William E. Morgan Alumni Achievement Award
Jim Benemann (B.S., technical journalism, ’78)
The Emmy-award-winning journalist, Jim Benemann, has worked as a reporter and news anchor around the country and on five continents. A Chicago native, his career in TV news began after he graduated from CSU and went to work as a reporter in Davenport, Iowa. His first on-air job in Denver came in 1981, as the inaugural Boulder County reporter for Channel 9 KUSA. Station owner Gannett then offered to send Jim, then 25 years old, to Washington, D.C., to help open a new national news bureau there. After returning to Denver, he reported on weekend sports and morning news at 9News before becoming a co-anchor for Denver’s CBS4 KCNC-TV in 1989.
While most of his career has been in Colorado, he also served as one of the main news anchors at Portland’s KGW-TV from 1994 to 1997. But a call from KUSA brought him back to Denver, as that station was looking to replace longtime anchor, Ed Sardella, with a familiar presence. Jim’s tenure with 9News spanned six years before he moved back to CBS4 in 2002, where he became the face of the station’s primetime news broadcasts and began co-anchoring that station’s nightly news with Karen Leigh in 2008. When he retired at the end of 2022, he had more than four decades on the air and 36 years in the Denver TV market.
During Jim’s career, he earned a reputation for being an outstanding journalist and an exceptional communicator. His passion for his work and his commitment to this community made him one of the most respected broadcasters in Colorado. Jim’s anchoring and reporting background has included major assignments on local, national, and international stories, including walking through French villages with World War II veterans for the 40th anniversary of D-Day, reporting from Vietnamese jungles in the aftermath of the war there, and covering the Columbine High School shooting in 1999. Jim received eight Emmy awards for his work, most recently for a story about the marijuana industry in Colorado. He also has volunteered to emcee hundreds of events for nonprofit organizations, including CSU. In retirement, Jim is traveling with his wife, Karen, and checking off items on their “bucket list,” in addition to spending more time with their growing family, which includes eight adult children and five grandchildren.
About the award: Named for the eighth president of the University, Dr. William E. Morgan, this award is the highest honor given by the Alumni Association and is reserved for individuals who have excelled at the national or international level. The purpose of this award is to recognize a graduate who has attained extraordinary distinction and success in their field of endeavor and whose achievements have brought credit to CSU and benefited their fellow citizens.
Charles A. Lory Public Service Award
Mike Liggett (B.S., psychology, ’73)
Mike Liggett has been a trial attorney in Colorado for 46 years. He has represented clients statewide and has argued two cases before the Colorado Supreme Court. In 1964, Mike’s family relocated to Fort Collins, where he graduated from Fort Collins High School. While attending CSU as a first-generation student, he had the good fortune to become friends with philosophy professor Holmes Rolston III, Ph.D., who was a big influence on Mike’s view of the world and being a lifelong learner. He also met and later married Ann Stephenson (B.A., ’74) before moving to the Pacific Northwest to attend the Seattle University School of Law in Washington.
In 1977, Ann and Mike returned to Fort Collins where he opened a law firm. Business was good enough to allow Ann to stay home when their two children, Sarah and Morgan, were born. Once their kids were both in school, Ann put her English degree to work as a literacy teacher at Eyestone Elementary School in Wellington, Colorado. Woven throughout Mike’s law career was a vision of civic engagement based on the Platonic proposition that a functioning democracy needs an educated and healthy citizenry. During the past 25 years, he has served on the boards of directors of several organizations including the Board of Education for the Poudre School District, the Poudre River Library District, the Health District of Northern Larimer County, and currently, the Poudre River Library Trust.
Despite his busy schedule, Mike found time to periodically teach continuing legal education classes and be a guest speaker at CSU law classes. Over the years, Ann and Mike have supported programs across the campus that aligned with their passions, including the arts. Ann’s health began to deteriorate in 2018, and Mike retired in August of that year to care for her. She passed away Dec. 31, 2018.
