seal  Purdue News

April 16, 2004

School of Liberal Arts names 2004 distinguished alumni

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – The Purdue University School of Liberal Arts will honor six graduates as distinguished alumni today (Friday, 4/16) at an awards dinner.

Recipients are: Ted Allen, Jane Kinn Buser, Leonard Cox, Sonya Margerum, Stephanie S. Tolan and John von Szeliski.

• Ted Allen, from New York City, is one of the "Fab Five" stars on the TV makeover show "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy." Allen is a longtime writer and editor for Chicago and Esquire magazines. He earned a bachelor's degree in psychology in 1987.

• Jane Kinn Buser, from Boise, Idaho, is currently the executive director of the Boise State University human resource department. In addition to her background as a human resource specialist, she is involved in women's rights, the American Red Cross and YWCA. She earned a bachelor's degree in recreation in 1968.

• Leonard Cox, from New York City, is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and co-owner of River Films Inc., an independent documentary film production company. He also is a partner with the Michael Cohen Group LLC, which is a media and organizational communication consulting firm. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in communication in 1979 and a master's degree in organizational communication in 1996.

• Sonya Margerum, from West Lafayette, recently retired after 20 years as mayor of the city. Under her leadership, West Lafayette became one of the first Midwest cities to implement a strategic plan. During her administration, the city developed an award-winning wastewater treatment facility, curbside recycling, a strong relationship with Purdue University, and expanded parks and recreational facilities. She earned her master's degree in political science in 1979.

• Stephanie S. Tolan, from Charlotte, N.C., is a nationally known author of books for children and young adults. Her latest piece, "Surviving the Applewhites," was named one of five Newbery Honor Books, among the most prestigious awards in children's literature. In addition, she has written and co-written many articles and books on proper educational environments for gifted children. She earned her bachelor's degree in creative writing in 1964 and her master's degree in English literature in 1967.

• John von Szeliski, from Newport Beach, Calif., is an architect specializing in the design, master planning and programming of cultural arts operations and is nationally recognized in the field of theater design and technology. He was head of the theater program and a professor at Williams College. He also directed and designed stages for numerous theatrical productions and designed a variety of theaters. He earned his bachelor's degree in psychology and theater in 1956 and a master's degree in theater in 1958.

Writer: Amy Patterson-Neubert, (765) 494-9723,

Source: Christine Sharp, alumni relations coordinator for the School of Liberal Arts, (765) 494-7884,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

Note to Journalists: Complete biographies and publication-quality photos of the recipients are available the School of Liberal Arts Alumni site. The 2004 distinguished alumni, except for Ted Allen, will be in attendance for today's (Friday, 4/16) awards dinner. Allen, star on the TV makeover show "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," is expected on campus to pick up his award this fall.

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