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Hall of Fame

William Penn University appreciates the dedication and service of our many alumni and community supporters. It is representative of the values we aim to instill in all of our students. Each year at Homecoming, individuals or groups of people are selected to be recipients of the awards listed below. They are honored at the Recognition Banquet with the awards and inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Distinguished Career Award

The Distinguished Career Award is given to an individual based on esteemed and meritorious achievement in career and life. Candidates for this award are alumni of William Penn University or Nebraska Central College.

Mike Gates '65

Mike Gates–2017 Distinguished Career Award Recipient

This year’s recipient, Mike Gates, began his career at the age of 11 when he delivered the Sunday New York Times on his bike at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station where his father was stationed as a test pilot.  He received a dollar every week for his efforts.

Gates worked numerous jobs in gas stations, department stores, restaurants, and tobacco farms provided spending money until he left in August of 1961 to join practice for the William Penn College football team.  While at Penn he ran the front and back end of Mahaska Bowl (currently owned by William Penn), and he was a bartender at Elmhurst Country Club.

Upon graduation, he entered the U. S. Navy aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Yorktown deployed to Vietnam. After a short stint as a signalman he joined Special Services where he was a nightly sports broadcaster to the fleet, taught high school classes to GED hopefuls, and wrote articles for the ships’ daily newspaper.  Gates job aboard the Yorktown was recreation and morale. He organized and scheduled all of the ships’ athletic teams to compete with other ships and countries, planned the band to perform at special occasions aboard and ashore, and would fly off the ship to develop tours and activities for the crew when it arrived in port.

After completing active duty with the Navy, Gates with the help of a former Penn student, joined Fairchild Semiconductor in Sunnyvale, California as their Director of Recreation. This matriculated into the Human Resources Department where he was responsible for employee relations for a large segment of the company.

He moved through several prominent companies in a Human Resources capacity until he arrived at Fortune 500 Company Raytheon in 1984, headquartered in Lexington, Massachusetts.

Human Resources at Raytheon included government security, compliance with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, community relations, union negotiations, health & welfare, employee relations, compensation, benefits, training and development, and employment.

Gates was responsible for some or all of these Human Resource components during his tenure at Raytheon.

He oversaw plants in England, Canada, and numerous facilities throughout the United States, with the most unique being White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.  When he retired from Raytheon in 2001, Gates had 200 people reporting to him and was responsible for 10,000 employees.

Outside of work he indulged in tennis, softball, and road races.  He was an active coach in Pop Warner football, little league, military football and softball, and adult softball leagues, and served on the town council in Westford , Massachusetts.

Gates also sat on the boards of The Big Brothers/Big Sisters of San Francisco, Hope for Retarded Children and Adults of San Jose, the Navy League, and the Tilghman Area Youth Association of Maryland.

Since retiring, Gates taught woodworking for an after school program for seven years, and has mentored two youth over the last nine years through Talbot Mentors of Easton, Maryland.  He currently mentors a William Penn University student, in the Online/Evening program, through the Alumni Mentoring Program.

Mike and his lovely bride Lynn, a 1967 graduate of Penn, live happily on the Chesapeake Bay in St Michaels, Maryland where in their spare time they enjoy gardening and sailing.  In recognition of his personal career success and volunteer time given to assist young people in their own career skill development, William Penn University is proud to present the 2017 Distinguished Career Award to Mike Gates, Class of 1965.

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Distinguished Service Award

The Distinguished Service Award is bestowed upon an individual whose life of service has been exemplary. This honor extends beyond the circle of Penn alumni to those who embody the William Penn commitment to community and humanitarian service.

Jerry Ellis

Jerry N. Ellis –2017 Distinguished Service Award Recipient

This year’s recipient has become a familiar face around William Penn University.  Serving as current Chair of the William Penn University Board of Trustees, Jerry N. Ellis has plenty of experience in leadership within and outside of the University. Born in Iowa City, Iowa, Jerry moved around southeastern Iowa during his youth, graduating locally from Oskaloosa High School in 1956. Knowing that college was the best path for him, he chose to continue his education at William Penn College.

