Meet the Distinguished Alumni of 2022 at Colorado State University

Distinguished Alumni

Each year, Colorado State University and the CSU Alumni Association recognize outstanding alumni who have excelled in their professions and made significant contributions to their industries, communities, and the University.

Recipients of the top four Distinguished Alumni Awards – the William E. Morgan Alumni Achievement Award, the Charles A. Lory Public Service Award, the Jim and Nadine Henry Award, and the Distinguished Graduate of the Last Decade Award – are highlighted below, along with award recipients from each of the eight colleges and CSU Athletics.

Congratulations to these outstanding honorees. For more information about this year’s recipients, and to register for the 2022 Distinguished Alumni Awards in October, visit


William E. Morgan Alumni Achievement Award

U.S. Army Gen. James H. Dickinson (B.S., mechanical engineering, ’85)

Born in Boulder, Colorado, and raised in Estes Park, Gen. James Dickinson’s military career began in 1985 when he graduated from CSU with a degree in mechanical engineering and was commissioned as a second lieutenant through the campus’s Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. He went on to earn two master’s degrees, one in operations research and systems analysis from the Colorado School of Mines, and the other in strategic studies from the United States Army War College.

With more than 30 years of military service, Gen. Dickinson is now a four-star general who has commanded at nearly every level in the U.S. Army. He is the senior air and missile defense officer in the Department of Defense. In August 2020, he began serving in the top job as commander of U.S. Space Command, which is a joint military venture responsible for military operations in outer space, specifically all operations 62 miles above sea level.

In his current role, Gen. Dickinson is responsible for defending U.S. and allied interests in the space domain while delivering space-enabled combat effects for joint warfighters around the world. He has authority over 18,000 soldiers, Marines, sailors, airmen, and guardians operating ground- and space-based systems around the world that provide satellite communication, space domain awareness, offensive and defensive space control effects, and position, navigation, and timing services.

Among his numerous awards and decorations are the Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Service Achievement Medal, and the Army Achievement Medal.

Despite his demanding schedule and significant responsibilities, Gen. Dickinson has remained connected to his alma mater. In 2018, he was the keynote speaker for the CSU Veterans Symposium and an honorary cannoneer. He returned to campus in May 2022 to preside over a joint service ceremony where about 50 ROTC graduates received their commissions as officers into either the U.S. Air Force or U.S. Army. He also gave commencement addresses for the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering and the College of Business.

In 2021, Gen. Dickinson was inducted into the Army ROTC Hall of Fame, which honors graduates of Army ROTC who have distinguished themselves in military or civilian pursuits. It is a prestigious way of recognizing alumni who have made lasting, significant contributions to the nation, the Army, and the history and traditions of the Army ROTC program.

He and his wife, Angela Dickinson, who were high school sweethearts, have four adult children and live in the Colorado Springs area.

About the award: Named for the eighth president of the University, Dr. William E. Morgan, this award is the highest honor given by the Alumni Association and is reserved for individuals who have excelled at the national or international level. The purpose of this award is to recognize a graduate who has attained extraordinary distinction and success in their field of endeavor and whose achievements have brought credit to CSU and benefited their fellow citizens.


Charles A. Lory Public Service Award

Tim Schultz (B.A., political science, ’72)

Tim Schultz is a proud Grand Junction native who has served Colorado in a multitude of public service roles. He studied at Colorado Mesa University before completing his education at Colorado State University. After graduation, Schultz returned to the Western Slope where he was a rancher in Meeker before becoming the youngest county commissioner in the state, representing Rio Blanco County at the age of 25. He went on to become the state’s commissioner of agriculture, executive director of the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, chairman of the Colorado Wildlife Commission, and the first chairman of the Colorado Economic Development Commission.

In 1995, Schultz became president and executive director of the Boettcher Foundation, one of the oldest private foundations in Colorado, best known for its Boettcher Scholarship program and its many capital grants made throughout Colorado. During his 22-year tenure, the endowment grew by more than $100 million and the foundation awarded 900 merit-based Boettcher Scholarships along with 3,600 capital grants, totaling more than $200 million. Working with his eventual successor, Katie Kramer, Tim worked to ensure students from all four corners of the state had the opportunity to compete for Boettcher Scholarships. He was instrumental in establishing the Webb-Waring Biomedical Research Awards; the Boettcher Teacher Residency; and Space to Create Colorado, a partnership with four other organizations to build arts-focused affordable housing and community space in rural Colorado communities.

