Civic leaders will be honored for public service at Opening Convocation ceremonies marking the beginning of a new school year at 10:15 a.m. Wednesday, September 10 in John Gano Memorial Chapel on the William Jewell College campus in Liberty, Mo. The program includes Jewell faculty members in full academic regalia. Alumni and friends of the college are invited to attend the ceremonies free of charge.
This year’s recipients of the William F. Yates Trustee Medallion for Distinguished Service are Myra Christopher, President and CEO of the Center for Practical Bioethics; Gwendolyn Grant, President and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Kansas City; Joan Israelite, President of the Arts Council of Metropolitan Kansas City; and Matt Meyer, CEO of the American Red Cross of Greater Kansas City.
The William F. Yates Medallion for Distinguished Service is named for a William Jewell College graduate of the class of 1898, a longtime member of the Board of Trustees and major benefactor to the college. The first Yates Medallions were awarded in 1980, and the list of recipients includes a “Who’s Who” of Kansas City leaders.
Addressing students and guests at Opening Convocation ceremonies will be Bill Bentley, President and CEO of Voices for America’s Children. A dynamic leader with skills honed in a career that includes non-profit, government and private sector experience, Bentley leads Voices for America’s Children, a nationwide advocacy network that speaks out for children on Capitol Hill, in state legislatures and in city halls. Bentley began his career in public service as a Juvenile Probation Officer with the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services, where he earned a frontline view of the special needs of youth in crisis, the juvenile justice and child welfare systems. Bentley used those experiences and skills to direct the Florida Network of Youth and Family Services and as Assistant Deputy Secretary for Operations & Planning at the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services. As the President and CEO of the Ounce of Prevention Fund, Inc., he led the development and implementation of programs addressing maternal and child health, child welfare, juvenile justice and family support programs. Bentley was appointed Executive Director of the Florida Governor’s Commission on Community Service in 1995. Former United States Senator Harris Wofford tapped him in 1997 to serve on the senior management team at the Corporation for National and Community Service. In 2000, Bentley’s unique experiences and talents were recognized when he was appointed Executive Vice President and COO of the Points of Light Foundation, a national organization that promotes volunteer service and coordinates a network of volunteer centers throughout the country. Bentley received his undergraduate degree in education from Florida State University and his master’s degree from Florida State University’s School of Social Work.
Yates Medallion recipients:
Myra Christopher became president of the Center for Practical Bioethics in December 1994, and continues to serve as its executive director, a position she has held since the Center's inception in 1985. In addition to providing oversight to the Center, Christopher served as the national program officer of the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation’s National Program Office for State-based Initiatives to Improve End-of Life Care. These roles allow Christopher to continue her lifelong mission to improve care for seriously ill people and their families. Because of Christopher’s involvement with the Nancy Beth Cruzan case, Senator John Danforth sought her assistance in drafting and introducing the Patient Self-Determination Act. In 1991, she was appointed vice-chair of the Kansas Commission on the Future of Health Care by the governor and served in that capacity until 1994. She also consulted with the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations on patients’ rights and organizational ethics standards. Christopher is currently a member the National Advisory Board for the Duke Institute for Care at the End-of-Life; the Kansas State Board of Healing Arts; the advisory board for the Federation of State Medical Boards; and the University of Kansas School of Nursing Advisory Board. She has been named an honorary member of Alpha Sigma Nu, Rockhurst College, and was honored as the 1996 Alumnus of the Year for the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Missouri – Kansas City. Recent honors include being chosen as the 2006 Greater Kansas City Council on Philanthropy’s Nonprofit Executive of the Year, and the Pioneering Spirit Award presented in 2006 by the American Association of Critical Care Nurses.
