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May 7, 2010
Contact: Steve Rottinghaus, Baker University public relations director, (785) 594-8330 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Fran Jabara Leadership Award benefits studentsFran-Jabara-plaque

Baldwin City, Kan. — Baker University’s brightest students continue to capitalize on an endowed gift from the Fran Jabara Family Foundation as they prepare to begin their professional careers.

The Fran Jabara Leadership Award Endowment recognizes the leadership potential of outstanding young men and women as they graduate.

The award is named for renowned Wichita educator and entrepreneur F. D. (Fran) Jabara, a lifelong proponent of recognizing and promoting excellence in leadership. The awards program began in 2002 for students graduating from four-year private colleges in Kansas.

During Baker’s spring commencement ceremony on May 23 at the Collins Center, a male and female student will be honored with the 2010 Fran Jabara Leadership Award.

In 1949, Jabara joined the faculty at Wichita State, where he served for 40 years until he resigned in 1989. During his tenure he was appointed Distinguished Professor, in 1971, and served as Dean of the College of Business Administration for seven years. Compelled by his advocacy of the American free enterprise system, Jabara founded in 1977 one of the nation’s first Centers for Entrepreneurship at Wichita State. The program  became recognized as one of the best in the nation. He also co-founded the Association of Collegiate Entrepreneurs (ACE), the largest national organization for collegiate students interested in entrepreneurship, with members in all 50 states and 20 countries.

Previous Jabara Leadership Award winners from Baker are: Chelsey Forge and Peter J. Matulka (2009); Matthew Mills and Aphton Riley (2008); Matt Bretz and Jennifer McKean Wenger (2007); Jason Swarts and Emilee Merry Kuhn (2006); and Jason Webb and Christy Renyer (2005).

Here’s a look at three of the recent winners:

Chelsey Forge

After graduating in May 2009, Chelsey Forge joined McGladrey & Pullen, LLP in Kansas City, Mo., as an audit associate.

“Winning the Fran Jabara Award made graduation even more memorable for my parents and me,” Forge said. “It was definitely a moment I will never forget and I don’t think I could have asked for a better way to end my collegiate career at Baker University.”

The award culminated four years of homework assignments and exams.

“It was the ultimate recognition for the dedication to my academic pursuits, and it made all the late nights in the library worthwhile,” she said. “It also was very humbling to have my achievements recognized in front of my graduating class, peers, and my family who has always supported my ambitions.”

Forge appreciates Jabara’s foresight to create an award recognizing the accomplishments of outstanding students and leaders on campus.

“He realized the value in encouraging today’s college graduates to continue their entrepreneurial pursuit to become tomorrow’s business leaders,” she said.

Matt Mills

After graduating in 2008 from Baker, Matt Mills passed the Certified Public Accountant exam while working as an auditor for the KPMG accounting firm in Kansas City. He returned to his alma mater in 2009 to work as assistant controller.

“When I received the Fran Jabara Award I was extremely surprised,” Mills said. “I have always taken a leadership role throughout my life, but being recognized for the actions I have done encouraged me to continue to look for ways to step into these types of roles. Continuing to make an impact is very important to me.”

Mills values the award for its emphasis on leadership.

“Leadership is key to the continued progress of all individuals,” he said. “I look forward to lead future individuals to be successful in all walks of life. I am very thankful and appreciative of Fran Jabara's vision to create this award.”

Peter J. Matulka

Another May 2009 graduate, Peter J. Matulka was active at Baker, wherehe  founded the Ultimate Frisbee Club and was the advertising manager at the Baker Orange. He is proud to have his name associated with the award.

“After I received the award I sent a thank-you letter to Fran Jabara,” Matulka said. “I want to let him know where I have gone with career.”

Matulka is the marketing coordinator for Codero, a Web hosting company based in Overland Park.

“I have tried to build on the leadership experience I gained while at Baker,” he said.

Baker University is committed to assuring student learning, and developing confident, competent and responsible contributors to society.