The Buena Vista University National Alumni Association honored four individuals over Homecoming weekend for their service to the university and to society. The awards were presented at a special ceremony on Saturday, Oct. 4.
Those honored were:
● Alice (Ahrendsen) Hoffmeier, Class of 1958, of Cedar Rapids, the recipient of the Henry Olson Award. The award is the highest honor presented by the BVU Alumni Association. Named in honor of BVU's 13th president, the award recognizes former students who have made significant contributions to society and/or to the University for their exceptional effort, dedication and self-sacrifice in service to others.
Alice, who graduated cum laude from Buena Vista with a degree in music education, taught at Mapleton for two years then earned her master's degree in music from the University of Iowa in 1962. She and her late husband, Norvin, a CPA, were married in 1963. She taught for two years in Cedar Rapids and then stayed home to raise her family and did not return to full-time classroom teaching.
At Buena Vista, Alice was involved in the choir and band and had parts in some of the theater productions. She was a member of Sigma Tau Delta and Apha Psi Omega, as well as the Delta Phi Beta social sorority.
In Cedar Rapids, she has been active in Trinity Lutheran Church, where she served as director of the men's choir for 25 years, and is a member of the Lutheran Women's Missionary League. After Norvin's death in 2003, Alice also became involved in mission work, traveling to Alaska, New York City, Philadelphia, Honduras and South Africa.
Alice has maintained an active lifestyle, participating in the Des Moines Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI), helping carry the Olympic torch through Cedar Rapids in 1996 and climbing 14,000-foot mountains in Colorado.
She is also involved in several Cedar Rapids civic organizations, teaches piano lessons, substitute teaches and visits senior citizens in local assisted living facilities.
Alice has two children: Jean Ash, and her husband, Carey, have two children, Emily and Austin. Erich and his wife, Brandy, have two children, Callah and Brody. They all live in Cedar Rapids.
● Benjamin L. Simmons, Class of 1993, of Ferney Voltaire, France, the recipient of the Keith Briscoe Award. The award was named in honor of BVU's 16th President, who led the campus from 1974 to 1995. It is intended to recognize recent graduates for their past student achievements and present career success.
Ben, who graduated from BV summa cum laude with a degree in international studies and was Senior of the Year, is the Legal Officer for the Economics and Trade Branch of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) in Geneva, Switzerland.
While a student at BV, Ben served on the Student Senate for four years, including president his senior year; was on the BV Judicial Board and played on the tennis team. He was also one of the founding members of the Students Concerned About Tomorrow's Environment (SCATE). His junior year he studied Spanish in Mexico and his senior year he interned in Washington, D.C. at an organization promoting agricultural cooperatives in developing countries.
After graduating from BV, Ben joined the Peace Corps, serving as an agricultural extension volunteer in southern Senegal.
In 1996 he entered Columbia University, where, in 2000, he earned a master's degree in international affairs from the School of International and Public Affairs and a law degree from the School of Law. He then practiced environmental law for three years in New York City with the firm of Arnold & Porter LLP.
He joined the United Nations in late 2003, where he is currently responsible for the development and implementation of its trade and environment strategy and work program, including a recent initiative on climate change and trade.
In his spare time, Ben enjoys traveling and hiking/backpacking. During his career, he has traveled in 56 countries and lived in seven.
He and his wife, Cynthia Bryant - who is a Migration Policy Specialist for the International Organization for Migration in Geneva - have a son, Nathaniel, age 15 months.
● Steven Smith, Class of 1976, Guthrie Center, the recipient of the John Fisher Alumni Award. The award was established in 1970 and named for Buena Vista's 14th president. This outstanding service award recognizes a former student who possesses a consistent and persevering dedication to the qualities for which the University stands.
Steven, who graduated from Buena Vista with degrees in elementary education and physical education, is the superintendent of the Guthrie Center and Adair-Casey community school districts.
While a student at BV, he lettered on the track and cross country teams and was a member of Esprit de Corps. As an alumnus, he has continued to serve BVU in several capacities, including participation in Career Symposiums and membership in the BV Club. He has also helped recruit many students who have enrolled at BVU, as well as hired several Buena Vista graduates to teach at Guthrie Center.
After graduating from BV, he earned his master's degree in educational administration from Iowa State University in 1988 and received a certificate of advanced study in educational administration at ISU in 1994. He began his teaching career at Adair-Casey from 1976-1977, and then started teaching and coaching in the Guthrie Center schools. He served as elementary school principal there from 1988-1993 when he was named superintendent.
During his tenure, the school was one of two in Iowa to receive an exemplary accreditation rating from the North Central Association. He is also a member of several professional organizations, and in 1995 was selected to be a member of Leadership Iowa.
Steven is active in First Christian Church and is involved in a number of community organizations, including the chamber of commerce, Lions Club, 4-H and the Guthrie Center Development Corporation.
He and his wife, Nancy, an administrative assistant at Guthrie County State Bank, have three children: Brett, Class of 2001, who lives in Waukee with his wife, Abby, and their son, Brady; Bart, Class of 2003, who lives in Alta with his wife Kelly (Taylor), Class of 2004; Stephanie of West Des Moines, and Ben, a senior at Buena Vista.
● Harold V. Geisinger, of Storm Lake, the recipient of the Wendell Halverson Outstanding Friend Award. Named in honor of BVU's 15th president, the award recognizes service by individuals who are not alumni of the university.
Harold, a native of Storm Lake, graduated from Storm Lake High School in 1944. After serving in the European theater in the Army from 1944-46, he returned to Storm Lake to start farming with his parents and continues to help farm with his son, Harold (Butch) II.
Harold has had a lifelong interest in education, serving for 21 years on the board of the Storm Lake Community School District, including several years as its president. During his service on the board, the school district completed a number of building projects, including the athletic stadium; additions to South, West and East schools; and an addition to the high school to provide facilities for Iowa Central Community College. He was also on the board when the district entered a cooperative agreement with Buena Vista to enable Storm Lake students to take classes at BV and earn college credit while still in high school.
His interest in education has also had an impact on Buena Vista University where he has been a generous benefactor and is a member of the Order of the Arch, BVU's esteemed giving society. He is also a loyal fan of BVU athletics and attends cultural events on campus.
In addition to his service on the school board, Harold is active in the United Methodist Church and is a member of several civic organizations. He has also previously served on the Iowa State University Extension Council and the Citizens Advisory Council for the Storm Lake Schools. He continues to be a hospice volunteer and a volunteer driver for the Veterans Administration van to transport veterans for medical appointments at VA facilities.
Harold and his late wife, Laura May, have three children: Sue and Harold (Butch) II of Storm Lake; and Don of Olathe, Kansas. He has four grandchildren and two great grandchildren.