Gwendolyn Grant, president & CEO of the Urban League of Greater Kansas City, is a strong advocate for social and economic opportunity for African Americans and other minorities. In her role as the chief executive officer of the Urban League, she provides leadership, oversight and direction for advancing all Urban League programs and its mission. The first female leader in the organization’s 87-year history, Grant has been leading the Urban League since 2001. She is the co-founder of the League’s Servant Leadership Development Program where she has provided leadership development training for more than 400 emerging leaders. As a co-author of the Afraid of the Dark Dialogue Guide and Workbook, Grant lectures regularly on the local and national level to help advance the Urban League’s race relations’ agenda. Her academic credentials include a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Park University and an Executive Fellows MBA from Rockhurst University. Grant has a broad range of experience in all aspects of business administration, marketing, leadership development, workplace diversity, race relations, and in building and strengthening minority enterprises. Her community activities include serving as Vice President of the Kansas City, Missouri School District Buildings Corporation Board of Directors; membership on the Arts Council of Kansas City Board of Directors; and serving on the Advisory Board of the Institute for Urban Education. Grant is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including the Southern Christian Leadership Conference Community Service Award, Blacks In Government Outstanding Community Service Award and the United Minority Media Association Leadership Award.
Joan Israelite became the first President of the Arts Council of Metropolitan Kansas City in March 1999. The Arts Council was initiated as a result of a two-year community study process initiated by the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation’s Community Arts Initiative. Initial studies in this process determined that Kansas City was one of the only major cities in the country that did not have an Arts Council. Israelite was selected to build this new organization. From 1996 to 1999, she worked as development director for the Kansas City Symphony. From 1991 to 1996, Israelite served as development director for the Lyric Opera. Prior to her involvement with the arts, she served as Development Director for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Kansas City (1986-1991) and as the School Age Child Care Community Coordinator for the Heart of America Family Services (1983-1986). Israelite’s volunteer efforts include serving as a board member of the Greater Kansas City Convention and Visitor’s Association, the Missouri Arts Council and Missouri Cultural Trust. She was recently appointed by President George W. Bush and confirmed by the U.S. Senate to serve on the National Council on the Arts for a six-year term beginning in March 2007. She has served as the President of the National Society for Fundraising Executives (NSFRE), as the first woman President of the downtown Sertoma Club and as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Brazil for two years. Her son David, a member of the William Jewell College class of 1990, served as Counselor and Deputy Chief of Staff to the Attorney General, John Ashcroft, at the Justice Department for four years and is currently President of the National Music Publishers Association.
Matt Meyer is CEO of the American Red Cross of Greater Kansas City, encompassing the position of chapter executive for the Greater Kansas City Chapter and regional chapter executive for the Greater Kansas City Regional Grouping. At the Greater Kansas City Chapter, Meyer works with a 30-member board of directors, 35 full-time staff and more than 1,000 volunteers to ensure the effective delivery of Red Cross services throughout a 16-county area in western Missouri and eastern Kansas. As the regional chapter executive, Meyer is responsible for five additional Red Cross chapters that serve 21 more counties in western Missouri and eastern Kansas. In this role he is responsible for the growth in Red Cross services including community disaster education; disaster planning, preparedness and response; and first aid, CPR, swimming and lifeguard training. Meyer attended Missouri State University and in 1975 received Bachelor’s of Science degrees in Sociology and Recreation Management with a minor in Psychology. In 1989 he earned a Master’s of Business Administration degree from the Braniff School of Management at the University of Dallas. Meyer began his professional career with the Red Cross as a national specialist in safety services assigned to the Bi-State Division in St. Louis, Missouri. In 1979, he joined the staff of the Dallas Area Chapter where he served as Director of Safety Services for the chapter and North Texas Division. In 1986 he was promoted to associate executive director of the Dallas Area Chapter and in 1990 left the chapter to become the chief executive officer of the Southeast Louisiana Chapter in New Orleans, Louisiana. Meyer joined the American Red Cross of Greater Kansas City as its chief executive officer in 1996. Meyer has participated in numerous national disaster assignments, including a five-week assignment to Hurricane Katrina.