Murray State announces 2016 Distinguished Alumni

Murray State University says four graduates have been named 2016 Distinguished Alumni by the Murray State Alumni Association: David Beck, class of ’77; Bill Cunningham, class of ’66; Janice Padgett Harper-Smith, class of ‘63 and ’68; and Dennis Jackson, class of ‘66 and ‘71.

They will receive their awards at the MSU Distinguished Alumni Dinner on Friday, April 15. The dinner will begin at 6 p.m. in the Murray Room of the CFSB Center. Tickets are $30 and can be ordered by clicking here. Each of the award recipients will have an opportunity to speak about their individual experiences at Murray State.

The university says it presents the awards annually to alumni who have made meaningful contributions to their profession on a local, state and national level. 

Beck received a degree in agriculture from Murray State in 1977 and has been the CEO of the Kentucky Farm Bureau Federation for 39 years. MSU says he has been involved in national agriculture regulatory issues as an active member in civic and professional organizations and is a proponent of the university. 

Cunningham is a Kentucky Supreme Court justice who has served on the state’s highest court since 2006. A 1966 Murray State graduate, he was a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity and served as president of the Student Government Association, which helped lead him on his career path. 

Harper-Smith is a music educator and vocal coach, who MSU says is internationally renowned for her vocal performance and her work with professional singers. She earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees in music education from Murray State in 1963 and 1968, respectively. After completing her doctoral work at the University of Illinois, she received a national fellowship for postgraduate study in Europe. Since then, she has taught voice and vocal pedagogy at the Heidelberg-Mannheim Hochschule für Musik in Mannheim, Germany, and has worked with professional singers and provided master’s classes at Daniel Ferro Vocal Programme in Greve, Italy.

Jackson has served on the Kentucky Council of Postsecondary Education, the Murray State University Foundation, the National Alliance of Black School Educators, the Kentucky High School Athletic Association and the Western Kentucky Association of History and Social Studies Teachers. Throughout his career, he taught and coached at numerous schools. Most recently, he was the assistant principal and athletic director at Paducah Tilghman High School followed by director of district personnel for the Paducah public school district. He retired in 2005.

MSU notes that Jackson and Cunningham are members of this year’s Golden Anniversary Reunion class. They will be recognized along with other members of the class of 1966 at a special dinner on Friday, Oct. 28, during homecoming.

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