Crows Nest

The Crow’s Nest — September 7, 2023

Alumni Association Announces Honorees of 2023 Annual Awards

The Park University Alumni Association has announced the 2023 honorees of its four annual awards. A ceremony recognizing the recipients, along with the University’s Athletics Wall of Honor awardees (announced in May), will be held as part of Park’s Homecoming and Parents Weekend festivities on Friday, Sept. 29, starting at 3 p.m. in Graham Tyler Memorial Chapel on the University’s flagship Parkville (Mo.) Campus. The awardees:
Pat FayardMichael Collins          •  Distinguished Alumnus Award, which recognizes Park alumni who have distinguished themselves through career service or community achievements — Michael Collins (left), 2004 graduate, and founder and chief executive officer of Grayson Capital, a minority-owned commercial real estate investment, development and site selection advisory company based in Kansas City, Mo.
          •  Torchlighter Award, given to honor individuals who have made significant, long-standing contributions and commitment to Park University, whether alumni, faculty or friend — Pat Fayard (above right), who retired in 2023 after 22 years as the assistant to the athletic director and athletics office manager, and worked in various University roles for a total of 38 years.
Paul BilanzicNancy Potter          •  Marlowe Sherwood Memorial Service Award, presented to Park University alumni in recognition of volunteer service to community and/or civic organizations — Nancy Potter (left), 1966 Park graduate who has served on various Park-related groups over the years, including the University’s Alumni Council and the Save Park House project in 2019.
          •  Park Promising Young Professional Award, which recognizes a Park University alumnus/a who graduated from Park within the last 10 years, is under the age of 40 and shows exceptional leadership promise in his or her profession and community — Paul Bilanzic, J.D. (above right), a 2015 graduate who has been an attorney since January 2021 with the law firm his father started in 1980, Bilanzic Law, based in Worth, Ill.

Read more about the awardees at

Dennis OkerstromOkerstrom to Receive Gault Service Award

Park University’s Office of Academic Affairs will honor Dennis Okerstrom, Ph.D., professor emeritus of English, as the recipient of the 2023 Paul H. Gault Service Award. A ceremony recognizing Okerstrom will be held on Thursday, Sept. 28, starting at 1 p.m. at the Jenkin and Barbara David Theater inside Alumni Hall on the University’s flagship Parkville (Mo.) Campus. The award is presented annually to a retired Park University faculty or staff member who provided a minimum of 15 years of distinguished service to the University, with special consideration given to individuals who held volunteer leadership positions within the University or in the community as a University representative. This award is named Gault, ’65, MPA ’88, whose dedicated service to Park spanned more than five decades. Okerstrom served Park’s Department of English from 1987-2018.

University Appoints VP for Finance and Administration, AVP for Advancement

Park University has appointed Donald Chrusciel, Ph.D., as its vice president of finance and administration, and Melissa Ford as associate vice president for advancement, effective Aug. 28 and Aug. 16, respectively.

Dr. Donald ChruscielIn his role as vice president of finance and administration, Chrusciel will oversee the financial, accounting and administrative operations of the University, including strategic delivery. He will be responsible for all fiscal services, including financial systems, reporting and controls, as well as fiscal policies and regulations. In addition, Chrusciel will be responsible for ensuring the University has requisite financial resources, including cash management and borrowing agreements. Furthermore, Chrusciel will be responsible for oversight of the Office of Human Resources, Office of Information Technology Services and Office of Facilities. Chrusciel joins Park University after having served as vice chancellor of financial and administrative services with the Kansas City region’s Metropolitan Community College system since June 2018. Read more about Chrusciel at

Melissa FordIn her role as AVP for advancement, Ford is charged with developing and executing comprehensive fundraising strategies that support the University’s mission and goals. She will be responsible for planning, organizing and implementing a variety of fundraising campaigns, including capital campaigns, major gifts, planned giving and special events. Ford joins Park University from the University of Missouri – Kansas City where she served as director of philanthropic giving for the School of Science and Engineering since 2021. Read more about Ford at

Hauptmann Lecture to Feature Discussion on How Diversity Protects Democracy

A presentation on “The Great Experiment: How Diversity Protects Democracy” will be the focus of Park University’s 31st annual Dr. Jerzy Hauptmann Distinguished Guest Lecture Series event on Tuesday, Sept. 19, starting at 6:30 p.m. in the Jenkin and Barbara David Theater inside Alumni Hall on the University’s flagship Parkville (Mo.) Campus. Admission to the lecture is free and open to the public. The lecture will also be livestreamed, but registration is required at no later than Monday, Sept. 18. A link to the livestream will be e-mailed to registrants the morning of the lecture.

