Annual Merit Awards to Honor Outstanding Alumni, Faculty


CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Oct. 6, 2005 – Six alumni and a faculty member at Southeast Missouri State University have been selected to receive the annual Merit Awards presented by the Southeast Missouri State University Alumni Association on Oct. 28.

Representatives of the Alumni Association will present them with the awards at the Copper Dome Society/Merit Award Dinner at 6:30 p.m. in the Show Me Center.  Tickets for the dinner are available by calling the Alumni Association at (573) 651-2259.

Alumni Merit Awards are presented by Southeast to honor distinguished alumni.  The awards have been given since 1958 to graduates of Southeast who have brought distinction to themselves and to the University.  The Faculty Merit Award is presented for excellence and distinction in teaching.

Recipients of this year’s Alumni Merit Awards are as follows:  Dr. Theresa Bert ’72, of Bradenton, Fla., senior research scientist of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission; Dr. Addison Lee Lawrence ’56, of Scottsdale, Ariz., and Port Aransas, Texas, professor of wildlife at Texas A & M University; Dr. John Miller Lawrence ’58, of Lutz, Fla., professor of biology at University of South Florida; Dennis M. Payne ’74, of Creve Coeur, Mo., president and chief executive officer of SBC Directory Operations; Dr. Steven Schwab ’75, of Augusta, Ga., chairman of the Department of Medicine at the Medical College of Georgia; and C. John Wilder ’80, of Dallas, Texas, chief executive officer of TXU Corp.

This year’s recipient of the Faculty Merit Award is Dr. Ed Leoni of Cape Girardeau, professor of health, human performance, and recreation at Southeast.

Faculty Merit Awared Winner

Dr. Ed Leoni(View larger image of Ed Leoni)

Dr. Ed Leoni has been a member of the Southeast faculty for 25 years.  He chaired the Mascot Committee at Southeast, studying the 80-year tradition using Indians and Otahkians as nicknames and mascots, and recommended the Redhawks alternative after a four-month study.  The recommendation was approved in June 2004.  Leoni has been the director of the Southeast Missouri Regional Support Center, Community 2000 Substance Abuse Prevention Program at Southeast since 1993.  The program assists about 150 Missouri communities in finding resources to combat drug and alcohol abuse.  Leoni is the founding chairperson of the Department of Health and Leisure, now the Department of Health, Human Performance, and Recreation, developing it from four faculty members and 60 majors to 12 faculty members and 350 majors.  He also created the Physical Therapist Assistant Program and co-created the Health Management Degree Program with options in health promotion, fitness/sports medicine, and athletic training.  He co-developed and defended a self-study for the National Recreation and Park Association/American Alliance Leisure and Recreation Accreditation.  He has successfully written 11 different grants totaling more than $1.5 million during his career.  He has developed and directed numerous presentations, programs, keynotes and workshops focused on healthy lifestyles, substance abuse and health promotion.

His honors and awards include the Outstanding Service Award, recognizing exceptional community and professional service at Southeast; the Fitness and Health Leadership Award by the Governor of Missouri; Outstanding Leadership in the Classroom; Order of Omega at Southeast; and the Outstanding Teacher Award at Southeast.  He was selected to serve as the University’s Faculty Athletic Representative to the NCAA in September 2003.  Prior to his service at Southeast, Leoni received his doctoral degree in Park and Recreation Administration from Indiana University.  He holds a master of science degree in counseling and educational psychology and therapeutic recreation and a bachelor of science degree in therapeutic recreation from Southern Illinois University.


Alumni Merit Award Winners

 Photo of Dr. Theresa BertDr. Theresa Bert(View larger image of Theresa Bert.) Dr. Theresa Bert graduated from Southeast Missouri State University in 1972 with degrees in biology and mathematics.  After receiving her master’s degree in marine science at the University of South Florida and her doctorate at Yale University, she went on to ultimately become a senior research scientist of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.  Bert has been a consultant for a number of projects in fisheries and is active in many committees.

She is a member of the Scientific and Statistical Committee for the Stone Crab Fishery, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Transgenic Aquatic Species Task Force and Genetic Management of Stock Enhancement Committee, and Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission Crab Subcommittee.  She has chaired several meetings and symposia on ecology and aquaculture, and has had numerous presentations on fisheries, evolutionary biology, population genetics, biodiversity, and on various species of marine vertebrates and invertebrates.

Bert has been a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Society for Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, the Crustacean Society, and the World Aquaculture Society.  She has reviewed for 10 research agencies and 19 professional journals in the areas of marine ecology and biology.  Bert has been an editor for four publications, and has been instrumental in acquiring well over $1 million in research grants from such organizations as the U.S. Department of Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  She has published numerous articles, book chapters, and special reports in highly respected publications.


 Photo of Dr. Addison LawrenceDr. Addison Lawrence(View larger image of Addison Lawrence.)

Dr. Addison Lawrence graduated from Southeast Missouri State University in 1956 with majors in biology, chemistry, and mathematics.  He went on to receive his master’s and doctoral degrees in physiology from the University of Missouri – Columbia.  Lawrence is currently a professor, regent fellow, faculty fellow and project leader of the Shrimp Mariculture Program in the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station and in the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences at Texas A&M University.  He received the “Faculty Fellow” award and the “International Researcher of the Year” Vice Chancellor’s Award in Excellence for International Involvement from Texas A&M in 2001.  Lawrence has supervised a number of undergraduate and graduate students during their academic careers and helped them to achieve advanced degrees.  He has published 288 papers and 415 abstracts in a number of scholarly journals in the areas of biochemistry, physiology and aquaculture.  He has attended scores of seminars and given dozens of presentations during his career.  Lawrence helped garner 101 grants during his career totaling more than $13 million for research in his field of study.  He is currently the overview committee chairman of the Aquaculture Certification Council, Inc., and a member of its board of directors and executive committee.  He is also a member of the Advisory Board for Aqua Feed International.  Lawrence has two patents: Method for Cryopreservation of Multicellular Organisms, and Sea Urchin Feed and Method of Producing Same.