For more than 30 years, one of Schultz’s passion projects – which has transcended and shaped his career in public service – has been the junior livestock sale at the Colorado State Fair. While serving as the commissioner of agriculture, he was one of the founders of the Denver Rustlers and has led the organization and a delegation to the fair, where he purchases animals to help 4-H students earn money for their college educations.

His dedication to Colorado has been recognized with many awards, including the Governor’s Creative Leadership Award, the Cal Frazier Investing in Education Award, Colorado Open Land’s Champion of the Land Award, the Dana Crawford Award for his commitment to historic preservation, and a Downtown Denver Partnership Award for bringing the first farmers market to Downtown Denver.

Schultz’s wife, Debbie Jessup, has been an active member of the Denver Metro community having served in numerous capacities, including as the Colorado president of KeyBank and the executive director of the Anschutz Family Foundation. Together, the couple has five children and 10 grandchildren.

About the award: This award is named for Dr. Charles A. Lory, the fifth president of the University, whose leadership helped the institution attain a vital balance of teaching, research, and service. It is given to alumni who have demonstrated exceptional and sustained leadership in their community, professional field, or personal commitments, and have given a significant contribution of time and talent to the University.


Jim and Nadine Henry Award

Linda Meserve (B.S., physical education, ’86), emerita

As a child, Linda (Morgan) Meserve struggled with swimming but she enjoyed the challenges it presented and persevered. She became a walk-on athlete on CSU’s swimming and diving teams and lettered in swimming all four years. After graduating, she was hired in 1988 as an accounting technician at the University of Southern Colorado, which in 2003, became CSU Pueblo and part of the CSU System. In 1991, she began what would become a distinguished, 31-year career in University procurement. She transferred to the Fort Collins campus in 1998, and despite joining a male-dominated office, she was the first female team lead, the first female supervising purchasing agent/associate director, and ultimately, the first female director and chief procurement officer in the University’s history.

One of her first assignments on the Main Campus was procuring computers and software to replace the hundreds of machines damaged in the Spring Creek Flood in July 1997. Throughout the following years, Linda was an integral part of the high-profile solicitation and contracting processes for Pouring Rights (aka, the Coca-Cola contract), which was the largest solicited revenue agreement in CSU’s history at the time; a statewide high-speed internet access initiative that included the University of Colorado, the University of Wyoming, the Colorado School of Mines, and the Auraria Campus, including Metro State; multiple solicitations to establish the CSU Global Campus; dining options for the Lory Student Center; on-campus banking services; and resurfacing and updating of Jack Christensen track, to name just a few.

Meserve’s tremendous dedication to the University was on full display during the COVID-19 pandemic when she and her team worked tirelessly to acquire personal protective equipment and sanitization stations during a time of extreme shortages. Her tenacity and dedication ensured students, faculty, and researchers could continue moving forward during a challenging time. During her career, she has authored or co-authored several publications related to procurement, served on various University-wide committees, and volunteered with the Rocky Mountain Governmental Purchasing Association, which honored her with a Distinguished Service Award in 2018. Before she retired in April 2022, the status of chief procurement officer emerita was conferred on her.

She is a lifetime member of the Alumni Association and a longtime donor to the University, especially to athletics. Having benefited from Title IX as a student, Meserve and her husband, Rick, have supported CSU women’s sports and support scholarships for student-athletes through the Rams Legacy of Champions program.

About the award: This award is given in honor of Jim (’40) and Nadine (Hartshorn) (’41) Henry of Longmont, Colorado, who exemplify extraordinary service to the University and its academic, athletics, and alumni programs. This award is presented annually to alumni who represent the highest goals of the Alumni Association and the University and who have given significant support and service to both.


