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2014 Alumni Achievement Awards


Carol Brown

Director, Alumni Programs

2 East South Street

Galesburg, IL 61401-4999


Fax: 309-341-7770


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2014 Alumni Achievement Award Recipients Lee '62 and Alexandra Houston Benham '61; B.J. Hollars '07; Lara Moritz '90; and Owen Muelder '63
Knox celebrated the 177th anniversary of its founding with the presentation of Alumni Achievement Awards at the 2014 Founders Day Convocation on Friday, February 21, in the Muelder Room, Seymour Library.

Receiving 2014 awards were Lee '62 and Alexandra Houston Benham '61, economists and founding members of the Ronald Coase Institute; Lara Moritz '90, award-winning broadcast journalist; and Owen Muelder '63, author and noted researcher of Underground Railroad history.

Receiving the 2014 Young Alumni Achievement Award was B.J. Hollars '07, non-fiction writer and professor of creative writing at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

2014 Recipients 

Lee '62 and Alexandra Houston Benham '61
Alexandra Houston Benham '61 and Lee Benham '62Citation presented by Roy Andersen, Professor of Economics

Alexandra Houston Benham graduated from Knox in 1961, and Lee Benham graduated in 1962, both with degrees in mathematics. From Knox the Benhams moved on to Stanford University, where Lee received his Ph.D. in economics, and Alexandra earned an M.S. in mathematics. Lee served as a faculty member of the University of Chicago, prior to joining Washington University in 1974. Both Lee and Alexandra are widely published on the regulation of the professions, the economics of information, health economics, labor, and governance.

In 2000, Alexandra and Lee helped found the Ronald Coase Institute, which assists young social science scholars around the world study important economic problems in their own countries in order to increase opportunities to improve their own lives. They have traveled extensively to Russia, Germany, China, North Korea, Slovakia, and Chile, among other countries, representing the Institute. Thus far, the Ronald Coase Institute has held more than 20 workshops, training 470 participants from 68 countries. These workshops are designed to help participants utilize new institutional economics and formulate significant research questions, design and implement empirical research, communicate their results persuasively to scholars, policy makers, and the public, and disseminate their findings widely.

The participants are mainly young professors and advanced graduate students in economics and related disciplines, engaged in scholarly research in their own countries. Six Nobel laureates serve as board members or faculty for the Institute, and all faculty participate without compensation and share the view that supporting young scholars is important for improving prospects in developing countries. Currently, Alexandra serves as Secretary of the Ronald Coase Institute, and Lee is on the Board of Directors.

Watch their award presentation.

Lara Moritz '90Lara Moritz '90

Citation presented by Chad Eisele '93, Director of Athletics

Lara Moritz graduated from Knox College in 1990 with a degree in English writing. After Knox, she went on to earn a Master's of Science in journalism from the University of Kansas and quickly dove into the world of investigative reporting. Currently at KMBC 9 News in Kansas City, Missouri, Lara anchors the 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts and celebrated 19 years at the station in January.

During her time at the station, she has won two Edward R. Murrow awards and two Emmys. Lara won her first Emmy for sports reporting in 1997, and a second for an investigative piece on animal abuse in the state of Kansas. Because of the investigation lawmakers were convinced to make animal abuse a felony charge. She won her first Edward R. Murrow award in 2007 for a three-year investigation with the Kansas City murder squad. This was a comprehensive piece done with photographer/husband Todd Ummelmann, walking side-by-side with detectives through a murder investigation-autopsy and suspect interrogations. Never before had the murder squad granted such intimate access. She won a second Murrow in 2009 for a one-on-one jailhouse interview with an admitted serial killer.

Lara has covered stories ranging from deportation in the United States to gas explosions to interviews with President Barack Obama in 2011 and first lady Michelle Obama in 2012. Also in 2012, Lara was selected for the Amelia Earhart Pioneering Achievement Award, which recognizes an individual who reinforces self-worth and self-confidence in women. The award comes with a $10,000 scholarship, which winners may donate to an institution of their choice. Lara immediately made the phone call to Knox and donated the $10,000 scholarship. In the spring of 2013, Lara returned to Knox to present the Joe W. Morgan Memorial Lecture and talked with students about the importance of listening carefully in order to tell a story.

Watch her award presentation.

Owen Muelder '63Owen Muelder '63

Citation presented by Doug Wilson, Professor Emeritus of English and Co-Director of the Lincoln Studies Center

Owen Muelder graduated from Knox College in 1963 with a degree in history and went on to receive his master's degree from Miami University, Ohio, in 1966. Owen was an administrator at Knox for 36 years, retiring as the director of alumni affairs in the spring 2004. Owen was appointed director of the Galesburg Colony Underground Railroad Freedom Station at Knox in July 2004, and in 2006, the National Park Service recognized and sanctioned the Freedom Station because of its significant contribution to the understanding of the Underground Railroad in American History.

Owen has delivered more than 200 lectures on the Underground Railroad and the anti-slavery movement to various groups in Illinois and across the country, including presentations at the Frederick Douglass International Underground Railroad Conference, the National Abolition Hall of Fame, the National Park Service "Network to Freedom" Conference, the Social Science History Association, the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic, and the United States Capitol History Association. He has been a consultant to the PBS television series American Experience, NBC News documentary division, and has been interviewed by regional National Public Radio.

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. His articles about 19th-century Illinois history have appeared in scholarly journals and other publications. His book, The Underground Railroad in Western Illinois, has been described by Fergus Bordewich, author of Bound for Canaan, as "a superb piece of work: fascinating, comprehensive, and gracefully written." Theodore Dwight Weld and the American Anti-Slavery Society, according to historian Graham Russell Hodges, one of the nation's leading abolitionist scholars, "is timely and important [and] bedrock for anyone studying or reading about them. "Owen served on the National Park Service Network to Freedom Association National Conference Advisory Board and is a member of the board of directors of the National Railroad Hall of Fame.

Watch his award presentation.

B.J. Hollars '07

B.J. Hollars '07
Citation presented by Nick Regiacorte, Associate Professor of English

B.J. Hollars graduated from Knox in 2007 with a degree in English literature and educational studies. While at Knox, B.J. was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, wrote for The Knox Student newspaper, helped found the literary magazine Cellar Door, and received numerous academic honors, including the Outstanding Senior Award and selection as Senior Class Spaker at the 2007 Commencement exercises.

Less than seven years after graduating from Knox's nationally acclaimed Program in Creative Writing, B.J. has achieved remarkable success within the literary community. After Knox, he went on to earn his 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. The University of Alabama Press published his two works of nonfiction, Thirteen Loops: Race, Violence and the Last Lynching in America, which received the 2012 Society of Midland Author's Award, and Opening the Doors: The Desegregation of the University of Alabama and the Fight for Civil Rights in Tuscaloosa. His short story collection, Sightings, was recently published by Indiana University Press. And he is the editor of three anthologies: You Must Be This Tall To Ride: Contemporary Writers Take You Inside The Story, published in 2009; Monsters: A Collection of Literary Sightings, published in 2011; and Blurring the Boundaries: Explorations to the Fringes of Nonfiction, published in 2013. His seventh book, Dispatches from Drowning, is due out this year from the University of New Mexico Press.

In addition to his publications, B.J.'s writing, including essays, stories, and reviews, has appeared in numerous literary journals and magazines, including Black Warrior Review, Colorado Review, Glimmer Train, and Creative Nonfiction, among many others.

Watch his award presentation.

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Printed on Monday, October 22, 2018