2013 Distinguished Alumni Awards

On April 25, 2013, Arts & Sciences honored graduates who exemplify the ideals of a liberal arts education, and in so doing, bring honor to the University through their lives, work, and service.

Meet The 2013 Recipients

James Burmeister, AB ’61, MBA ’63, AM ’67

Jim Burmeister’s time at Washington University spans nearly six decades with stops at all corners of the campus that he has come to know so well and share with so many. He began working part-time in the psychology department at age 14 before enrolling as a student. After earning degrees in political science, business and psychology, Mr. Burmeister accepted his first full-time position as University Registrar, then served in both alumni relations and public affairs.

Mr. Burmeister is celebrated for his knowledge of university history and his tours are among the most popular occasions on campus. For 35 years he advised Thurtene Junior Honorary, helping university organizations raise money for St. Louis children’s charities and earning the title of “Coach.” Today, as director of Commencement, he steers the final piece of the student experience – graduation day.

Mr. Burmeister’s lively, thoughtful service has enhanced the board of the Campus Y, the Alumni Board of TKE fraternity, the board of Whittemore House, the W Club Executive Committee and the William Greenleaf Eliot Society. In 1977, Thurtene named the trophy for best overall participation in the carnival the Burmeister Cup. He received the Gloria W. White Distinguished Service Award in 2001 in recognition of his dedication to creating a positive working and learning environment at Washington University. In 2006, upon his retirement from advising Thurtene, the 455 Thurtene alumni he had advised funded “Coach” Jim Burmeister Plaza in the Village. He was inducted into the WU Athletics Hall of Fame for distinguished service in 2011. Hear Jim's Story.

Ann Johanson, AB ’56

As a pre-med student who majored in physical education and lettered in varsity basketball, volleyball, softball and field hockey, Ann Johanson modeled leadership and teamwork, high achievement and decorum. She followed her training and professional career from the heartland to both coasts, scoring a series of “firsts” that helped prepare the path for other women scientists. In medical school, she was one of only three female graduates in her class and was class president her senior year. Following additional medical training that included an internship at the University of Minnesota, a residency at St. Louis Children’s Hospital and a fellowship at Johns Hopkins, Dr. Johanson accepted a professorship at the University of Virginia Medical Center that came with the opportunity to develop her own pediatric endocrinology division.

Fifteen years later, Dr. Johanson moved cross-country to become the first physician in endocrine clinical research at the California-based biotechnology firm Genentech. She eventually became the first woman endocrinology director and was key to the breakthrough development and clinical use of rHGH, or synthetic recombinant human growth hormone. Thereafter, the lives of children deficient in growth hormone improved significantly because the supply of treatment medication was no longer limited by the scant amounts of human pituitary hormone that could be obtained at autopsy.

Dr. Johanson has been a prodigious researcher and national leader in her profession. With similar energy and initiative, she supports Washington University – also the alma mater of her grandfather and both of her parents – as well as her church and community. Hear Ann's Story.

Nicole Kaplan, AB ’92

Nicole Kaplan is founding president of Telesto LLC, a Florida-based consultancy that helps private companies obtain private capital from venture capital firms, private equity firms and family offices. Her firm’s investment banking professionals—experts in alternative energy, biofuels, communications, and information technology—have been vastly successful in raising capital investments for biofuels and alternative energy companies. Telesto’s advisory services also benefit Fortune 500 companies like Verizon, Consolidated Edison and British Petroleum. Ms. Kaplan’s firm aptly bears the name of the Greek goddess personifying success.

Ms. Kaplan was training to compete in gymnastics at the 1988 Seoul Olympics when an injury altered the course of her life. College admission deadlines were long past, but Washington University accepted her and offered her a scholarship. Today, Ms. Kaplan and her scholarship donors, Fiona and Eric Rudin, remain close friends. At Washington University, she majored in economics and played varsity tennis. Ms. Kaplan went on to earn an MBA from Columbia University and became a vice president at Lehman Brothers before founding Telesto in 2002.

Ms. Kaplan has shared her expertise with Washington University by presenting at events such as the McDonnell Academy’s International Symposium on the Global Energy Future. She also spoke at the alumni annual dinner for the Gold Coast region in 2012. Hear Nicole's Story.

