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Celebrating Outstanding Achievements

2008 Alumni Achievement Award Winners

2008 Alumni Achievement Ward Winners Ander Monson, Keith Belzer, Richard E. Cheney and Alan B. AndersonThree alumni were awarded 2008 Alumni Achievement Awards at the Founders Day celebration on February 15, 2008 -- Dick Cheney '43, Alan Anderson '56, and Keith Belzer '85. Ander Monson '97 received the Young Alumni Achievement Award.

Richard E. Cheney ’43
Richard E. Cheney has embarked on two successful careers since graduating from Knox in 1943. A pioneering business executive and public relations entrepreneur, Cheney worked at Hill and Knowlton, Inc., a major international public relations firm, for more than 30 years, serving as senior vice chairman from 1980 to 1987 and as chairman from 1987 until his retirement in 1991. He was one of the first public-relations executives to make business takeovers the center of his business, working with Walt Disney Productions, The Continental Group, Getty Oil Company, and B.F. Goodrich Company, among many others. After retiring in 1991, Cheney embarked on a second career as a professionally licensed psychoanalyst, opening a private practice in New York City. He has also worked in a clinic for low-income patients. Cheney received the American Jewish Committee National Distinguished Achievement Award in 1986 and was profiled in the New York Times in May 2003.

Knox Magazine Q&A with Cheney:

Knox Magazine: Please describe your Knox experience.
Richard CheRichard Cheney '43ney: Some members of the
faculty -- Hermann Muelder, who was my advisor on the Siwasher; Claude Stimson; and Proctor Sherwin, who helped me write a novel -- and a few fellow students -- Bob Siebert '40, Howard Knotts '44 -- took me seriously, giving me a sense that my judgments about life were consequential. My self esteem was also bolstered by graduating Phi Beta Kappa, despite the fact that when I started I had only $90 left to me by my mother, who died when I was in high school.

KM: What do you believe is your most notable achievement?
RC: Helping to ensure integrity in business through my efforts to defend companies threatened by takeovers. And, later in life, through my analytic practice, helping patients deal with their problems.

KM: How has that experience affected your life?
RC: My Knox experience helped me learn to persist.

KM: What will you do to celebrate your Alumni Achievement Award?
RC: Send Knox a contribution.

KM: What words of advice would you offer to current Knox students?
RC: If you can't succeed at something you want to do, find new ways to try again and keep trying, without berating yourself as a failure.

 

Alan B. Anderson ’56
A professor, author, and civil rights activist, Alan B. Anderson ’56 is a leader in the modern struggle for racial justice. While pursuing graduate degrees in social ethics at the University of Chicago, Anderson was one of the leaders of Chicago’s civil rights movement, organizing Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1965 visit to the city. He offered the first courses on the search for racial justice at Chicago, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Wilberforce University, and Western Kentucky University. He is also the founder of the Social Ethics Seminar, a professional organization of his former students who continue the discussion of social issues. In 1986, he was the co-author of Confronting the Color Line: The Broken Promise of the Civil Rights Movement in Chicago, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Anderson is currently a professor of philosophy and religion at Western Kentucky University.

Knox Magazine Q&A with Anderson:

Knox Magazine: Please describe your Knox experience.
Alan Anderson: While my class at Knox is sometimes remembered for the fatal accident that led to the banning of student automobiles from campus for a number of years, I mostly remember the wonderful friendships I had with fellow students and Knox faculty members. And I can honestly say that I never had a bad teacher at Knox.

KM: How has that experience affected your life?
AA: In three ways: in increasing the depth and breadth of my experience and in finding the direction of my life.

By depth, I mean the introduction the Knox faculty gave me to the major events, ideas, figures, and literature of the Western tradition. That introduction has provided the foundation for my subsequent personal, political, and intellectual development.

By breadth, I mean the less formal, out-of-classroom experiences that have shaped my avocational life in subsequent years: my discovery of Bizet's The Pearl Fishers in Seymour Library's circulating collection of LPs began a lifelong enjoyment of opera; Sam Plummer '56's introduction to the music of Bix Beiderbecke started my appreciation of jazz; my exploration of the neighborhoods of Galesburg with Keith Achepohl '56 discussing architectural styles is part of my lifelong preference for older, inner-city neighborhoods and led me to the 1923 Georgian I have made my home for almost a quarter century.

By finding direction, I mean that while I entered Knox as a biology major, and I left committed to religious studies. Becoming discontent with biology, I spent a wonderful sophomore year exploring history, literature, psychology, philosophy, and religion. In every case, the Knox faculty by example reconfirmed my decision to teach even while it set before me exciting alternative fields in which to pursue that career. In the last analysis, however, it was Bill Matthews' capacity to make sense out of the frequently arbitrary if not superstiAlan Anderson '56tious Western religious traditions that was persuasive.

KM: What do you believe is your most notable achievement?
AA: Being a pioneer in opposing the American color line. As a young Methodist minister on Chicago's southwest side in the late 1950s, I worked in community organization and opposition to segregation in the Chicago public schools. Sometime later these efforts became known as the beginnings of the civil rights movement in the city.

