Distinguished Alumni Awards

Each year since 1963, the University of Iowa Alumni Association has presented accomplished alumni and friends with the association's highest honor—the Distinguished Alumni Award. To best recognize individuals selected for service or for achievement, awards are presented in six categories: Achievement, Service, Hickerson Recognition, Faculty/Staff, Young Alumni, and Friend of the University.

2016 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients

"The 2016 awardees are exemplary representatives of the University of Iowa," says Jeff Kueter, UIAA president and CEO. "They are accomplished professionals, community leaders, philanthropists, and mentors to students and young professionals."


Mary A. Anderson Blegen, 75MA, 87PhD

Mary Anderson Blegen

Internationally regarded as an accomplished researcher and fellow of the American Academy of Nursing, Mary Blegen has developed evidence-based, widely implemented nursing practices that significantly enhance patient care and safety, as well as improve nursing education. In addition to her significant research contributions, she has also served as a mentor, professor, and exemplary role model to countless young nurses.

Mark Johnson, 73MA

Mark Johnson

One of this generation's most prolific and successful film producers, Mark Johnson has spent his career creating critically acclaimed films and television programs that have helped shape American pop culture. The Peabody, Emmy, Golden Globe, and Oscar award winner's work includes such influential shows as Breaking Bad, The Notebook, and Rain Man.

Albert Ruffalo, 75MA

Albert Ruffalo

As the founder of RuffaloCODY, Albert Ruffalo has rapidly grown the company into the leading provider of strategic fundraising and enrollment management services and software, serving more than 900 colleges, universities, and nonprofit organizations around the world. The entrepreneur also graciously provides his visionary leadership to such organizations as Big Brothers & Big Sisters, Junior Achievement, the American Cancer Society, Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids, and the UI College of Education.


Dale Baker, 68BBA, and Linda Baker, 68BA

Dale and Linda Baker

With a spirit of cheerful giving and volunteerism, Dale and Linda Baker have made an indelible impact on many university areas, from the Tippie College of Business to the UI Alumni Association. The Bakers have leveraged their great professional success in health care consulting and education to strengthen their alma mater and provide scholarship support to many deserving students.

Thomas J. Marriott Jr., 68BSChE

Thomas Marriott

As a longtime member and past president of the UI Department of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering Professional Advisory Board, Thomas Marriott Jr. helped create a mentoring program between students and alumni that has made a difference in the lives of many undergraduates. The president of Hawkeye Consulting Services regularly volunteers his time in UI classrooms and has established a scholarship to assist chemical engineering students for years to come.

Kyle Zimmer, 82BA

Kyle Zimmer

Kyle Zimmer has made it her life's mission to break down the barriers to reading. She founded the nonprofit, First Book, which has worked with publishers to provide more than 125 million new books to disadvantaged children and to promote literacy, learning, and educational equity among the nation's youth.


Gary Fethke, 64BA, 68PhD

Gary Fethke

Through his longtime tenure and multiple UI leadership roles–including as dean of the Tippie College of Business and interim university president–Gary Fethke has influenced greatly the growth and vitality of this institution. His faithful, steady influence on campus can be seen in the bricks and mortar of buildings like the Pomerantz Career Center and in the innovative educational tracks offered to business students.

Virginia Myers, 49BA, 51MFA

Virginia Myers

An accomplished artist widely admired for the invention of the Iowa Foil Printer, Virginia Myers began her 50-year UI career in 1962 when she became an instructor in the printmaking department–the only woman teaching studio courses at the time. Influenced by mentor Mauricio Lasansky, she rose through the ranks to full professor, devoting her considerable talents toward shaping the department into a successful program.


Meghan Gutierrez, 98BA

Meghan Gutierrez

Meghan Henry Gutierrez has devoted her entire career to the government and philanthropic sectors, beginning as a Congressional staff member on Capitol Hill for a prominent leader in health care policy and then transferring her skillset to the non-profit sector. Most notably among her achievements, she is the youngest chief executive officer of any major cancer-fighting organization in the United States, in her case the Lymphoma Research Foundation.

Tom Niblock, 07BA, 07BBA

Tom Niblock

During his six years in the Foreign Service, Tom Niblock has amassed an impeccable record. His diplomatic career began as an assistant to the U.S. Ambassador at embassies in Beijing, China, and Islamabad, Pakistan, where he developed a brand of excellence that continues through his foreign policy work in the U.S. Department of State's Office of Taiwan Coordination.


Abigail Foerstner

Abigail Foerstner

Abigail Foerstner's devotion is exceptional in both spirit and deed, illuminated in the three major books she's written about the University of Iowa: James Van Allen: The First Eight Billion Miles (an official biography), a book about Bertha Shambaugh, and a work that records the captivating history of the UI Museum of Art. She also collaborated with the UI Libraries on a website that presents the history and role of Van Allen in the 1958 Explorer I satellite mission. An acclaimed journalism professor at Northwestern University, Foerstner has applied her writing skills toward becoming one of the UI's best ambassadors.

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