University of Dubuque Honors Alumni/ae

Sep 30, 2004 | University of Dubuque Theological Seminary

Saturday, October 9, 2004 the University of Dubuque will honor five outstanding alumni/ae- Aaron Williams (C'99), Mary Usui Toma (C'49), Robert Van Iten (C'59), Bill Peck (C'60), and Alvin Straatmeyer (C'54)- as a part of the 2004 Homecoming Celebration. 

2004 Award of Merit 
Awarded to a graduate within 15 years of graduation for significant accomplishments in business or professional life. The award winners will have demonstrated a clear commitment to excellence in their careers, and through their careers have achieved visible public recognition, achievement, and leadership, which reflect positively on the University's mission and vision. 

Aaron Williams (C'99) 
More often than not the 2004 Award of Merit's head is in the clouds - literally. Lt. Aaron Williams graduated from the University of Dubuque with a Bachelor of Science degree in Flight Operations. After graduation Aaron remained at UD helping to educate those who would follow in his footsteps, working as a flight instructor in the aviation department. He simultaneously worked for Mesaba Aviation on a part-time basis. 
In February 1999 Aaron was selected by the South Dakota Air National Guard to fly F-16s. He left for Columbus, Mississippi for a year of schooling, Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training with the Air Force, in January 2001. It was an intense year of training, typically 5-6 days a week and 12 hours a session. 

He graduated from the Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training at the top of his class earning the prestigious title of Top Gun. The next step in the 2.5 year training process took Aaron to Valdosta, Georgia where he learned specialized techniques as well as to fly air combat missions. The now combat mission ready F-16 pilot spent the remainder of his time training in areas including water survival in Florida, three weeks in the mountains of Washington surviving in the woods during combat land survival, and enduring life at a POW camp. Aaron completed the final piece of his training when he finished a nine-month course behind the controls of the F-16. Since March 2003, he has been flying with his unit in Sioux Falls, South Dakota in what he calls an extraordinary opportunity. 

Aaron married fellow UD graduate Billi Leslein (C'00) in 1999. In August 2002, the couple had their first son, Cole. They welcomed daughter Corrin in April of 2004. They currently live in Sioux Falls, ND where Aaron has recently completed his full-time service in the United States Air Force; he is now a member of the South Dakota Air National Guard. 

2004 Professional Achievement Award 
Awarded to a University of Dubuque alumnus/alumna after 15 years of graduation for significant contributions and achievement in his/her chosen professional field. 

Mary (Usui) Toma (C'49) 
Tenacious achiever and dedicated pioneer paint an accurate picture when describing Mary (Usui) Toma. Her persistence and drive to succeed is easily displayed through the too-numerous-to-count awards and honors bestowed upon her over the years. 

She defines the word character. As a young adult she graduated from high school in three years while her family was placed in internment camps during World War II. After earning her bachelor of science degree in biology in 1949, she left Iowa venturing west where success and service not only followed her, they also radiated from her. 

Mary practiced for over 40 years at the Childrens Hospital of Los Angeles (affiliated with the University of Southern California) where she worked as a Clinical Laboratory Specialist, retiring in 1995. In 2003 she was recognized by the National Board of American Society of Clinical Pathologist Registry as a licensed Medical Technologist for her over 50 years of dedicated work. 

While medicine was her profession of choice her family became her passion. Her desire to remain involved in children's lives propelled her into the Los Angeles PTA. She was elected and served two terms as President and CEO of the PTA-10th District, a responsibility which covers two-thirds of the schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District. The district she served is considered the second largest in the US with approximately 700,000 students. In her role, she was responsible for overseeing the $1.4 million budget and operation of dental and vision clinics for disadvantaged students. 

Mary has been recognized for her service, receiving awards and honors from Los Angeles Unified School District, the United Way for helping to raise $63,000,000, the City of Los Angeles, and being named "Woman Pioneer of the Year" awarded by the Los Angeles City Council, to name a few. 

Mary married her husband Ronald in Salt Lake City before taking up residence in Los Angeles, their home for many years. Together they've celebrated over 50 years of marriage and have five children, who are her "life project" - Dana, April, Robin, Heather and Heidi. She is also the proud grandmother of six. 

Robert Van Iten (C'59) 
It's safe to say Robert Van Iten has been around Saturn more than any other UD alum - Saturn automobiles that is. Since leaving the University of Dubuque in 1959, Bob turned his passion for cars into a lifelong career. He has been in the automobile business for the last 42 years, 31 of those as the owner of Village Pontiac-GMC Truck in Naperville, Illinois. During the 1990s his business tripled with the opening Saturn dealerships in Northwest Illinois. In 1991 he opened his first Saturn store in Naperville followed by two more in North Aurora and Joliet in 1996 and 1999 respectively. 

Over the years Bob has been recognized for his success and continued achievements in the automobile industry. He has received the annual Pontiac GMC Masters-Leaders of Distinction performance award for Sales and Customer Satisfaction no less than 28 times. He has also served on and been elected to local, regional and national General Motors Corporation dealer councils repeatedly. 

Bob's tenacity and success in the industry is evident to his peers. He was awarded the General Motors Corporation Chairman of the Board leadership award in 2001. He has operated as director and officer of the Chicago Automobile Trade Association for 10 years. In February 2003, he reigned over the world's largest consumer show- the Chicago Auto Show serving as chairman. 