In 1962, along with other clergy and laypersons from Chicago, New York, and New Haven, I accepted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s invitation to participate in the civil rights movement in Albany, Georgia. Forty of us knelt and prayed for racial justice on the sidewalk in front of the Albany City Hall, and we were arrested for disturbing the peace. As an integrated group of mostly clerical northerners, our action was so unusual for that time that it made front-page news all over the country, and several of the ministers lost their churches as a result, but it became the model for the better-known March on Washington a year later and the Selma-to-Montgomery March in 1965.

Back in Chicago, I was a founder of the Methodist Interracial Council and became its representative to the emerging Chicago civil rights coalition. As an administrative assistant to Al Raby, the coalition leader, I helped organize Dr. King's 1965 visit to Chicago that led to his 1966 open housing campaign there.

Meanwhile, as a graduate student at the University of Chicago, I led the Divinity School's participation in the civil rights movement. Later, as a faculty member, I offered the first courses on the civil rights movement and the search for racial justice at the University of Chicago, as I was later to do at Wilberforce University (a historically African American university), the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and Western Kentucky University.

One outcome of this academic attention to racial issues was the 1986 publication of Confronting the Color Line: The Broken Promise of the Civil Rights Movement in Chicago, which I co-authored with George W. Pickering. This volume won the Meyers Award as the best book in inter-group relations for that year, was named a Choice magazine "outstanding academic book," and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

A second outcome was my 1975 founding of the Social Ethics Seminar, a professional organization of my former students at the University of Chicago designed to continue the discussion of racial and related social issues that we began during my nine years on the university faculty. The seminar continues to meet and over the years more than a dozen major volumes and countless articles in social ethics have been published by its members.

Since returning to fulltime teaching in 2000 after 19 years as a department head, I have started the Community Research Service to publish online the research of my Western Kentucky University students on racial and economic segregation in Bowling Green/Warren County. My students recently completed a two-year study of The Segregation of Opportunities: The Structure of Advantage and Disadvantage in Bowling Green/Warren County.

KM: What will you do to celebrate your Alumni Achievement Award?
AA: I will take my wife out for a romantic dinner. (This has nothing to do with the award. Your question just reminded me that I owe her one.)

KM: What words of advice would you offer to current Knox students?
AA: I encourage Knox students to give themselves fully to the Knox experience, both in class and out. It can change their lives, as it did mine.

I am pleased that the current generation of students at Knox and elsewhere evidences some reawakening to social issues. I urge them, however, to address these issues politically, as well as personally, in their social structural form. The mayor of Springfield, Ohio, tells his students, "In the past 10 years, you, through Habitat for Humanity, have built 10 houses; meanwhile, the city council has built 500 low-income units." The point is not that there is something wrong with the direct, voluntary involvement that organizations like Habitat for Humanity provide, but rather that eschewing the indirect involvement that we citizens have in the political process is short-sighted.

Keith Belzer '85Keith Belzer ’85
Keith Belzer, a partner in Devanie & Belzer, S.C., of La Crosse, Wisconsin, is a nationally recognized trial attorney, Wisconsin State Public Defender, and international legal-affairs consultant. He has been involved in several high-profile trials, including a 1999 case that featured the largest damage award in U.S. history for a jail neglecting to provide mental health treatment, and a 2005 murder case that was featured on the A&E television program American Justice. He is a frequent legal-affairs commentator on national news programs, including Good Morning America and The O’Reilly Factor, and has given presentations to defense attorneys and public defenders throughout the U.S. and in Israel and China. In addition to his legal work, Belzer is actively involved in the arts and humanities, regularly performing throughout the Midwest as a member of the National Storytelling Association.

Knox Magazine Q&A with Belzer:

Knox Magazine: Please describe your Knox experience.
Keith Belzer: Knox was a great awakening for me. I came to Knox interested in sports and politics. While I have never lost my interest in sports or politics, I left Knox interested in the world of ideas. It was very easy to have hands on involvement in the Knox educational experience. The classes were small, the professors approachable, and independent projects were encouraged. I spent a great deal of my time in the theater department. At the time I intended to make a career of theater. I participated in Rep Term and worked on as many plays as I could get involved with, as well as various independent classes and projects.

