The University of Southern Indiana Alumni Association honored the founding figures of the institution and recognized its three highest award recipients at its annual Founders’ Day Luncheon on Wednesday, September 14 in Carter Hall on the USI campus.
“The University of Southern Indiana boldly and bravely came to be 57 years ago. We have since worked tirelessly to be a leader in higher education, daring to shape the future while transforming the lives of our students,” said Ronald S. Rochon, USI President. “I know for certain we will continue to pass the torch of knowledge and provide opportunity for our community, region, state, nation and beyond.”
The in-person event featured remarks from Dr. Mohammed Khayum, Provost, a tribute to USI founders delivered by Selina Wang ’24, and the presentation of the Association’s three major awards—the Alumni Service Award, the Honorary Alumni Award and the Faculty Recognition Award.
Alumni Service Award
The 2022 recipient of the USI Alumni Service Award is Trudy Stock ‘86. Stock retired as Evansville Region President for Harding, Shymanski & Company in June 2022, after previously leading the firm as CEO and President from 2011 to 2019. An accounting major and former student employee for Byron Wright, Vice President for Business Affairs, Stock landed a job at Harding, Shymanski & Company, crediting the Romain College of Business and its inspiring faculty, including Dr. Wanda Hibbitts and Nancy Bizal, for her preparedness to enter and succeed in the accounting field.
As she grew in her career at Harding, Shymanski & Company, her connection to USI grew stronger. She, along with her colleagues, routinely returned to USI to recruit students for internships and full-time positions. She has mentored countless USI students and young alumni, providing valuable insight for success in the professional world. In the past, she also dedicated time and expertise to the Romain College of Business’ Accounting Circle and Alumni Council. She and her husband, Brett, have three children—William, Tyler and Anna. Her son, Tyler, graduated from USI in 2018 and obtained his master’s degree in public administration in 2020.
The Stocks provide generous financial support for USI students through Campaign USI: Elevating Excellence. As a USI scholarship recipient herself, Stock knows first-hand the impact these awards have on student lives.
Stock currently serves on the USI Foundation Board of Directors. In addition, she serves as a Board Member for the Chamber of Commerce of Southwestern Indiana; Junior Achievement of Southwest Indiana; Boys & Girls Club; and A Network of Evansville Women. Previously, she served on the WNIN, YWCA and Better Business Bureau boards. She is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, as well as the Indiana CPA Society. Stock’s anonymous nominator says, “In everything Trudy does and accomplishes, she remains humble. Using her time, expertise and resources, she serves USI with the intention to elevate every aspect of it.”
Honorary Alumni Award
Robert (Bob) E. Griffin is the 2022 Honorary Alumni Award recipient. In 2014, Griffin contributed a leadership gift of $5 million to Campaign USI: Elevating Excellence. He declared the funds were not a donation—rather, they were an investment in the future of the University and its opportunities to transform the lives of its students.
On the west side of Reflection Lake facing the Liberal Arts Center, Griffin’s investment in USI can be seen in the physical form of the Griffin Center, named in honor of the Griffin family and their contribution to the University. In addition to this contribution, Griffin, his wife Judy and their family have supported the USI Presidential Scholarship Program since its inception in 1987. The Griffin family also endowed the Dr. John and Grace Helfrich Eisterhold Scholarship at USI in honor of Judy’s parents, led a fund drive to establish the Robert D. and Mary Kay Orr Business Scholarship and endowed the Robert E. and Judith A. Griffin Presidential Scholarship. The Griffins also made a leadership gift to the Business and Engineering Center where the Project Management Laboratory is named in their honor.
Griffin served on the USI Foundation Board for 35 years and, previously, on the Society for Arts & Humanities Board and the Romain College of Business Board of Advisors. He received an honorary degree from USI in 2003. His anonymous nominator says, “Throughout all of his involvement with USI, Griffin has gone out of his way to ensure advocacy for the Foundation and University in everyday correspondence and actions.”
Griffin, the former President and CEO of Escalade Sports, grew up in East St. Louis, Missouri. He received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Notre Dame and a Master of Business Administration degree from Northwestern University.
Faculty Recognition Award
The 2022 Faculty Recognition Award was presented to Dr. Katie Ehlman. Ehlman joined USI in 2001 as a part-time Project Coordinator, responsible for completing a feasibility study on worksite wellness programs in five area businesses in Vanderburgh County. She transitioned to teaching in 2002 when she became an adjunct instructor in the Health Services Program. In 2008, Ehlman became Assistant Professor of Gerontology, and has climbed the ranks since, now serving as Professor of Gerontology and Director for the Bronstein Center for Healthy Aging and Wellness. She also holds the Hershel B. Whitney Endowed Professorship in Gerontology.
Ehlman’s efforts played a critical role in the $1 million gift received from the Sol and Arlene Bronstein Foundation, and her leadership was essential in bringing the Minka Learning Lab for Living Well to fruition on the USI campus in 2018. This space allows students, faculty members and healthcare professionals to participate in simulations, workshops, research, smart home tours and interdisciplinary class projects. Her anonymous nominator says, “Ehlman is an outstanding role model for students and is constantly creating experiential learning opportunities for them. Her work elevates the visibility of the University on a local, state, national and global platform.”
Ehlman currently serves as a member of the Indiana Governor’s Council, Division of Aging Dementia Care Advisory Group, and Indiana Inter-College Council on Aging, and she has previously served on several advisory boards for various community health centers. In 2019, she was the recipient of the Dr. Jane Davis-Brezette Faculty Excellence Award for her contributions to the success of student-athletes through mentoring and classroom achievement. In 2017, she was named recipient of the Excellence in Teaching Award in the College of Nursing and Health Professions. Ehlman served as Chair of the University Athletics Council from 2015 through 2020.
USI Founders’ Day celebrates the founding of USI and those in the 1960s who had the vision for public higher education in southern Indiana. The annual event honors the pivotal role those early USI leaders played in the birth of the institution. The event also provides an opportunity to recognize the achievements of the many people who have helped build the University.
Photo Credit: USI Photography and Multimedia
Award recipients gather for a group photo following the 2022 Founders' Day Luncheon.