This year’s Colorado State University Distinguished Alumni Awards honors five graduates of the College of Health and Human Sciences who have gone on to distinguished careers while maintaining strong ties to their alma mater. Representing degrees in education, social work, and physical education, these alumni have made an incredible impact on social welfare policy and workforce development; procurement; school leadership; and real estate and CSU Athletics.
“We are incredibly proud of our CHHS alumni who are changing lives,” said Dean Lise Youngblade. “This year’s Distinguished Alumni Awards include five inspiring members of our college family who represent the diversity of disciplines in our college and the far-reaching impact our graduates can make in their careers and service.”
Read on to learn about the 2022 Distinguished Alumni Award winners with degrees from the College of Health and Human Sciences: Linda Meserve, Carol and Gene Vaughan, Melissa Pappas, and Ben Rainbolt, Jr.
Jim and Nadine Henry Award
As a child, Linda (Morgan) Meserve (B.S., physical education, ’86), struggled with swimming but she enjoyed the challenges it presented and persevered. She became a walk-on athlete on CSU’s swimming and diving teams and lettered in swimming all four years. After graduating from the Department of Exercise and Sport Science (now Department of Health and Exercise Science), she was hired in 1988 as an accounting technician at the University of Southern Colorado, which in 2003, became CSU Pueblo and part of the CSU System. In 1991, she began what would become a distinguished, 31-year career in University procurement. She transferred to the Fort Collins campus in 1998, and despite joining a male-dominated office, she was the first female team lead, the first female supervising purchasing agent/associate director, and ultimately, the first female director and chief procurement officer in the University’s history.
One of her first assignments on the Main Campus was procuring computers and software to replace the hundreds of machines damaged in the Spring Creek Flood in July 1997. Throughout the following years, Meserve was an integral part of the high-profile solicitation and contracting processes for Pouring Rights (aka, the Coca-Cola contract), which was the largest solicited revenue agreement in CSU’s history at the time; a statewide high-speed internet access initiative that included the University of Colorado, the University of Wyoming, the Colorado School of Mines, and the Auraria Campus, including Metro State; multiple solicitations to establish the CSU Global Campus; dining options for the Lory Student Center; on-campus banking services; and resurfacing and updating of Jack Christensen track, to name just a few.
Meserve’s tremendous dedication to the University was on full display during the COVID-19 pandemic when she and her team worked tirelessly to acquire personal protective equipment and sanitization stations during a time of extreme shortages. Her tenacity and dedication ensured students, faculty, and researchers could continue moving forward during a challenging time. During her career, she has authored or co-authored several publications related to procurement, served on various University-wide committees, and volunteered with the Rocky Mountain Governmental Purchasing Association, which honored her with a Distinguished Service Award in 2018. Before she retired in April 2022, the status of chief procurement officer emerita was conferred on her.
She is a lifetime member of the Alumni Association and a longtime donor to the University, especially to athletics. Having benefited from Title IX as a student, Meserve and her husband, Rick, have supported CSU women’s sports and support scholarships for student-athletes through the Rams Legacy of Champions program.
About the award: This award is given in honor of Jim (’40) and Nadine (Hartshorn) (’41) Henry, who exemplified extraordinary service to the University and its academic, athletics, and alumni programs. This award is presented annually to alumni who represent the highest goals of the Alumni Association and the University and who have given significant support and service to both.
Distinguished Athletics Award
Longtime Fort Collins residents, Carol (B.S., health and physical education, ’71) and Gene (B.S., health and physical education, ’70; CERT, ’70; M.Ed., education, ’72) Vaughan believe in investing in their community in countless ways. The couple met at CSU in the late 1960s when Carol was on the golf and swimming teams. After graduation, she began a 20-plus year career as a dental assistant to a local oral surgeon, and Gene went into real estate. In 1987, Gene opened RE/MAX First Associates Inc., and over the years, he opened five more offices serving Northern Colorado. In 2005, the Vaughans merged their company with RE/MAX Alliance based in Arvada to create the largest real estate company in the state with 25 offices and nearly 900 real estate agents. Gene has been named Realtor of the Year and Broker/Owner of the Year and received the Distinguished Service Award for the RE/MAX Mountain States region. Carol and Gene have been deeply involved in the Fort Collins community and volunteered on numerous boards and charitable organizations. For decades, they have generously supported the Department of Health and Exercise Science in the College of Health and Human Sciences (where they were honored as Distinguished Alumni in 2006) and CSU Athletics where they have held football and basketball tickets for more than 40 years.
About the award: The purpose of this award is to recognize an outstanding commitment to CSU Athletics; significant contributions toward the success of CSU Athletics as a staff member, athlete, volunteer, or donor; and achievements that have brought honor to the University.
College of Health and Human Sciences Honor Alumna
Melissa Pappas (B.A., social work, ’85) is the founder and CEO of ATHENA Consulting, an award-winning staffing agency that places professionals in long-term positions with state government agencies providing health care and human services. After attending Colorado State, she earned a master’s degree in social service administration at the University of Chicago and began advocating for national welfare policy with the American Public Welfare Association in Washington, D.C. She later became a senior executive for government operations at Maximus, a consulting company that improves the efficiency of state and local government human service programs. Pappas also believes in giving back to her communities. She recently completed two terms as chair of The Treatment and Learning Centers’ board of trustees, an organization serving children and adults with special needs in Maryland. She also serves on the executive leadership council for CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences, where she funds a scholarship for first-generation students studying social work. Pappas is the proud mother of three sons; two of whom are CSU graduates. Learn about Melissa’s CSU experiences that shaped her career.
About the college honor alumni award: College alumni awards recognize career accomplishments; service to recipients’ local communities, the state, nation, or world; and achievements that have brought honor to themselves and the University, as well as service and contributions of time and/or resources to the University.
College of Agricultural Sciences Honor Alumnus
Ben Rainbolt Jr. (B.S., vocational agriculture, ’81; M.Ed., vocational education, ’89) was born and raised on a farm near Burlington, Colorado. He attended Northeastern Junior College in Sterling, where he was an agriculture education major and met his future wife, Pam Yearous (B.S., ’83). After graduation, he enrolled at CSU where he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees and his secondary principal license from CSU’s School of Education. Weld County has been the beneficiary of this distinguished career in education and community service. He has taught throughout the school district but invested much of his career at Valley High School in Gilcrest, where he most notably served as principal and significantly improved graduation rates. Rainbolt has served on CSU’s Ag Ed Advisory Committee and the Ag Ed selection committee, as well as taught a course and guest-lectured in the College of Agricultural Sciences. Rainbolt also served on many boards and foundations and received numerous awards, including Outstanding Teacher of Region II and Vo-Ag Teacher of the Year. After retiring in 2007, he accepted a position with Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, and in 2010, he was named the executive director. He is also the current president of the school board for Weld County School District RE-1.
Other honorees and celebration details
The CSU Alumni Association will present the Distinguished Alumni Awards at an October 13 ceremony kicking off Homecoming and Family Weekend. Learn more about all 2022 Distinguished Alumni Award recipients, and register to attend.