Every year during Reunion Weekend, the college honors exceptional graduates by bestowing upon them the Alumni Citation—the highest award given by Denison to its alumni. The citation honors those who have achieved the highest levels of leadership in their fields through contributions to the professional, civic, or religious life of the nation or to the advancement of Denison itself. Here’s a look at this year’s recipients. (For more information on each honoree, visit DenisonEverywhere.com.)
Carole Rigsby Darst ’63
Retired, Indianapolis, Ind.
M.A., Case Western Reserve University
M.S., University of Massachusetts-Amherst
Darst has made a lifelong commitment to bringing art and art education to the forefront in the community around her—even when the word “community” has a statewide definition. She’s had a lasting impact on the arts in Ohio, Massachusetts, and Indiana, through programming, planning, lobbying, and community development. She has worked as a toy designer; graphic artist; designer of exhibits, theatre sets, and store interiors; and as an assistant education director at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. She was the exhibits and education director at the Indianapolis Arts Center, special projects and exhibits coordinator for the Indiana Arts Commission, and the program and theatre director at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. Darst was the Indiana arts lobbyist on state and national levels when she became executive director of the Indiana Citizens for the Arts and Indiana Advocates for the Arts.
Later she directed the statewide Millennium Program for the state of Indiana and implemented the revolving exhibit of Indiana artists at the governor’s residence. During those years, she served on many local and national arts and arts education boards of directors. She also contributed to arts programming at Indiana University, Purdue University, and Indiana-Purdue at Indianapolis. In addition, she has taught summer courses at Ball State University on the critical role of the arts in education, community development, and sustainability.
William H. Mobley ’63
Visiting Chair and Professor of Management, Asia Pacific Academy of Economics & Management, University of Macau, Macau, China
Ph.D., University of Maryland-College Park, 1971
M.A., University of Maryland-College Park, 1969
Mobley is a renowned educator who has devoted his career to the development and effectiveness of leaders and organizations on a global scale. His work on motivation, leadership, and organizational culture has been published in leading journals around the world. He previously served on President George H.W. Bush’s Commission on Minority Business Development and was a delegate to the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council. He has served as corporate manager of HR research and succession planning for PPG Industries; professor of management and director of the Center for Management and Organizational Research at the University of South Carolina; professor of management, dean of the college of business, president, and now president emeritus of Texas A&M University; and chancellor of the Texas A&M University System.
He has served as a senior Fulbright professor at National Taiwan University; a visiting fellow at Cornell University; a visiting professor at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology; and honorary professor at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. From 2002 to 2009, he was professor of management at China Europe International School and was named the first professor emeritus there.
For the last eight years, Mobley has led his own executive assessment and coaching firm, Mobley Group Pacific Ltd., and has served as managing director of William Global Partners Ltd., providing support for China start-up ventures.
Barbara Furin Sloat ’63
Biologist, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Mich.
Ph.D., University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, 1968
M.S., University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, 1966
Sloat is a powerful presence in her field—as a scientist, as an educator, and as an advocate for women in the sciences. She is a cell biologist whose research has focused on cellular morphogenesis in yeast. She has enjoyed a lifelong interest in medicine, both Western and Eastern, with treks in Tibet, a medical expedition in Nepal, and educational travel in India and Bhutan. Inspired by her trips to the Himalayas, Sloat studied Tibetan medicine at the Shang Shung Institute in Conway, Mass. Her travels also inspired her to study Western emergency medicine, and in 1998, she obtained her paramedic license. She served on the national executive board of the Association for Women in Science and on the board of Southeast Michigan’s HIV/AIDS Resource Center. She has been recognized by the University of Michigan for distinguished service, scholarship, and commitment to the betterment of the status of women, and she has been the recipient of Denison’s Grace Lyon Alumnae Award for her outstanding contributions to the advancement of women in science.
Sloat has long volunteered at the University of Michigan Health Center, where she currently serves on the Neuroscience Hospital Advisory Committee and the Neuroscience Patient and Family Partnership Council.
William H. Wilken ’63
Retired, Granville, Ohio
Ph.D., Syracuse University, 1971
M.A., Emory University, 1964
After 30 years in Washington, D.C.,Wilken returned to Granville because, he said, he and his wife Jane Trexler Wilkin ’64 were “in search of life on a human scale.” That search has brought him to a highly involved life in Granville, serving on governing boards for the community and his church, working on behalf of his Denison reunion committee, and serving two terms on the board of the Denison University Research Foundation. His path back to Granville, he says, was not a straight line. He taught political science at Georgia State University, was offered tenure, and instead of taking it, left to work in public policy research and advocacy. He became an authority on school finance reform as the director of the American Education Finance Association, and then switched gears again, becoming an information technology entrepreneur. “[It was] a rather ironic choice,” he says, “for someone who assiduously avoided any technical or scientific coursework at Denison.” He and two partners created CMS Information Services with 300 employees, a company that was later sold to a Fortune 500 corporation.