Distinguished Graduate of the Last Decade (GOLD) Award

Edward (Eddie) Kendall (B.S., microbiology, ’18, and honors discipline scholar)

As a Fort Collins native, Edward Kendall participated in the University’s youth summer science programs and attended games at Hughes Stadium, both of which influenced his decision to attend CSU. Impressed with the strong microbiology program and the faculty in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Kendall chose to major in microbiology and minor in political science to help him better navigate the intersection of science and society. While at CSU, he also served in various roles within student government and was instrumental in getting the Old Main Bell restored, which is now located in the bell tower outside the Iris and Michael Smith Alumni Center at Canvas Stadium.

After graduating, he accepted an appointment as a research associate in CSU’s Regional Biocontainment Laboratory, where he worked under Dr. Diane Ordway on infectious respiratory pathogens with an emphasis on drug development issues. Pursuing his interest in political science, he joined the U.S. Peace Corps where he was stationed in the Republic of Moldova, a small country that borders Ukraine in Eastern Europe. There, he worked as a community development specialist on youth science projects, one of which was establishing a nationwide orbital radio call between urban and rural youth in Moldova to astronauts on board the International Space Station. He also served as a volunteer security manager in the capital city of Chisinau and the Dubasari district bordering the internationally unrecognized territory of Transnistria.

Kendall returned to the U.S. at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and became a postgraduate research fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Food and Drug Administration Office of Vaccine Research and Review, which supports policymakers by conducting research in the field of pharmaceuticals development and drug resistance.

He currently serves as a graduate research assistant working on issues related to weapons of mass destruction at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, while pursuing dual master’s degrees from Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey in California and the Moscow State Institute of International Relations in Russia. In addition to English, he speaks some Romanian and is now learning Russian with the hope of working internationally to combat the biological risks posed by crises as diverse as global pandemics and the nonproliferation of bioweapons.

About the award: The purpose of this award is to recognize a CSU graduate from the past 10 years for accomplishments made in the areas of career, service, and/or volunteer efforts that have brought honor to the individual and the University.


Distinguished Athletics Award

Carol and Gene Vaughan

DAA Web VaughanCarol (B.S., health and physical education, ’71); Gene (B.S., health and physical education, ’70; CERT, ’70; M.Ed., education, ’72)

Longtime Fort Collins residents, Carol and Gene Vaughan believe in investing in their community in countless ways. The couple met at CSU in the late 1960s when Carol was on the golf and swimming teams. After graduation, she began a 20-plus year career as a dental assistant to a local oral surgeon, and Gene went into real estate. In 1987, Gene opened RE/MAX First Associates Inc., and over the years, he opened five more offices serving Northern Colorado. In 2005, the Vaughans merged their company with RE/MAX Alliance based in Arvada to create the largest real estate company in the state with 25 offices and nearly 900 real estate agents. Gene has been named Realtor of the Year and Broker/Owner of the Year and received the Distinguished Service Award for the RE/MAX Mountain States region. Carol and Gene have been deeply involved in the Fort Collins community and volunteered on numerous boards and charitable organizations. For decades, they have generously supported the College of Health and Human Sciences (where they were honored as Distinguished Alumni in 2006) and CSU Athletics where they have held football and basketball tickets for more than 40 years.

About the award: The purpose of this award is to recognize an outstanding commitment to CSU Athletics; significant contributions toward the success of CSU Athletics as a staff member, athlete, volunteer, or donor; and achievements that have brought honor to the University.

College Alumni Awards

The following college alumni awards recognize career accomplishments; service to recipients’ local communities, the state, nation, or world; and achievements that have brought honor to themselves and the University, as well as service and contributions of time and/or resources to the University.


