Honoring love of CMU in action

National Alumni Awards recognize seven for making the most of Central connections

​They are seven of a kind — six individuals and one organization whose common trait is love and support for Central Michigan University:

  • Robert Barclay, the "Duke of Juke," hosts the long-running "Juke Joint" radio show on WCMU Public Media.
  • Kaitlyn Coons has mentored more than 85 fellow students as a resident assistant.
  • Rachael Moreno backs CMU with her time and resources, supporting literacy, teacher education, the School of Music and more; and having served on the CMU Advancement Board and Board of Trustees.
  • Laurie Morris cofounded endowed scholarships and supported her husband, daughter and son as they earned six CMU degrees.
  • Dr. Gene Ragland created and led CMU's College of Health Professions Advisory Board.
  • Kala Wilburn returned to Flint, Michigan, from New York City and created the Fashion Against Violence initiative.
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is a longstanding partner with CMU in research and professional development.

All are 2020 National Alumni Awards honorees, recognized — virtually, this year — for their CMU ties.

An in-person event to recognize them has been postponed until next year, said Marcie Otteman, CMU executive director of Alumni Relations and development strategies.

"Please join me in congratulating them now through social media until we can celebrate their hard-earned accomplishment in the spring of 2021," she said. "These award recipients are a uniquely talented group."

Here are brief introductions, with links to longer profiles of each honoree:

Robert Barclay

Honorary Alumni Award

Barclay, host of "The Juke Joint" blues program for 35 years as a volunteer, loves to share his passion for the history of blues, soul, gospel and R&B music with listeners all over the world.

He and his wife, Peggy Brisbane, spent over 30 years photographing the CMU community before both retired in 2013. The Clarke Historical Library recently featured their CMU photo collection.

Besides his radio work, Barclay has photographed and interviewed hundreds of musicians over the years for blues magazines and other publications. In 2004, he was awarded the Keeping the Blues Alive Award from the Blues Foundation in Memphis, Tennessee. In 2015, he received the Public Media

Impact Award from the Michigan Association of Public Broadcasters for his outstanding contributions to Public Broadcasting.

Barclay and Brisbane have generously given to WCMU Public Media. They also support areas including CMU Athletics, University Libraries and the Fabiano Botanical Garden Endowment.

Kaitlyn Coons

Future Alumni Leader Award

mug-K.Coons-HeadshotKaitlyn's dedication and leadership are shown by her involvement in campus organizations, volunteer work and planning committees. As a CMU resident assistant in Barnes and Calkins halls, she mentored more than 85 students and guided them to campus resources.

Kaitlyn volunteered for more than 75 events through her campus involvement with Program Board, the Association of Recreation Event Professionals and Siblings Weekend. Her committee involvement includes the CMU Connections Conference, Excellence in Teaching Award Committee, Leadership Council, Leader Advisory Board, the AREP Summer Job Fair, Leader Advancement Scholar Graduation Ball and student-organized festival, and the Gus Macker 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament.

She is a recipient of the Academic Success Award, Leader Advancement Scholarship, Michael J. Kirkpatrick Leadership Award, G. Patrick Doyle Prize and was on the CMU Dean's List from fall 2017-spring 2020. Upon completion of her internship this fall with the West Michigan Sports Commission, Kaitlyn expects to graduate with a recreation degree through Recreation, Parks and Leisure Services Administration.

Rachael Moreno

Dick Enberg CMU Alumni Commitment Award

mug-Rachael-MorenoMoreno, who earned her bachelor's degree and teaching certificate from CMU in 1966, built an expansive career in education as a teacher, director, consultant and more. She retired in 1994 as associate superintendent of the Genesee Intermediate School District. In 2005, she came out of retirement as she was appointed director of programs for special needs for the Michigan Department of Education.

Moreno supports CMU through donations to the Literacy Center, teacher education and professional development, Study Abroad, the Education and Human Services Building, President's Club and the School of Music. She served on the Advancement Board and the Board of Trustees from 1983-90.

Accolades throughout her career as an educator and administrator include not only being recognized as the first Hispanic principal in Michigan but also as founder and first president of the Hispanic Scholarship Foundation of Michigan. She has received the Grand Rapids Community Service Award and Detroit Education Task Force Appreciation Award and was the governor's appointee to the Commission on Spanish Speaking Affairs.

She received CMU's Alumni Recognition Award in 1981 and Centennial Year Award in 1992.

Laurie Morris

Honorary Alumni Award

mug-Laurie-MorrisLaurie Beckett Morris and Mike Morris established the Morris Family Endowed Scholarship in 2005, and the family has continued to contribute to the endowment. Their contributions have allowed the initial endowment to be separated into three endowed scholarships, for Global Campus, the College of Business Administration and the College of the Arts and Media.

Laurie and Mike regularly contribute to the Murray Football Championship Fund, University Libraries, CMU Chippewa Challenge Golf Outing and the Women's Connection Student Scholarship. They assisted in funding the Beckett and Morris Project Room in Grawn Hall, as well as a space in Park Library named in honor of their daughter, Jamie. Laurie has purchased a Grawn Hall brick for their son, Scott, and Warriner Mall bricks for Mike, Jamie and Scott.

Another of Laurie Morris' significant contributions to CMU is her love and support for her husband, son and daughter as they collectively earned six CMU degrees.

Dr. Gene Ragland

Distinguished Alumni Award

mug-Gene-Ragland---CMU-SealRagland, founder and chair of the advisory board for The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow College of Health Professions, earned a CMU Bachelor of Science degree in 1966 before attending the University of Michigan Medical School. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1972-74 and joined St. Joseph Mercy Hospital staff in 1977. He became associate director of the Emergency Department in 1985 and chief of staff in 1996, eventually working with more than 130,000 emergency patients during 25 years at the hospital. He started working as a clinical instructor for U-M Medical School in 1981, becoming a clinical assistant professor of emergency medicine in 1994.

In 1983, Ragland was a founding member of Life Support Services, offering medical education to hospital and pre-hospital providers. In 1992, he founded Secure Care Inc., a correctional medicine service, where he served as president and CEO until 2003.

From 1992-2001, he was a board member for the Domestic Violence Project SAFE House, and from 2001-07 he was a trustee for Dawn Farm, a substance abuse recovery and rehabilitation service center. He continues to advocate for equity and recently was awarded the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award.

Kala Wilburn

Alumni Service Recognition Award

mug-Kala-Wilburn-HeadshotA 2007 CMU graduate, Wilburn moved to New York City and established her Fannie Lucille fashion line of custom clothing and handbags. In June 2011, she returned to Flint, Michigan, intending to put her dreams into action in her hometown.

That same year, she lost her brother to gun violence. To honor his memory, she established the Fashion Against Violence initiative of workshops, boot camps and industry networking, ultimately creating the annual Vehicle City Fashion week.

Wilburn involves current CMU fashion students with her initiatives. She was a featured speaker for the Fashion, Interior Design and Merchandising department's annual career day.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan

Corporate/Foundation Partner Alumni Award

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan has worked closely with CMU for more than 20 years, supporting research with grants and donations, and partnering with many departments on professional development.

The organization employs 500 CMU alumni and actively recruits and mentors CMU students for internships and full-time positions in finance, information systems, human resources and more.

BCBS is a sponsor of CMU's Enterprise Resource Planning simulation program, known as ERPsim. The interactive event allows teams of students to solve real-time problems with the help of mentors from sponsoring companies.

Tricia Keith, a 1993 alum and BCBS executive vice president, is chair of CMU's Board of Trustees, providing leadership and engagement that is key for the growth of CMU's presence in Detroit and across Michigan.

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