Southeast Alumni Association Honoring Alumni, Faculty with 2014 Merit Awards


EVT-CopperdomeCAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Sept. 22, 2014 – Seven alumni and one faculty member will receive Merit Awards presented by the Southeast Missouri State University Alumni Association Oct. 3 at the Copper Dome Society/Merit Recognition Program during the Homecoming celebration.

The awards will be presented at 6:30 p.m. in the Show Me Center.

Since 1958, Alumni Merit Awards have been presented to Southeast graduates who have brought distinction to themselves and the University.

This year’s alumni recipients are: Karla Bakersmith, ’81, of Chesterfield, Mo., president and chief executive officer of Scrubs & Beyond, LLC; Cynthia Fleck, ’87, of St. Louis, Mo., president of Cynthia Fleck & Associates, LLC, in St. Louis, Mo.; Eric Levin, ’84, of Edwardsville, Ill., chief financial officer of The Boeing Company’s Phantom Works division; Sam Park, ’82, of Sherman Oaks, Calif., West Coast Editor and part-owner of the transmedia company Monsterverse Entertainment and his new horror media company, Scratch Lightning Productions; James W. Riley Jr., ’80, of Cape Girardeau, Mo., founder of Red Letter Communications; Dr. Cynthia Stone, ’81, of Fairhaven, Mass., chief academic officer for Northeast Maritime Institute in Fairhaven, Mass.; and Dr. Chris Wright, ’96, of Yardley, Pa., corporate strategic research downstream portfolio manager, ExxonMobil Research and Engineering (EMRE) Company.

Receiving the Faculty Merit Award will be Dr. Willie Redmond, professor of economics at Southeast.

Karla BakersmithKarla Bakersmith

Bakersmith, a 1981 graduate of Southeast with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a major in marketing, is president and chief executive officer of Scrubs & Beyond, LLC. She started the company in 2000 and grew it into a chain of 30 stores, a catalog division, an outside sales division catering to hospitals and a large Internet business. The newly formed company of 153 stores is the largest retailer of medical apparel, shoes and medical accessories in the country. The company is the leader in helping hospitals and other medical entities facilitate dress code changes and is the leader in fashion medical apparel for medical professionals.

In July 2013, the company acquired Life Uniform and Uniform City and merged as one company. Bakersmith previously worked for Life Uniform as the vice president of merchandising and marketing for 13 years before starting Scrubs & Beyond.

Bakersmith was named the recipient of the St. Louis Business Journal’s Most Influential Business Women award in 2004. She is also a member of the Board of Directors for the Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri, The Women’s Forum, the St. Louis Women’s Prosper advisory committee, the Foundation Board for St. Anthony’s Hospital, the Nursing Advisory Board for the University of Missouri-St. Louis. She is a past member of the Barco Nightingale Foundation Board and of Vistage International, an organization for chief executive officers. She also is a past member of the advisory board for the St. Louis University School of Entrepreneurs.

Bakersmith is passionate about mentoring and helping other business women grow their businesses. She has spent numerous hours as a coach, mentor and strong advocate of young entrepreneurs helping to grow their careers.

“My career was fostered and set in the right direction because my parents and a few key business people took the time to help me grow both professionally and personally,” Bakersmith said.      “As a business leader, giving back to others has become a hobby. I find that I am not only teaching others, but what I have learned from them has also helped me to grow.”

“Family is the most important part of my life,” she continued. “My husband Tom, my daughters Blaire and Abby, and my stepdaughter Erin have all been very supportive of my career. Our family has recently expanded with the addition of our first grandchild. It has been 33 years since I graduated from Southeast, and each year it just keeps getting better.”

Cynthia FleckCynthia Ann Fleck, RN, BSN, MBA

Fleck, a 1987 Southeast graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, is president of Cynthia Fleck & Associates, LLC, in St. Louis, Mo., which provides sales, marketing, training and education, clinical and legal expert witness review and testimony consultation.

