Murray Blackwelder, ’69
Murray Blackwelder is a 1969 Baker University graduate. During his undergraduate years at Baker, Murray was a member of Delta Tau Delta, the president of the Interfraternity Council and the senior class vice president. A professional fund-raiser by trade, Murray retired from the University of Missouri-Kansas City Foundation in 2015 after joining the foundation in 2009. Throughout his career Murray has held leadership positions with Wichita State University, Iowa State University, Purdue University, Rockhurst University, and Baker University. In all, he has been involved in seven major capital campaigns that raised some $3.8 billion. Murray remains active with St. John’s United Methodist Church in Kansas City.
Diane Wilson Blackwelder, ’70
Diane Wilson Blackwelder graduated from Baker University in 1970 with a degree in elementary education. Throughout her time at Baker, Diane was a member of Alpha Chi Omega and the Future Teachers Association. In her professional career, Diane spent 18 years as an elementary classroom teacher; seven years as a foundation director with a human service agency; and five years at Purdue University as the assistant dean of students, student activities, and organizations. Diane has remained extremely involved with Alpha Chi Omega and served as the national president from 2012 to 2016.
Gary Sollars, ’71
Gary Sollars is a 1971 Baker University graduate. He studied business and was a member of Delta Tau Delta fraternity. Gary joined Charlton-Manley Insurance, Inc., in Lawrence, Kansas, in 1977 and retired from the company as CEO. Gary is a member of the Baker University Board of Trustees and also serves as the past president of the Lawrence Memorial Hospital Endowment Association. He is a member of the Bert Nash Mental Health Center Endowment Foundation, the Junior Achievement of Lawrence Advisory Board, and the Cottonwood Incorporated Foundation Board of Trustees.
Connie Mangun Sollars, ’72
Constance “Connie” Sollars is a 1972 graduate of Baker University. She majored in merchandising and secondary education. As a Baker student she was a member of Delta Delta Delta sorority. She is actively involved with Health Care Access, and is the founder of the Fairy Godmother Fund, an endowment that distributes funds to assist women with critical short-term needs. She has served on various church boards and was the Plymouth Congregational Church’s on-site coordinator for L.I.N.K, and cochaired a $3 million capital campaign for the church. She was a member of the Lawrence Arts Center Board of Directors for three years and twice cochaired its annual Art Auction fund-raising event. In 2004, she cochaired Cottonwood Inc.’s fund-raising event.
Spencer Breithaupt, ’83
Spencer Breithaupt is vice president of sales at MWI Animal Health, where he is responsible for the companion animal sales team and the inside sales team. He serves on the Baker University Board of Trustees and is on the editorial board of Veterinary Advantage, the only animal health publication focused on engagement, education, and information for animal health distributor sales representatives. He served on the American Veterinary Distributors Association Board in 2008 and 2009. Spencer graduated from Baker University in 1983 with a Bachelor of Science. He was a member of Delta Tau Delta.
Joann Huyett Breithaupt, ’86
Joann Huyett Breithaupt is a member of Alpha Chi Omega and graduated from Baker University in 1986. Joann transferred to Baker as a sophomore, and not only did she fall in love with the university, but also fell in love with a 1983 BU graduate, Spencer Breithaupt. The couple was married two weeks after her graduation. Joann started her career as an accountant with United Telephone System, who later acquired Sprint. After working for five years she left her job at Sprint as a senior accountant in charge of lease accounting to stay at home with the couple’s first child, Lauren. Nine years later they welcomed their son, Carter. Both children are graduates of Baker as well. Joann and Spencer reside in Leawood, Kansas.
Eric Conaway, ’95
The seventh member of his family to attend Baker University, Eric graduated in 1995 with a degree in accounting and subsequently passed the certified public accountant exam. He is a vice president at Providence Strategic Growth, which targets investments in middle market software and technology-enabled service companies. Eric is a member of Delta Tau Delta, and enjoyed playing baseball and working in the Office of Admissions as a student. He is happily married to his BU sweetheart, Wendy, and they have three children, Alex, Braydon, who is a current BU student, and Reece. In his free time Eric enjoys coaching youth baseball and enjoys fly-fishing and hunting with lifelong friends he made at Baker.
