Monday, May 14, 2012

Kris Hearn an Toni Saunders named KCKCC's employees of the year


Kris Hearn and Toni Saunders are the 2012 recipients of Kansas City Kansas Community College’s most coveted and prestigious awards.

The coordinator of the Early Childhood Education program, Hearn is the recipient of the Henry Louis Award of Excellence while the Staff Employee of the Year has been awarded Saunders, the Administrative Assistant to the Dean of Business and Continuing Education.   

Other honors announced at the annual Recognition Dinner included Jeremiah McCluney of the Admissions and Enrollment Management Office, who was named the recipient of the 2012 Supportive Team Effort at KCKCC (STEAK) Award; and the Information Services team of Lisa Cline, Shure Herr and Lee Teague which received the PITA (Personal/Innovative/Technology) Award.

Hearn is completing her ninth year as Coordinator of the Early Childhood program after teaching Child Nutrition in the program for nine years as an adjunct instructor. 

In those nine years, student enrollment has soared from 108 in 2003-04 to more than 250.

A native of Upland, Calif., 50 miles east of Los Angeles, Hearn attended the University of California-Santa Barbara for two years before earning both a BA and Masters in Child Development at the University of Idaho.

For six years, she was Coordinator of a children’s program in a battered women’s shelter in Buffalo, N.Y. before she and her husband, Christopher Papasian, moved to Kansas City where he’s currently the chair of Basic Medical Science at the UMKC Medical School and professor of microbiology and immunology.

In Kansas City, Hearn was Director of the Toy Lending Library for Children for the Education of Young Children for six years until the birth of a daughter, Zoe.

A stay at home mother editing a statewide newsletter for the Kansas Association for the Education of Young Children, Hearn returned to the workforce in 1996, teaching creative movement at St. Michaels Day School for pre-schoolers and adjunct teaching at KCKCC.

During that time, she was chosen by Dr. Valdenia Winn to be part of a Fulbright-Hayes Group scholarship team that spent six weeks in Senegal, W. Africa. Hearn’s daughter, Zoe, has followed in her mother’s footsteps.

A 2011 graduate of The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., she’s now working in a battered women’s shelter in Olympia.

“Kris Hearn embodies Henry Louis’ enthusiasm for life and quest for knowledge,” said Dr. John Ryan, the 2010 recipient of the Award of Excellence. “Unfortunately, there’s no way to measure enthusiasm and devotion and dedication, all of which she excels. Always positive, ever smiling, the old cliché of never having met a stranger could not be more appropriate.”

Saunders is in her 18th year as an administrative assistant at KCKCC. Born and raised in Kansas City, Kan., she’s a graduate of Washington High School. She joined Lawrence Traffic Bureau in the Stockyards area right out of high school and except for one year when she was assistant to the production manager for Darling Envelope, she was with Lawrence Traffic for 23 years.

She came to the College in 1993 after seeing an ad for a grant-funded position in the Bi-Tech program, which meant the position could be terminated if the grant expired.

“I was very nervous,” she said. “As you can see, I don’t job hop.”

Not long after she joined KCKCC, the secretary in Bi-Tech, Vickie Haynes, moved to another position and Saunders was elevated to administrative Bi-Tech assistant working under the direction of Sue Courtney.

Later, she would move to the Business and Technical Division where she’s served four deans, Dr. Al Andrews, Dr. Sue Courtney, Lori Trumbo and Dr. Marvin Hunt.

“Toni Saunders is excellent in all that she does,” said Dr. Hunt, Dean of Business and Continuing Education. “She is experienced, thoughtful and competent, a natural leader who will go out of her way to make our work environment better. One of the most creative people you will meet, she strives to stay current on technology and processes associated with her job and with our work.”

Saunders and her husband, Gary, are in their 40th year of marriage. One of KCK’s top women bowlers, Saunders has rolled two 300 games and although in only one league a week, averaged 200 this season for only the second time.

PHOTO: An administrative assistant for 18 years, Toni Saunders (left) is the recipient of the 2012 Kansas City Kansas Community College Staff Employee of the Year while the Coordinator of the Early Childhood Education program, Kris Hearn, received the Henry Louis Award of Excellence. (KCKCC Photo by Alan Hoskins)