William Woods University recently made renowned author Rita Mae Brown an Honorary Alumnus and presented awards to four alumni:
- Kathleen Kunkler of Prairie Village, Kansas, the Alumni Award of Distinction, which honors a graduate who has achieved national or international fame in his or her chosen field.
- Susan Erdel Atkins of Mexico, Missouri, the Green Owl Award, which honors alumni who have given years of service to the Alumni Association and William Woods University.
- Deb Wehrman of Centralia, Missouri, the Outstanding Service Award, which honors an alumnus for his or her many years of support in multifaceted areas and outstanding service to the university.
- Brett Thompson of Camdenton, Missouri, the Graduate Award, which honors successful individuals who completed their degrees through the Graduate College at William Woods.
In addition, Tim Steinbeck of Fulton, Missouri, received the Order of the Owl. The award honors spouses of William Woods alumni who have shown a special interest in promoting and supporting the activities of the university. He is the husband of alumna Laura Steinbeck.
Brown is the New York Times bestselling author of the Mrs. Murphy Mystery Series (which she writes with her tiger cat, Sneaky Pie) and the Sister Jane novels. She has spoken at two graduation ceremonies—in 2000 and 2010—holds an honorary degree, Doctor of Letters, from William Woods, and joined the Board of Trustees in 2013. Her book, “Cat of the Century,” published in 2010, is a mystery set on the William Woods campus.
Kunkler, who has been in finance for 30 years, is first vice-president and global sports and entertainment director of Morgan Stanley. She has been able to integrate her passion for sports and finance by building a business that includes some of the top women in the sports industry across the country, as clients. Her clients include coaches, athletic directors, conference commissioners, ESPN commentators and professional athletes. She has served on the William Woods Board of Trustees since 2013.
Atkins taught fourth grade for more than 25 years and retired from the Mexico School District in 2008. She has a long history of service to William Woods, and she served on the William Woods Alumni Board from 1998 to 2001. She also served as chairwoman for her 35th class reunion.
Wehrman is senior branch office administrator at Edward Jones in Centralia, Missouri. She served on the William Woods Alumni Board for six years, followed by four years on the Alumni Board Advisory Committee. She also served as co-chairwoman for her 30th reunion. She has always supported William Woods with her time and treasure.
Thompson earned his master’s degree in secondary administration from William Woods in 2005 and his education specialist degree in administration from William Woods in 2009. He was appointed principal of Camdenton High School in 2009 and was named Southwest Region Principal of the Year by the Missouri Secondary Principals Association in 2012.