Two honored with WMU’s Distinguished Service Award

contact: Paula M. Davis
| WMU News

KALAMAZOO—A Western Michigan University administrator who oversees programs for first-year students and a faculty member in geosciences, both of whom have been at the University for nearly 30 years, are the recipients of the 2012-13 Distinguished Service Award.

Dr. Alan E. Kehew, professor of geosciences and director of the Michigan Geological Survey, and Dr. Toni Woolfork-Barnes, director of First-Year Experience programs, will be honored during the University's annual Academic Convocation set for 2 p.m. Friday, Oct. 4, in the Dalton Center Recital Hall.

Since the award was established in 1980, more than 50 faculty and staff members have been honored for careers that exemplify exceptional service to the University and to the larger community. Recipients receive a plaque and a $2,000 honorarium.

Photo of Dr. Alan E. .


Alan E. Kehew

Dr. Kehew joined WMU in 1986 as an assistant professor of geology, and later earned promotion to full professor. He has twice served as chair of the Department of Geosciences.

During his career, Kehew has become distinguished as a leader in his field. He is a Geological Society of America fellow, and in 2007 was named Outstanding Geologist of the Year, by the Michigan Section of the American Institute of Professional Geologists, in recognition of his work.

A busy and productive researcher, Kehew is the recipient of 41 external research grants. He has authored 39 journal articles and other refereed papers and several textbooks.
Kehew says that his research interests are in hydrogeology and geomorphology, often focusing on the environmental aspects of these fields. He also has become heavily involved in mapping the glacial geology of southern Michigan.

One of his recent accomplishments includes being tapped to lead the Michigan Geological Survey. This formerly state-run survey—now based in the WMU Department of Geosciences—maps, evaluates and researches the state of Michigan’s critical geological resources.

Kehew "has distinguished himself and elevated our department and Western Michigan University by his service, his research and his accomplishment," one longtime colleague remarked. Another supporter from outside the University wrote that Kehew is "viewed by his peers as a preeminent glacial geologist, not just within the state of Michigan, but throughout North America."

Kehew holds a bachelor's degree in geology from Bucknell University and a master's degree in Earth science from Montana State University. He earned his doctorate in geology from the University of Idaho.

Photo of Dr. Toni .


Toni Woolfork-Barnes

Dr. Woolfork-Barnes, a three-time alumna of WMU, is known as a tireless advocate and supporter of students. During her tenure as a University employee, which began in 1984, she has served as assistant director of Upward Bound, director of the King-Chavez Parks Program and a research associate in science education. She also held the top leadership post in Upward Bound before being tapped for her latest role as director of First-Year Experience programs.

When Woolfork-Barnes became its director in 2005, First-Year Experience was a new program designed to prepare students for academic achievement and social success while at WMU. FYE continues to put students on a firm foundation during their critical first year at the University, but the program's reach has extended dramatically, growing from serving some 600 students in its pilot year to today serving more than 3,000 first-year and transfer students through three components—new student orientation, Fall Welcome and FYE Seminar.

A colleague noted that Woolfork-Barnes understands that First-Year Experience is more than a welcome and transition program, but one that engenders a "college-success culture" on campus and contributes to the University's overall distinguishing points of pride.

Another supporter remarked that, "Dr. Barnes has shaped FYE into the student-centered, well-rounded and effective program it is today."

Several of Woolfork-Barnes' colleagues spoke of her caring nature and genuine desire to help students succeed.

"I have witnessed, first-hand, many a time when a student has come into our office and asked to have a quick word with Dr. Barnes. It does not matter if she has her coat on and is on the way out the door, Dr. Barnes never turns away a student in need," one co-worker said.

Woolfork-Barnes has been a student herself at WMU, earning a bachelor's degree in applied behavioral analysis, a master's degree in industrial/organizational psychology and a doctor of education in educational leadership, with an emphasis in human resource development.