The UofL Alumni Association established the Alumnus/Alumna of the Year Award and the Alumni Fellows program in 1983. These awards recognize graduates who have distinguished themselves in their chosen fields and are exemplary ambassadors for the university and their college or school. Recipients reflect the high standing and character of their alma mater.

To purchase tickets for the 2013 Alumni Awards Celebration, October 17 and Ice House, click here.

Debby M. Oxley, 78GE

College of Arts & Sciences: David “Jelly” Vance Helm, 87A
College of Business: Thomas R. Davidson, 62B
School of Dentistry: Monroe E. Harris, Jr., 84DMD and Jill Bussey-Harris, 87DMD
College of Education and Human Development: Ella Smith Simmons, 87GE
Louis D. Brandeis School of Law: Stephen T. Porter, 68L
School of Medicine: Dorothy Eilers Mitchell-Leef, 71A, 75MD
School of Music: John D. Rommel, 80MU
School of Nursing: Elizabeth F. Partin, 85N
Raymond A. Kent School of Social Work: Maria C. Hernandez-Peck, 68GK
J.B. Speed School of Engineering: Michael B. Biddle, 78S

2013 Alumna of the Year
Debby M. Oxley

Debby M. Oxley, 78GE, received a Master of Education from UofL’s College of Education and Human Development in 1978. She also received a Bachelor of Science from Eastern Kentucky University and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Tulsa.

During Oxley’s professional career, she was a counselor for mentally handicapped adults and worked in the land department of an oil and gas company. Oxley is a thoroughbred owner and breeder. She and her husband, John, won the 2001 Kentucky Derby with Monarchos.

Oxley currently serves as a Trustee for The Mary K. Oxley Foundation located in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The foundation has supported the University of Louisville’s Signature Partnership Initiative and the Hiram Polk Surgical Endowment. She also serves on the Board of the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, the Headley-Whitney Museum and is a Trustee of the Aspen Community United Methodist Church. She has previously served on the board of the Kentucky Derby Museum and TOBA, Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association.

David “Jelly” Vance Helm
College of Arts & Sciences

David “Jelly” Vance Helm, 87A, David “Jelly” Helm, 87A, received a Bachelor of Arts in Fine Arts/Graphic Design from UofL’s Allen R. Hite Art Institute. He lived in Threlkeld Hall, was active on campus and enjoyed UofL.

Jelly is the creative director of an independent studio and consultancy, founded in 2008 in Portland, Oregon. His clients have included Wikipedia, Nike, Starbucks, Warner Bros/DC Comics, Red Hat, Playworks, the New York Governor’s office, the University of California, and the Portland Timbers, as well as over a dozen non-profit and community organizations.

Before opening his studio, Jelly served as Executive Creative Director of Wieden+Kennedy, Founder/Director of Wieden+Kennedy 12, Group Creative Director for the Martin Agency, Creative Director of Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam, and Associate Professor at Virginia Commonwealth University.

The interests that inform his work include story, collaboration, the open/shared knowledge movement, and the role of purpose and story in the emerging culture.

Thomas R. Davidson
College of Business

In 1968, Tom Davidson founded and was Chairman of the Board of Datatel, Inc., currently the largest international provider of software and consulting services to higher education. Datatel won the prestigious Baldridge Award and was selected five times as one of the top fifty places to work by Washington magazine. It was also recognized as Washington, D.C.’s most ethical company. Davidson expanded the company to include a banking software division which he sold in 1987 to M-Bank of Texas in order to focus exclusively on the higher education division of the company. After thirty-seven years of compounded double-digit growth, Davidson sold Datatel, Inc. in 2005.

Since 1981, Davidson has founded multiple companies including AIS, National Information Systems, Invision Medical, Inc., and The Balance Bar Company. He also became involved with Rainbow Ranch, turning the property into a high-end boutique resort recognized in several national magazines.

Tom and Debby Davidson have been involved in philanthropy with many organizations including some of the following charities: Datatel Scholars (award higher education scholarships), Aid to Teachers (funding educational programs in public school classrooms in Hawaii and California, Transition House Santa Barbara (aid for homeless shelter), Hualalai Ohana Foundation (providing medical and educational scholarships), Las Lomitas Education Foundation (providing 21st century iPad technology), People Improvement Organization (partnered to build schools in Cambodia), Mercy Corps (established Rural Waste Management program in Kyrgyzstan), and 10x10 (providing educational opportunities to girls across the world). Additionally, they are avid donors and supporters of Santa Barbara Community College, Arizona State University, and the University of Louisville.

Monroe E. Harris Jr.
School of Dentistry

Monroe E. Harris, Jr., 84DMD, received a Doctor of Dental Medicine from UofL’s School of Dentistry in 1984. He completed an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Residency at Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago in 1988.

Harris was the recipient of the Oliver Hill Citizen of the Year Award, the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons Award in 1984, the C.V. Mosby Award in Pathology in 1984, the Quintessence Award of Clinical Achievement in Periodontics in 1985, the Dentist of the Year for the Old Dominion Dental Society in 1998, the Bank of America’s Local Hero Award in 2009, the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities Humanitarian Award in 2011, and the Flamebearers Award for the United Negro College Fund in 2011.