Wendy Zimmerman Conaway, ’93
Wendy graduated from Baker University in 1993 with a bachelor’s degree in business and later a Master of Science in Management. Throughout her time at Baker, Wendy was a member of Delta Delta Delta and a parMentor. In her professional career, Wendy spent five years at Hallmark before moving to Sprint, where she managed call center market research for 10 years. Wendy has been an active volunteer in the Blue Valley School District for a number of years. She has led the annual Red Bag Philanthropy Program for Harmony K-8 Schools for the past decade, raising tens of thousands of gift donations for our community. Additionally, she serves on the district superintendent’s council on special needs education.
Jill Noel Driver, ’05
Jill graduated from Baker University in 2005. She ran track and graduated with a degree in elementary education. She taught in the West Franklin and Shawnee Mission school districts as a third-grade teacher and special education teacher. Jill married Lee Driver, a 2003 BU graduate, and now stays home with their four children, Leila, Lincoln, Livvy, and Logan.
Lee Driver, ’03
Lee, a fourth-generation Baker alumnus, graduated in 2003. While attending Baker, Lee was a member of Kappa Sigma and Delta Mu Delta, as well as a shooting guard and captain of the Wildcat basketball team. He double majored in accounting and finance/economics. Lee is a partner at Grant Thornton LLP and serves as the tax practice leader of its Kansas City office. Lee also serves as treasurer and board member for FosterAdopt Connect and is a board member of FOX4’s Love Fund for Children.
Dale Hawks became an honorary Baker University alumnus in 2011.
Tammy Spiva Hawks, ’72
Tammeria “Tammy” Spiva Hawks graduated from Baker University in 1972. During her time at Baker she was a member of Alpha Chi Omega sorority. Tammy is retired from Wells Fargo Financial, Inc., and she and her husband, Dale, have two children, and recently moved to Kansas City from Dallas.
Becky Holloway Johns, ’91
Becky is the author of God Made Me Washable, a children’s book about how life can get kind of messy. A 1991 BU graduate with a degree in elementary education and minors in psychology and special education, Becky was also involved in Zeta Tau Alpha sorority and was a cheerleader. Becky and her BU sweetheart, Steve, live in Lenexa, Kansas, and are parents to their daughter, Ryenn, a 2017 BU graduate, and their son, Jace, a 2021 BU graduate.
Steve Johns, ’91
Steve graduated in Baker University in 1991 and immediately joined the family business, the Johns Family Team of Keller Williams Realty, the first Keller Williams office in Kansas City. Steve was a business major at BU, played football, and was a member of Delta Tau Delta fraternity. Steve and his wife, Becky, live in Lenexa, Kansas, and are the parents of Ryenn and Jace, both BU graduates.
Emilee Merry Kuhn, ’06
Emilee Merry Kuhn graduated from Baker in 2006. She was involved with the chapel, band, Student Activities Council, Student Senate, Alpha Chi Omega, Baker Ambassadors, parMentors, a business honor society, and Cardinal Key. She studied abroad at Harlaxton. Professionally Emilee serves as the senior vice president for the Lender Products Division at Arch Insurance Group, a company that provides a wide range of property, casualty, and specialty insurance for corporations, professional firms, and financial institutions across the United States and Canada.
Ryan Kuhn, ’06
Ryan Kuhn graduated from Baker University in 2006. During his tenure at Baker, Ryan was involved with Kappa Sigma fraternity and was a University Admissions Assistant and a Baker Ambassador. Ryan is self-employed with Tri-plicity Marketing Solutions, a marketing and advertising firm in Kansas City that specializes in creative services, web development, and marketing strategy for small and medium-sized businesses. Outside of work Ryan is involved with St. Pauls United Methodist Church, the Kappa Sigma Alumni Board, and Johnson County Business Partners.