College of Agricultural Sciences Honor Alumnus

Ben Rainbolt Jr. (B.S., vocational agriculture, ’81; M.Ed., vocational education, ’89)

Ben Rainbolt Jr. was born and raised on a farm near Burlington, Colorado. He attended Northeastern Junior College in Sterling, where he was an agriculture education major and met his future wife, Pam Yearous (B.S., ’83). After graduation, he enrolled at CSU where he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees and his secondary principal license. Weld County has been the beneficiary of this distinguished career in education and community service. He has taught throughout the school district but invested much of his career at Valley High School in Gilcrest, where he most notably served as principal and significantly improved graduation rates. Rainbolt has served on CSU’s Ag Ed Advisory Committee and the Ag Ed selection committee, as well as taught a course and guest-lectured in the College of Agricultural Sciences. Rainbolt also served on many boards and foundations and received numerous awards, including Outstanding Teacher of Region II and Vo-Ag Teacher of the Year. After retiring in 2007, he accepted a position with Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, and in 2010, he was named the executive director. He is also the current president of the school board for Weld County School District RE-1.


College of Business Honor Alumna

Nicole Staudinger (B.S., business administration, ’99; magna cum laude)

Nicole Staudinger is a market president at FirstBank, one of the largest privately held banks in the nation. As an industry veteran with more than 20 years of experience, Staudinger oversees the bank’s Northern Colorado market, which includes managing more than $1.1 billion in assets and 90 employees in seven locations. Staudinger also stewards a giving group that has grown FirstBank’s endowed scholarship fund in the College of Business to more than $1 million. She actively serves on nonprofit boards and committees throughout Fort Collins, including the Community Foundation of Northern Colorado, Fort Collins Chamber of Commerce, Junior Achievement, and CSU’s Green and Gold Foundation. As a passionate supporter of the University, Staudinger was recognized as the College of Business Mentor of the Year in 2022 and was awarded the 2020 Everitt Real Estate Center’s Entrepreneurship Award. She was also named a BizWest Women of Distinction honoree as well as Colorado’s Top 25 Most Influential Young Professionals by ColoradoBiz Magazine. Nicole currently resides near Fort Collins, where she and her husband, Ty, are parents to six wonderful children who are active in various sports and 4-H.


College of Health and Human Sciences Honor Alumna

Melissa Pappas (B.A., social work, ’85)

Melissa Pappas is the founder and CEO of ATHENA Consulting, an award-winning staffing agency that places professionals in long-term positions with state government agencies providing health care and human services. After attending Colorado State, she earned a master’s degree in social service administration at the University of Chicago and began advocating for national welfare policy with the American Public Welfare Association in Washington, D.C. She later became a senior executive for government operations at Maximus, a consulting company that improves the efficiency of state and local government human service programs. Pappas also believes in giving back to her communities. She recently completed two terms as chair of The Treatment and Learning Centers’ board of trustees, an organization serving children and adults with special needs in Maryland. She also serves on the executive leadership council for CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences, where she funds a scholarship for first-generation students studying social work. Pappas is the proud mother of three sons; two of whom are CSU graduates.


College of Liberal Arts Honor Alumni

Linda and Donn Hopkins

Linda (B.A., history, ’73, Phi Beta Kappa); Donn (B.A., political science, ’82)

For decades, Linda and Donn Hopkins have been actively involved with Colorado State University and the Fort Collins community. After graduation, Linda worked in various roles in municipal government for 15 years, including working on economic development in the Fort Collins city manager’s office. She spent 25 years with The Group real estate company, leading development projects and later becoming an agent. Linda has been awarded Realtor of the Year, Citizen of the Year for the Board of Realtors, and Philanthropist of the Year by WomenGive. In 1985, after 16 years in municipal policing, Donn began his role as CSU police chief. During his 18-year tenure, Donn worked to establish trusting relationships with the University community, deftly guiding the campus through some challenging times and critical events. In 1992, Donn was awarded CSU’s Oliver P. Pennock Distinguished Service Award. For the last 10 years of his career, he was a security manager for Agilent Technologies. The couple serves as volunteers on several nonprofit boards. Together, they were named Ambassadors for the Museum of Discovery and have also been recognized as Multiple Sclerosis Champions. As longtime Alumni Association members, they are tremendous advocates for the University having supported dozens of priorities across campus over the past 35 years.