KM: How has your Knox experience affected your life?
KB: Although I was a theatre major, Knox encouraged and, in fact, required a diversity of thinking. It would be impossible to graduate from Knox with any sort of major without also learning to examine the world around us. Rather than theatre being an end unto itself, I left Knox with a way of thinking that had been informed up to that point by my participation in the theatre arts but not limited to the world of theatre. When I realized that theater was not really going to be my life calling, I had enough versatility and academic acumen to make the transition to law school. Quite simply, Knox College taught me how to think in an analytical way, while fostering a constant curiosity in the world of humanities. Since graduation from law school, I have been able to take my theatre training and apply it to the art of trial practice. Using my prior theater experience, I have spent the last 10 years teaching trial skills to lawyers from all over the United States and Puerto Rico, as well as Israel and the People's Republic of China

KM: What do you believe is your most notable achievement?
KB: While I do not believe it was my achievement, the most notable moment of my career would have been the representation of Evan Zimmerman. In 2001, Mr. Zimmerman was convicted of homicide in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and given a life sentence in the Wisconsin state prison system. The Wisconsin Innocence Project was able to get a new trial for Mr. Zimmerman and asked me to take over the case for the second trial. On April 28, 2005, in the middle of a second trial, Evan was officially and permanently cleared of any role in the 2000 murder. In 2006, the Arts & Entertainment network premiered a documentary of the retrial titled Facing Life: The Re-Trial of Evan Zimmerman, which can be seen on A&E and the Biography Channel. It was an honor to have worked with Mr. Zimmerman and the Innocence Project on his exoneration.

KM: What will you do to celebrate your Alumni Achievement Award?
KB: My family and I will visit with my brother and sister-in-law, Knox Professors Craig Choma and Jennifer Smith, and my nieces, Amber and Autumn, as well as my father-in-law, Robin Metz, and his, wife Elizabeth Carlin-Metz. If Alfano's is still around, I will probably introduce my sons, Griffin and Ben, to a singular culinary experience.

KM: What words of advice would you offer to current Knox students?
KB:
These are the three things that I wish I had done more of while I was at Knox:

  • Get to know students from other cultures.
  • Take advantage of the great off-campus programs that Knox offers.
  • Take classes that are interesting in areas other then your major.

Ander Monson '97Ander Monson ’97
Ander Monson was born and lives in Michigan, where he teaches at Grand Valley State University. He edits the New Michigan Press and the magazine DIAGRAM. He is the author of three books: the novel Other Electricities, finalist for the New York Public Library Young Lions Award and winner of the 2007 John C. Zacharis award from Ploughshares; the poetry collection Vacationland; and the essay collection Neck Deep and Other Predicaments, winner of the 2006 Graywolf Nonfiction Prize. His poems, essays, and stories have appeared in numerous magazines and journals, including American Short Fiction, The Believer, Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, and Kenyon Review, among others.

Knox Magazine Q&A with Monson:

Knox Magazine: Please describe your Knox experience.
Ander Monson: I came to Knox planning on majoring in physics or computer science and emerged in English writing, which probably describes Knox and the experience of a liberal arts education as well as anything else I could say about it.

I tried out a whole lot of other things at Knox. I acted (poorly). Wrote plays (poorly). Played disc golf (pretty well). I may have even fired a piece of pottery (which surely turned out horribly). I posted poems in bathrooms and got others to do so. I sang in the choir and Collegium Musicum (fairly well). Took a lot of workshops (which were particularly influential in moving me towards writing). Co-wrote at least one Madrigal dinner. Worked for and then edited Catch. Taught myself PageMaker. Was the first, I think, to put Catch online (using Netscape Navigator). Made embarrassing Web pages that persisted until just a few years ago (haunting Google searches for my name like a ghost). Threatened the life of President Clinton as an ineffective joke. Was subsequently visited by the Secret Service for the second time. Had my Knox e-mail revoked. Tried out a psychology major (did poorly). Played Ultimate Frisbee (with a skill level slightly above mediocrity). Learned some ancient Greek. Switched majors finally to English writing (which felt like the right fit). And that's the major I emerged with. Got a story published, and a poem. Learned how to be a good reader for my work. And probably, most important, I met a lot of fantastic and talented people, many of whom are still part of my life.

KM: How has that experience affected your life?
AM: I do feel that I owe a lot to Knox. We say a lot about the idea of a well-rounded education, which sounds prepackaged, but I feel like by trying all these different things out in this smorgasbord, and by screwing them up variously, I was made more likely to try different things in my future life, which made me more willing to try things, and hence, more successful in spite of my penchant for failures (which still occur regularly).

KM: What do you believe is your most notable achievement?
AM: It's hard not to be snarky here. I'll be self-deprecating instead. I hope that my best achievements are still in the future. I think of the whole thing, a life, as a work in progress, probably not understandable from within it, if it's understandable at all. It is a collection of vectors that often aren't moving in the same direction, but if you take an average of them all, they seem to be pointing in an entertaining direction. There's probably no way for this to sound anything but pompous, so there it is. If you want a more definitive answer, I guess getting my first book, Other Electricities, published felt pretty right on.

KM: What will you do to celebrate your Alumni Achievement Award?
AM: Eat well. Drink well. Be obnoxious, lording it over all my college friends. Leave rambling messages on all of their voicemails, which I'll be embarrassed about later and which I fully expect to have directed back at me at the correct future moment.

KM: What words of advice would you offer to current Knox students?
AM: I doubt that I'm qualified to offer advice, nor should anyone probably listen to it, but if I have to, here it is: embrace the muchness that Knox, that college in general, has to offer. By trying -- and often failing -- at this variety of things, I found a fruitful way to exist in the world.