The Celebration

Strolling Dinner and Alumni Awards Ceremony

Saturday, April 8, 2017 at 5:30 p.m.
WKAR Studios | Michigan State University
Communication Arts and Sciences Building

404 Wilson Road, East Lansing

Our annual evening of dinner, networking and high praise recognizing outstanding alumni, faculty and friends of the College.

Online registration is now closed. Questions? Email or call 517-432-7207.


Faculty Impact Award

Joanne C. Gerstner, School of Journalism
Sports Journalist in Residence


Rising Star Award

EricksonJonJon Erickson, B.A. '08 Journalism and Finance, Honors
Reporter, ABC 15, Phoenix

Outstanding Alumni Awards

HazemHaz AlwattarB.A. '86 Telecommunication
Vice President of Content, Univision Radio



BernsteinLoisLois Bernstein , B.A. '73 Communication
Chief Community Executive, MultiCare Health System



FoltnerKKathy Foltner M.A. '76 Audiology and Speech Sciences
President, Foltner Consulting, LLC



HoffRackeline Hoff , B.A. '65 Advertising
City Commissioner, Birmingham, Michigan



McGrawAmyAmy McGraw , B.A. '89 Telecommunication
Vice President of Marketing, Tropical Financial Credit Union



Jeff Sinelli , B.A. '90 Communication
Founder, CEO and Chief Vibe Officer, Which Wich(r) Superior Sandwiches



StaudtTimTim Staudt , B.A. '71 Journalism
Sports Anchor/Reporter, WILX 10

Honorary Alumni Award

TaftSaraDavidDavid and Sara Taft
Ph.D. '63 Natural Science
B.A. '62 Arts & Letters



Questions? email or call 517-432-7207

For more information visit:
2016 Alumni Award Recipients  >>

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About the Award Winners

Joanne C. Gerstner

Joanne C. Gerstner is an award-winning sports journalist, author, expert/speaker, and Sports Journalist in Residence in the MSU School of Journalism.

Her work appears in outlets such as New York Times, USA Today,, and the Detroit News. Gerstner is the co-author of the 2016 critically acclaimed Oxford University release, Back in the Game: Why Concussion Doesn't Have to End Your Athletic Career, with sports neurologist Dr. Jeffrey Kutcher.

She received the prestigious Knight-Wallace Fellowship (University of Michigan) 2012, focusing on sports neurology. She then became the first sports journalist in the world to win the Jacobs Fellowship Prize (2015), to research neuroscience, children, and sports in Zurich.

She has been at MSU since Fall 2014, teaching core classes, creating new programs as Sports Journalism Study Abroad, and mentoring students.

Gerstner is the past president and chair of the Association for Women in Sports Media (AWSM). She was the inaugural 2014 AWSM Ann Miller Award recipient, for contributions and leadership to the organization.

She is the 2017 recipient of the Association for Women in Communication-Detroit Headliner award, for outstanding personal and professional achievement.

Gerstner is an alumna of Oakland University (B.A.) and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University (M.S).

Jon Erickson

EricksonJonJon Erickson is an Emmy-winning reporter at ABC 15 in Phoenix, Ariz. Erickson jumped from working in the 100th TV market to the 12th TV market in 2014. In Phoenix, Erickson obtained records that showed a charter school district did not comply with open meeting laws. Shortly after, the district management admitted the mistake and changed their policy. Erickson has also crisscrossed the state covering wildfires and dust storms. He found that some of the Phoenix area's wealthiest residents had skipped their fire tax payments for years.

Before moving to Phoenix, Erickson worked in New Bern, N.C., as a weekend anchor and lead reporter. While in North Carolina, he won two best news writing awards from the Associated Press.

Erickson earned his bachelor's in journalism and finance in 2008 from the MSU College of Communication Arts and Sciences. He started his journalism career in Lansing.

Haz Alwattar

HazemGrowing up, Haz Alwattar was fascinated by radio, and recalls his two favorite gifts were Walkie Talkies and a shortwave radio.

Although he originally majored in engineering, Alwattar graduated from Michigan State University in 1986 with a bachelor's in telecommunications. As a student, he worked shifts on Campus Radio, managed WMCD out of McDonel Hall, and joined WVIC as a weekend DJ. After graduating, he returned to program WVIC as "Haz Montana," an on-air name that stuck. His interest in programming and research led him to Miami's Spanish Language radio, and then to Los Angeles to lead radio programming for Entravision Radio.

