Alumni Award Recipients: 2015

Columbia College alumni reflect the college’s spirit of achievement in their careers and communities. Each year, some of these outstanding and inspiring alumni are recognized for their accomplishments through a series of awards. Alumni are nominated by college constituents, such as faculty, staff members and other alumni, and the winners are chosen by the CCAA.

This year’s six deserving award recipients were celebrated during Reunion Weekend at the Alumni Awards Banquet & Presentation Friday, April 24th.

VIDEOS: Watch all the 2015 recipients' acceptance speeches on the CCAA's YouTube Channel!

Distinguished Alumni Award

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

Tom Stroup '04
For a career spanning more than 30 years at the Orange County Sheriff ’s Office, Thomas Stroup ’04 has taken his talents and passion for helping others far beyond the borders of Orange County, Florida.

As Captain at the Orange County Sheriff ’s Office and SWAT Commander, Thomas is a five-time world champion of international SWAT competitions, as well as a gold medalist in the “Toughest Cop Alive” competition, a national competition held annually in Florida. Recently, Thomas took his passion for helping others to primetime TV, in NBC’s reality show “Stars Earn Stripes.” The show aimed to honor America’s armed forces, where nine celebrities gathered at a secret training facility and were challenged to execute complicated missions inspired by real military exercises. Another NBC show, “School Pride,” featured Thomas traveling the country to help fix up schools in underpriviledged neighborhoods.

“I don’t want to be on TV just to be on TV,” Thomas told the
Orlando Sentinel in 2012. “I want to be involved in something good, something that sheds light on law enforcement in a positive way.”

Mark Burnett, executive producer of “Stars Earn Stripes,” was deeply impressed by Thomas. “Tom is outstanding,” he says. “Being a SWAT commander who works every day in the urban environment of a city in close proximity to citizens, while conducting dangerous SWAT operations, requires nerves of steel and thoughtfulness. Tom is a hero, and we saw that every day on ‘Stars Earn Stripes.’ I am proud to know him.”

Orange County sheriff Jerry Demings agrees. “He serves as the full-time SWAT team commander and is responsible for saving numerous lives during his career. The entire agency is extremely proud of the honor he brings to us.”

In addition to his busy schedule, Thomas spends his time off traveling to Mexico, Brazil, Costa Rica, Montana, Mississippi and throughout Florida helping communities rebuild homes, schools and churches. “Life’s short,” Thomas says. “It’s not going to matter how famous or rich any of us are. It’s going to matter what good we did. I really believe that. What you do for other people is going to matter more than what you do for yourself.”

Thomas and his family reside in Windermere, Florida.

Professional Achievement Award

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

Christopher Twitchel '14
When disaster strikes, Christopher J. Twitchel ’14 doesn’t run. He helps put the broken pieces back together.

As the Chief of Police in Crocker, Missouri, Christopher has seen his fair share of disasters, both big and small. In 2003, a tornado hit his residence, destroying everything in its wake. Instead of attending to the damage at his home, he turned to the community and worked 26 straight hours in an effort to help others. When Hurricane Sandy destroyed parts of the Connecticut shore in 2012, Christopher took a leave from his position and headed east to the heaviest-hit spots, where he provided support to utility companies restoring power. He also aided in recover efforts after Hurricane Gustav in 2008. In short, he goes where he’s needed.

Growing up, Christopher knew he wanted to become a police officer. “I was always amazed with the selfless acts of police officers and wanted to become a part of that,” he says. “I think law enforcement chose me.”

He began his career in law enforcement in 1995 at the Republic Police Department in Republic, Missouri. In 2000, he moved to the Lake of the Ozarks area and became employed with the Camden County Sheriff ’s Department, where he held various assignments including the SWAT Tactical Team and the Fugitive Recovery Team. He was also assigned to work as an undercover narcotics investigator, property crimes detective and was briefly assigned to the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics to assist in a multi-state investigation in 2004. In 2011, he became Chief of Police in Crocker, where he oversees his department and various community projects.

Christopher is a graduate of the DEA Clandestine Laboratory Technician School, the Methamphetamine Site Safety School and Methamphetamine Tactical Operations School at the DEA National Academy in Quantico, Virginia. He also graduated from the Narcotics Air Operations School in Oklahoma and has received various training in High Risk Warrant Service, Tactical Operations, Less Lethal and Weapons of Mass Destruction.

