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2008.04.02 > For Immediate Release
contact: Tim Kaldahl - University Relations
phone: 402.554.3502 - email:

College of Public Affairs and Community Service Honors Alumni and Rhonda Hawks

Omaha - Twelve alumni from the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) College of Public Affairs and Community Service (CPACS) and Rhonda A. Hawks, president of the Hawks Foundation, were recognized Tuesday, April 1, at the W.H. and Dorothy Thompson Alumni Center.

The annual Alumni Awards for Excellence in Public Service and the Hubert Locke Award for Distinguished Service recognize the best in integrity, stewardship, volunteerism, leadership and commitment to social justice in the public and community service arena.

B.J. Reed, CPACS dean, presented the Locke Award–which honors a person who has demonstrated exemplary commitment to the ideals of public service–to Hawks. She has been responsible for the operation of the foundation, which focuses on social issues such as mental health, homelessness and substance abuse; education through scholarships for need-based students, most of whom attend Midwestern colleges and universities; Christian ministry in the United States and abroad; and the arts.

Hawks was born in southwestern Iowa and holds a bachelor of arts degree in business administration from Buena Vista College in Storm Lake, Iowa, as well as an associate of arts degree from Iowa Western Community College. She was an energy industry professional at Northern Natural Gas and later Tenaska from 1981 through 2002, holding various management positions. Her responsibilities ranged from regulatory filings with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission at Northern Natural Gas to purchasing short-term natural gas supplies and negotiating long-term transportation arrangements at Tenaska for various Tenaska-owned power generating facilities.

Rhonda and her husband, Howard, have served as honorary chairs for Community Alliance's "Breaking the Silence" event, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society gala and the Omaha Community Playhouse gala. The Hawks also received the Leadership Family Award from Heartland Family Service, the Humanitarian Award from the National Conference for Community Justice (NCCJ), the Spirit of Philanthropy Award from the Methodist Hospital Foundation, the Citizen of the Year Award from United Way of the Midlands, and the "Others" Award from the Salvation Army. Rhonda Hawks serves as the honorary chair for Omaha Habitat for Humanity Women Build 2008. She is the honorary chair for the Madonna School 2008 Capital Campaign, as well.

The Locke Award was established six years ago and is named for Hubert Locke, who served as the first permanent dean of CPACS from 1972 to 1976.

The following outline the twelve Alumni Award winners and note their degrees and year of graduation from UNO.

“We are proud to recognize the unique accomplishments of these individuals. On a national, state, local and individual level, each has made substantial and positive contributions to society and to our overall quality of life,” Reed said.

The Alumni Award winners are:

Scott A. Carlson received a bachelor of science in criminal justice degree from UNO on the Lincoln campus in 1992. He is the statewide coordinator for problem-solving courts for the Nebraska Supreme Court administrative offices. Carlson began working in this position in 2005 and is responsible for organizing and supporting the 21 existing statewide problem-solving courts and assisting the establishment of problem-solving court services throughout Nebraska.

John Fiene received a bachelor of general studies degree with a specialization in economics and later earned a master of public administration degree from UNO in 2001. Fiene serves the UNO community as the associate vice chancellor for technology. His responsibilities include leading technology partnerships across the campus, in the community and in distance education. Prior to joining UNO in 1991, Fiene lead a software development and integration firm. Outside of work, Fiene served as volunteer information technology director for the Open Door Mission and a consultant for area non-profits.

Jason L. Hansen graduated from the Goodrich Scholarship Program with a bachelor of science in business administration degree in 2003. Upon graduation, he began working for FirstBank Holding Company in Lakewood, Colo. Currently he is a vice president in American National Bank's commercial lending division. His past and present community involvement includes volunteering for the Young Professional Councils, Junior Achievement, Project Wee Care, Habitat for Humanity and as a football coach at Omaha North High School.

Stephen McCoy earned a bachelor of science degree in public administration with a specialization in aviation administration from UNO in 2003. He is currently pursuing a master in public administration degree at UNO. Serving with the Omaha Airport Authority for six years, he works as an operations supervisor, overseeing the daily operations of Eppley Airfield and the Millard Airport. McCoy is also an adjunct faculty member with the UNO Aviation Institute and a certified member of the American Association of Airport Executives.

