Adam Flax, Hays, was named today as the recipient of the Torch Award as the outstanding graduating senior of the class of 2020 at Fort Hays State University.

The award was created by the FHSU Alumni Association in 1974.

Two other awards were also announced today by FHSU President Tisa Mason in a live-streamed convocation rather than at the traditional Graduate and Faculty Dinner, which was cancelled this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Stacie Rupp, Hays, was named the outstanding graduate student as the recipient of the Alumni Association’s Lighthouse Award, created by the association in 2018.

Dr. Bob Keener, assistant professor of agriculture, was named the recipient of the 2020 Pilot Award as the outstanding faculty member. The Pilot Award was created by the Alumni Association in 1974 and is based upon nominations from the current graduating class.

Flax, a graduate of Thomas More-Prep Marian High School, will receive a Bachelor of Arts degree in music (education) and a Bachelor of Science degree in secondary education.

He has been a member of the FHSU Choir for five years, including two years as president. He has also served as president of the FHSU student chapter of the National Association of Teachers of Singing.

In 2019, he was selected as the Outstanding Student Leader through the Center for Student Involvement for his work as vice-president of FHSU chapter of the National Association for Music Educators. A member of the Alpha Psi Omega theatre honor fraternity, Adam has participated in the FHSU Musical, FHSU Opera and Fort Hays Singers throughout his time on campus. Adam will begin his career in Plainville teaching K-12 vocal music.

One faculty member described Flax this way: “He has been active in every phase of vocal music: choir, Fort Hays Singers, president of Concert Choir, musical theatre, opera, vocal study and vocal competition. He is a quiet but strong role model who led other students in a way that few others do … by example more than by word. He is a superb soloist and actor.”

Rupp has completed her Master of Arts in English with a concentration in literature. In 2008, she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English with a concentration in teaching and a Bachelor of Science degree in secondary education, both from Fort Hays State.

A former English teacher at Thomas More Prep-Marian High School, she has served as reviewer of poetry submissions for the Sigma Tau Delta regional convention; a session chair for the College English Association conference; and presenter at the National English Association conference.

As a graduate student, she has been an active member of the Sigma Tau Delta English honorary, which she served as secretary. She also served as chair of the FHSU Writing Center’s outreach committee, where she also worked as a graduate teaching assistant.

One faculty member, in recommending her, said, “Ms. Rupp is one of the top two or three graduate students who I have worked with since I began teaching college classes in 2010. I offer my recommendation without any reservation, and she would bring honor to this prestigious award. She is eager, creative, poised, and incredibly studious. She is a joy to work with, and I count it as my good fortune that I have been able to do so.”

Keener completed 149 undergraduate hours at Fort Hays State University in the pre-veterinary medicine curriculum, then earned his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from Kansas State University in 1998. He began his teaching career at FHSU in 2012 after working as a practicing veterinarian in La Crosse. His area of expertise is animal health and husbandry.

Keener’s research includes a grant-funded study of diagnostic surveillance of exposure to epizootic hemorrhagic disease in beef cattle as well as many studies of disease screening, management and control in both beef cattle and swine.

He has a record of service on campus and across the state, including advising the Sigma Alpha agriculture sorority, assisting since 2009 with the Heinemann Special Olympics Shrimp Peel, an annual fundraiser at the state capitol that has raised nearly $1 million over 35 years, and as a past president of the Fort Hays Shrine Club, which he currently serves as president of the motorcycle patrol.

In nominating Keener, one student said, “He cares about all of his students. He is very passionate about teaching each subject. He always made sure we understand each chapter and encouraged us to get involved in everything that was going on, on campus and to learn more and for us to get our foot in the door for our future!”

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

Pilot Award candidates are nominated on the basis of classroom excellence, ongoing research and service activities.

The Navigator Award, presented by the Student Government Association, is normally presented as part of commencement ceremonies, but the process this year has been delayed by the COVID-19 emergency.