Holly Starr Thomson
Holly is an emmy-award winning TV host. She is the former host of 38 the Spot in Kansas City and Vegas TV. She is involved in the Board of Directors of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Greater Kansas City and of Cars 4 Heroes. Holly is married to 1995 BU graduate, John Thomson, and they have a daughter, Brinklee, and reside in Parkville, Missouri.
John Thomson, ’95
John is a 1995 graduate of Baker University and the founder and CEO of PayIt, a digital government and payments platform that is one of Kansas City’s fastest growing tech scale-ups. A member of the Baker University Board of Trustees since 2019, John is a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon and graduated with a bachelor of science in business and played on the soccer team. He was awarded the National Outstanding Eagle Scout Award in 2018 and the Missouri Boys State Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2019. John is happily married to Holly and is unbelievably proud to be known as dad to his daughter, Brinklee. The Thomson family lives in Parkville, Missouri.
Emily Gibson Ahlvers, ’11
Emily Gibson Ahlvers is a 2011 graduate and was recently featured on Ingram’s magazine’s distinction lists as part of the 10th class of “20 in Their Twenties.” Employed as a benefits consultant at Bukaty Companies—an employee benefits and brokerage firm—Gibson is also a member of Baker’s Athletic Hall of Fame for her contributions as a center on the basketball team, and she serves on the Baker Alumni Advisory Council. Emily volunteers with the Catholic Education Foundation, Baker parMentors, and the Don Bosco Youth Committee.
Olivia Beins, ’17
Olivia is no stranger to Baker University. A 2017 graduate, she grew up in Baldwin City and is the daughter of a BU graduate. At Baker, Olivia was involved with Zeta Tau Alpha, Panhellenic, and Student Senate. Professionally she has worked for C2FO, a financial tech company, serving as a product manager for supplier finance products. She was named to the Ingram’s magazine’s 12th class of “20 in Their Twenties,” which recognizes the achievements and promise of the area’s young entrepreneurs as well as those who demonstrate entrepreneurial qualities and thinking on behalf of their employers. Olivia lives in Roeland Park, Kansas, with two cats, Dixie and Shania (of the Dixie Chicks and Shania Twain).
Luke Miltz, ’17
Luke Miltz lives in Roeland Park, Kansas, and works at Netsmart Technologies in Overland Park. Before that Luke served as an admissions counselor at Baker University for two years and was a former student worker in the Office of Development and Alumni Relations. Luke majored in international business and was active in Zeta Chi fraternity, Student Senate, and new student orientation and was a chapel leader. Luke is in the midst of the ordination process in the United Methodist Church and currently attends seminary.
Honorary Committee Members
Dr. Janice DePalma Simpson, ’70
Dr. Janice DePalma Simpson is a 1970 Baker graduate and is an honorary campaign member. While she was a Baker student she served on the Baker Orange student newspaper and was a member of Alpha Chi Omega sorority, the art league, Student Senate, and intramural sports. After graduating she earned a doctorate from the University of Kansas and is owner of RJS Consulting, where she consulted on psychoeducational cases. She serves as the president of the Alpha Chi Omega House Corporation Board, and on the executive board of the Baker University Alumnae Greek Council.
Dr. Richard Simpson, ’67
Dr. Richard Simpson was a 1967 Baker graduate and passed away unexpectedly Nov. 21, 2017. A member of Kappa Sigma fraternity, Rich was professor emeritus of special education at the University of Kansas, retiring from full-professor status in 2016 after 42 years. He authored more than 25 professional books and published more than 180 articles that have guided teachers and other practitioners for the last 40 years. Rich recently served as the coclass representative for the class of 1967’s 50-year reunion.
Office of Development & Alumni Relations
Danielle Jones Rease
Cheryl Stefanik McCrary, ’87, MLA ’13