In addition to his duties as Chief of Police, Christopher is a generalist instructor in the State of Missouri and is involved in the training of law enforcement officers. He also works with local adolescent drug prevention programs and is a member of Masonic Lodge and the Shriners, which helps kids with disabilities.

Christopher and his wife, Julie, have two children, Sydnee and Brandan. They reside in Montreal, Missouri.

Community Service Award

For demonstrating outstanding contribution in serving one's community

Jim Pasley '02
Like so many across the world, Jim Pasley ’02’s life was forever changed by the events of September 11, 2001. Though he lived in Columbia, Missouri, at the time, and did not have any close relatives or friends involved in the attacks, he was deeply moved to help others in whatever way he could. Further resolved to help others when his cousin was injured while serving in Iraq, Jim joined the Boone County Volunteer Fire Department in 2002. Soon after, he decided to apply as a full-time firefighter, leaving a comfortable career in insurance in his pursuit to help others.

From 2002 to 2007, Jim served as a firefighter for the Boone County Fire Protection District before joining the Columbia Fire Department in 2008. Today, he is an Assistant Fire Marshal for the City of Columbia, overseeing all University of Missouri, Columbia College and Stephens College campus buildings. For the last two years, he has coordinated several events across campuses to raise awareness for fire safety, and also to raise money for fallen firefighter widows.

In addition to his service as a paid and volunteer firefighter, Jim has spent more than 11 years volunteering for Columbia Youth Football and two years as the assistant football coach for Battle High School. He volunteers most of his evenings and Sunday afternoons, and until this year, never had a child on any team. He has also been involved in several community events such as charity football and basketball games, fire safety and education week at local schools. He is active in Local 1055, Columbia Professional Fire Fighters, and he organized a 5K race to donate money for the construction of a home in Jefferson City, Missouri, for a wounded soldier. He is recognized as a contract instructor for the National Fire Academy. On the 10th anniversary of 9/11, he participated in a memorial 110-flight stair climb in Kansas City, Missouri, to remember the 343 firefighters who lost their lives when the Twin Towers collapsed.

Jim and his wife, Melissa Pasley ’03, have two children, Addyson and Andrew. Jim is the son of Jim Pasley ’87 and Karen Pasley ’01. He and his family reside in Ashland, Missouri.

Columbia College Service Award

For significant contributions and service to Columbia College

Walter "Web" Bixby III '82
With family roots bound to Columbia College, Walter E. “Web” Bixby III ’82 has a deep sense of passion and commitment for the institution he says has given so much to him.

As the executive vice president and vice chairman of the board of Kansas City Life Insurance Company, Web graduated from Columbia College with a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1982. In 1985, he was elected assistant vice president of Kansas City Life. In 1990, he was elected vice president of marketing and then became president of Old American Insurance Company, a subsidiary, in 1996.

Web gives much of his time and resources to the college in a number of platforms: as a trustee, fundraiser and director of the J.B. Reynolds Foundation, established in honor of his great-grandfather. His commitment to the college is also represented in his own personal giving. His philanthropy to the college is represented through the Bixby Room in the Southwell Complex on Columbia College’s main campus, named after Web’s father, Walt. In addition, the state of the art Web Bixby Lecture Hall in the Brouder Science Center was made possible through his generosity.

Beyond his philanthropic contributions, he served as the national steering committee chair for the Tradition Meets Tomorrow campaign and is a member of the Dorsey Chapel Circle of the President’s Society. Web is also an avid Cougar sports fan and frequently travels to Columbia to watch and support Cougar sports.

Though his contributions to the college, both financial and time, are significant, Web is not motivated by recognition but by the deep sense of care he has for Columbia College students, faculty, staff and alumni. He hopes others who enter into Columbia College will recognize what a special place it is.

Web is the son of the late Walter E. Bixby Jr., a college trustee emeritus, and the late Mary Martha Musser Bixby ’51. Bixby’s son, James Philip Bixby, graduated from Columbia College in 2005. Web and his wife, Tracy, reside in Kansas City, Missouri.

Honorary Alumni Award

For outstanding leadership and service to Columbia College

Mary McCleary Posner
Mary McCleary Posner is the president and a principal of Posner McCleary Inc., an international management consulting, marketing, advertising and financial relations firm. The firm specializes in serving corporations, law firms, colleges and universities.

