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Donald K. Alderson Memorial Award and Rusty Leffel Concerned Student awards announced

Friday, May 09, 2014

LAWRENCE — Four graduating seniors will walk down the hill with an extra spring in their step this year, knowing that they have dedicated the last four years to leaving the University of Kansas campus a better place for future Jayhawks. Addison Keegan-Harris, Tyler Childress, Anahita Khanlari and Tyler Wright will be recognized during the 142nd Commencement with University Student Awards recognizing their efforts to serve others during their time at KU. All four have demonstrated outstanding commitment to studies, students, the university and the community.

Addison Keegan-Harris is the 2014 recipient of The Donald K. Alderson Memorial Award. Tyler Childress, Anahita Khanlari and Tyler Wright are recipients of the Rusty Leffel Concerned Student Award. Both awards recognize students for benefiting other students through campus activities.

The Donald K. Alderson Memorial Award was established in 1983 in honor of Dean of Men and first Dean of Educational Service, Donald Alderson. This award goes to a graduating senior whose campus contributions benefit other students. Recipients may not be the highest elected officer of an organization, but they are an officer or member who can always be counted on to see through a project, program or service. The recipient of the Donald K. Alderson Memorial Award is always concerned about the greater good for fellow students.

Addison Keegan-Harris, originally from Topeka, is graduating with a degree in applied behavior science and a minor in leadership studies. Since a young age, Keegan-Harris, the daughter of two KU graduates, knew she wanted to be a Jayhawk. During her time at KU, she has served as an orientation assistant and research assistant for the Performance Management Laboratory. In all of her activities, Keegan-Harris has tried to contribute to the KU campus.

“My course of study demanded that I take what I learned in the classroom and utilize those skills in the community. My four years at KU have been full of encouragement, life lessons and inspiration to be my best self. Through my involvement, personal development, and education, there has never been any doubt that my purpose is to serve in the growth of others and to improve the campus community.”

The Rusty Leffel Concerned Student Award was established in 1973 by a group of graduating seniors in honor of their friend and fellow student, Rusty Leffel. This award goes to three students that have demonstrated concern for furthering the ideals of the university and higher education. The award is meant for students that have made a significant institutional difference for KU students.

Tyler Childress, of Coffeyville, is graduating with a degree in sociology and political science. Childress found inspiration in the classroom and in extracurricular activities. He completed an honors thesis on Super PACS and their effects on the campaign finance landscape, and is currently Chief of Staff for KU Student Senate. Childress has worked for campus change by co-founding the 2013-2014 Ad Astra coalition and working on reforms in the Student Senate Election Code.

“The most rewarding experience for me at KU has been my involvement with the Student Senate. As the chief of staff, I successfully pushed for Student Senate to fund a full-time director for LGBTQ services on campus, worked with the student body president to create a scholarship for first-generation students, worked to codify Student Senate records for future reference by students and helped push for an accessibility ramp at Strong Hall to be built this summer. I'm appreciative for the opportunity to improve the lives of current and future Jayhawks.”

Anahita Khanlari, an international doctoral student from Tehran, Iran, will graduate with a doctorate in chemical and petroleum engineering. After working full-time, Khanlari came to KU to further her education and research. After attending KU, Khanlari’s goal became to empower younger students, specifically women, to stick with their science and engineering degrees. As president of the Graduate Engineering Program and graduate recruiter, Khanlari has worked to help women achieve their goals.

“My graduate education at KU along with the experience of life in the U.S. have given me a better perspective of the world. One of the most important things I learned here was the necessity of providing opportunities for others as someone else has provided an opportunity for me. So at KU, I have dedicated some of my time to get involved with student organizations to further the social and educational lives of graduate students and also became a School of Engineering graduate ambassador to promote my belief in the necessity of higher education, especially for young women.”

Tyler Wright, Lenexa, graduated with a degree in history last December. While at KU, Wright helped re-found the Gamma Mu chapter of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity. During his senior year, Wright became president of a chapter that grew from 18 to 90 members in four years. Wright also completed over 250 hours of community service and volunteered at KU Dance Marathon and the Kansas Special Olympics.

“The most rewarding experience for me while at KU was helping re-found Alpha Tau Omega. I was looking for the chance to be a part of something bigger than myself, and I had the fortune of meeting a group of like-minded individuals that were able to build ATO into a thriving chapter. It was so rewarding to know that I helped create this organization that will continue to make an impact long after I’ve left KU. I actively worked to build a greek chapter the ‘right way’ while serving as president of ATO, and I wasn’t afraid to challenge common greek stereotypes within our chapter and the Interfraternity Council.”

The Donald K. Alderson Memorial Award: Addison Keegan-Harris

Addison Keegan-Harris is president of Peer Leadership Consultants, student facilitator for Colors of KU, student assistant for Kansas Women’s Leadership Institute and a student assistant in the Office of First-Year Experience. She has also served as a Hawk Week Leader, an orientation assistant, a resident assistant and has studied abroad in England. Keegan-Harris has attended LeaderShape, helped plan Blueprints Leadership Conference and was a finalist for the Ex.C.E.L. Award. She is the daughter of Sean Harris and Tracy Keegan.

The Rusty Leffel Concerned Student Award: Tyler Childress, Anahita Khanlari, Tyler Wright

Tyler Childress is the Student Senate chief of staff and president of the KU Phi Alpha Delta pre-law fraternity. He helped found KU Students for Education Reform and the Ad Astra Student Senate coalition. Childress has served on numerous boards and committees, including the KU Core Curriculum Committee, KU Legal Services for Students Advisory Board, KU Memorial Corporation Board and the KU University Judicial Board. He is a Summerfield and Gustafson Scholar as well as a member of Pi Sigma Alpha political science fraternity and Alpha Kappa Delta sociology fraternity. He is the son of Tracey and Lisa Childress

Anahita Khanlari is president of the Graduate Engineering Association and a School of Engineering Graduate Ambassador. She has also served as a public relations volunteer at the Spencer Museum of Art and a volunteer for the Women’s Initiative Committee, Habitat for Humanity, and the New International Students’ Orientation. Khanlari has published seven research articles and is a recipient of the University of Kansas Women’s Club scholarship. She is the daughter of Lili Pasyar.

Tyler Wright was the president and founding father of the Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity Gamma Mu Chapter and a former College of Liberal Arts and Sciences student senator. He has served as a member of the KU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean’s Student Advisory Council, Phi Kappa Phi Honors Society, the Mortar Board Senior Honors Society and the University of Kansas Hazing Prevention Task Force. Wright is a former Mount Oread Scholar and a recipient of the 2012 Outstanding Interfraternity Council Leader of the Year Award. Wright is currently a graduate assistant in Athletic Compliance at the University of Texas at El Paso. He is the son of Dave and Valerie Wright.