Jamesena “Jamie” Grimes Moore earned a master of social work degree from UNO in 1988. She is vice president of volunteer and community services at United Way of the Midlands, where she has been employed since 1988. Moore joined the United Way staff as a social work practicum student and within five years rose to the position of vice president. She has been instrumental in program development and implementation of programs such as Heartland Blueprint and NE 2-1-1on the local and national levels. She is the only Nebraskan to serve in an elected position on the national board of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and has been selected twice as the Nebraska Social Worker of the Year.

Frank Peak earned a bachelor of general studies degree with specializations in journalism and political science from UNO in 1981 and a master in public administration degree from UNO in 2000. Peak has a long history in community activism and social justice leadership. He is presently community outreach services administrator for the Creighton University Medical Center Partnership In Health and is co-founder and president/CEO of Nebraska Ethnics Together Working On Reaching Kids, Inc. He also serves as a member of the Statewide Minority Health Advisory Committee of the Nebraska Health and Human Services System Office of Minority Health, the Douglas County Board of Health, and the executive committee of the Nebraska Partners In Prevention State Incentive grant project by gubernatorial appointment.

Janice Price earned a master of science degree in human development and the family from UN-L with a graduate certificate in gerontology from UNO. She is currently serving as interim administrator of the State Unit on Aging. In 1989 she became a care manager with the Nebraska Department of Social Services in the Medicaid waiver program, working with older adults who wished to remain in their own homes. In 1997, she began as a program specialist with the State Unit on Aging, working with the state-wide care management program. In 2000, Price also became project director for Nebraska's Alzheimer's Disease Demonstration Grants to the States and the National Family Caregiver Support Program.

Gabe Romero graduated from the Goodrich Scholarship Program with a bachelor of science in business administration degree in 2003. He has been with Aureus Group, a division of C&A Industries, for more than four years. While there, Romero has received accolades for Top Performer, Employee of the Quarter, been promoted from account manager to branch manager and earned the designation as a Certified Personnel Consultant. Romero is also a very active member of the Omaha community, having served as both secretary and vice president for the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce Tips group.

Paul Sather received his master of social work degree from UNO in 1979. Sather’s career as a social worker included work with the Nebraska Children's Home Society, the Hudson Center, and Woodhaven Counseling Associates. Sather currently serves as the director of the Service Learning Academy and American Humanics Program at UNO. He was the recipient of the 2003 Award for Excellence in Service Learning Teaching at UNO and the UNO Alumni Outstanding Teaching Award for CPACS in 1999. In 2006, he also received the Administration Commendation in Service Learning Award from the Midwest Consortium for Service Learning in Higher Education.

Michelle Schindler earned a bachelor of science in criminal justice degree from UNO on the Lincoln campus in 1989. She has served as the director of the Lancaster County Youth Services Center since 2006. Prior to this, she served as the deputy director of the center. Schindler also has served as the Transition Coordinator for the current Youth Services Center, is past president of the Heartland Juvenile Detention Association and has worked closely with national juvenile justice organizations to promote effective detention services.

Paul J. Strawhecker earned a master of public administration degree from UNO in 1980. The founder and president of Paul J. Strawhecker, Inc., he has spent his entire career assisting nonprofit organizations in fundraising, marketing, planning and public relations activities. Throughout his career, he has been responsible for programs generating more than $200 million, assisting government, social service, healthcare, education and religious organizations. The current chair of the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy (International), Paul also serves as an adjunct professor at UNO, and coordinates and teaches in the university’s Certificate in Fundraising Management program. He is also a frequent speaker at regional and national conferences.

Barbara Weitz earned master of social work degree from UNO in 1991. She is a proud alumna and former faculty member of the UNO School of Social Work. Her years of teaching were enriched by her work with service learning. She and her colleagues, Patricia Carlson and Paul Sather, were early innovators in the use of service learning in social work education. The three organized the first national social work conference on the use of service learning in social work education which resulted in the first book published on the subject. She received the UNO Alumni Outstanding Teacher Award in 2001.


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