A student from Beloit, Remington Behrends, was named Thursday night as the winner of Fort Hays State University’s Torch Award as the outstanding graduating senior for 2019. 

Behrends received a Bachelor of Science in communication sciences and disorders at Commencement. 

The year’s top graduating graduate student, the winner of the Lighthouse Award, is Jessica Johnson, of Larned. She will receive a master's of science in health and human performance. 

Mitch Greer, associate professor of biological sciences, was given the Pilot Award as the year’s outstanding faculty member. The Navigator Award, presented to the year’s outstanding academic advisor, went to Troy Terry, academic advisor for the Department of Leadership Studies. 

The winners were announced at the Graduate and Faculty Dinner, sponsored by the FHSU Alumni Association, in advance of Commencement. All four recipients were recognized at both Commencement ceremonies Friday and Saturday. 

Alumna Betty Johnson, president of the Alumni Association Board of Directors, introduced the finalists and presented the 2019 Torch Award to Behrends, who will begin work on her master’s degree in speech-language pathology in the fall. 

Reading from a nomination letter, Johnson said of Behrends, “Remi exemplifies everything the Torch Award represents. She is a natural leader in the classroom, the community and within the profession. Remi’s resumé speaks to the many outstanding accomplishments as an undergraduate student at Fort Hays State, but perhaps the thing that speaks even more volumes about her accomplishments is how universally she is appreciated and respected within her chosen department. All the faculty in the department, whether they have had Remi in class or not, know who she is because she has made a conscious choice to be a part of and a leader within the student community.” 

“She is the student who volunteers when a call goes out,” said Johnson, “the one who can always be counted on to go the extra mile on class assignments, the one who is willing to serve as needed for the on campus professional organization, the one who eagerly takes on a challenging research project with a new faculty member because she wants to learn and grow as a student.” 

Johnson also introduced the finalists and the winner of the Lighthouse Award, Jessica Johnson (no relation). Jessica earned a Bachelor of General Studies from FHSU in 2017. 

“She represents a well-rounded, conscientious student-citizen who has demonstrated her capacity for leadership and academic achievement as well as being active in community and campus service,” said one nominating letter. She will begin work on her doctorate at Baker University in the fall. 

Student Government Association President Adam Schibi, a Hays senior majoring in accounting, introduced the finalists for the Pilot Award for outstanding faculty member, Betty Johnson announced Greer as the winner. 

One nominating letter cited by Johnson called Greer “an excellent teacher.” 

The letter continued, “Students understand how what they are learning can be applied in their careers. Enthusiasm and enjoyment for course material can readily be seen in the attitudes of his students. Dr. Greer expects students in his classes to be young professionals. Students in Dr. Greer's classes respond with increased maturity, confidence in their abilities, and overall improved professionalism. After having completed Dr. Greer's courses, the students hold themselves to higher expectations and do better in subsequent courses.” 

Terry, winner of the Navigator Award as outstanding academic advisor, was announced by Student Government Association Vice President Kayelani Kirschbaum, a Merino, Colo., senior majoring in biology and organizational leadership. 

The Navigator Award was created by the university in 1998 to recognize an outstanding academic advisor based on how closely he or she adheres to the university goals for academic advising. Candidates are nominated, interviewed and selected by graduating seniors in a process conducted by the Student Government Association. 

Terry is an advisor to online students. 

“In the nominations this individual received,” said Kirschbaum, “students noted the amount of personal touch they receive in planning out their degrees. His time and energy helped one of his nominators finish their degree in the most efficient and academically worthwhile manner, after attending four other institutions. His advising has been noted as being ‘awesome’ in working with students to achieve what they believed was impossible.” 

The FHSU Alumni Association instituted the Torch and Pilot awards in 1974 to emphasize the importance of excellence in teaching and learning. 

Torch Award candidates are nominated by members of the faculty on the basis of classroom excellence, participation in professional organizations, and involvement in student or civic activities. 

The Lighthouse Award, approved by the Alumni Association in 2017 and first awarded in 2018, honors an outstanding student who is completing graduate studies. The award was named the Lighthouse in honor of the late Dr. James Forsythe, a former dean of the Graduate School and the university historian, whose book “Lighthouse on the Plains” documents the history of Fort Hays State. 

The Pilot Award is given on the basis of classroom excellence, ongoing research and service activities. Candidates are nominated by graduating students. 

The Alumni Association, established in 1916, is dedicated to identifying and serving the needs of more than 69,000 graduates living throughout the United States and in more than 70 foreign countries. For more information, contact the Alumni Association at 785-628-4430 or alumni@fhsu.edu.