College of Natural Sciences Honor Alumnae

Dr. Patricia Contreras (B.S., biological sciences, ’78) and Dr. Margarita Contreras (B.S., biological sciences, ’78)

Patricia and Margarita (Peggy) are identical twin sisters who were raised in Colorado by a single mother. When in high school, they never thought attending college was a possibility, but they were excellent students and a guidance counselor encouraged them to apply to CSU, where they pursued the same degree. After graduation, both went on to graduate school – Peggy to the University of Colorado in Denver and Patty to the University of Minnesota. After earning their Ph.Ds. in pharmacology, both had postdoctoral positions at the National Institutes of Health.

Patty’s career has been in research and development at various pharmaceutical and biotech companies. Her last position was as vice president of nonclinical development at Conatus Pharmaceuticals from 2006 to 2019. Peggy became a tenured faculty member at Michigan State University before moving into corporate pharmacology. She worked for Pfizer before becoming an associate director of competitive intelligence and strategic intelligence at Novartis. In 2019, they joined forces to establish a pharmaceutical consultancy firm aptly named P Squared.

The Contreras sisters attribute their career success to the education they received at CSU and have been giving back to the College of Natural Sciences since the 1990s. Due to their increasing generosity, many other first-generation students have had the opportunity to follow in their footsteps and receive an education at Colorado State University.


College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences Honor Alumnus

Dr. Richard Kiely (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, ’76)

Dr. Richard “Rich” Kiely is a practicing veterinarian with extensive experience in equine medicine and large-animal livestock medicine. He has consulted extensively across the West, drawing on personal knowledge of ranching and farming. Kiely earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado before attending CSU and then spent 3-1/2 years at Texas A&M University completing a residency in internal medicine and pursuing additional graduate studies in physiology. He has served on numerous boards, including the Gates Family Foundation, and various hospital and health care boards, such as the Wickenburg Community Hospital in Arizona, as well as Roundup Riders of the Rockies, and Cody Resources Management. He and his wife, Sandra, have been philanthropic leaders at the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, helping to create the largest class scholarship for the D.V.M. class of 1976. During his career, Kiely has mentored and counseled numerous veterinarians and been involved in national conversations about the changing face of veterinary medicine, especially related to farming and ranching communities.


Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering Honor Alumnus

Gary Johnson (B.S., mechanical engineering, ’92)

From the outset of his career, Gary Johnson was fortunate to find his professional home at Applied Medical in California. He joined the company as an associate engineer when it had fewer than 100 team members. Since then, Johnson has held several senior-level positions as the company has grown to more than 5,000 team members worldwide. He currently serves as the group president of Advanced Energy and Applied Learning. Johnson is proud to have invested more than 30 years serving alongside a dedicated team developing innovative technologies, such as the Universal Seal, which helped make minimally invasive surgery possible. He also enjoys mentoring future leaders of the company. Johnson was a first-generation student and many of the good things in his life began at CSU, including meeting his wife, Deena. They reside in Orange County with their four children. Johnson is a staunch advocate of the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering and is pleased to serve as an industry advisory board member for the School of Biomedical Engineering, helping students navigate the exciting world of engineering.


Warner College of Natural Resources Honor Alumna

Cindy Williams (B.S., geology, ’89; M.S., geology, ’92)

Cindy Williams is an accomplished executive with 30 years of domestic and international mining experience. From 1992 to 2013, she served in vice presidential roles with Newmont Mining, one of the world’s largest gold companies, where she led global exploration, development, technical services, innovation, and due diligence programs. She was also a corporate officer for the company and was the highest-ranking female employee. Williams is a passionate conservationist, addressing some of the most pressing issues facing the American West. In central Colorado, she is the co-lead of Envision Chaffee County, which stands as a statewide and national model for collaborative conservation, engaging 1,500 community members and 80 organizations. She also has served on the Dean’s Council of CSU’s Warner College of Natural Resources since 2017 and has worked with the Colorado Forest Restoration Institute and the Colorado Natural Heritage Program. In 2018, Williams was the campaign manager for an innovative county ballot measure that now raises $1.5 million annually to support healthy forests, waters, and working lands, and in 2019, her community planning and conservation efforts were recognized by the Salida Chamber of Commerce/Heart of the Rockies with a Woman of the Year award.