Medallion Recipients

Posted August 01, 1987

Fred C. Bramlage '35 of Junction City, Kan., and Helen Beck Stafford '20 of Tacoma, Wash., received the Alumni Medallion at commencement exercises in May.

The Medallion — the association's most prestigious honor — provides recognition to alumni selected for outstanding work in their chosen fields, significant contributions to community, state or nation, and humanitarian service to society.

The son of a blacksmith, Bramlage took a job as a service station operator for Mobil Oil while attending K-State, later becoming a wholesaler and bulk distributor for the company. His other business interests include ownership of manufacturing plants and real estate.

The Bramlage network does not stop with business. He has also given his time and resources to his city, his alma mater, and his nation.

Bramlage has served on the National Battle Monuments Commission under three U.S. presidents, and since 1981 has been Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army — an appointment equal to that of a three-star general. He was instrumental in attracting the 1st Division to Fort Riley, and in 1984 he received the 6th Army Commander's Award for Public Service.

He helped plan the Tuttle Creek and Milford Reservoir Dams, as well as the Interstate 70 route through Kansas. He established the Fort Riley National Bank, serves on its board chairman, and serves on boards of two other banks. 

He donated the Dorothy Bramlage Public Library in Junction City, and land and building for other county and city projects.

Bramlage has been a trustee of the KSU Foundation since 1959. He headed the fund drive and donated the lead gift for the University's new coliseum, which has been named in his honor.

"Few people have even an inkling of the range and depth of influential and benevolent activities in which he quietly or silently engages," Randy Pohlman, dean of the College of Business Administration at K-State, said of Bramlage. "He shuns the limelight and barely tolerates being honored for the accomplishments rightfully ascribed to him." 

Stafford, a 1920 graduate in home economics, was born at the turn of the century to a father who was a former slave, and a college-educated, schoolteacher mother.

She enrolled at K-State when she was 16, helping pay her school expenses by rising at 4 a.m. and washing clothes for a professor's wife.

"Blacks weren't accepted, we were just here. period. In classes or labs where we worked in pairs, if there was no other black girl, you worked alone. You were in complete isolation, always alone."

When Stafford applied for a teaching job in Tacoma she was laughed at. "They thought it was very funny that I wanted a job as a teacher, and one person went so far as to tell me (he) wouldn't even hire a colored janitor," she said.

Stafford ignored the prejudice and complied a long list of accomplishments in civil rights and community service that has spanned more than half a century.

She became a founding member of Tacoma's NAACP chapter, was the first black member of the area League of Women Voters, served on the first board of the Tacoma Urban League, and was on the YWCA board when black girls weren't admitted as members. She helped organize and served as president of the Tacoma chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, the first black service sorority, ad in 1948 became the first black to be employed by the State Department of Human and Health Services as a caseworker.

Stafford has received many distinguished service awards. Among them are Women of the Year from the YWCA, Tacoma Citizen of the Year, and Alpha Kappa Alpha Distinguished Service Award.

In 1970 she was a delegate to the White House Conference on Aging, and in April 1979 she represented the Tacoma Panel of America Women at a White House reception. In 1986 she received an honorary Doctor of Humanities Degree from the University of Puget Sound.

"At age 86 she is still studying, still challenging, still encouraging and still unifying hearts and minds of those separated by race, color or background," Stafford's friend Bethel Schneebeck said of her.