In the past three decades, Mike has fly-fished most of the major rivers in the Western United States. In 2021, he helped form a discussion group composed of current and former civic leaders who have breakfast once a month and explore divisive issues. He now works part time facilitating court-mandated mediations and, on several occasions, he has also served as a special prosecutor for the 8th Judicial District in Northern Colorado.
About the award: This award is named for Dr. Charles A. Lory, the fifth president of the University, whose leadership helped the institution attain a vital balance of teaching, research, and service. It is given to alumni who have demonstrated exceptional and sustained leadership in their community, professional field, or personal commitments and have given a significant contribution of time and talent to the University.
Jim and Nadine Henry Award
Neyla and Mark Driscoll
Neyla (B.A., speech and theatre arts, ’79); Mark (B.S., management, ’76; M.S., business, ’88)
Neyla (Allen) and Mark Driscoll met in high school in La Junta, Colorado, where he was the quarterback of the football team and she was a cheerleader. Mark was recruited to play for CSU, and Neyla followed him to Fort Collins a year later. He was the quarterback for the Rams from 1972-75 and still holds the University’s oldest passing record of throwing six touchdown passes on Oct. 19, 1974, in a 66-17 win over the University of Nevada. Neyla and Mark were married in 1975, and after graduation, Mark tried out for the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers, but neither team kept him on their rosters, so he and Neyla returned to Fort Collins. Mark had the opportunity to be a Rams assistant football coach for four seasons between 1976 and 1979. Although he enjoyed coaching, Mark’s interest in business and in using his degree was his long-term goal. In 1979, Mark accepted a position with First National Bank, one of the state’s leading financial institutions.
The couple’s three children were born in the late 1970s and early 1980s. After they were in school, Neyla served as a piano accompanist, music assistant, and choreographer for the Poudre School District for more than 15 years. She learned to tap dance in her teens and performed with several dance groups, including The Big Noise, a tap company based in Boulder. In the early 1990s, she became a faculty member at Canyon Concert Ballet, which offers dance training and performances, and worked for many years with children in the Centennial Children’s Chorus as a drama coach and choreographer.
Mark became president of First National Bank in 1994. He stepped away from his banking career from 2003 to 2006 to serve as the athletics director for CSU Athletics, before returning to his previous position as Colorado market president of First National Bank (now FNBO). Mark also served as a Rams football color commentator, providing expert analysis and background information on radio broadcasts for the Colorado State Sports Network, between 2015 and 2021. Over his working career, Mark served on numerous nonprofit and community boards.
After 37 years with First National Bank, Mark retired in January 2020. The couple enjoys traveling and spending time with their five grandchildren. Mark remains an active part of the Fort Collins community, currently serving on the board of the Food Bank for Larimer County, as an adviser to the Noel Barrett Shuler Foundation, and as co-chair for the Neighbor to Neighbor capital campaign. For more than 50 years, following the Rams and being a part of the CSU family has been an important part of Neyla and Mark’s life together.
About the award: This award is given in honor of Jim (’40) and Nadine (Hartshorn) (’41) Henry of Longmont, Colorado, to alumni who exemplify extraordinary service to the University and its academic, athletics, and alumni programs. This award is presented annually to alumni who represent the highest goals of the Alumni Association and the University and who have given significant support and service to both.
Distinguished Graduate of the Last Decade (GOLD)
Nigel Daniels (B.A., political science, ’14)
Nigel Daniels is a Denver native raised by a single mother, his maternal grandmother, and a network of community supporters. When Nigel was a child, his mother, Cora, prioritized health, safety, and shelter and always emphasized the importance of education. She enrolled him in Denver Kids Inc., a nonprofit organization that equips students with educational counseling, life skills, and mentors to help them balance the pressures of life, graduate from high school, and pursue postsecondary opportunities. Nigel now serves as a board member for Denver Kids Inc.