Nancy L. Ball-Licorish ’73
Director of Sponsored Programs, Lafayette College, Easton, Pa.
M.S., Indiana University-Bloomington, 1974
Ball-Licorish has been a loyal member of the Denison family, first working in admissions and educational services for five years and becoming the founding director of DART, the Denison Alumni Recruiting Team. Ball-Licorish then moved east and became director of sponsored programs at Lafayette College. She is active and engaged in her community, performing award-winning service for organizations in Bucks County, Pa., including service on the boards of the Easton YWCA (now Third Street Alliance for Women and Children) and the Bucks County Housing Group (BCHG). She has served as a volunteer for the local PBS station, Quakertown Food Bank, U.S. Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots, the Upper Bucks YMCA, the Easton YMCA, and Weller Health Center. In 2008, she was appointed to the Community Development Advisory Board for the Bucks County Department of Community and Economic Development. She is a recipient of the Shelley Partlon and Beyond 2012 Awards, both from BCHG. All the while, she also has continued her service to Denison, including her work as an alumni-nominated trustee, Alumni Council president, and National Annual Fund chair.
Constance M. Soja ’77
Professor/Presidential Scholar, Colgate University, Hamilton, N.Y.
Ph.D., University of Oregon, 1985
Soja is a professor of geology and a presidential scholar at Colgate University, where she teaches evolution, paleontology, Darwin, and a seminar on reefs that includes a field course in the Bahamas or Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. She also offers a first-year seminar, “The Sixth Extinction,” which details the modern biodiversity crisis. She leads science education workshops on biomimicry for high school teachers and on dinosaurs for elementary school teachers and their students. She also has directed Colgate’s study-abroad programs in England, Wales, and Australia. Recognized by Colgate as Professor of the Year, she conducts research on fossil reefs. Her work on reefs with undergraduate students has been funded by grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Keck Geology Consortium.
Soja has written extensively about her field research around the world, including some exciting discoveries, such as novel ecological relationships in ancient reefs and the first-ever documented links between the geology of Russia and Alaska. With her students, she has published research on dinosaur eggs and the conditions that favored their preservation in the fossil record. Her upcoming book, The Last Good Buy: Evolution in the New Age of Extinction, will focus attention on endangered species around the world.
Phillip P. Jenkins ’78
Electronics Engineer, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, Washington, D.C.
M.E.E., Cleveland State University, 1985
Jenkins is the model of the person who nowadays is called an “experiential learner.” He always acquired knowledge most successfully through exploration, examination, and by actually taking things apart. “I didn’t appreciate history until I had lived long enough to realize I was witness to it,” he says. “I didn’t appreciate math until I understood its physical manifestations—the arc of a baseball, for example.”
In his work, Jenkins has had an impact on Earth—and on Mars. He discovered his scientific aptitude as a student at Denison, finding engagement in both physics and filmmaking. He then went on to become an electrical engineer. He started his engineering career as a research assistant at NASA, where he worked with physicists in the areas of solar cells and semiconductors, making more efficient solar cells for use in space, which is how he became involved with the Mars Pathfinder. Working with colleagues at NASA, he helped develop a solar cell experiment that rode on the Sojourner rover. In addition, Jenkins also worked on several successful experiments with the International Space Station for the Naval Research Laboratory. Later, he moved to the NRL full-time, where he heads a group of scientists working on advanced imaging and solar cell technology.
Stephen R. Polk ’78
Chairman, President and CEO, R. L. Polk & Company, Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
M.A., Northern Michigan University, 1981
Polk continues the family legacy as the fourth-generation Polk to lead the company his great-grandfather founded in 1870 as a publisher of city directories. The company began serving the auto industry in the early 1920s when Alfred P. Sloan, president and later chairman of General Motors, asked Ralph Lane Polk II to impartially tabulate and publish automotive statistics.
Today, R. L. Polk & Co., under Stephen Polk’s leadership, is a globally integrated organization providing automotive intelligence, marketing solutions, and vehicle history information through its independent operating units, Polk and CARFAX. Polk, who joined the company in 1981, restructured the organization around customers’ needs and accelerated the development of new products and services, streamlining operations and sharpening the company’s focus. The organization became the number one provider of information and marketing solutions for the automotive industry.
Polk serves as chairman for the Automotive Hall of Fame, vice chairman of the board of trustees of the Cranbrook Educational Community, and vice president/director of the Detroit Zoological Society. He also serves on the boards of directors of Fifth Third Bank of Southeast Michigan and Beaumont Hospitals.
Alumni Citations are traditionally given to graduates of the college, but Denison has made three exceptions to this rule over the years. The first was a Citation awarded to Denison President Blair Knapp upon his retirement in 1961. The second went to Bob and Nancy Good in 1984 for their stewardship of the college during Good’s presidency. Finally, during Reunion Weekend 2013, a citation was awarded to Dale and Tina Knobel for their work on behalf of the college.