor Carol Lilly.

Wadkins encourages her students to present at regional and national conferences, allowing them to develop self-confidence and pride in their research, and she dedicates any amount of time necessary to help them learn and excel.

“My most important contribution as a teacher, from my perspective, has been my encouragement to students that they have the potential to succeed and that I am willing and available to help them succeed,” she says.

Wadkins has received numerous awards and honors, including the UNK Creative Teaching Award and Outstanding Teaching and Instructional Creativity Award and the College of Natural and Social Sciences Mentor Award.