The source of Nigel’s inspiration to attend law school came from watching his mother navigate the state’s complicated social services and judicial system to advocate for his younger brother, who had several emotional and mental challenges. Unfortunately, in 2010, when Nigel was a 17-year-old high school senior, his mother suffered a heart attack and passed away. With support of his community, Nigel moved forward and received the Daniels Fund Scholarship, which enabled him to attend Colorado State University as a first-generation student. During his time on campus, Nigel traveled twice to Samburu, Kenya, to participate in service projects, helped increase membership in the pre-law club by 25 percent, assisted in the startup of the pre-law minor, and was elected president of ASCSU in 2013.
After graduation, Nigel worked in Washington, D.C., as a special assistant to U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and later as a political assistant in Colorado on Bennet’s 2016 re-election campaign. That experience prepared him to serve for nearly seven years as a special aide to Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock and then as a senior adviser to the mayor. Working on the mayor’s team exposed Nigel to a broader spectrum of the Denver Metro area and permitted him to work on some of the city’s most complex challenges, such as homelessness.
In 2022, Nigel received his Juris Doctorate from the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law. He currently works as a law clerk and policy adviser with Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, where one of his clients is CSU. Nigel fundamentally believes in providing a voice to the voiceless and expanding access to education, which inspired him to serve on the boards for the Global Livingston Institute and the Urban Peak homeless youth shelter in Denver.
About the award: The purpose of the GOLD award is to recognize a CSU graduate from the past 10 years for accomplishments made in the areas of career, service, and/or volunteer efforts that have brought honor to the individual and the University.
Distinguished Athletics Award
Karen and Randy Blach
Karen (B.S., human development and family studies, ’80); Randy (B.S., animal science, ’80)
Karen (Lawrence) and Randy Blach are Colorado natives from the Eastern Plains and met at CSU. After graduation, Karen went on to earn her master’s degree in education at the University of Northern Colorado and began teaching elementary school in the Douglas County School District. Randy started working for CattleFax, a Denver-based company that provides market research, analysis, and forecasting for the agriculture industry. His original plan was to spend a couple of years learning about the cattle industry before returning to the family ranch in Yuma, but he loved the work and never left. The couple married in 1985 and had two children: Ty, a professional baseball player currently with the Colorado Rockies, and Haylee (M.S., ’21), who played soccer for the Rams. In 2001, Randy became CattleFax’s CEO, a role in which he continues to serve. For more than 35 years, the Blachs have supported dozens of funds and programs across campus, including the Alumni Association, where they are lifetime members; the College of Agricultural Sciences; and CSU Athletics. In 1998, they helped establish the Beef Club, which supports scholarships in the Department of Animal Sciences and provides discretionary funds for athletics.
About the award: The purpose of this award is to recognize an outstanding commitment to CSU Athletics; significant contributions toward the success of CSU Athletics as a staff member, athlete, volunteer, or donor; and achievements that have brought honor to the University.
College Honor Alumni
College of Agricultural Sciences
Bill Hammerich (B.S., agricultural economics, ’69)
Bill Hammerich was raised on a ranching and farming operation in western Colorado. After graduating from high school in Rifle, he earned his bachelor’s degree at CSU before beginning an acclaimed career in the cattle-feeding business with Monfort of Colorado in Greeley. Bill had the honor of working with some of the most recognized cattle feeders in the business, such as W.D. Farr, Warren Monfort, and Willard Sparks. In 2001, he joined the Colorado Livestock Association as its executive director, a position he held for the next 20 years. Under Bill’s leadership and with the support of its members, the association was at the forefront of developing regulations and legislation that led to improvements in air and water quality, animal protection standards, and employee safety, and initiated a host of other activities benefiting the animal-production community throughout the state. Bill and his wife, Sabrina, whom he met while working for Farr Feeders in Greeley, now live in Severance, Colorado. They have two grown children: Justin, who lives in Buffalo, Wyoming, with his wife Kate, and their sons, Cort and Cooper; and Jessica, who lives in Eaton, Colorado, with her sons, Austin and Jack.