For more than a decade, Fleck has led professional medical, surgical and biotech sales, marketing and clinical business endeavors. She was previously vice president, clinical sales and marketing, for Vomaris Innovations in Tempe, Ariz., and vice president, clinical marketing, for Medline Industries, Inc., Mundelein, Ill.

Fleck is an executive business woman and board certified wound specialist and dermatology advanced practice nurse who has presented more than 600 seminars and programs throughout the world.  She has written more than 300 articles and chapters for various peer-reviewed and clinical publications and texts, and has edited a book.

She received Southeast’s St. Louis Salutes award in 2005 and presented the keynote address earlier this year at Southeast’s “Power of Women” luncheon.

Fleck is past president and chairman of the board of the American Board of Wound Management; past two-term director of the Association for the Advancement of Wound Care; diplomat of the American Professional Wound Care Association, where she serves on the Medical Advisory Board; member of the board of directors of the American College of Clinical Wound Specialists where she serves as Treasurer; scientific co-chair of the Desert Foot Conference; and editor of PRESENT Wounds, an educational wound and skin care community and blog.

She is dedicated to inspiring others and passionate about music, dance, theater, volunteer work, philanthropy, animal and young person welfare, as well as spending quality time with her mother and mentor Judith and her friends who embody her extended “family.”

Fleck and her mother, Judith, recently joined the Southeast Horizon Club, pledging a gift of a continuous memorial scholarship for future nursing students who show academic promise and financial need. Fleck says she is forever grateful for the love and guidance of her mother, Judith, and her late father, Douglas Fleck, to whom she credits all her success and accomplishments.

“My mother has always been the wind beneath my wings and my father, my rock,” she said.

She also acknowledged her undergraduate professor at Southeast and dear friend, Desma Reno who was instrumental in her growth and development.

“Desma is one of those rare professors who touches your life and never leaves. She is a gift to the nursing profession,” Fleck said.

Eric LevinEric Levin

Levin is a 1984 Southeast Summa Cum Laude graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a major in management and a minor in marketing. He has worked at The Boeing Company for 30 years and is currently the chief financial officer of Boeing’s Phantom Works division, focused on the development of next generation capabilities.In this capacity, he is responsible for all business aspects of new product development for Boeing Defense, Space & Security.

In previous assignments, he has served as the chief financial officer of other business organizations within Boeing and successfully oversaw the financial operations of businesses with average annual sales of several billion dollars. During his career, he also relocated to Dayton, Ohio, where he provided on-site business support for Boeing to the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

“I’m very happy with the education I received at Southeast. I received more than a strong foundation in business; I received a broad education that I use to this day,” Levin said. “At Southeast, I learned critical thinking and the ‘soft skills’ that are key to professional success. While I received an outstanding education at Southeast, only half of what I learned was gained in the classroom. The other half was learned through projects outside of class, school activities, and the lifelong friendships that I made – in short, the whole Southeast experience.”

After graduating from Southeast, Levin was employed by Macy’s. He then obtained a business position at McDonnell Douglas in St. Louis which later merged with The Boeing Company. While at Boeing, he earned a Master of Science from Central Michigan University.

Levin has been married to his wife Libby for nearly 20 years, and they have two children, Ryan and Andrea.

Sam ParkSam Park

Park is West Coast Editor and part-owner of the transmedia company Monsterverse Entertainment and his new horror media company, Scratch Lightning Productions. He is a 1982 Southeast graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Education, secondary education, with a major in art education. During his studies at Southeast, Park was a member of Sigma Chi fraternity.

Park co-owns the company with the legendary comic book and make-up design artist Kerry Gammill (“Superman, “Star Wars,” “Outer Limits” and “Stargate”). The company’s first two ventures are the highly acclaimed horror anthology comic book series, “Bela Lugosi’s Tales from the Grave,” and the award-winning “Flesh and Blood” horror graphic novel series featuring the world’s international horror icons as interpreted by the top creators in horror films and the comic book industry. Contributors working for Monsterverse include seven-time Academy Award winning make-up artist Rick Baker, Warner Brothers animation icon Bruce Timm, the number one selling artist, John Cassaday (artist on “Astonishing X-Men” with writer/producer/director Joss Whedon of “The Avengers” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) and many of the top professionals in film, television, and comic books.