Prior to starting Posner McCleary Inc., Mary was a senior vice president of a major communications firm in New York City for 10 years. Her clients have included some of the largest multinationals in the world, such as ITT Corporation and seven of its companies including Hartford Insurance, Morton Frozen Foods, Continental Baking Company, ITT Aerospace Optical, ITT Rayoner and Sheraton Hotels. She also worked as a supervisor with American Telephone and Telegraph’s Long Lines Division in New York City.

An active member of various boards, Mary served on the National Advisory Council of the U.S. Small Business Administration for six years. She was chairman of the Audit Committee and a member of the Compensation Committee of The Empire District Electric Company, a New York Stock Exchange listed investor-owned utility whose board she served on for 18 years.

Understanding the enormous role and sacrifice veterans have played into her professional successes, she is the founder and chairman of The Memorial Day Weekend Salute to Veterans Corporation, a private, nonprofit educational company that has created an annual six-day celebration in Missouri for the past 26 years. She credits her father, a World War I veteran, with giving back to veterans. “He told me that I was able to enjoy the corporate career that I had because very brave men and women had risked their lives to give me the freedom to do so, and if I could ever figure out a way to say thank you, I should do it,” she says. During the events in 2012, over 100,000 visitors participated in the free airshows, parade and ceremonies produced by 3,000 volunteers and 100 committee chairmen.

It’s no wonder, then, that Mary’s passion for supporting veterans has drawn her to Columbia College, where service to veterans and military personnel is deeply embedded in the college’s identity. In 2013, Mary announced the formation of a scholarship honoring Col. Mike Randerson’s retirement and his service to Columbia College. The annual endowed scholarship supports qualified veteran students, including active duty military, Guard, Reserve and/or their dependents who wish to attend the college. Mary is also actively involved in Columbia College’s annual Military Recognition Day.

Among her many awards, Mary has been listed in Who’s Who in Finance and Industry, Who’s Who in Advertising and Who’s Who in the Middle West. Her articles have appeared in 
The Wall Street Journal and Enterprise, among others. Mary and her family reside in Columbia, Missouri.

Jane Froman Courage Award

For demonstrating perseverance to overcome personal obstacles while continuing to better him- or herself personally or professionally. 

Jennifer Foxworthy '12
After an illustrious career in the U.S. Military and a history of championing adversity, Jennifer C. Foxworthy ’12 now inspires others to push beyond the bounds of their own setbacks and lead lives of hope.

For 21 years, Jennifer served in the U.S. Navy, first as an Ocean Systems Technical Analyst. Four years into her career, she signed up for the elite Naval Aircrew Candidate training and became the first African American female in over five years to complete the training. For the next 14 years as an Aircrewman, Jennifer flew on three different platforms (E6-A, P-3 and EP-3) in combat missions for three separate wars (Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq). During this time, she logged over 3,700 flight hours. Success was not easy: as an African American woman, she faced an uphill battle. No one like her had ever achieved what she was attempting to do. Ultimately, she conquered adversity by becoming the first African American Aircrewman in the enlisted ranks, and the first female In Flight Technician during her squadron tours.

In 2010, Jennifer changed her focus in the military to Active Duty welfare and completed the Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation Program School in Point Loma, California, before becoming a certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor. In all, she managed more than 100 drug and alcohol abuse and dependency cases.

After retiring from the military in 2013, Jennifer began her second career as a motivational speaker, author and blogger. She is the founder and chief executive officer of Inspirationally Speaking, LLC, as well as the founder of the Unstoppable You Women’s Conference, all of which aims to inspire others to push past the bounds of adversity. In 2014, she published a book based on her own experience titled
Tomorrow My Sunshine Will Come: Memoirs of Women Who Survived Domestic Violence.

“If I can reach just one person, then my trials and tribulations were not in vain,” she says. “I have embraced those life experiences because they have made me into the human I am today.”

Jennifer is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Outstanding Military Person of the Year (an honor recognized by the Washington State Masons), the 2001 Naval Air Station Whidbey Island Sea Sailor of the Year, two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals and five Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals. She also received four Air Medals for meritorious achievement while participating in sustained aerial flight operations under flight orders for direct combat support missions.

ennifer lives with her husband, Thomas, her son, Noah, and three stepchildren: Josh, Laura and Matt. They reside in Lusby, Maryland.