Five to Receive Distinguished Service Award from Southeast Alumni Association


CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Oct. 6, 2011 – The Alumni Association of Southeast Missouri State University will honor five individuals with Distinguished Service Awards during Homecoming festivities Oct. 22.

Recipients will be Terry A. Benassi of Chesterfield, Mo., vice president of sales and marketing with Facilitec Corporate Furnishings in St. Louis; Dwayne Hickman of St. Louis, electrical and instrumentation technician with Procter & Gamble Company; Grace Hoover of Cape Girardeau, a former longtime faculty member and chair of the former Department of Home Economics at Southeast Missouri State University; Dan Jennings of Sikeston, Mo., co-owner of Jennings Brothers Farms; and Jon Kurka Rust of Cape Girardeau, publisher of the Southeast Missourian and co-president of Rust Communications.

The Distinguished Service Awards are presented to individuals who have made lasting contributions to their communities and to the University.

The awards will be given at an All-Alumni breakfast to be held at 7:30 a.m. Oct. 22 in the Aleen Vogel Wehking Alumni Center, 926 Broadway. Cost of the breakfast is $10 per person. Reservations may be made by calling (573) 651-2259 or emailing

Terry Benassi

Terry Benassi earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a major in marketing management, with an emphasis in law, and minors in economics and English composition from Southeast in 1968. He attended Southeast on a football scholarship and was the starting right defensive end for the last three years of his four-year career. He was voted the Wayne Goddard Award recipient as the Most Valuable Lineman his senior year on the 1967 MIAA Conference championship team, which was also nationally ranked and recognized.

He has been involved with Southeast Missouri State University on a continual basis, serving on the St. Louis Alumni Chapter Executive Committee since its inception and president for some three years, and serving on the Alumni Board of Directors for several years. Benassi is also a 2006 Southeast Salutes Award recipient. He has continued to be extremely active with the Sigma Chi fraternity. He was president of the Southeast Missouri Alumni Chapter for more than 10 years, president of the Southeast Missouri House Corporation. for about 12 years and currently, and for the past 10 years, the president of the St. Louis Alumni Chapter. He has also received national recognition from the International Headquarters of the Sigma Chi Fraternity with several awards, including two Grand Consul Citations. Benassi also has participated in selling newspapers with the St. Louis Alumni Chapter for Old Newsboys’ Day every year since 1967.

Benassi now has some 39 years of experience in the contract furniture and design industry, working his way from a furniture and office machine dealership, to the largest contract furniture dealership in St. Louis and then to planning the start-up of a new dealership with a partner. Benassi joined this new dealership, Corporate Interiors, as a partner after one year, and was an owner/principal and vice president of sales for now CI Select, a Corporate Interiors Company, for 21 years before selling his shares of stock to his partner in May 2009. While with CI Select, he partnered in the operation and management of the multi-divisional company, providing products and solutions for the office, education–both K-12 and colleges and universities–healthcare, government, audio-visual and flooring industries. Before leaving, he grew the company sales from $1 million to $50 million. He was involved in the negotiations in buying four related businesses to diversify the company and broaden the sales base and company awareness, and in starting two additional company-related businesses. In his 21 years with CI Select, he continued to sell major accounts and major projects, directed the major accounts and major projects sales staff, and chaired the Management/Steering Committee.

At present, Benassi is the vice president of sales and marketing for Facilitec Corporate Furnishings, another St. Louis dealership. Throughout his career, he has continued to win company awards for his contributions as a salesperson. He has won awards outside of his companies as well, including the St. Louis Sales and Marketing Executives Salesperson of the Year Award.

Benassi has been very active outside of his business career with several organizations, including the International Facility Management Association; St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association; Special Olympics Missouri-East, where he has been on the Board of Directors, the Resource Development Team and the chairman of the Charity Golf Tournament; Rotary Club of St. Louis; St. Louis Ambassadors; Variety Club of St. Louis, where he was the chairperson for the Annual Telethon Phone-A-Thon; Scramble for Kids Golf Tournament benefiting Children’s Miracle Network; Friends of Kids with Cancer; Old Newsboys’ Day; Lord of Life Lutheran Church, serving as the congregational president and on the Board of Elders; Girls Youth Basketball and Softball Coach; and the National Youth Sports Coaches Association.

Along with Benassi’s professional career, he has been active with the St. Louis Bombers Rugby Football Club for many years.

Benassi has been married 39 years to the former Susan Doerr, a 1970 graduate of Southeast Missouri State University. They have one daughter, Anna-Marie. Terry and Susan reside in Chesterfield, Mo.

Dwayne Hickman

Dwayne Hickman earned a Bachelor of Science in industrial technology with a minor in physics in 1992 from Southeast. During his years studying electronics at the University, he was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and served as treasurer of the Southeast chapter for two years.