After his time as a student at William Penn College from 1956–1958, Jerry transferred to the University of Iowa, completing his BBA in 1960 and his MBA in 1962.  Although he may have transferred from one college to another, Jerry maintains that William Penn was the solid foundation of his higher education experience.

After his college education, Ellis joined the international accounting firm of Arthur Andersen in 1962 and spent 38 years with the firm in Dallas, Texas; Madrid, Spain; and Chicago, Illinois. His hard work and dedication paid off and he was admitted to the firm’s partnership in 1973. Over the years, he served as an audit partner on clients, ranging from large international public companies to smaller non-profit businesses. In the last few years, he was a project leader for the design and development of firm-wide audit training.

Jerry and his wife, Lucy moved their permanent home to Pella in 1998, and from 2000–2006 served as an adjunct professor, teaching advanced auditing at the University of Iowa. From 2001–2009, he served on the Board of Directors and Audit Committee of two public pharmaceutical companies (Sciele Pharma and Akorn, Inc.).

Ellis joined the William Penn Board of Trustees in 2004 and became Chair in 2011.  In addition to his service to William Penn, Ellis has given his time coaching youth soccer in Pella for 12 years and continues to do so today.  Along with coaching, he also scouts future opponents and serves on the film editing team for the girls’ soccer coach at Pella Community High School.

Other service leadership positions he has held include: Dallas Chapter President of the National Association of Accountants; President of the Board of the North Texas Food Bank; President of the Board of the Special Care School for Developmentally Challenged Students; President of Lake Highlands Soccer Association; President of Pella Soccer Club; Chair of Pella’s Fall Festival; and Vice President of the Consistory of Pella’s First Reformed Church.

Family is important to Jerry and Lucy and they take numerous trips to spend quality time with their three sons: Brooks (Christie) Ellis of Dallas, Texas; Berry (Sheila) Ellis of Wilmette, Illinois; and Collin (Stephanie) Ellis of Houston, Texas, along with their eight grandchildren: Ford, Caroline, Lauren, Jack, Ryan, Keegan, Max, and Quinn.

For his willingness to serve in leadership roles throughout his community, in his profession, within youth programs and for William Penn University, William Penn is proud to present the 2017 Distinguished Service Award to Jerry Ellis, Class of 1960.

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Torch Award

The Torch Award was initiated during the 1972 Parents’ Weekend as a way of acknowledging and honoring alumni and non-alumni parents who have shown exceptional commitment to William Penn University. Each year the Torch Award is given to an alumni family of at least two generations; or to non-alumni parents, all of whose children have attended William Penn University. Consideration is also given to the interest and loyalty shown by the recipient family in the programs and ideals of the University.

Emerging Young Leader Award

This award was designed to recognize established and future leaders among recent William Penn University alumni. Standards for recognition include one or more of the following: demonstrated leadership capability, substantial indication of a commitment to the service of others, demonstration of potential for leadership/distinction in the long term, and a substantial commitment to William Penn University and its mission. The award is open to all alumni who are within their first 10 years of graduating from William Penn University.

Ed Thomas Award

Those that are successful in coaching young students in the world of athletics have a special gift of shaping and changing the lives of those they come in contact with. The late and great Ed Thomas, whom this award was named after, had a great impact on his athletes. He passionately believed that his job as a coach was not to prepare kids to be college athletes, but to make their involvement in football or other sports a learning experience.

Faith, family, and excellence is what Thomas believed in and those core values are also present in the recipients of the Ed Thomas Award.

Lifetime Statesman Award

This first-time and perhaps one-time award is given to recognize support and service to William Penn University that is transformational in nature and at the same time foundational to Penn’s historical mission. 2016 Recipients–Joe Crookham and Jeanie Bieri