 Dr. John Lawrence(View larger image of John Lawrence.) Dr. John Lawrence graduated from Southeast Missouri State University in 1958 with a degree in biology.  He received a master’s degree in zoology from the University of Missouri – Columbia and his doctorate in biology from Stanford University.  Lawrence received an honorary doctoral degree from l’Universite de la Mediterranee in 2000 and the Distinguished Scientist Award from the Marine Biological Association of Western Universities in 1990.

He has traveled extensively, serving as a visiting investigator in several countries.  He is a member of the Zoological Society of Japan, the Scottish Marine Biology Association, the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, and the American Society of Zoologists, Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology.

Lawrence is on the editorial board of the Cahiers de Biologie Marine, an adviser to Biologiya Morya, an editorial board member of Zoological Science, and a senior advisor to Marine Ecology, Progress Series.  He has organized several conferences and authored the book A Functional Biology of Echinoderms.  He has edited 10 books and has written 18 chapters in respected literature.  Lawrence has published more than 180 articles in numerous scholarly journals.  He has written several book reviews and has presented more than 150 papers at state, national and conventional meetings.  Lawrence has participated in more than 30 invited seminars in Venezuela, Chile, Japan, Brazil, Sweden, China, New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, and others.


 Dennis M. Payne(View larger image of Dennis Payne.)

Dennis M. Payne graduated from Southeast Missouri State University in 1974 with a degree in business administration and received his master’s degree in the same subject from St. Louis University in 1984.  He has been the president and chief executive officer of SBC Directory Operations since 2001.  He is responsible for all functions of the 13-state, $3.7 billion business, which is the largest print and online yellow pages operation in the world.  The company publishes 704 SBC Yellow Pages titles and provides one of the fastest-growing Internet Yellow Pages sites at He was instrumental in the merger planning process following SBC’s acquisition of Pacific Bell, Southern New England Telephone and Ameritech.  He is also leading development of the evolving Internet Yellow Pages field, most recently, through a joint venture between SBC and BellSouth.  The companies are combining all local content and traffic into one site under the intuitive brand of  With 30 years of directory experience, Payne is an expert and leader in the industry, currently serving as chairman of the Yellow Pages Association and on the board of the Association of Directory Marketing.



 Dr. Steven Schwab(View larger image of Steven Schwab.) Dr. Steven Schwab graduated from Southeast Missouri State University in 1975 with a bachelor of science degree in biology.  He received his medical degree from the University of Missouri School of Medicine in Columbia, Mo., in 1979.  His postgraduate training included a residency in internal medicine at the University of Kansas and a fellowship in nephrology at Washington University Medical Center (Barnes Hospital) in St. Louis.  Schwab is Regents Professor and chairman of the Department of Medicine and interim dean of the College of Medicine at the University System of Georgia’s Medical College of Georgia (MCG).  Prior to coming to MCG he was vice-chairman of the Department of Medicine at Duke University.

Schwab is a nephrologist with expertise in acute and chronic renal failure. He has served as the principle investigator for multiple NIH sponsored single center and multi-center clinical trials totaling over $10 million in direct awards. He has served six years on the American Board of Internal Medicine and its subspecialty Board on Nephrology. He is listed in America’s Top Doctors and Best Doctors in America.

Schwab is the author of over 150 articles in multiple peer-reviewed journals and has edited 6 books dealing with aspects of nephrology. He serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, Kidney International, Clinical Nephrology, Seminars in Dialysis, UptoDate in Medicine and others.


 Photo of C. John WilderC. John Wilder(View larger image of John Wilder.) C. John Wilder graduated from Southeast Missouri State University in 1980 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration before receiving his master’s degree in business administration at the University of Texas.  He is chairman and chief executive officer of Texas-based TXU Corp., a Fortune 100 company as measured by market capitalization.  In his 25-year career, Wilder has pioneered industry-leading practices and innovative solutions and has achieved two of the most successful financial and operational turnarounds in the energy industry.  Especially good at building talented management teams and motivating employees, Wilder is leading a dramatic transformation of TXU following the company’s severe financial crisis in 2002.  Since joining TXU in early 2004, he has elevated customer service to world-class levels, rebuilt the balance sheet, strengthened financial flexibility, reinvigorated a commitment to community service and philanthropy, and put TXU on a clear path to become a high-performance commercial enterprise that can compete with the best industrial businesses in America.  TXU’s stock price has jumped 300 percent, the dividend has increased 350 percent, and two of the company’s three businesses have become industry leaders.  In 2004, TXU achieved the second best total shareholder return among the S&P companies.

Wilder is exhibiting the same drive and passion at TXU he was known for in his 18 years with Shell and six years at Entergy Corporation, where he was named Best CFO in America by Institutional Investor.  At TXU, he has been awarded Ten Best CEOs in America and Top CEOs in the Industry by Institutional Investor, Best Investor Relations by a CEO by Investor Relations Magazine, runner-up for CBS MarketWatch’s CEO of the Year and Best New Alexis de Tocqueville Award for Most Significant Increase in Contributions by United Way of Metropolitan Dallas.  Wilder’s personal philanthropy focuses on support of at-risk children and families and promotion of higher education, including serving on the advisory boards of the A.B. Freeman School of Business at Tulane University, the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin and the Global Energy Management Institute at the University of Houston as well as co-founding the Entergy-Tulane Energy Institute.