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Distinguished Alumni

Spring 2010 | By THiNK Staff. Photo by $photocredit.value.

BA 1985, Political Science

As an investigative reporter at the Seattle Times, Ken Armstrong has written about illegally sealed court records, the MRSA pathogen’s unchecked rise, and a community’s complicity in protecting wayward athletes. He previously worked at the Chicago Tribune, where he co-wrote a series on the death penalty that prompted the governor of Illinois to suspend executions and empty death row. In 2009 Armstrong received the John Chancellor Award from Columbia University for lifetime achievement. He has been a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University and the McGraw Professor of Writing at Princeton. He has won many of journalism’s top awards, including the George Polk, Worth Bingham and Michael Kelly, and is a four-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He co-authored a book with Nick Perry, Scoreboard, Baby, to be published this fall.


BA 1971, History

Wally Brant is the president and CEO of Indiana Oxygen Company, a third-generation, family owned Indiana company that manufactures and distributes industrial, laboratory, and medical gases as well as welding equipment and supplies. Immediately after college during the Vietnam War, Brant served in the U.S. Air Force as a navigator on a B-52 combat crew, reaching the rank of lieutenant colonel. Brant and his company have received the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in manufacturing, “Best of Indianapolis” Award for Medical and Industrial Gases, Indianapolis Colts Community Service Award, and many more. Brant serves on the board of directors for the Hoosier Motor Club (AAA), the International Oxygen Manufacturers Association, Best Buddies of Indiana, and numerous civic and nonprofit associations. In addition, he has been president of several local and national trade associations.


BS 1967, Industrial Management MA 1968, Theatre

Randy Earle has worked behind the scenes on hundreds of stage productions in the academic and professional worlds. During his 38 years in the Department of Television, Radio, Film, and Theatre at San Jose State University, he served as technical operations supervisor for Morris Dailey Auditorium, coordinator of the theatre arts program, head of the technical theatre area, designer of lighting and sound, and professor of lighting and sound. While at San Jose State, Earle formed Pantechnicon LLC, a consulting firm focused on designing and building performing arts facilities. He gained national and international recognition for his work as president and fellow in the United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT), where he currently serves as chair of fellows. He received the prestigious Joel E. Rubin Founders Award from USITT, the state of California Governor’s Award for Employee Safety, and was a three-time winner of San Jose State University’s Meritorious Performance and Professional Promise Award.


BS 1959, Speech Pathology/Audiology

Coming from a long line of Boilermakers, Marybeth Lyles Higuera left California to study audiology and speech pathology in West Lafayette. After graduating from Purdue, she returned to the west coast and began working in the public school system as a speech pathologist. When the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) decided to use a master’s degree as the entry-level degree for the private practice of speech-language pathology, it offered to “grandfather” Higuera in with her bachelor’s degree. Instead of accepting, she went back to school to earn a master’s degree in audiology. She then began a private practice, which allowed her to be involved with both her family and her community. Following her speech pathology career, Higuera focused on travel, which led her to meeting her current husband, Joe. After marrying, the couple traveled the world and became semi-professional poker players. As a retiree, she continues to enjoy traveling to see their nine children.


BA 1972, History MA 1974, American Studies

A professor’s simple question, “Have you ever considered getting a PhD?” launched Sherry Smith’s academic career. A distinguished professor of history and associate director of the Clements Center for Southwest Studies at Southern Methodist University (SMU), Smith is also a prolific author. In 2000, she wrote Re-imagining Indians: Native Americans Through Anglo Eyes,1880-1940, which garnered her the Organization of American Historians’ Rawley Prize for best book on race relations (2001) and the Author’s Award (Godbey Lecture Series at SMU). She was president of the Western History Association (2008–09) and is a Los Angeles Times Distinguished Fellow at the Huntington Library. She has received numerous grants, fellowships, and awards, and is an active member in several professional organizations. Smith and her husband, fellow historian Robert W. Righter, are passionate about their work to preserve the cultural resources of Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.


Visit www.cla.purdue.edu/alumni/awards for more information about the 2010 Distinguished Alumni or to nominate a Liberal Arts alumnus/alumna for next year’s awards.

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