Lawrence University Honors Six Alumni for Career Achievement, Service at Annual Reunion Celebration

Getting fired at the age of 15 from her first job as a part-time assistant at the library — for spending too much time reading! — never dampened Kathleen Krull’s love for books. In fact, her termination produced determination: to create books that meant as much to others as they did to her.

Krull made good on her promise and today is an award-winning children’s author, with more than 50 fiction and nonfiction titles to her credit. Krull will be among six Lawrence University graduates honored Saturday, June 18 for their accomplishments and service as part of the college’s annual Reunion Weekend celebration.

Lawrence will welcome nearly 900 alumni and guests from 41 states (and two foreign countries) back to campus for a weekend-long celebration. Two alumni will be recognized with distinguished achievement awards and four will he honored with service awards during the annual reunion convocation Saturday at 11:10 a.m. in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel. The event is free and open to the public.

Krull will receive the Lucia R. Briggs Distinguished Achievement Award. Named in honor of the second president of Milwaukee-Downer College, the Briggs award recognizes alumni of more than 15 years for outstanding contributions to, and achievements, in a career field.

A 1974 graduate with a degree in English, Krull began her career in a variety of staff and editor positions for several different publishers and by 1984 had turned to writing full time, establishing herself as an accomplished children’s author. Working under the pseudonym of Kathy Kenny, she first wrote mysteries in the Trixie Belden series as well as a collection of Christmas carols. Her 1980 book, “Sometimes My Mom Drinks Too Much,” written under the pseudonym Kevin Kenny, earned Krull awards from the Chicago Book Clinic, the Children’s Book Council and the National Council for Social Studies.

She has since explored the famous and the accomplished through a series of award winning “Lives of” books, in which she has profiled musicians, athletes, artists, presidents and extraordinary women. The series has earned numerous honors, including Smithsonian Magazine’s “Notable Books for Children,” the New York Public Library’s “100 Titles for Reading and Sharing” and an International Reading Association Teacher’s Choice Award, among others.

Krull’s passion for music — she was a church organist at the age of 12 — also has inspired several books, among them “Gonna Sing My Head Off! American Folk Songs for Children,” a comprehensive collection of 62 American songs in which she details their origins and 2003’s “M is for Music,” an eclectic look at the world of song in which she examines performers from jazz trumpeter Louis Armstrong to rock musician Frank Zappa, instruments from the accordion to the zither and musical styles from a cappella to zydeco.

Working out of San Diego, Calif., Krull’s most recent work includes 2004’s “A Woman for President,” a biography of Victoria Woodhull, who ran for president of the United States in 1872 and a book about Harry Houdini.

Heidi Stober, a 2000 graduate, will receive the Nathan M. Pusey Young Alumni Distinguished Achievement Award, which recognizes Lawrence alumni of 15 years or less for significant contributions to and achievements in a career field. The award honors the 10th and youngest president of Lawrence and an exemplary figure in higher education in the 20th century.

A budding opera star with a growing list of roles, Stober is currently a studio artist with the Houston Grand Opera. She won the HGO’s prestigious Eleanor McCollum Competition for Young Singers in February, 2004. More than 450 singers auditioned for the competition from around the world.

During the HGO’s 2004-05 season, Stober sang the roles of La China in the world premiere of “Salsipuedes,” the Rose in “The Little Prince” and was heard in the world premiere of “Lysistrata” earlier this year.

After earning a bachelor of music degree in vocal performance from Lawrence, Stober pursued a master’s degree at the New England Conservatory, where she earned the John Moriarty Presidential Scholarship and performed the roles of the dew fairy in “Hansel and Gretel” and Laurie in “The Tender Land.”

During the 2002-03 season, Stober sang with the Boston Lyric Opera, performing as Yvette in “La Rondine” and Sally in “Die Fledermaus.” She was recognized with the BLO’s Stephen Shrestinian Award for Excellence.

A native of Waukesha, Stober has sung as a studio artist with Colorado’s Central City Opera, covering the role of Nellie in “Summer and Smoke” and performing the roles of First Wife and First Gossip in the world premiere of “Gabriel’s Daughter.” She also has performed with the Milwaukee Opera Theatre and spent a year as the apprentice soprano in the Utah Symphony and Opera Ensemble Program.