Besides his work with automobiles, Bobs community involvement includes serving as a church school teacher, building construction chairman, fundraising co-chairman and Elder of Knox Presbyterian Church in Naperville. He has also been involved in several local charities, educational foundations, youth sports programs and served as a trustee and board member of the Naperville YMCA for 12 years. 

Bob currently resides in Naperville, Illinois with his wife of 45 years and fellow UD alumna Jan (Brown). Together they have raised their three children, Michal, Cynthia and Elizabeth and are the proud grandparents of 13. In his spare time Bob enjoys hunting, fishing, golf, gardening and collecting antique cars. 

2004 Service to Community Award 
Awarded to an alumnus/alumna of the University of Dubuque who has demonstrated a clear commitment to serving the community through notable volunteerism, an outstanding act of selflessness, or a demonstrated pattern of service to humanity. 

Bill Peck (C'60) 
Bill Peck has made a life of dedicated service to the Dubuque community and the Dubuque Community School District. He is an advocate for the youth of Dubuque, developing programs and encouraging success at all levels from elementary to high school. Bill is a trusted educator, a dedicated leader and considered the driving force behind numerous initiatives to help Dubuque students. 

He began his work in education in 1960 as a science teacher at Jefferson Junior High School. Since then he has worked his way around the city: counselor at Senior High, Dean of Boys at both Senior and Washington Junior High, Assistant Principal at Senior and settling in for 27 years as the Assistant Principal at Hempstead High School. Over the course of his career he became known as an "idea person" leading the development of numerous programs. 

Bill is considered the driving force and credited with the development of Central Alternative School, the At Risk programs at Hempstead and Jefferson Junior High, the organizer of Summer Clinic for At Risk students, developer of the School to Work program, creator of the B.E.A.C.O.N- Business and English team teaching program, a leader in development of technology, education and writing centers in Dubuque high schools, and instrumental in introducing new technology to the district including data processing for grades, scheduling and in-school communication. In recognition of his efforts he has been awarded the Hempstead Spirit Award, received the TEAM Award at the building and District level, and, as well, he was honored with the State of Iowa TEAM Award. 

He is involved extensively outside of the schools and in the Dubuque community as well. His activities include membership in the American Arboretum Society, the American Hosta Society, Past President of the Board of Directors of Dubuque Symphony Orchestra, Past President of the Alumni Association at UD, and an active participant in Westminster Presbyterian Church serving as a Deacon, member of the Visit the Sick program, music committee, fundraising efforts and the establishment of adult education classes in church school. Bill has also been involved as a member of the Dubuque Junior Chamber of Commerce, long standing member of Men's Professional Teaching Organization, member of city of Dubuque summer recreation programs, and one of the founders of the summer symphony orchestra program. 

Bill and his wife of 44 years Donna Sue currently reside in Dubuque where they raised their two sons. Since retiring in 1999 they enjoy gardening and spending time with their children and five grandchildren. 

2004 Alumnus of Distinction Award 
Awarded to alumnus/alumna of the University of Dubuque- College or Seminary- who have distinguished themselves in service to the whole church and/or world. 

Dr. Alvin Straatmeyer (C'54) 
The University of Dubuque is blessed with many outstanding alums who continue to shine in all they do, and one of the brightest UD stars is undoubtedly Al Straatmeyer. Al's life exemplifies the intangibles that he holds in such high regard -- faith, devotion and passion. 

His faith led him down his first chosen career path. Upon graduating from UD in 1954, he attended Dubuque Theological Seminary earning his degree in 1957. Continuing his education at San Francisco Theological Seminary, he earned a master of sacred theology degree in 1969. He served Presbyterian churches for two decades as a full-time pastor, a stated supply pastor and as a student pastor in churches in South Dakota, Iowa, and California. 

Al's devotion to helping others led him in his "second" career. He returned to school and earned his Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of South Dakota in 1974. He began work as a clinical psychologist in a mental health center and in a large medical clinic in Sioux Falls, SD. In 1980, he became an assistant and (later) an associate professor and director of clinical training in the Graduate School of Psychology at the Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. For 12 years, he also maintained a private practice of clinical psychology in California. In 1995, he became a professor of psychology and director of clinical training for the Loma Linda University (Calif.) Graduate School. Upon retirement in 2000, he was named Emeritus Professor at Loma Linda University. He has numerous publications and professional presentations to his credit and attained the highest level of his profession when he became a diplomate with the American Board of Professional Psychology. Throughout all the years, he has maintained his good standing as an ordained Presbyterian minister. 

Al's passion for his work and his love for his alma mater are evident in all he has given back to the University and his community. He is working as the general chairperson to revitalize the UD music program, is serving as the general chairperson for the UD Class of 1954 reunion and class gift project, and he has lovingly taken on the task of researching and writing the University's 150-year history. He has also served in many community and professional endeavors through the years. His enthusiasm is unmatched. 

Al and his wife Marcie celebrated their 49th wedding anniversary in June of 2004. They have three children- Karen, Ronald, and Alan (deceased at age 19). They currently reside in Yucaipa, California and attend church in Redlands where he still fills in as the preacher of the day on occasion. 

The University of Dubuque is a private, coeducational, professional university with a focus in the liberal arts. Our commitment to encouraging students to explore their fullest potential is part of a rich Christian heritage that dates back to the University's founding in 1852.