Wittenberg alumni make an impact in everything they do, including in their careers and in their communities, which the University’s Alumni Board annually seeks to recognize and celebrate during Homecoming & Reunion Weekend through a series of award presentations known as the Alumni Achievement Awards.
The Alumnus/a of the Year Award is the most prestigious award bestowed upon alumni. The award celebrates alumni who have attained a significant level of achievement in their chosen field, impacted their local communities with integrity and character, and demonstrated a continued commitment to Wittenberg. This year’s recipients are Karlos Marshall and Moses Mbeseha, both members of the class of 2013 and founders of the Conscious Connect, a grassroots nonprofit dedicated to school-age and neighborhood literacy in Springfield, Ohio, and the Greater Miami Valley area.
Founded in 2015 with a primary mission of ending “urban book deserts” or areas with diminished access to children's reading materials, the 501(c)3 non-profit is reimagining and redeveloping underutilized spaces for the purpose of education, culture, and peace. The Conscious Connect also serves as a cultural renaissance and street revitalization organization.
Mbeseha, originally from Buea, Cameroon, grew up in Dallas, Texas, and State College, Pa. He majored in political science and minored in African and diaspora studies at Wittenberg and is currently pursuing his M.B.A. at the University of Dayton. Marshall, originally from Springfield, was a philosophy major at Wittenberg with a minor in African and diaspora studies, a three-year letter winner as a football player and a member of Concerned Black Students. He went on to earn his master’s degree in higher education administration from the University of Dayton, where he’s currently working as an academic development coordinator.
Presented to Wittenberg University alumni who have achieved outstanding distinction in their professional field, the 2020 Professional Achievement Award will be presented to Joye Carter, Wittenberg class of 1979.
Carter, a medical examiner and forensic pathologist, has accomplished many firsts throughout her life. Originally from Wellsville, Ohio, she is currently the first full-time forensic pathologist in San Luis Obispo, California, as well as the first female and the first African American to hold the post, according to her website. Carter earned her medical doctorate from Howard University in Washington, D.C., in 1983 before serving in the United States Air Force from 1989-1992. She worked for the Armed Forces Medical Examiner Department. Earning several promotions, she quickly rose to the rank of major in the military all the while becoming well-known in field, eventually being named the permanent medical examiner for the District of Columbia. Later, she formed a private consulting firm to allow both defense and prosecuting attorneys to access her experience, and she authored two books: My Strength Comes from Within, an autobiography, and I Speak for the Dead.
Bestowed upon alumni who have distinguished themselves through outstanding service, the 2020 Servant Leader Award will be presented to Melissa Moser, class of 2005.
A partner at Moser Law PLLC in Norfolk, Virginia, Moser earned her J.D., focused in transactional law with a tax concentration, from Northern Kentucky University’s Salmon P. Chase College of Law. Recognized by the Virginia State Bar Young Lawyers Conference with the Significant Service Award in 2019, she has dedicated her career to estate planning, estate and trust administration, business and nonprofit law, and tax law. Passionate about animal welfare, Moser also uses her expertise and love for animals to help educate pet owners about estate planning to ensure their furry friends aren't left alone. Additionally, she performs pro-bono for the Animal Legal Defense Fund. Her compassion and advocacy for estate planning with veterans and first responders through the Wills for Heroes program has also saved Virginia area first responders and their families more than $150,000 in estate planning services.
A former cross-country and track athlete at Wittenberg, Moser has continued her athletic endeavors as a runner-fundraiser for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and recently completed her first marathon (in Alaska). She is actively involved with Team RWB, an endurance sports organization that supports and enriches veterans' lives through social and physical activity.
The Outstanding Young Alumnus/a Award recognizes alumni who have distinguished themselves through outstanding accomplishments in their professional careers, impressive volunteer service, and/or noteworthy involvement in professional and/or service organizations, all since graduating within the last 15 years. This year’s recipient is Jonathan Umbel, class of 2007.
After graduating cum laude from Wittenberg, Umbel received his doctorate of osteopathy from Ohio University in 2011 and quickly became renowned for his work ethic and attention to detail. Currently a member of the gastroenterology staff at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation/North Ohio Gastroenterology in Westlake, Ohio, a position he has held since 2019, Umbel previously served as site director of the Digestive Health Institute at the University Hospitals Portage Medical Center in Ravenna, Ohio, from 2017 -2019.
In addition, Umbel serves as a clinical professor at Case Western Reserve University, where he teaches and mentors to Cleveland Clinic medical residents, performs consults and procedures for patient and outpatient services, and participates in weekly Hepatobiliary and GI Western Region Tumor Board meetings. He has been published in medical journals three times, and in 2016, he presented on ‘Validation and Performance of the Hong Kong Liver Cancer Staging System in a Western Cohort,’ at the European Association for the Study of the Liver 2016 International Liver Congress, in Barcelona, Spain.
This year’s "Pass It On" Wittenberg Volunteer Service Award will recognize three alumni for their exceptional volunteer service to the University. Dr. David Hopper, class of 1963, Dr. Laurice Moore, class of 1995, and Dr. Alan Stewart, class of 1969, have been a tremendous asset to the University since the onset of the COVID pandemic.
The trio has met weekly with campus leadership and county health experts to help guide Wittenberg’s COVID Response Team (CRT) and the fall opening of campus for in-person learning. Providing expertise in their respective fields, opening doors to resources for Wittenberg, and coordinating with faculty work groups to help guide classroom safety, the three have been counted on for COVID direction.
Hopper, who earned a B.A. in biology, a minor in chemistry, and his M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1967, is a retired physician and allergist who also worked as a medical and scientific advisor for Marcon Group International. Moore, who also earned her B.A. in biology, completed her Pediatric Residency in Cleveland, Ohio, at MetroHealth and practiced in Canton, Ohio. A captain and member of the women’s soccer team at Wittenberg, she resides in Akron. Stewart, a member of Wittenberg’s Board of Directors since 2016, has served as the director of medical education at Good Samaritan Hospital in Vincennes, Indiana, since 1978. He is also the physician for the Vincennes Community School Corporation, current director of the community health department, a volunteer physician for the local Life After Meth program, and has served as the Knox County Public Health Officer since 2019.
During this year’s virtual Honors Convocation, a month-long celebration of academic excellence, the Alumni Board announced that Brian D. Yontz, associate professor of education and department chair, is this year’s recipient of the Alumni Association Award for Distinguished Teaching, the top faculty prize at Wittenberg.
The award recognizes the superior classroom teaching that takes place at Wittenberg. Yontz, who was recently elected to the Board of Trustees for the Ohio Association of Colleges of Teacher Education (OACTE), came to Wittenberg in 2006. A product of the Springfield City Schools, he teaches courses in urban education, educational policy, foundations of education, and urban education at the graduate and undergraduate level.
Yontz is one of Wittenberg’s faculty athletics representatives and previously served as a Board of Examiner member for the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). From 2006-2009, he served as the director of student teaching and teacher placement, and as the director of licensure and program approval.
The author of multiple peer-reviewed articles and book chapters, Yontz has presented at numerous state, national, and international conferences. In 2015, he won the National Scholar Award from the Association of Independent Liberal Arts Colleges for Teacher Education for research focused on alternative pathways of teacher credentialing.