Marie Oetting, AB ’49

For 68 years, Marie Oetting has been a cherished presence at Washington University. Mrs. Oetting earned her degree in economics and joined the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis graduation. With the exception of raising her family, however, her true life’s work has been serving her community, her church and her alma mater.

For 20 years, she was overall chair of her undergraduate reunion program; for the Class of ’49, she co-chaired reunions, beginning with its 10th and including its landmark 50th. Mrs. Oetting chaired the Eliot Society for Arts & Sciences, was chair of the Alumni Board of Governors, served on the Dean’s Advisory Committee for Arts & Sciences, and is a life member of the Women’s Society. She served on the Campaign Committee for Planned Giving, the A&S Scholarship Initiative Committee and the Danforth Circle Eliot Membership Committee. For her service to the University and her leadership in community organizations, she received the Distinguished Alumni Award at Founders Day in 1994. In 2001, Arts & Sciences also honored her with its Distinguished Alumni Award and two years later she received the Eliot Society’s “Search” Award.

Mrs. Oetting and her late husband William, BSBA ’47, JD ’49, were among the first to establish named scholarships for students in Arts & Sciences as well as the Olin Business School. For years she has funded the Marie and William J. Oetting Scholarships, developing friendships with many students whose potential she has helped nurture. Hear Marie's Story. 

James Schiele, AB ’52, MLA ’85, AM ’11, DLA ’14

Learning is a lifelong enterprise for third-generation Washington University scholar Jim Schiele. In 2015, he will add a Doctor of Liberal Arts degree to his array of academic achievements. Following his first graduation with a major in history during the Korean War years, First Lieutenant Schiele was a B-26 navigator in the U.S. Air Force Tactical Air Command. He later joined the then-family-owned St. Louis Screw & Bolt, guiding it through difficult times for the steel industry in the United States.

Thirty years after becoming an alumnus, he earned the first of two master’s degrees through University College, the professional and continuing education division of Arts & Sciences. His doctoral study focuses on 19th Century American history, utilizing the James E. and Joan Singer Schiele Print Collection, which he donated to the university. The collection provides a basis for historical analysis of the period from Reconstruction through the end of the 19th century, years teeming with challenging social questions and issues.

Mr. Schiele chairs the Eliot Society Membership Committee for the Weidenbaum Center for the Economy, Government and Public Policy. Other vital university connections include the Libraries National Council, the International Advisory Council for Asia, the Athletic Department’s W Club Executive Committee, the Alumni Board of Governors, class reunion committees and the Endowed Scholarship Committee. He received the University Libraries Dean’s Medal in 2009, the Founders Day Distinguished Alumni Award in 2006 and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Weidenbaum Center in 2000.

Mr. Schiele’s extensive community involvement includes, among others, long-time service on the Board of Directors of Commerce Bank of St. Louis, the St. Louis Psychoanalytic Institute, and more recently, the St. Louis Mercantile Library. He remains a consultant to St. Louis Screw & Bolt. Hear Jim's Story.

Darrell Williams, AM ’86, PhD ’91

A study in competence and conviction, Darrell Williams uses his expertise in economic analysis to inform public policy; educate university students and judges; advance economic justice; conduct research; consult federal agencies, companies and the American Bar Association; direct his own firm; oversee an influential website; and advise the Obama administration concerning economics, communications and issues important to African Americans.

Dr. Williams founded and is CEO of Loop Interactive Group LLC, publisher of Loop21.com, which provides resources and insight to young African-American professionals about how to be competitive and successful in our global economy. The site is advancing the national conversation about economic progress among African Americans by focusing on the next generation of ideas and influential people leading positive change.

Dr. Williams has held positions at the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, as a Research Economist at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and as an Assistant Professor of economics at UCLA. After serving as a founding partner of Economic Analysis LLC and as a Director at the global expert services firm LECG LLC, Darrell continues to advise corporations and government entities as a senior consultant at Charles River Associates in Boston. His numerous professional publications elucidate topics ranging from economic development to racial politics, and he has received many awards and grants.

Dr. Williams serves on the Arts & Sciences National Council and lent his leadership to the steering committee of the Tie That Binds, a scholarship initiative of African-American alumni. He and his wife Paula, EN ‘85, support an annual named scholarship and an endowed a scholarship in Arts & Sciences. Hear Darrell's Story.