James Auer and Richard Synder will be recognized with the George B. Walter Service to Society Award. Named in honor of Walter, a 1936 graduate and former faculty member and dean of men at Lawrence, who believed strongly that every individual can and should make a positive difference in the world, the award honors alumni who best exemplify the ideals of a liberal education through socially useful service in their community, the nation or the world.

Auer, a 1950 graduate who grew up in Neenah and attended Menasha High School, will be honored posthumously. He died last December at the age of 76.

Considered by those who knew him best to be a classic Renaissance man for his broad array of interests — writing, photography, history and magic among them — Auer spent more than 50 years as a newspaper reporter, features writer and editor, including the last 32 with the Milwaukee Journal, and later the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, primarily as an arts editor.

An enthusiastic supporter of the visual arts and known for his gentle and polite demeanor, Auer was honored with a Wisconsin Visual Art Lifetime Achievement Award earlier this year in recognition of his contributions “to the wealth of artistic creativity” in the state.

Auer served as the first president of the board of directors of Appleton’s Attic Theatre and wrote the play “The City of Light” for the company. He began his journalism career in 1953 as a reporter for the Twin City News-Record in Neenah. He spent 12 years (1960-72) working for The Post-Crescent, including the last seven as Sunday editor. In addition to his print reporting, Auer wrote and narrated several award-winning documentaries and was a talented magician.

Snyder, a 1965 graduate with a degree in mathematics, rose to executive vice president of Cognex, a world-renowned high-tech computing company in Massachusetts before turning his attention to becoming “a meaningful volunteer.” Inspired by a trip to Japan, in 1997 he left the corporate world for a volunteer position with a Boston area day-care service. In a project he dubbed “Windows to the World,” Snyder began placing computers in day-care centers that served low-income, single-family homes so that children would have an opportunity to benefit from the technology before entering the school system.
A year later, Synder joined the Boston Public School system to work with its TechBoston program, an initiative designed to bridge the digital divide between rich and poor communities by teaching technical skills to help students who cannot afford to or choose not to attend college prepare for possible careers in high-tech industries.

Two years after Snyder became involved in the project, TechBoston’s enrollment grew from 10 students to 1,500 who were taking classes in 22 Boston high school and middle schools. In 2002, in response to a slow-down in the tech industry, Snyder created a separate company out of the program — TechBoston Consulting Group — to employ students to work on web development and networking projects for Massachusetts businesses and non-profit organizations. In its first two years, TCG generated $130,000 in revenue. Today, the program is used as a model for school districts around the country for similar initiatives.

Stephanie Vrabec will receive the Gertrude B. Jupp Outstanding Service Award. The award honors Jupp, a 1918 graduate of Milwaukee-Downer College who was named M-D Alumna of the Year in 1964 for her long volunteer service to the college.

A 1980 graduate, Vrabec has been a board member of the Lawrence University Alumni Association and served on the executive committee as vice president for two years. She served as a member of the presidential search committee for Rik Warch’s successor and has been a regional event coordinator for the past 12 years. In addition, she has worked as a volunteer for the admissions office, served as co-chair of the 25th reunion steering committee and been a host parent for Lawrence international students.

Jamie Reeve will receive the Marshall B. Hulbert Young Alumni Service Award. Presented to alumni of 15 years or less who have provided significant service to the Lawrence, the award honors Marshall Hulbert, a 1926 graduate known as “Mr. Lawrence,” who contributed to thousands of Lawrentian lives and served the college and the conservatory in many significant capacities during a 54-year career.

A 1995 graduate and fourth-generation family member to attend Lawrence, Reeve has served his alma mater in numerous capacities, including chair of the 10th Reunion Gift Committee and member of the Viking Gift Committee and the 5th Reunion Steering Committee. Vice-president of his senior class, Reeve spent four years as a board member of the Lawrence University Alumni Association and has volunteered as a Career Center panelist. He was selected to represent all alumni as one of the welcoming speakers at last month’s presidential inauguration ceremonies of Jill Beck.