Dr. Yascha MounkThe speaker for this year’s Hauptmann Lecture will be Yascha Mounk, Ph.D., a political scientist known for his work on the rise of populism and the crisis of liberal democracy. Mounk is a senior fellow with the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Agora Institute and an associate professor of the practice of international affairs in the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

According to Mounk, the U.S. and other democracies around the world are in an unprecedented experiment as ethnically and religiously diverse democracies are trying to treat all their members as true equals. He contends that historically, democracies denied large members of their population the franchise, a form of power that allowed elites to avoid many of the issues at the core of modern politics. In his talk, Mounk will trace this history, identify the key tensions that emerge when democracies embody their commitment to equal rights for all and offer ideas on how Western societies can be successful politically. Read more about Mounk and the lecture at

Buccaneers logoPark-Gilbert Earns Top NAIA Champions of Character Honor

Park University’s Gilbert (Ariz.) Campus Department of Athletics was recognized in August as a 2022-23 NAIA Champions of Character Five-Star institution at the gold level. The Buccaneers were among 27 NAIA programs across the country that earned a perfect 100 score. The University’s flagship Parkville (Mo.) Campus Department of Athletics was also named a Five-Star institution, earning silver level status.

The NAIA’s Champions of Character program represents five core character values — respect, integrity, responsibility, servant leadership and sportsmanship. Institutions earn points based on character training, conduct in competition, academic focus, character recognition and character promotion, as well as exceptional student-athlete grade point averages and minimal to no ejections during competition through the course of the academic year.

FCI logoFaculty Center for Innovation Launches Scholars @ Work Program

Park University’s Faculty Center for Innovation, in partnership with the McAfee Memorial Library, has launched a new initiative, Scholars @ Work, which is designed to celebrate faculty research and scholarship across disciplinary fields. The program will feature scholars who have contributed significant scholarly and disciplinary artifacts to the broader academic community — through publications, presentations and performances. Scholars from the University will be featured throughout the academic year, which will include profiles of their work and roundtable discussions on current topics in higher education.

The first three featured scholars are: Camille A. Cook, assistant professor of library instruction and outreach; Kathy Howe, Ph.D., associate professor of literacy education and director of the Watson Literacy Center; and Andrew Johnson, Ph.D., professor of psychology. They, along with Suzanne Schmidt, senior English and secondary education/English major, will present a roundtable discussion on “Discerning and Deciphering Information in the Age of Overload” on Friday, Sept. 15, from noon to 12:45 p.m. (Central time) inside Norrington Center’s Learning Lab on the University’s flagship Parkville (Mo.) Campus and virtually. The event will be moderated by Anne Accardi, digital initiatives and resources librarian. Attendees, both in-person and virtual, are asked to register. To learn more about the Scholars @ Work program, visit

International Center for Music Opens 2023-24 Concert Season

Park University’s International Center for Music will kick off its 2023-24 concert season on Friday, Sept. 22, at 7:30 p.m., with pianist Mikhail Voskresensky at the 1900 Building in Mission Woods, Kan. Two weeks later, on Friday, Oct. 6, at 7:30 p.m., the Park ICM Orchestra will perform its fall concert with guest conductor David Amado inside Graham Tyler Memorial Chapel on the University’s flagship Parkville (Mo.) Campus.

In addition, ICM graduate student Kuok-Wai Lio will perform with the Kansas City Chamber Orchestra on Thursday, Sept. 28, at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral in Kansas City, Mo., starting at 7:30 p.m. Also, ICM graduate student Tatiana Dorokhova will present her graduate piano recital on Thursday, Sept. 14, starting at 7 p.m. in the Chapel.

For more information about the International Center for Music’s concert season, visit

Park University 2023 Golf Scramble Set for Oct. 16

The 2023 Park University Golf Scramble, a four-person tournament that benefits the University’s Parkville (Mo.) Campus athletics programs, is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 16, at The National Golf Club of Kansas City. Golfers get on the course with a shotgun start at 10 a.m., with registration beginning at 8:30 a.m.

Registration fees are $250 per golfer or $1,000 per four-person team, and a variety of sponsorship packages are available, ranging in price from $1,500 to $5,000. Entries include 18 holes of golf with a cart, box lunch on the course, driving range access prior to the event, on-course games and contests, refreshments and flight prizes. To register for the tournament or for more information, visit For questions about the tournament or sponsorship levels, contact Nathan Marticke, chief advancement officer, at or (816) 584-6844.