College of Business
Christine Perich (B.S., business administration, ’91)
Christine Perich is a seasoned executive with more than 25 years of experience in finance, leadership, strategy, and operations. She has worked in both the private and public beverage sectors as a CEO, COO, and CFO. Christine is currently the president of Perich Advisors, providing strategy development, organizational structure, and executive coaching. Previously, she was a general manager at Anheuser-Busch where she was responsible for the company’s regional west craft brands, overseeing five breweries in four states. Prior to joining Anheuser-Busch, Christine was the chief finance and strategy officer at the Craft Brew Alliance, a publicly traded brewery, and helped lead the company through a successful merger with Anheuser-Busch. From 2000 to 2016, Christine progressed from controller to CEO of New Belgium Brewing Company and was a member of the board of directors from 2004 to 2016. During her tenure, she guided the company through exponential growth to become a national brewery and a transition to 100 percent employee ownership. Christine is also a member of CSU’s College of Business Global Leadership Council. She is a mom to four children and one golden retriever, married to a Belgian brewmaster, and loves spending time outdoors.
College of Health and Human Sciences
Patricia McKlem (B.S., food science and nutrition, ’70)
Patricia McKlem discovered CSU through 4-H activities in Pueblo, Colorado. Her postsecondary education launched a 35-year career with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs health care system. She started as a dietitian, but as her career progressed, she became the medical center and network director overseeing the VA health care systems in Arizona, New Mexico, and west Texas, and leading strategic planning and employee development. She is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and has also earned a master’s in public administration from Brigham Young University. Her accolades include the Presidential Rank Award for Meritorious Executive in 2000 and 2004, and the Distinguished Executive Presidential Rank Award in 2002, the highest honor for senior executives in federal service. Pat has dedicated her retirement to helping people develop leadership skills, as an owner of Beseeming LLC, as a volunteer career counselor with Dress for Success, and as a member of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences Executive Leadership Council. She established the Pat McKlem Medical Nutrition Therapy Laboratory fund and works with the college’s Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition to help ensure the future success of students in clinical dietetics.
College of Liberal Arts
Jorge Alers (B.A., political science, ’82)
Jorge Alers spent much of his childhood in Fort Collins where his father, Dr. Manuel Alers-Montalvo, was a faculty member in CSU’s Department of Sociology. After graduating from CSU, Jorge attended Harvard Law School where he earned his juris doctorate in 1986. He then began what would become a distinguished career in cross-border and international law in Washington, D.C., with several law firms and as general counsel of the Inter-American Investment Corporation. In 2008, Jorge relocated to Costa Rica, where he has dual citizenship, to pursue a startup entrepreneurial opportunity. He returned to Washington, D.C., in 2012 to be the general counsel of the Inter-American Development Bank, the largest source of development financing in Latin America and the Caribbean. In 2014, Jorge joined Dentons, the world’s largest law firm, as a member of its Global Management Committee and Global Board and as the CEO of its Latin America and Caribbean region. His philanthropic endeavors include serving as a member of the Assembly of the Costa Rica USA Foundation and, after retiring in 2022, as a member of the board of directors of CEPIA, an award-winning, nonprofit association providing education and health services to vulnerable populations in Costa Rica. Throughout his career, Jorge has also been a guest lecturer at Harvard Law School, The Wharton School, Georgetown University Law School, George Washington University Law School, and American University Law School.
College of Natural Sciences
Nadine (B.A., English, ’58) and Dr. John Murray (B.S., biological science, ’57)
When Dr. John “Jack” Murray graduated from CSU in 1957, he was part of the first group of students to participate in the Honors Program. He went on to earn his medical degree with high honors in 1961 from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, and had a distinguished career in cardiology. He is currently a clinical professor emeritus at the University of Washington in Seattle and has served as a visiting faculty member at hospitals in China, London, and Malaysia. Nadine (Hough) earned an associate degree from Colorado Women’s College in Denver before attending CSU. After graduating and marrying Jack in 1958, she taught English in public schools in Texas, Pennsylvania, and Washington, and then earned a master’s degree in English education from Eastern Washington University in Cheney, Washington. Nadine became a faculty member for 10 years with the Department of English at the University of Washington before beginning a successful career in real estate management. Nadine and Jack are longtime supporters of the CSU Honors Program. In 2015, they established the Murray Honors Visiting Scholar Series, and in 2019, the Honors Summer Institute, which encourages qualified but traditionally underrepresented high school students to attend CSU. Most recently, they created the Donald L. Mykles Chair in University Honors, named for the former director of the Honors Program and professor in the Department of Biology.
