2012 Alumni Award Winners

In conjunction with 2012 Homecoming/Family Weekend, Central presented alumni awards to four graduates with illustrious careers and legacies of service. The winners were honored on Sept. 29 as part of the weekend’s festivities.

Don ’65 and Helen Van Zanten Hemmes ’67

Married couple Don Hemmes ’65 and Helen Van Zanten Hemmes ’67 each received one of this year’s alumni awards. After graduating from Central with a degree in biology, Don earned an M.S. and Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa in 1967 and 1970, respectively. Helen graduated from Central with a degree in English and went on to receive an M.A. in English in 1969, also at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Both Don and Helen accepted instructorships at their graduate school alma mater upon completing their graduate degrees.

After earning post-docs at the University of Zürich and University of California at Riverside, Don accepted a position as assistant professor of biology at University of Hawaii at Hilo in 1973. He was quickly promoted to full professor. In fall 1977, Don took a leave of absence to participate in research at the Cancer Institute within the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. Don and Helen also participated in a faculty exchange at Central
with Don and Maxine Huffman during the 1984-85 academic year.

At a Mycological Society of America (MSA) meeting in San Antonio, Texas, Don’s research on mushrooms caught the interest of Dennis Desjardin at San Francisco State University. This was pivotal for his research as a mycologist. Together with Desjardin, Don received a National Science Foundation grant to study the mushrooms of Hawaii. His field guide, “Mushrooms of Hawaii,” co-authored with Desjardin, received high reviews. Don is also the author of numerous professional articles on cell and fungal biology.

During his tenure, Don received numerous awards for excellence in teaching, service and research. In 1986, Don was awarded the W. H. Weston Award for Teaching Excellence in Mycology by the MSA and was made a Fellow of the society for his research on Hawaiian fungi. He remains active in MSA, serving on the Endowment Committee. Don officially retired in 2006 and, as professor emeritus, remains active as a researcher and lecturer at UH-Hilo.
Helen’s career path included lectureships, jobs with the University of Hawaii’s College of Continuing Education and Community Service and employment with the County of Hawaii and in the not-for-profit world. Helen served as a community coordinator for the Hilo Adolescent Family Life Project through Child & Family Service and as president and chief professional officer of the Hawaii Island United Way for 19 years prior to her early retirement. She gained expertise in not-for-profit management and financial literacy through continuing education at UH-Hilo, as well as through the United Way of America and the Weinberg Fellows program.

Helen became active in her community through memberships in the American Association of University Women – Hilo Branch and the League of Women Voters of Hawaii County, among other organizations.
Since retiring in 2006, Helen has spent much of her time volunteering, having served as president of the Rotary Club of Hilo, director of the Waiakea High School Foundation, finance committee chair at church and director and now secretary of the Hawaii Pacific Parks Association.

The couple enjoys traveling and has narrowed their “to visit” states to just a few, seeking out the flora and fauna at various locations, most recently exploring sites and national parks in Alaska and Maine. Don and Helen have been married since 1967. They have two sons, Kimo ’94 and David ’97, as well as four grandchildren.

Their years at Central College provided them with wonderful memories, lifetime partners and friends and a solid education for their careers and community service.

William L. Rankin ’69

A lifelong supporter of Central College, Bill Rankin ’69 is one of this year’s alumni award winners. Rankin received his degree in psychology from Central. After fulfilling his military service, he earned his Ph.D. in experimental psychology from Washington State University in 1976.


For 10 years, Rankin worked for the Battelle Seattle Research Centers. He also served on the State of Washington Citizen’s Advisory Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse. In 1983, he received the Alice Ralls Memorial Award given by the Washington State Council on Alcoholism for “Outstanding Service in Combating Alcoholism.”

Rankin joined The Boeing Company in 1986. He was promoted to Boeing Associate Technical Fellow in 1998 and to Boeing Technical Fellow in 2002. In 2000, Rankin received the International Federation of Airworthiness’s Whittle Safety Award for the Maintenance Error Decision Aid process. He also received the Flight Safety Foundation/Airbus Human Factors in Aviation Safety Award in Lisbon, Portugal, for his body of work in the field of flight safety.

Rankin has co-authored five books, 22 journal articles and more than 30 technical reports and has presented at more than 75 international conferences. He has visited 61 countries during business and vacation travel. Outside of traveling, Rankin also enjoys gardening. He is married to Lori Nakahara, a Boeing engineer.

Rankin has served on Central’s National Advisory Council, funds two Central scholarships and supported the Roe Center through purchase of naming rights for three offices and one seminar room. He is a third generation Central graduate and lauds Central College for the liberal arts education he received, which served as the basis of his career.

Bridget Roll Penick ’95

A lawyer with a prestigious firm, Bridget Roll Penick ’95 is one of this year’s alumni award winners. After graduating magna cum laude from Central with a degree in political science and Spanish, Penick received her Juris Doctorate with high distinction from the University of Iowa College of Law in 1998.

Penick is a shareholder and president of the Board of Directors of Dickinson, Mackaman, Tyler & Hagen, P.C. She is a member of the firm’s Employment and Labor Law Group. Penick advises clients on compliance with federal, state and local employment and labor laws. She also assists clients with employment-related immigration issues.

Penick has been named one of the Chambers USA American Leading Lawyers for Business and Best Lawyers for several years. She is also a member of the Iowa State Bar Association’s Labor & Employment Section Council and the Federal Labor Standards Legislation Committee of the American Bar Association’s Labor & Employment Law Section. She belongs to the American Immigration Lawyers Association and is a fellow of Litigation Counsel of America™. She is currently serving as a member of the Polk County Bar Association’s Board of Directors.

Her memories of Central include participating on the mock trial team, gaining “sisters for life” in Sigma Phi Omega, studying abroad in London, interning at Parliament and spending a spring break mission trip in Appalachia.
Penick has been married to her husband Wes for 16 years. Together they have four daughters: Madeline, Elizabeth, Caroline and Emerson. They live in Clive, Iowa.

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