Faculty, Staff, Student News

Park University’s Office of Academic Affairs recognized five members of the University’s faculty and staff during the Fall Faculty Conference in August as part of its Academic Affairs Celebrates Excellence campaign. The program honors faculty and staff who embody excellence in teaching, scholarship and/or service to Park students. The profiles of the honorees are on display in the hall adjacent to the Office of Academic Affairs on the first floor of Mackay Hall on the University’s flagship Parkville (Mo.) Campus. Those honored were: Scot Cates, Ph.D., adjunct instructor of history, international business and management; Virginia Chapman, adjunct instructor of computer science and information systems; Lacey Finley, Ph.D., associate professor of management; Cathy Taylor, J.D., director of adjunct faculty orientation and mentoring; and James Vanderleeuw, Ph.D., professor of public administration and director of the Hauptmann School for Public Affairs.

Amisi MpoleAmisi Mpole, a freshman marketing major and Parkville (Mo.) Campus men’s soccer player, was awarded a $5,000 Emerging Sports Leaders Scholarship from Sporting Kansas City’s Victory Project. The scholarship provides assistance to students whose lives have been impacted by soccer. According to information provided by SKC, Mpole, a refugee from Tanzania, speaks about the power of the soccer community. The sport helped teach him what it means to be a leader and giving back to his community. A first-generation college student, he hopes to obtain a Master of Business Administration degree and start a business that generates employment opportunities and fosters economic growth within marginalized communities in Kansas City.

Martha LinscottPark University Parkville (Mo.) Campus men’s and women’s golf head coach Martha Linscott played in the U.S. Senior Women’s Open in Portland, Ore., Aug. 24-25. Linscott, playing in her second consecutive USSWO, shot 17-over par over the first two rounds, missing the cut (to advance to the final two rounds) by nine strokes to finish in 100th place. Among the amateurs in the tournament, Linscott placed 24th. Linscott qualified for the national championship tournament by winning a one-round qualifying tournament in Garland, Texas, on Aug. 8, shooting a 2-over par 74, which topped the field by three strokes.

Sandra AbbeySandra Abbey, Ed.D., senior director of academic affairs at Park University’s Gilbert (Ariz.) Campus, authored Nine Secrets of Resilient Leaders for Coaching Teams: Creative, Collaborative Solutions for Today’s Organizational Leaders that was published in July. The book provides a framework to cultivate personal and team resilience and stories of leaders who triumphed over challenges.

Erik BergrudErik Bergrud, chief strategic communications officer, co-hosted interviews for the Heart of America Athletic Conference men’s soccer media day on Aug. 8.

Park in the News

Tim Westcott, Ph.D., professor of history and university archivist, was interviewed for a story that aired on WDAF-TV in Kansas City on Aug. 1 related to Park University’s connections to the Manhattan Project, subject of the blockbuster film, “Oppenheimer.” Three Park University alumni were connected to the Manhattan Project — a research and development program in World War II that produced the first nuclear weapons, a main feature in “Oppenheimer.” Joseph McKibben, ’33, Ph.D., Hugh Richards, ’39, Ph.D., and John Cory, ’42, participated in the Manhattan Project, two of whom played significant roles.

Westcott and Matt Harris, Ph.D., associate professor of political science, participated in a 40-minute live interview on KMBZ-FM’s (Kansas City) “Dana and Parks” program on Aug. 3 to discuss Park University’s Manhattan Project connections and the “Oppenheimer” movie.

Stories about Park’s Manhattan Project connections were also featured in the Platte County (Mo.) Landmark on Aug. 3 and in the Platte County Citizen on Aug. 22.

Westcott also participated in a 30-minute interview with about Park’s Manhattan Project connections that was posted on Aug. 11.

Victor Diaz, a student in the Park University International Center for Music, was featured in a Classical Kansas City (KWJC-FM) spotlight on Aug. 10.

Erik Bergrud, chief strategic communications officer, was interviewed live on WDAF-TV in Kansas City prior to the start of the Parkville (Mo.) Days parade on Aug. 19. Bergrud has served as the co-master of ceremonies for the event for a number of years.

Shawn Moore, MSW ’20, who serves as program manager for financial wellness for the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, was interviewed for the Caregiver SOS Caring for Our Nation’s Veterans program that aired on KLBJ-AM in Austin, Texas, on Aug. 20. Moore founded Caregivers on the Homefront in 2017 to provide caregivers of our nation’s veterans and first responders with hopefulness, a sense of togetherness and a firm foundation of resiliency.