Park is a film producer with top genre creators. He co-produced the exploitation/horror satire, “The Halfway House” (which director John Landis and Film Threat gave their top rating) and “Death’s Door” (supernatural horror) for Creative Spark Entertainment and Ken Gust, co-owner of top digital effects house, Synaptic VFX (“Iron Man,” “Alice in Wonderland,” “Where the Wild Things Are”).

Park’s initial agreement upon arriving in Los Angeles was with Gene Simmons of the rock group, KISS, who optioned Park’s first horror screenplay, “Creature Feature.” Later, the option was picked up by SEC Entertainment and Kevin Dardano. Park developed the script into a pilot for a horror anthology television series entitled “Raven Tales.” Silver Pictures was intrigued by Park’s next script, a sci-fi action story, and recommended him for membership in an exclusive writers group headed by Peter Lenkov (“Demolition Man,” “CSI: NY,” “24” and “Hawaii Five-0”) that included such rising stars as David Goyer (“Batman Begins”), Mark Verheiden (“Timecop” and “Falling Skies”) and Robert Hewitt Wolfe (“Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” and “Alphas”). Several scripts and treatment work followed along with work as a scripts doctor on various projects. Recent work includes “Stinger” (supernatural thriller), “X-Ray” (sci-fi/superhero), “Omega Bullet” (a post-apocalypse western) and the horror script “Rave’n Hell.” The horror script, “The Need,” was written for the white-hot writing team turned producers (and now directors), Juliet Snowden and Stiles White (“Boogeyman” for Sam Raimi, “Knowing” for Nick Cage, “Possession,” again for Raimi, and “Ouija” for Hasbro). Park’s writing is known for its rocket-speed action, humorous dialog, strong offbeat characterizations and a spot-on understanding for adapting genre and comic book stories for film, television, Internet and new media.

Park is the son of Frieda Park Caldwell of Cape Girardeau.

Jim Riley  2James W. Riley Jr.

Riley, a 1980 Southeast graduate with a Bachelor of Science in mass communication, founded Red Letter Communications in Cape Girardeau in 1981. Over the past 33 years, he has led efforts on behalf of local, regional and national clients, forming significant business relationships with STIHL Inc., McEagle and Spartech Corporation.

A self-described generalist, Riley serves as lead strategist and co-creative director for STIHL’s national branding advertising and for the Marketing Advantage Program (MAP), a retail marketing effort funded by voluntary contributions from more than 5,000 independent STIHL dealers. Riley also works on behalf of Red Letter clients, Greenway, Biovante, New Wave Communications and PowerCloud.

Riley is currently helping lead messaging for McEagle’s Northside St. Louis Regeneration. Duties include marketing communication for business recruitment, government agency involvement and local community support for the projected 20 year, $8 billion project.

He also has engaged in entrepreneurial efforts, including Mississippi Cape, LLC; McCape, LLC; DreamBig, LLC; and real estate and business development in Cape Girardeau. Riley is the author and partner with local illustrator Don Greenwood in Dogtown Press, LLC – Children’s Books with Purpose.

On a volunteer basis, Riley has served as the primary strategist and author for campaigns supporting Cape Girardeau’s Transportation Trust Fund; Parks, Recreation & Stormwater initiative; building of the new Cape Girardeau Public Library; $40 million public school bond issue; and the fire sales tax to support local fire, police and city staff.

He also led the effort to engage Isle of Capri with Cape Girardeau. He then collaborated with fellow businessman David Knight, Isle of Capri’s Paul Keller and Cape Girardeau city leaders, including Mayor Harry Rediger, to win Missouri’s 13th and last gaming license for Cape Girardeau. These efforts resulted in a $120 million casino development and the addition of about 600 jobs to Cape Girardeau’s riverfront.

