Alumni Award Recipients: 2011

Columbia College honored several outstanding alumni with distinguished, community and professional achievement awards at the annual Alumni Awards Dinner, Saturday, April 16, 2011. The awards recognize the exemplary accomplishments of Christian College and Columbia College alumni.

Distinguished Alumni Award

For attaining outstanding regional and national recognition in one’s chosen career field.

Michael Sawyer '74

Michael is a regionally and nationally recognized library director who is active in community service. He has the unique distinction of having received four national library awards in four different libraries, and he was the driving force behind the first automation of a prison library collection.

He currently works for Calcasieu Parish Public Library in Lake Charles, La. — a 14-building system that serves nearly 200,000 citizens and has an annual budget of $8.5 million. In 2009, he garnered support for a library tax renewal, which was passed by an unprecedented 91 percent of voters.

Michael’s list of library awards is impressive, with the most recent being the 2010 Highsmith Innovative Library Award for the Summer Reading Incentive Project. Children who read 10 books earned a yard sign that said, "A Library Champion Lives Here," and a photo of them with their sign was posted to the library’s website. Other awards include: Project of the Year for a public relations campaign for the library’s name change from the Colorado Association of Libraries, 2005; Library of the Future Award for a regional automation system in North Carolina from the American Library Association, 2002; Certificate of Appreciation from the governor of North Carolina, 2002; Outstanding Service Innovation Award for the regional automation system from the North Carolina Public Library Directors Association, 2001; National Achievement Citation Award for the "Electronic Job Bank" from the Public Library Association, 1994; ASCLA Exception Award from the American Library Association, 1989; Commendation from the Ohio Senate under the sponsorship of Sen. Jan Michael Long, 1989; and the Al Maresh Memorial Award from the Correctional Educational Association, 1988.

He has been recognized in professional journals, the latest being the May 2010 issue of American Libraries Magazine in the article, "Weeding Grows the Garden," by Brian Mathews. Michael’s published works also can be found in: Computers in Libraries; Journal of Correctional Education; Journal of Popular Culture; Law Library Journal; Library Journal; Ohio Libraries; and RSR (Reference Services Review). He has a book published by the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.

Michael became involved in community service in the spring of 1978 when he joined the local Jaycees Chapter, and he has continued that service in a variety of organizations including: JCI Senate, Kiwanis, Rotary and United Way. In 1984, he received JCI Senatorship, the highest award one can receive in the Jaycees. As an active member of the US JCI Senate , he was awarded Outstanding State President, Outstanding Appointed Officer and Outstanding National Vice President — the first person to earn three major awards. He has served on committees for various Chambers of Commerce and City of Thornton 50th Anniversary and has been a board member for Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Community Correction and Housing Authority. He was also instrumental in the passage of an Ohio law dealing with hunters’ safety. "Mike believes that community service is important because it can improve the quality of life," said nominator Judy Davidson.

Michael attended Columbia College in the 70s as it transformed from a two-year women’s college to a four-year coeducational institution. He earned a Bachelor of Arts from the college in 1974 and holds a master’s degree in library science, 1976, and a certificate of advanced studies, 1978, both from the University of Pittsburgh.

Michael resides in Lake Charles, La. and has two stepsons: Nathaniel Weber, and grandson, Payton, of State Road, North Carolina; and Matthew Weber of DeWitt, Iowa.

Columbia College Service Award

For significant contributions and service to Columbia College.

Judy Cunningham '61

Judy is a student mentor, philanthropist, volunteer and tireless advocate for Columbia College. As a current member of the Columbia College Board of Trustees, she chairs the Trustee Nominating and Bylaws Committee and serves on the Educational Policies Committee.

Before being elected to the board in 2004, she served her alma mater through the Columbia College Alumni Association (CCAA) in various roles that include: Jr. Alumnae Club project co-chair, 1973-74; Annual Fund Telethon volunteer and a member of the CCAA Constitution & Bylaws Committee, 1976-77; alumni club vice president and member of the CCAA board of directors, 1977-83; and CCAA second vice president, 1981-83.

Judy has provided financial support to Columbia College in variety of ways. She endowed the First Christian Church of Columbia, Missouri, Christian College Scholarship to honor and advance her parents’, Jacob M. and Annie Cunningham, values to future generations. She also provided financial support to start the Emerging Leaders Institute (ELI), a comprehensive leadership experience that strives to help students feel connected to the college as well as prepare them for undertaking active community roles. She attends ELI events throughout the year including the annual banquet for the induction of new ELI members who are now known as the Judith A. Cunningham Leaders. She is a generous supporter of the Tradition Meets Tomorrow Science Initiative campaign and also has provided no-cost living accommodations to more than 10 graduate and undergraduate students. 

Says Faye Burchard, dean for Campus Life for Columbia College, "Judy serves as a role model for our students and her fellow alumni. She contributes her time, talents and gifts for the betterment of Columbia College."

Judy retired from the University of Missouri where she served as coordinator of special education projects for both the university and the state of Missouri, her focus was on handicapped children and educators developing statewide grants and programs to assist school districts with the process of educating students with disabilities.

Another large part of Judy’s time is spent with refugees from Vietnam, Bosnia and Liberia, who she has been assisting with resettlement in the U.S.

She is active in First Christian Church and previously served on the board of Woodhaven Learning Center.

Judy holds an associate’s degree from Christian College in 1964, a bachelor’s degree in education from Central Missouri State University, now University of Central Missouri, Warrensburg, Mo., in 1966 and a master’s degree in education from the University of Hawaii, Honolulu, in 1968.

Judy lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, and enjoys spending time with family.