He remains very active in his fraternity and currently holds two key local positions. Hickman is the current vice president of the St. Louis Area Graduate Chapter and serves as the fraternal chapter advisor to the undergraduate chapter at Southeast Missouri State. He also works with the Xi Gamma Alumni Association planning annual homecoming events for alumni members of his fraternity at Southeast.

Hickman was born in St. Louis as the youngest of three children to the parents of Harold and Rochelle Hickman. He was educated in the St. Louis Public School System, attending Ashland Grade School, Turner Middle School and Beaumont High School. His parents emphasized education but raised him to be well-rounded, having him participate in sports and other activities at the Matthews-Dickey Boys & Girls Club. He graduated from Beaumont High School in the top 10 percent of his class.

After graduating from Southeast, Hickman went to work for the Procter & Gamble Company, starting as a production technician in March 1993. After five years with the company, he advanced to production coordinator, where he coordinated the daily operations of the Hard Surface Cleaners/Automatic Dish Washer Cleaner department. In this role, he managed work/vacation schedules and performance reviews of more than 40 personnel, was responsible for a $1 million contractor budget and scheduled inbound shipments of materials for four production lines. In 2000, he became an electrical and instrumentation technician. For the last 10 years, he has been responsible for maintaining production equipment and calibrating electrical systems for manufacturing processes.

In 1994, Hickman married Stephenie Small, his college sweetheart whom he met while attending Southeast Missouri State. They are the parents of two sons, Dwayne Jr. and Stephan. During their children’s youth days, Hickman spent his summers coaching little league baseball for his son’s teams, and the couple remained involved with their children’s activities. In spring 1999, Dwayne and Stephenie Hickman opened their own business, Shear Simplicity Hair Salon, and they have now been in business for 12 years.

Grace Hoover

Grace Hoover, a life-long home economist, is a retired professor emerita from Southeast Missouri State University where she served for nearly 30 years as chair of the Department of Human Environmental Studies. She retired in May 1990 but continued her association with the University as coordinator of academic advising for the College of Health and Human Services on a part-time basis until 1995.

Hoover was instrumental in establishing the University’s Center for Child Studies; Center for Aging and Gerontology Studies (now the Institute for Gerontology), which she directed for four years; Workshop on Wheels; the Elderhostel program; geriatric sitters training; dietary managers training; the former Work and Family Institute; and the Eldercare Center. The Eldercare Center at 805 N. Sprigg Street was named the Grace V. Hoover Center in recognition of her work through the years with senior adults. In addition, and for nearly 50 years, Hoover served as the sponsor of the University chapter of Kappa Omicron Phi, the national home economics honorary society.

An Advance, Mo., native, Hoover is a graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia.

She served for 20 years on the Southeast Missouri State University Alumni Association Board of Directors, and she continues to be active on the Booster Board of Southeast’s Department of Athletics, the Southeast Alumni Association, the Southeast Missouri University Foundation, the President’s Council and the Host International Student Program. She has hosted 20 international students through the years.

One of her favorite activities, in addition to attending Southeast basketball games, is international travel and study tours which have included visits to 19 foreign countries. She established a scholarship in her name through the Southeast Missouri University Foundation for international students studying home economics at Southeast, in addition to an endowment to enrich the home economics program at Southeast.

She remains active in several community organizations, including the Girl Scouts of Otahki Council which honored her with a “Women of Distinction Award” at their 80th anniversary celebration in 1992. She also was elected to the Otahki Council Board of Directors that same year, serving as secretary for six years. She is currently a member of the Women Investing In Girl Scouting (WINGS) Team, a pilot program of national GSUSA and a member of the Juliett Low Society.

Hoover was the first recipient of the Zonta Lifetime Achievement Award, and she has received numerous awards from the University of Missouri-Columbia, Southeast Missouri State University, the Missouri Home Economics Association, the Missouri Vocational Association, Southeast Missouri Hospital (now SoutheastHealth), Saint Francis Mental Health Center, Area Licensed Providers Association for Child Care, Delta Kappa Gamma International and the Future Homemakers of America.

Hoover is also a member of the Cape Girardeau County Professional Home Economists, P.E.O. Chapter JN and TRIAD/SALT Advisory Council (Seniors and Lawmen Together) for Cape Girardeau County. She is a member of the Greater Cape Girardeau Historical Association, where she conducts tours of the Glenn House. She has been active with the National Council of Administration of Home Economics, the Missouri Vocational Association, Missouri Home Economics Teacher Associations, Association for Gerontology in Higher Education, the American Home Economics Association and the Council of Home Economic Administration of Missouri. She also often represented the home economics profession with membership on the Missouri Nutrition Education and Training Program of Health, Missouri Early Childhood Education Advisory Committee, reader for Title IV proposals, Missouri State Department of Education and the Southeast Missouri Hospital Home Health Advisory Council.

She is a member of Grace United Methodist Church, where she has held numerous offices, including president of the church women’s group. She is also active in the Cape Girardeau Area Church Women United.