Riley is a 46-year resident of Cape Girardeau, a member of the Southeast Missouri University Foundation Board and the Foundation’s President’s Council. He currently serves as an advisory board member with the Department of Mass Media and, in 2011, founded The Taylor Endowment for Excellence in Media Communications, a $100,000 scholarship fund designed to engage with Southeast radio and video alumni to create quality internships and mentoring and financial support to current mass communications students.

He is the recipient of the 2011 Old Town Cape Visionary Award and the American Advertising Federation Silver Medal for Lifetime Achievement. In 2003, the Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year Award was presented to Red Letter Communications. Riley is a 46-year member of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Cape Girardeau.

He is the son of Evelyn and the late James Riley Sr. He is married to Michaele (Benoit) and is the father of Anthony (Eliza), Alyson (Matt Shead), Hannah (Phillips) and Luke Riley.

Cynthia StoneDr. Cynthia Stone

Stone, a 1981 graduate of Southeast with a Bachelor of Science in Education, elementary education, is the chief academic officer for Northeast Maritime Institute in Fairhaven, Mass., which is dedicated to providing opportunities to disadvantaged students from southeastern Massachusetts to earn a degree in maritime science and have a rewarding, lucrative career.

Stone says she learned the value of education through her own experience as a child of poverty. She was the oldest of six children and her mother was ill and bed-ridden from the time Stone was 11. Stone says her resilience and perseverance is a result of that experience. She knew the way to a better life was through education, but, she said, children from poverty do not have role models to look to, nor parents who know how to negotiate the process of getting into higher education. Stone said she was not sure what to do, how to do it, or how she could possibly pay for college.

“I lacked self-confidence in my ability to be successful until my high school algebra teacher opened that door and let me peek through,” said Stone. “He took several of his students to a state university near our home, and we sat in on a college level class and did algebra with the students. It made me realize that I could do the work and could be successful.”

Stone worked for several years and saved money so she could begin her college career. After one year of college, Stone relocated to Missouri.

It took Stone years of working full time and going to school at night to earn her bachelor’s degree. She began by taking Southeast classes offsite, then finishing at the campus in Cape Girardeau. She lived in Ironton, Mo., driving 90 miles one way to school every day so as not to uproot her son, determined to get her degree and teach in schools with high poverty and high minority rates.

Stone was the first in her family to go to college, earning her bachelor’s degree from Southeast in December 1981. She then went on to earn a master’s degree in curriculum in 1999 and a Doctorate of Education in 2005, both from the University of Texas at El Paso.

Stone’s teaching career began in Potosi, Mo., where she taught high school math on an emergency certificate for one semester and second grade. She then moved to Texas where she continued teaching at the elementary level for 12 years. Stone then became a math/science specialist teaching teachers how to teach math and science in a more constructivist way.

Stone’s move from the classroom to administration was motivated by a desire to affect more children in a positive way. In the 15 years spent out of the classroom, her passion for teaching never waned. She wanted to provide opportunities for teachers to make their classrooms more exciting.

Stone retired from teaching in 2011 and immediately went to work as a professional service provider for low performing schools in south Texas. She recently began working as the chief academic officer for Northeast Maritime Institute.

Stone and her late husband are the parents of a son, Joshua, and three grandchildren, Sydney, 7, Hayley, 5 and Austin, 2.

Chris WrightDr. Chris Wright

Wright, a 1996 Southeast graduate with a Bachelor of Science in chemistry, is the corporate strategic research downstream portfolio manager at the ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company (EMRE), an ExxonMobil subsidiary. He is currently focused on identifying research opportunities and managing their resourcing and execution to deliver high value technology solutions that maximize a competitive advantage for ExxonMobil.

A Cutler, Ill. native, Wright graduated from Southeast with honors and distinction before earning a doctoral degree in inorganic chemistry from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2000.

He joined the EMRE that same year and has been involved in a variety of research roles, including efforts focused on improving lubricant production, reducing refinery fouling to improve energy efficiency, upgrading options to better use oil sand resources, and joint industry efforts with light- and heavy-duty vehicle manufacturers to enable improved fuel economy. He is the author or co-author of more than 10 patents across these technology areas.

