The Alumni Medallion

Posted August 01, 2001

The highest honor K-State bestows on its graduates is the Alumni Medallion, presented during spring commencement exercise. Since 1969, the program has recognized 46 individuals. Three more alumni were honored in May, Don Downing, Bob Hagans and Rick Harman, all from the class of 1950.

Three K-Staters received the prestigious Alumni Medallion on May 12 during the 2001 Commencement ceremonies. The Alumni Association award recognizes outstanding lifetime professional work; significant contributions to community, state or nation; and humanitarian service to society.

Association board chairman Jim Tadtman '67 presented the medallions to Don Downing and Rick Harman during the College of Arts and Sciences exercise and to Bob Hagans at the College of Business Administration ceremony.

Downing, Prairie Village, Kan., received a bachelor's degree in humanities.

Now retired from New York Life Insurance Co., he joined the staff in 1962 and developed a specialty in estate planning, qualified retirement plans and employer-sponsored plans. He has written articles in industry journals and taught insurance professionals in classes on business insurance and estate planning.

Downing used his business experience to establish the Haitian Episcopal Learning Partnerships in 1984. His church, St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal in Mission, Kan., provides medical and educational support to one of the poorest Third World nations.

In a country where 80 percent of the population is unable to read, Downing helped build a parish school. In rural areas, where there is one doctor for every 50,000 people, he has raised funds and sought medical volunteers to form health care teams.

In 1984, 16 students in the city of Torbeck did their schoolwork under a tin roof supported by four poles. As a result of Downing's capacity to raise more than $1 million and recruit sponsors, today there are 265 students attending classes in a 12-classroom building.

The HELP program has sent a medical team at least six times annually to Haiti for the past 15 years. 

While he retired in 1998, he continues to work 20 hours a week helping the people of Haiti through the HELP program.

Downing and his wife, Connie, have four sons, Stephen, Thomas '84, Michael and Timothy.

Hagans, Overland Park, Kan., earned his degree in business administration.

K-State benefited from Hagans' volunteer service. He was the national chairman of the Essential Edge Campaign for the KSU Foundation.

He also served on the board of trustees, including chairman, and on the Foundation's executive committee. So successful was his leadership that the Essential Edge campaign raised $164 million, surpassing its original goal of $100 million.

Hagans joined the Kansas City-based Unitog Co. in 1973 as vice president and became CEO and chairman of the board in 1979. The company, now called Cintas, is a custom-designer and manufacturer of business uniforms and work apparel primarily for national companies.  While Hagans retired from that position, he remained active on the company's board of directors and executive committee through 1997.

He is a believer in teaching youth entrepreneurship. For more than 20 years, Hagans was involved in Junior Achievement, an organization that teaches free enterprise to children and teachers in elementary school to high school grade levels.

During his 27 years of membership in the Rotary Club of Kansas City, including a year as president, Hagans chaired Rotary's camp enterprise committee. The group led a camp to demonstrate to high school seniors the role of business, labor and government in the free enterprise system.

Time and again, Hagans has used his expertise as a fund-raiser for various communities and charities. For example, he has planned and led campaigns to benefit the YMCA, Kansas City's public television, Ronald McDonald House and several other charitable organizations.

Leading by example is one of the Hagans' hallmarks. He created numerous endowed student scholarships in the K-State Colleges of Agriculture, Arts and Sciences and Business Administration. Additionally, he established two endowed professorships in the business college. Known for his passion for golf, Hagans is the largest benefactor to the university's Colbert Hills Golf Course project that was completed in 2000 and was one of the lead donors for the K-State Alumni Center.

Hagans and his late wife, Joanne, had two daughters, Robin Ann Hagans Maupin '77 and Karen Jo Steppe. He is married to Marcia Hagans.

Harman, Prairie Village, Kan., earned his degree in chemistry.

In 1955, Harman was elected president of the K-State Alumni Association board of directors at the age of 27, not long after completing service in the U.S. Air Force. He also has been a longtime trustee of the KSU Foundation.

Harman is recognized as a major player in the racial integration of restaurants during the Civil Rights era. He operated the family business, Myron Green Cafeterias, in Kansas City for 45 years. He was elected president of the Missouri Restaurant Association and was president of the National Restaurant Association. He was able to use these positions in the battle against segregated restaurants.

Not only was Harman concerned by the inability of minority populations to eat in public food service operations but also by the discrimination of hiring practices. He faced tough choices and opened the Myron Green dining rooms to minorities.

The mayor of Kansas City appointed Harman to serve on the municipal Public Accommodations Committee from 1954 to 1962. Harman convinced the Kansas City Restaurant Association board of directors to pass a resolution favoring equal treatment of all people.

He became active in local and statewide politics and eventually ran for governor of Kansas in 1968. He also has advised and helped the campaigns of several elected officials.

In 1990, the governor appointed Harman to serve four years on the Kansas Board of Regents. In that capacity, he chaired the academic affairs committee and worked to raise student enrollment standards.

Then, as chairman of the facilities committee, Harman was instrumental in obtaining facilities renovation at the state universities.

He and his wife, Susie Harman, have three children — Sally Harman Jones, Betsy Harman Holland (fs) and Rick Harman.