Knox College Alumni Achievement Awards 2014

Graduates honored for accomplishments in economics, journalism, history and writing

February 14, 2014

Knox College honors five graduates with Alumni Achievement Awards, at the College's 2014 Founders Day Convocation. The free, public convocation is at 5:30 p.m., Friday, February 21, in the Muelder Reading Room, Seymour Library.

Receiving awards will be Lee '62 and Alexandra Houston Benham '61, Lara Moritz '90, and Owen Muelder '63. Receiving the 2014 Young Alumni Achievement Award is B.J. Hollars '07.

The convocation marks the 177th anniversary of Knox's founding in 1837. The College's formal charter was ratified by the Illinois Legislature on February 15, 1837. The College and the City of Galesburg were established by a group of anti-slavery pioneers from upstate New York led by the Rev. George Washington Gale, after whom the city was named.

From the first award in 1938, more than 200 individuals have been honored with Knox College Alumni Achievement Awards, including nine since 2005 with Young Alumni Achievement Awards. The 1946 award was a collective recognition of the 1,586 Knox College alumni who served in the armed forces of the United States during World War II.

2014 Alumni Achievement Award Winners:

LLee and Alexandra Benhamee '62 and Alexandra Houston Benham '61
Alexandra Houston Benham graduated from Knox in 1961, and Lee Benham in 1962, both with degrees in mathematics. At Stanford University, Lee earned a Ph.D. in economics, and Alexandra an M.S. in mathematics. A faculty member at the University of Chicago from 1967 to 1974 and at Washington University from 1974 to 2011, Lee Benham is a co-founder of the International Society for New Institutional Economics and in 2008 received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Society for New Institutional Economics. Listed in "Who's Who in Economics," Lee Benham co-edited the book "Readings in Labor Market Analysis." Both Alexandra and Lee Benham have written and extensively in the fields of professional regulation, information economics, health economics, labor, and corporate governance. In 2000, they helped found the Ronald Coase Institute, which assists young scholars around the world study important socio-economic problems in their own countries. Institute sessions, conducted by leading researchers in the social sciences at no cost to the students, are designed to help participants plan and conduct significant research and effectively communicate the results. Currently, Alexandra Benham serves the Institute as Secretary, and Lee Benham is on its Board of Directors. The Benhams live in St. Louis, Missouri.

Lara MoritzLara Moritz '90
Lara Moritz earned a bachelor's degree in English writing at Knox College and a master's degree in journalism from the University of Kansas. For the past 19 years she has reported for television station KMBC in Kansas City, Missouri, where she currently anchors the 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts. During her time at the station, she has won an Emmy for sports reporting and an Emmy for an investigation into animal abuse that prompted lawmakers to increase penalties for the crime. She won an Edward R. Murrow award in 2007 for a three-year project, done with photographer/husband Todd Ummelmann, that followed the Kansas City police department's murder squad. She won a second Murrow award in 2009 for a one-on-one jailhouse interview with an admitted serial killer. Other major reporting assignments have included in-depth stories on immigration, and interviews with President Barack Obama in 2011 and first lady Michelle Obama in 2012. Moritz received the 2012 Amelia Earhart Pioneering Achievement Award, given in recognition of work that has helped build self-confidence among women. The award comes with a $10,000 scholarship given to an institution of the winner's choice, which Moritz designated to Knox. She last spoke at Knox in 2013, when she delivered the Joe W. Morgan Memorial Lecture. Moritz lives in Kansas City, Missouri.

Owen MuelderOwen Muelder '63
Owen Muelder received a bachelor's degree in history at Knox College in 1963 and a master's degree from Miami University, Ohio, in 1966. In his 36 years working at Knox College, he served in admission, student development and alumni relations. Since his retirement as director of alumni affairs in 2004 he has expanded his long-standing interest in the history of the anti-slavery movement. Muelder has written two books, "The Underground Railroad in Western Illinois," and "Theodore Dwight Weld and the American Anti-Slavery Society," and has delivered more than 200 lectures on the Underground Railroad and the anti-slavery movement to groups across the country. He also has been a consultant to the PBS television series American Experience and the NBC News documentary division. Also in 2004, Muelder was appointed director of the Galesburg Colony Underground Railroad Freedom Station at Knox College. He has served on the National Conference Advisory Board for the National Park Service Network to Freedom Association and is a member of the board of directors of the National Railroad Hall of Fame. In 2011, he was elected to serve on the Underground Railroad Free Press Panel of Judges, which awards annual prizes for Leadership, Preservation, and the Advancement of Knowledge about the Underground Railroad. Muelder, who lives in Galesburg, joins four other members of his family who have received Knox College Alumni Achievement Awards -- daughter Caitlin Muelder '96, sister Marcia Muelder Eaton '60, father Hermann Muelder '27, and uncle Walter Muelder '27.

B.J. HollarsB.J. Hollars, '07 - Young Alumni Achievement Award
B.J. Hollars graduated from Knox in 2007 with a degree in English literature and educational studies. He was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, wrote for The Knox Student newspaper, helped found the literary magazine, Cellar Door, and received numerous academic honors, include the Outstanding Senior Award and selection as Senior Class Speaker at the 2007 Commencement exercises. He went on to earn an M.F.A. in creative writing at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa and currently serves as a professor of creative writing at the University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire. Since 2009, he has written or edited six books, including two works of non-fiction. "Opening the Doors: The Desegregation of the University of Alabama and the Fight for Civil Rights in Tuscaloosa," and "Thirteen Loops: Race, Violence and the Last Lynching in America," which received the 2012 Society of Midland Author's Award. He has a recently-published collection of short stories, "Sightings," edited three anthologies, and his essays, stories, and reviews have appeared in numerous literary journals and magazines. Hollars lives in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.