2012 Distinguished Alumni
The Distinguished Alumni Awards honor alumni for achievements in their fields or for service to their community, nation or HSU. For over 50 years the award has been a chance to recognize alumni for their achievements.
MARLA SPIVAK – Beekeeping has long been a passion for Marla Spivak (‘78, Biological Sciences), an internationally renowned entomologist and expert on honeybee health. Spivak, who is currently a Distinguished McKnight Professor in Entomology at the University of Minnesota, recently received the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation “genius award” for her pioneering work to protect honeybees from decimation by disease.
One of Spivak’s most practical accomplishments has been the breeding of the Minnesota Hygienic, a strain of bees that uses olfaction to “sniff out” infected pupae and remove them from the hive before they can spread disease to the rest of the colony. In addition to supporting her research, the MacArthur award has enabled Spivak to launch the Bee Squad, a program that educates, trains and assists beekeepers and bee supporters in the Twin Cities area. Her goal is to restore healthy bee populations and pollinator landscapes by providing hands-on mentoring to people interested in supporting bees.
During her undergraduate studies at HSU, Spivak took a semester off to volunteer with Steve Taber, a renowned honeybee researcher. Taber ignited Spivak’s interest in studying bees, and as soon as she completed her degree, she traveled to South America to conduct bee research. Since then, her groundbreaking research has taken her around the world and earned her numerous accolades.
DEAN BRESCIANI – Working for the Humboldt Orientation Program one summer, Dean Bresciani (‘84, Sociology) realized that helping students was his passion. The experience laid the groundwork for a career in higher education administration, which has included top posts at universities throughout the country.
The Napa Valley, Calif., native is now the 14th President of North Dakota State University, which has an enrollment over 14,000. Previously, he was Vice President of Student Affairs at Texas A&M University in College Station.
After graduating from HSU, Bresciani went on to earn a master’s degree from Bowling Green State University and a doctorate in higher education finance from the University of Arizona, at Tucson. He has also held student affairs administrative positions at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Nebraska at Kearney. After all these years, however, he still credits that one summer at Humboldt State for igniting his passion for higher education administration.
CHESTER MATHIS – Chester Mathis (‘72, Chemistry) came to HSU as pre-med student, but found he had a greater interest in chemistry than medical school. Still, he found a way to study both by pursuing medicinally related chemistry.
His decision turned out pretty well for the field of Alzheimer’s research. Mathis is currently an Endowed Chair Professor of Radiology and Pharmaceutical Sciences and Director of the Positron Emission Tomography—or PET—Facility at the University of Pittsburgh.
Recently, he and his geriatric psychiatry research partner William Klunk developed a radiolabeled dye that makes it possible to identify amyloid—a substance found in the plaque associated with Alzheimer’s disease—in a living brain.
Mathis’ research earned him a slew of awards, and he is continuing his work. He is now using the same technique to identify tau, another protein deposit found in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients. Last year, the Michael J. Fox Foundation commissioned Mathis to develop a similar compound to identify alpha-synuclein, a protein deposit found in patients with Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia.
KENNETH DAVLIN – As a member of the University’s Advancement Foundation Board, Kenneth Davlin is part of a team that helps increase charitable giving and manage the university’s endowment.
Davlin studied engineering at HSU from 1959-1962 and received a degree in civil engineering from the University of Utah. His engineering career has included work on hydroelectric, wastewater, housing and alternative energy projects. Davlin is President of Oscar Larson & Associates, a California-based engineering consulting firm.
As part of the 29-member Advancement Foundation Board, Davlin is particularly interested in expanding the university’s business and engineering programs. He says: “Both contribute to better future organizations, wiser infrastructure development and more sensible financing programs.”
Looking ahead, Davlin envisions a board that has a broader geographical base of membership. “I’d also like to see expansion of the Foundation so that it can better serve every department, college and facet of the university,” he says.