Alwattar has been twice recognized as a top programmer by Radio Ink, and is the first recipient of the "Medallas de Cortez" Spanish radio award for Programmer of the Year. In 2005, he joined Univision Radio: the leading multimedia company serving Hispanic America. As vice president of content, he oversees multi-platform strategy for Univision's flagship KLVE/Los Angeles and its adult contemporary and English language radio brands.

In 2009, Alwattar attended Aspen Seminar for Leadership, Values and the Good Society. In 2014, he served on the board of Homedog LA, a non-profit that minimizes shelter returns. Alwattar served on the NAB Steering Committee in 2016, and is a member of Univision's LGBT employee action group "Orgullo."

Lois Bernstein

BernsteinLoisLois Bernstein is the chief community executive at MultiCare Health System, based in Tacoma, Wash. MultiCare is a not-for-profit health care organization with more than 15,000 team members and five hospitals. Bernstein joined MultiCare in 1998, and has overseen both support and clinical departments including Marketing and Communications, Philanthropy, Healthy Living, Adult Day Health, Home Health and Hospice, and Government Affairs. Bernstein currently oversees MultiCare's community presence and partnerships with organizations in MultiCare's broad service area.

Before her tenure at MultiCare, Bernstein served in leadership positions at University of California, San Diego, Mercy Hospital, and ScrippsHealth in San Diego. She serves as a board member for Tacoma Community College, the Foundation for Tacoma Students, and the Crystal Judson Family Justice Center. She is a senior fellow of the American Leadership Forum.

Bernstein earned her bachelor's in communication with honors from Michigan State University, her master's in rehabilitation counseling from San Diego State University, and her MBA from University of California, Irvine. She is the proud mother of two young adult children, Kate and Nick, and is married to Will Vargish, a retired pilot.

Kathy Foltner

FoltnerKAfter 18 years in private practice, Dr. Kathy Foltner sold her highly successful audiology practice in 1994 and went on to secure equal success as a corporate executive working and consulting with various companies in the hearing care industry. She taught basic business and practice management at two universities, interfacing with more than 1,000 audiology students. Although semi-retired, Dr. Foltner remains president of Foltner Consulting, LLC, and holds adjunct faculty status at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

Dr. Foltner earned a master's degree in audiology from Michigan State University and an Au.D. from Salus University-George Osborne College of Audiology. Her many honors include the Professional Leadership Award from the Audiology Foundation of America, the Presidential Award from the American Academy of Audiology for her significant contributions to the Academy and the profession of audiology, and the 2016 Alumni of the Year award from Salus University-George Osborne College of Audiology. Dr. Foltner held several positions in professional organizations, spoke at professional meetings for 35 years, and authored numerous professional and business articles and chapters.

Rackeline Hoff

HoffFrom public relations to public service, Rackeline Hoff has had a diverse, active and successful career.

After earning her bachelor's in advertising from Michigan State University, Hoff moved to New York City to work in the public relations departments of J. Walter Thompson and D'Arcy Advertising. She returned to her hometown of Detroit several years later and pursued a 32-year career in public relations, corporate communications, government relations and special events management for a variety of business, educational, cultural and healthcare organizations.

Hoff has also played a very active role in the local government of Birmingham, Mich., serving on several municipal boards and committees before running for public office. In 2001, she was elected city commissioner and is serving her fourth term in that position. During her 16 years on the commission, Hoff was elected by her fellow commissioners to serve as mayor in 2005, 2010 and 2016.

Hoff's community service includes being a 25-year volunteer mediator in Oakland County district courts and for the Oakland Mediation Center. Hoff is currently chair of the Foundation for Birmingham Senior Residents. She was also appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder to serve as a member of the Michigan State Collection Practices Board.

Amy McGraw

McGrawAmyAmy McGraw is vice president of marketing for Tropical Financial Credit Union, one of the largest credit unions in Southeast Florida. McGraw has served the credit union industry for more than 15 years. She worked the first half of her career in TV production for WKAR, WELM, MediaOne, Fox Sports Detroit, and as a segment producer for the Detroit Pistons.