College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences
Dr. Merrill Koster (D.V.M., ’61; M.S., radiology and radiation biology, ’65) and Elizabeth Koster
For more than 50 years, Elizabeth “Betty” Koster and Dr. Merrill Koster have been dedicated to making an impact in both human and veterinary medicine. Merrill earned a degree in chemistry from the University of Illinois and went on to serve in the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Center in Maryland. After completing his military service, he moved to Denver, Colorado, and worked as a chemist in the petroleum industry. Betty graduated from the Bismarck Hospital School of Nursing in North Dakota and began working at the Veterans Administration in Denver, where the couple met and married. They relocated to Fort Collins for Merrill to earn his degrees from CSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. After graduation, the Kosters moved to Silverdale, Washington, where they established the Silverdale Veterinary Clinic and raised two children. Gregory is a librarian in Tacoma, Washington, and Julia is a director at the National Capital Planning Commission in Washington, D.C. Merrill and Betty feel blessed to be able to make a difference with their philanthropy in the lives of students, researchers, clinicians, and patients. They established scholarships at the Sanford Medical Center in Bismarck to support nursing students with financial needs, as well as the Koster Endowment for Collaborative Translational Research and the Merrill and Elizabeth Koster Scholarship in CVMBS.
Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering
Drew Crouch (B.S., mechanical engineering, ’84; M.S., mechanical engineering, ’87)
Drew Crouch is an experienced senior executive with nearly 40 years of experience across multiple technology-based industries. While at CSU, he met his wife Kimberly Hull (B.S., ’86; M.S., ’89) and they married in 1990. During Drew’s 26-year tenure with Ball Corporation, he served as vice president of technology and in several senior leadership roles with Ball’s Aerospace subsidiaries, including vice president and general manager of National Defense and Advanced Technologies and Products and vice president of Corporate Strategy and Development. Drew also worked as the CEO of Authentic Labs, a consumer products anti-counterfeiting technology startup, and as COO of VR-1, a groundbreaking internet game software company started in the 1990s. He recently served as interim CEO and is currently a consultant for an environmental intelligence business he founded in 2013. Drew is a member of the technology and innovation council of a manufacturing-focused private equity firm. From 2018 to 2023, he worked part time for the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering where he provided strategic guidance on topics such as entrepreneurship, data science, aerospace, and communications. Throughout his career, Drew has served on numerous boards and councils including the college’s Dean’s Advisory Board and as a member of the College of Business’s Global Leadership Council.
Warner College of Natural Resources
Scott Gilmore (B.S., wildlife biology, ’94)
Scott Gilmore grew up in Denver, Colorado, but didn’t discover his passion for nature until his early 20s. While serving as a volunteer park naturalist, Scott, who is of African American and Japanese heritage, received some career inspiration after speaking with a recruiter for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about the lack of people of color in natural resources management. At the age of 26, he started his degree in wildlife biology at CSU’s Warner College of Natural Resources. After graduation, he worked with the Colorado Division of Wildlife, creating an urban fishing program for diverse youth living in Denver. During the next 18 years, he grew the program into the statewide Angler Education Program, which has garnered local, state, and national recognition. In 2011, Scott became the deputy executive director of Denver Parks and Planning, which oversees 270 urban parks and more than 7,000 acres, as well as the Denver Mountain Parks system consisting of 22 parks, 25 conservation areas (15,000 acres total), and two bison herds. Scott, with his wife, Stacie, established a nonprofit organization, Environmental Learning for Kids, and he currently serves on the boards of the National Wildlife Federation and the Green Leadership Trust, and WCNR’s Dean’s Advisory Council.