She and her late husband, L.D. “Jim,” are the parents of Susan Mitten of Jefferson City, Mo., and Joseph Hoover of Kennett, Mo. She has five grandsons and five great-grandchildren.

Dan Jennings

Dan Jennings was a college freshman when a heart attack took his father’s life. After Charles Jennings died in 1968, Dan Jennings initially shuttled back and forth from Southeast Missouri State to the family homestead just outside of Morehouse, Mo. Within a year, he quit school to farm full time. Left with 180 acres of rented farmland, his farming career began. Four decades later, that small family farm has grown into a 5,000-acre enterprise – Jennings Brothers Farms — that he farms with his younger brother, Tom. The partnership owns roughly 1,450 acres, and the balance of the land is leased. All of the land has been put to grade, irrigated, tilled, planted and harvested with the work ethic Dan Jennings learned from his father. As the operation evolved, Dan Jennings completed the ALOT program, a two year leadership development course run by the University of Missouri, and he graduated from the Executive Program for Agriculture Producers through Texas A&M. Jennings has served on the Progressive Farm Credit board of directors, the Sikeston Board of Education, serving as president, the board of directors at Missouri Delta Medical Center and the Delta Center Advisory Board. He spent eight years as a member of the Missouri State FSA committee where he served as chairman. He also has been a board member, elder and chairman of the board at First Christian Church in Sikeston. This past May, he was honored by the Sikeston Area Chamber of Commerce as Sikeston’s Citizen of the Year. Now living in Sikeston, Mo., with his wife, Dianne, a former teacher and graduate of Southeast Missouri State University, Jennings farms wheat, corn, soybeans, rice and cotton. Their two children, Chad and Laura, have moved to New York and San Francisco, but the family’s center remains–as it always has been–the farm.

Jon Kurka Rust

Jon Kurka Rust is publisher of the Southeast Missourian and, along with his brother Rex, co-president of Rust Communications, a family-owned media company based in Cape Girardeau, which encompasses 19 daily and more than 30 weekly newspapers primarily in the rural Midwest. The company also holds minority ownership in 17 radio stations and publishes dozens of specialty magazines and websites.

Rust currently serves as chairman of the board of the Suburban Newspapers of America (SNA), and as a member of the board of directors for the Associated Press (AP), Suburban Newspapers of America Foundation, Certified Audit of Circulations,, and the Missouri Press Association. He is a member of the board executive committees for both the AP, where he also chairs the Technology and Infrastructure Committee, and SNA, where he is the current chairman of the board. He is a member of the National Newspaper Association, Inland Press and the Interactive Advertising Bureau. He is a frequent speaker at newspaper industry conferences and has won many awards for his writing and publications.

Outside of the newspaper industry, Rust has served on numerous state and local boards, including the board of directors for the Southeast Missouri University Foundation, Dance St. Louis, Missouri Division of Youth Services, United Way of Southeast Missouri, Cape Girardeau Community Improvement District steering committee, Cape Girardeau Civic Center, Greater Cape Girardeau Area Benevolent Association, the Industrial Development Authority of Cape Girardeau County and the Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce. He has also served on Southeast Missouri State University search committees for the dean of the College of Liberal Arts and chair of the Department of Communication (now the Department of Mass Media), and is a past recipient of the United Way Young Volunteer of the Year. He has been involved with the development of the Discovery Playhouse and Children’s Museum in downtown Cape Girardeau as well.

Rust holds undergraduate degrees in Russian and English literature from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, where he was a Morehead Scholar and graduated Phi Beta Kappa, and a master’s degree from Harvard Business School, where he was president of the Leadership and Ethics Forum and graduated with distinction. After business school, he was awarded a yearlong fellowship by Harvard University to write cases and textbook chapters on Internet media companies.

Other education background includes study at the Pushkin Institute in Moscow, Russia; Odessa State University in Odessa, Ukraine; the Slavic Institute at the University of Pittsburgh, and the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, N.C. He attended Campus School and the University’s education laboratory program at Southeast Missouri State University from kindergarten through sixth grade and frequently took summer classes on the University’s campus throughout high school. As a senior in college, he was selected through a national competition to represent the United States in a series of Russian-language debates, some televised, throughout the then-Soviet Union on the issue of “trust and guarantees in the relationship between East and West.”

His work experience includes Marakon Consultants, Connecticut and Toronto, Canada; Harper & Row, Publishers, New York; the Fremont, California Police Department; and various positions in Russia and Czechoslovakia, including with Volunteers for Peace and the Committee of Youth Organizations. He also started and published newspapers in Tennessee and southern Missouri for several years and was a political correspondent and columnist based in Washington, D.C.

He and his wife Victoria, a native of Minsk, Belarus, who graduated from Southeast Missouri State University and is completing her doctoral degree in German and comparative literature at Washington University, have two children: Yuliana, 6, and Ekaterina, 2. They live in Cape Girardeau above the company’s flagship newspaper and are active members of LaCroix Church. He is the son of Gary Wayne and Wendy Kurka Rust.