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College of Liberal Arts & Sciences selects three Distinguished Alumni

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

LAWRENCE — The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Kansas has selected three graduates to honor with its Alumni Distinguished Achievement Award for 2014-2015. The award is the highest recognition the College bestows upon its graduates.

The recipients’ varied professional pursuits reflect the versatility of a liberal arts and sciences degree. Their careers include accomplishments in the fields of geology, art and medicine.

Honorees are William Fisher, stratigrapher and petroleum geologist; Edgar Heap of Birds, pioneer in Native American conceptual art, and Sharon Lee, founding physician of a nonprofit clinic.

The recipients are selected by the College’s alumni advisory board. The award recognizes graduates’ contributions to KU, their professions or their communities. The College will recognize the recipients at events hosted nationwide throughout the year.

“These men and women have made outstanding contributions in their fields and communities, truly embodying the College’s mission to learn without boundaries,” said Hamilton Hill, chair of the advisory board. “They are an inspiration to Jayhawks everywhere, and it’s an honor to recognize these outstanding alumni.”

Fisher’s recognition event is open to the public and has been scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 25, at the University of Texas at Austin. The event recognizing Heap of Birds is also open to the public and will be at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 13, at the Cider Gallery in Lawrence. Lee will be recognized at an event in Kansas City in the spring.

William Fisher is a geologist who has contributed broadly to the field, offering an immense effect through higher education, research and public service. During his tenure at the University of Texas Bureau of Economic Geology and the Jackson School of Geosciences, Fisher served as dean, director, chair and professor. Fisher’s research on oil and gas exploration introduced a concept called depositional systems, which has become the main benchmark for stratigraphy and sedimentology. In his advisory roles, Fisher has contributed to policy considerations of U.S. energy resource development, assessment and environmental effects. He was appointed in 1976 by President Gerald Ford as assistant secretary of energy and minerals in the Department of Interior, served on the White House Science Council under President Ronald Reagan and served on advisory committees and provided testimony to Congress. Fisher received his KU master’s degree and doctorate in geology in 1958 and 1961.

Edgar Heap of Birds is a pioneer of conceptual Native American art. Heap of Birds works in a variety of media, including multidisciplinary forms of public art, large-scale drawings, acrylic paintings, prints, works in glass and monumental porcelain enamel on steel outdoor sculpture. He has exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of Art, Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian and Venice Biennale, as well as galleries and museums in Australia, Germany, Canada, Ireland, South Africa, China, Indonesia and France. Through his work, Heap of Birds aims both to educate the public on indigenous peoples and to present contemporary indigenous people as individuals with a free persona to express themselves. Heap of Birds received a KU bachelor’s of fine arts degree in 1976.

Sharon Lee is the founding physician and director of Southwest Boulevard Family Health Care, a nonprofit health clinic in Kansas City, Kansas. She established the clinic in a medically underserved neighborhood in order to provide health care to people who normally would not have access to treatment. The clinic treats all patients, regardless of ability to pay. Lee has been intimately involved in HIV/AIDS research and patient care since the early years of the epidemic in the U.S. and was one of the first doctors in the metropolitan area who would treat AIDS patients. She was a founding member of the Kansas City AIDS Research Consortium in 1988, formed the Kansas City HIV Women's Coalition in 1989 and in 1993, formed the Permanency Planning Project of Kansas City, Kansas, which assists AIDS orphans.  Lee received her KU bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1974.