ECCO Select, an IT talent acquisition and advisory consulting company in Kansas City, Mo., led by Jeanette Prenger, ’09, founder/chief executive officer, and a former member of Park University’s Board of Trustees, was ranked No. 6 on the Kansas City Business Journal’s list of women-owned businesses in the Kansas City area, ranked by 2022 revenue.

Scott Hageman, associate professor of geology and associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, was interviewed for a story that aired on KMBC-TV in Kansas City on Aug. 28 related to the Kansas City Royals doing soil boring work at the proposed East Village location for a new stadium.

Edna Martinson, ’12, and a recipient of the Park University Alumni Association’s Park Promising Young Professional Award in 2021, was featured on the AfroTech website on Aug. 30.

Vince Clark, immediate past chair of Park University’s Board of Trustees, was featured in the August issue of Ingram’s (a Kansas City business magazine) on its list of “50 Missourians You Should Know.”

In August, the following Park University online degree programs were listed by Forbes Advisor on its list of best online degrees of 2023: Bachelor of Science degree in information systems (best information technology degrees); Master of Public Administration degree (best MPA programs); and Bachelor of Science degree in geography (best geography degrees).

EDsmart ranked Park University No. 11 on its “Accredited Nonprofit Online Universities 2024” list.

Upcoming Events

(All events are Central time and on the flagship Parkville [Mo.] Campus unless noted)
          •  Through September 22 — Art Exhibit: “Plain Sight” by Dora Agbas, Campanella Gallery (Norrington Center)
          •  September 7 — Blood Drive, 9 a.m.-2 p.m., Breckon Sports Center (East Dome)
          •  September 8 — Camp Pendleton (Calif.) Marine Corps Base Campus Commencement, noon, Pendleton Theater and Training Center
          •  September 8 — Department of Nursing White Coat Ceremony, 3 p.m., Graham Tyler Memorial Chapel
          •  September 14 — International Center for Music Graduate Recital: Pianist Tatiana Dorokhova, 7 p.m., Graham Tyler Memorial Chapel
          •  September 15 — Board of Trustees Meeting, Parkville Campus
          •  September 15 — Scholars @ Work: “Discerning and Deciphering Information in the Age of Overload,” noon, Norrington Center and Virtual
          •  September 19 — International Talk Like A Pirate Day
          •  September 19 — Dr. Jerzy Hauptmann Distinguished Guest Lecture: Dr. Yascha Mounk, 6:30 p.m., David Theater (Alumni Hall) and Virtual
          •  September 22 — International Center for Music Concert: Pianist Mikhail Voskresensky, 7:30 p.m., 1900 Building, Mission Woods, Kan.
          •  September 23 — El Paso (Texas) Campus / Fort Bliss (Texas) Campus / Holloman Air Force Base (N.M.) Campus Commencement, Abundant Church, El Paso
          •  September 28-30 — Park University Alumni and Parents Weekend, Parkville Campus
          •  September 28 — Paul H. Gault Service Award Ceremony (Honoree: Dr. Dennis Okerstrom, professor emeritus of English), 1 p.m., David Theater (Alumni Hall)
          •  September 28 — Pianist Kuok-Wai Lio with the Kansas City Chamber Orchestra, 7:30 p.m., Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral, Kansas City, Mo.
          •  September 29 — Alumni Association Awards / Athletics Wall of Honor, 3 p.m., Graham Tyler Memorial Chapel
          •  October 6 — International Center for Music Concert: ICM Orchestra, 7:30 p.m., Graham Tyler Memorial Chapel
          •  October 8 — Fall I Term Ends
          •  October 9-15 — Fall Recess (no classes nationwide; all University offices open)
          •  October 14 — Goodfellow Air Force Base (Texas) Campus / Lackland Air Force Base (Texas) Campus / Randolph Air Force Base (Texas) Campus Commencement, 10:30 a.m., Bob Hope Theater, Lackland AFB
          •  October 16 — Fall II Term Classes Begin
          •  October 16 — Park University Golf Scramble, 10 a.m., The National Golf Club of Kansas City
          •  October 28 — International Center for Music Concert: Park ICM Strings Studio, 7:30 p.m., 1900 Building, Mission Woods, Kan.

To view a comprehensive schedule for all events, including athletics and student life, visit



Park University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Park University is a private, non-profit, institution of higher learning since 1875.