McGraw is a recognized leader in the credit union industry. She is president of the League of Southeastern Credit Unions Broward Chapter, a member of the Executive Committee of the Credit Union National Association Marketing and Business Development Council, and serves on two committees for MBD. McGraw was named MBD Council Volunteer of the Year in 2014, and MBD Council Marketing Professional of the Year in 2011-the highest honor bestowed in the credit union marketing profession. Under McGraw's leadership, Tropical Financial Credit Union has received numerous CUNA Diamond Awards and CUES Golden Mirror Awards for marketing excellence. In 2012, McGraw joined the South Florida Michigan State Alumni Club and was elected president for 2017.

McGraw earned her bachelor's in telecommunications in 1989 from Michigan State University. She says her career change was inspired by the industry's mission to help people succeed financially-and by her first credit union experience with the MSU Federal Credit Union.

Jeff Sinelli

Jeff Sinelli serves as founder, CEO and chief vibe officer of Which Wich(r) Superior Sandwiches. He often says, "Anything is possible." That includes creating and growing an iconic brand-both domestically and internationally-to nearly 500 locations in 13 years, and spreading a lot of positive vibes along the way.

Sinelli grew up in Detroit. After earning his bachelor's from Michigan State University and MBA from City University in Seattle, Sinelli headed to Dallas to exercise his entrepreneurial spirit. He created Which Wich in 2003, prompting QSR Magazine to refer to him as a "branding phenom" when the sandwich company launched.

In 2007, Which Wich was named a Hot Concept! by Nations Restaurant News, making Sinelli one of only a handful of restaurateurs to win the coveted award twice. In 2012, Gourmet named Sinelli one of The Top 25 American Food Entrepreneurs, an honor he shares with household names like Howard Schultz, Martha Stewart and Emeril Lagasse. The publication also referred to Which Wich as "the funnest lunch in the land."

In October 2013, Which Wich launched Project PB&J, a charitable endeavor that donates PB&J sandwiches to people in need. The goal of the project is to "spread the love" one PB&J at a time.

Tim Staudt

StaudtTimTim Staudt has been a mid-Michigan broadcaster for 47 years, the longest tenure of any sportscaster on television in the state. Known as the "Dean of Sports," Staudt has anchored the sportscasts at WILX in Lansing since 1980. Before that, he was sports director at the former WJIM-TV in Lansing from 1970-1980.

Staudt has won several awards in the industry and serves on numerous area charities. He hosts "Staudt on Sports" each weekday on Sports Radio 730 WVFN (The Fan). Debuting in 1993, "Staudt on Sports" has become the most widely listened to show of its type in Michigan. Staudt has hosted several coaches' shows over the years, and Big Ten Basketball play-by-play for more than 10 years.

Staudt is one of of five honorary members of the MSU Spartan Marching Band. For the past 14 years, he has helped raised nearly $1 million to benefit Sparrow Children's Center and the SMB by hosting the MSU Spartan Marching Band for Kids Concert at his home each September. He received the 2014 Greater Lansing Chamber of Commerce Community Service Award, the 2011 Founders' Award from Sparrow Hospital, and was inducted in the Greater Lansing Area Sports Hall of Fame in 2003.

Tim is married to Cathy and they have three sons. He graduated from East Lansing High School in 1967 and Michigan State University with a journalism degree in 1971.

David and Sara Taft

TaftSaraDavidSara and David Taft are proud Spartans. Both graduated in the early 1960s from Michigan State University: Sara with her B.A. in English and David with his Ph.D. in chemistry.

The Tafts raised their family in Minnesota where Sara pursued volunteer activities. David held managerial posts in R&D, sales and marketing, and manufacturing for specialty and industrial chemical companies. He was awarded more than 30 patents for polymer coatings, adhesive and plastic products—many of which are still sold today. In the early '90s, David retired from Raychem Corporation in California after leading their Telecom Products, Materials Division and Manufacturing Group as a corporate vice president. David later joined a start-up as a chief operating officer, and helped build Landec Corporation into a publicly held developer of intelligent polymers, biomaterials and packaged food. He retired again in 2012.

As active Spartans, the Tafts witnessed the benefits of experiential learning and student opportunities through MSU's participation in the Traverse City Film Festival. After seeing the first Theatre-2-Film production, they created the Media Arts Collaboration Fund to encourage similar projects led by the Media Sandbox.

The Tafts live in Traverse City and spend their winters in California. They are deeply involved in their local township and in agricultural preservation and conservation. Their three children and seven grandchildren often visit the family home on Old Mission Peninsula.


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