In addition, Wright has supervised research and engineering staff responsible for technology areas including fuel product performance, quality and manufacturing technical assistance and design for a variety of refinery processes. This included oversight and career development direction for staff with a range of scientific backgrounds and experience levels.

Wright has also served in other organizational roles, including planning advisor for the EMRE president and transition manager for the EMRE process organizations. In these roles, he participated in planning and stewardship across the company and took an active role in positioning the organizations to meet strategic objectives and improve technology delivery to ExxonMobil.

His roles have spanned multiple units within EMRE, including assignments in Baton Rouge, La., Annandale, N.J., Paulsboro, N.J., and Fairfax, Va. Wright credits his Midwestern upbringing and the lessons learned during his Southeast education and undergraduate research with his ability to approach new challenges and solve problems successfully across the range of environments and assignments he has experienced in his career.

Wright is the son of Duke and Bonnie of Willisville, Ill., and has a brother, Jeffrey, who lives in Murphysboro, Ill., with his wife Nancy. Wright and his wife Kelli are parents to sons Stephen, 13, and Mitchell, 11. They enjoy the outdoors, travel and experiencing new things together.

Willie Redmond AMA 2Dr. Willie Redmond

Receiving this year’s Faculty Merit Award will be Dr. Willie Redmond. The Faculty Merit Award is presented for excellence in teaching.

Redmond is a professor in the Department of Economics and Finance at Southeast Missouri State University.  He earned a doctoral degree in economics and an MBA with a concentration in finance from the University of South Carolina.  Redmond joined Southeast’s faculty in 1999 and has since earned the rank of full professor.  His primary teaching responsibilities include graduate and undergraduate capstone business administration courses in strategic management.

Redmond also has taught several classes abroad.  He served as a visiting professor at Schmalkalden University of Applied Sciences in Schmalkalden, Germany, during the summers of 2012-2014.  He was a visiting professor at Satakunta University of Applied Sciences in Pori, Finland, and Rovaniemi University of Applied Sciences in Rovaniemi, Finland,during the summers of 2008, 2009 and 2011.  Additionally he was a visiting professor at Teikyo University Holland in Maastricht, Netherlands, in summer 2005.  Redmond is also active with Southeast’s International Business Programs, having mentored students on 21 international study tours while teaching the course, “Transcultural Experience: Economic and Cultural Institutions.”

Redmond has received several teaching awards while at Southeast, including the 2013 Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce’s University Educator of the Year Award, the 2013 Dr. R. Ferrell Ervin Award for Excellence in Teaching; the 2009 and 2006 Harrison College of Business – Student’s Choice Award for Excellence in Teaching; and the 2008 Graduate Students’ Outstanding MBA Teaching Award.   

Redmond also works with students as they compete in international business case competitions.  He has mentored students past the “qualifying round” of the Network of International Business School’s (NIBS) Worldwide Business Case Competition on several occasions, qualifying them for the “championship round” of this competition in such places as Dublin, Ireland (2007), Coventry, England (2008), St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada (2011), Rotterdam, Netherlands (2012), Leuven, Belgium (2013) and London, England (2014).  Notably, the 2012 Southeast team won the first place prize in Rotterdam, making Southeast Missouri State the only U.S. school to have won the NIBS Worldwide Business Case Competition.  Additionally, Redmond mentored a Southeast case study team that won the 2014 UMSL International Business Case Competition in St. Louis.   

Since August 2010, Redmond has served as a Faculty Associate in the Office of the Provost.  A primary duty is coordinating the activities of the Missouri Alliance for Collaborative Education (MACE).  This initiative is designed to foster collaborative teaching agreements to increase the breadth and depth of undergraduate instruction in Missouri’s higher education institutions.

Redmond is also designated as one of eleven “Global Engagement Scholars” throughout the nation, through his work with the American Democracy Project, which is an initiative of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.  As a “Scholar,” he has helped organize and present at numerous conferences and institutes over the years.  As well he has co-created instructional materials such as an eBook, an online course shell and teaching manuals.