The Center Education Foundation Distinguished Alumni Award recognizes graduates whose deeds and character exemplify outstanding achievement in their life's work and/or service to their communities. The honorees' spirit and leadership are worthy of recognition and have inspired praise and gratitude among their peers.

Recipients of the Distinguished Alumni Award must be graduates of Center High School and must have graduated at least 10 years prior to their induction.

The award was started in 2012 and recipients are recognized annually at the Foundation Gala. The Foundation is proud announce the 2018 recipients of the Distinguished Alumni Award; Dr. Stephen Smalley of the class of 1973 and Dr. Steven Currall of the class of 1977.

Nominations are now open for the 2019 recipients. Note that the requirements have changed to require recipients to have graduated more than 10 years ago, rather than the previous limit of 25 years. As a result graduates through the class of 2008 are eligible to be nominated! Click here to download the nomination form.

2018 Recipients

Dr. Stephen Smalley, from the class of 1973, is a renowned Radiation Oncologist who has practiced medicine since his graduation from the UMKC School of Medicine in 1979. He did his internship and residency at the Mayo Clinic before returning to Kansas City in 1986 to practice, teach, and engage in research at the University of Kansas Medical Center. He is currently a Clinical Professor at KU and continues to practice in the Kansas City area.

Dr. Currall, 1977 graduate of Center High School, is the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Prior to joining SMU, Dr. Currall held executive leadership positions at the University of California Global Health Institute, UC Davis, and the University College of London, and Rice University. His research area is Organizational Psychology and he has published numerous articles and books. His PhD is from Cornell University following a Masters from the London School of Economics & Politics and a BA from Baylor University. 

Past recipients


  • John Cassidy (1951) - John is the founder of the Winter Sports Program for Special Olympics of Kansas. As President of the Kansas City Ski Club, John got involved with the fledging Winter Sports Program in 1984. It became his passion. Working with volunteers and staff from the Ski Club and Special Olympics Kansas, John created the program that has been named in his honor, the John L Cassidy Heartland Winter Games. The competition includes over 350 athletes each year competing in Alpine and Cross Country Skiing, Snowshoe Racing, Speed & Figure Skating and Floor Hockey at venues including Snow Creek in Weston, MO.
  • Bob Beltz (1968) - Bob Beltz is a minister, teacher, author and film producer. Bob was founder and then Teaching Pastor of Cherry Hills Community Church in Denver, and Senior Pastor of High Street Community Church in Santa Cruz, California. Bob joined the Anschutz Corporation of Denver, Colorado as a special advisor to Philip Anschutz, Chairman of the Board. In this role Bob helped develop, produce, and market films for the Anschutz Film Group, parent company of Walden Media (Holes, Because of Winn-Dixie, Around the World in 80 Days, I Am David, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) and Bristol Bay Productions (Ray, Sahara). Bob was the co-producer of Crusader Entertainment's film Joshua, based on Joseph Girzone's best-selling novel, and helped develop and produce Amazing Grace: the William Wilberforce Story.
  • John Kenneth Adams (1952) - John is a world renowned concert pianist and music professor. After graduation from Center, he received his bachelors degree from UMKC, his masters from Yale University followed by his appointment as a Fulbright Scholar and three years of study at the Royal Academy of Music in London. He has been a professor of music for over 50 years at the University of Texas and the University of South Carolina. He has performed in 22 countries worldwide and was recently named as a Steinway Artist.
  • Todd Dicus (1972) -Since 1993 Todd has worked at the American Academy of Family Physicians, one of the largest medical associations, with over 120,000 members, a budget of nearly $100 million, and a staff of over 400. He currently serves as the Chief Operating Officer and Deputy Executive Vice President, and has overall responsibility for development and implementation of operational strategy, including oversight of budgetary, information technology, human resources, legal and compliance functions.  Prior to assuming his current position, Todd practiced law in Kansas City and served as the AAFP’s General Counsel. Todd received his undergraduate degree at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri and his law degree from UMKC.


  • Gary Neal Johnson (1968) - Gary is a long time presence on the theatrical stages of Kansas City as well as other cities. Perhaps his best known role is Ebeneezer Scrooge in the Kansas City Repertory production of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.
  • Jon Cook (1989) - As the CEO of Kansas City based advertising agency VML, Jon has led the company to significant international growth. During Jon's tenure at VML, the company has grown from 30 employees in Kansas City to over 1,900 spread over six continents


  • Steven Koltai (1972) - As a social entrepreneur, Steven has done pioneering work in using entrepreneurial practices to help low income communities in the US and abroad to dramatically improve their circumstances.  
  • Ben Schafer (1989) - Chairman of the Department of Civil Engineering at Johns Hopkins University and a leading international researcher on the use of thin walled structures for more cost effective buildings.


  • Jerome Pearson (1956) - Space scientist and aerospace engineer, inventor of many technologies used in space exploration
  • Judge Lisa Hardwick (1978) - Attorney, legislator and judge.  First African American woman to serve on Missouri Court of Appeals
  • Julie Mattson (1966) - School Board members, volunteer and community leader.  Advocate for kids for many years


  • Dr. Cindy Frewen Wuellner (1974) - Architect and Futurist focused on the future of urban living
  • Dr. Loren Berenbom (1971) - Cardiac Electrophysiologist, pioneer in treating heart rhythm disease

If you would like to nominate a recipient for the Distinguished Alumni Award, click here to download the nomination form.

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