PITTSBURG — Two notable Pittsburg State alumni received one of the university’s highest honors for service Thursday during the university’s Apple Day celebration.
Shirley Palmer and Monica H. Murnan were presented with the Ralf J. Thomas Distinguished Service Award during a reception hosted by the Office of Alumni and Constituent Relations in recognition of their extraordinary service to Pittsburg State University.
Jon Bartlow, director of alumni and constituent relations, said the award celebrates exemplary service, loyalty and commitment to Pittsburg State University, in the spirit of Ralf J. Thomas, who was the original recipient in 1991.
“This year’s honorees reflect his passion for student success and his dedication to Pittsburg State University,” Bartlow said.
Palmer (BS in elementary education 1965, MS in school administration 1971, EdS 1979) has served as Alumni Association National President, traveling across the United States, as well as in leadership roles on the Alumni Association Board, the PSU Foundation Board, the PSU Education Advisory Board, the Fort Scott Alumni Chapter and as a PSU Phonathon volunteer.
Murnan (BS in education 1987, MS in Special Services & Leadership Studies 1994) has served two terms on the Alumni Association Board, one as president, and on the Education Advisory Board.
Both also boast resumes rich in service to their communities within and outside of their professional roles.
“Thank you so much Pittsburg State University,” Palmer said. “I extend my heartfelt thanks and appreciation to you for all you have done with me and for me through the many years.”
She said the award is particularly meaningful because she worked with Thomas when he served as the volunteer and coordinator of alumni chapters.
Palmer said her experience and Thomas’ example propelled her to a number of honors, including becoming the first graduate of Pittsburg State University, first woman and the first schoolteacher to serve on the Kansas Board of Regents.
“That experience was very special and it would not have happened if I had not been from Pittsburg State,” Palmer said.
She also shared how she took early retirement from her job as a schoolteacher to become the national president of the PSU Alumni Association.
Palmer also recognized her family and friends who were present and honored her co-recipient, Murnan, who has many similar accomplishments.
“Ironically, we both have done many of the same things throughout the years,” Palmer said of herself and Murnan.
Murnan returned the compliment to Palmer.
“A smart girl does not follow Shirley Palmer, but a smart girl follows in Shirley Palmer’s footsteps,” she said.
Murnan was joined by friends and family, including her children, who (with the help of her Greenbush colleagues) appeared remotely from Kansas City, Seattle and Washington D.C. to watch.
“Thanks, seriously, for this honor,” Murnan said. “No way on earth is it deserved, but it’s received in humbleness and with thanks.”
She said she never thought of what she was doing as service, rather she just considered her involvement a way to give back and to honor those who gave her guidance as a student.
Murnan said her employers during her years at Pittsburg State helped continue the learning she had done at home and allowed her to share the same theories with the many PSU students who worked with her during her years at The Center.
She said she also has appreciated the way the city and university work together.
“I appreciate the positive relationship the university has with the city as I continue to try to serve in that capacity,” Murnan continued. “That’s not by accident or by chance. It’s based on meaningful work and clear communication.”
She said she also looks forward to continuing to serve the university in the future, potentially in an expanded capacity at the state level.
Palmer and Murnan also were honored later in the day at the Apple Day convocation ceremony.
— Sarah Gooding is a staff writer for The Morning Sun and can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.