Harris has been affiliated with many professional and civic organizations. He has served as a Board Member for the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Foundation, the Virginia State Board of Medical Assistance, Venture Richmond, Theatre I.V., American Civil War Center, Richmond Public School Foundation, Richmond Center State Foundation, and the Garfield Child Memorial Fund. Harris has served as President of the Old Dominion Dental Society and the Virginia State Board of Dentistry, He has been a Board Examiner for Southern Regional Testing, a Diplomate for the American Board of Oral Maxillofacial Surgeons, a Fellow for the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, and a Member of the National Dental Association. Harris has volunteered his time in the community for the Crossover and Fan Free Dental Clinics, the Richmond Community High School, the Richmond School of Health and Technology, Donated Dental Services, and the Mission of Mercy. He is a member of the Omicron Kappa Upsilon Honorary Dental Society, Beta Delta Honorary Oral Medicine and Pathology Fraternity, and Delphi Honorary Dental Society.

Harris and his wife, Jill, have two children.

Jill Bussey-Harris
School of Dentistry

Jill Bussey-Harris, 87DMD, received her Doctor of Dental Medicine from UofL’s School of Dentistry in 1987. She also earned a Bachelor of Arts in Biology from Fisk University.

Bussey-Harris was the first African-American full-time Assistant Professor at the VCU/MCV School of Dentistry.

Bussey-Harris has been affiliated with many professional and civic organizations. She is a member of the American Dental Association, National Dental Association, Virginia Dental Association, Richmond Dental Society, Academy of General Dentistry, Old Dominion Dental Society, Peter B. Ramsey Dental Society, American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, and American Association of Women Dentists. Bussey-Harris has served as patron chair for the 2010 Heart Ball, art auction chair for 2011 The Links, Inc., on the Citizen’s Advisory Council for Furnishing and Interpreting the Executive Mansion, Massey Cancer Advisory Board, Richmond Ballet Trustee Board, Canvas Board at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, SPARC Board, School of Performing Arts in the Richmond Community and the First Lady’s Initiatives Team Effort (FLITE).

Bussey-Harris and her husband, Monroe, have two children.

Ella Smith Simmons
College of Education and Human Development

Ella Smith Simmons, 87GE, received her Ed.D. from UofL’s College of Education and Human Development in 1987. She also received a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Indiana University Southeast and a Master of Arts in Curriculum, Instruction, and Supervision from Andrews University.

Simmons started her career in higher education as Chair of the Education Department at Kentucky State University. She then served on the faculty and as Associate Dean in the School of Education at the University of Louisville. In addition, she has served as Vice President for Academic Affairs at Oakwood College and University Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at La Sierra University. Currently she serves as General Vice President of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists and Chair of the International Board of Education of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Simmons is the recipient of the 1991 Outstanding Service Award for the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education; 1995 Outstanding Contributions Award for the University of Louisville Office of Minority Services; HONORIS CAUSA, Doctor of Pedagogy, Andrews University in 2007; and the 2010 Woman of the Year for the Association of Adventist Women.

Simmons, and her husband, Nord, have two children.

Stephen T. Porter
Louis D. Brandeis School of Law

Stephen T. Porter, 68L, received his Juris Doctorate from the UofL’s Louis D. Brandeis School of Law in 1968. He also received a Bachelor of Arts from Duke University in 1965.

Porter has worked as a sole practitioner in real property and land use law, historic preservation and environmental law for over 44 years. He has served as an adjunct professor at the School of Law, is owner and principal broker for Steve Porter Realtors, and is co-owner of 1840 Tucker House Bed & Breakfast with his wife.

Porter is currently a member of the Louisville Metro Land Development Code Improvement Committee, a member of the Policies and Procedures Committee of the Louisville Metro Planning Commission, and a Board member of Scenic Kentucky and the Tucker Station Neighborhood Association. He is the founder of OPEN Louisville, Inc.

In the past, Porter has served as Chair or President of Kentucky Youth Advocates, Jefferson County Juvenile Justice Commission, Housing Opportunities Center, Louisville Seahawks, and the National Association of Urban Criminal Justice Planning Directors.

Porter received the 2012 Founders’ Award and the 2002 Preservation Award from the Louisville Historical League, Respect for Law Citation from Optimist International and the 1992 Citizen’s Good Government Award from the League of Women Voters.

While a student at UofL, Porter chaired the student committee which arranged for the March 30, 1967 speech for the Law School by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dorothy Eilers Mitchell-Leef
School of Medicine

Dorothy Eilers Mitchell-Leef, 71A, 75MD, received a Bachelor of Arts in Biology and Chemistry for UofL’s College of Arts & Sciences in 1971. She received a Doctor of Medicine from Uof L’s School of Medicine in 1975, completed her Residency in Obstetrics & Gynecology in 1979 and Fellowship in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility in 1981 at the University of Louisville programs.

In 1981, Dr. Mitchell-Leef was brought to Emory University to initiate the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility in the Department of Obstetrics and &Gynecology where she was an Associate Professor. She has been a Physician Partner at Reproductive Biology Associates since 1991. She remains an Adjunct Associate Professor at Emory.

Mitchell-Leef was the recipient of the Hardman Cup Award from the Medial Association of Georgia, the 2006 Atlanta Business Chronicle’s Heath Care Hero, 2005 Aven Citizenship Cup Award by the Medical Association of Atlanta, honored by Atlanta Magazine as on the “Atlanta Top Docs” in 1999 and 2001 and honored as one of the 2010 Womenetics POW Award winners.

Mitchell-Leef and her husband, Forrest, have 2 sons.

John D. Rommel
School of Music

John D. Rommel, 80MU, received a Bachelor of Music in Trumpet Performance at UofL’s School of Music in 1980.

John Rommel has been a faculty member at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music since 1993. Mr. Rommel was Principal Trumpet of the Louisville Orchestra from 1988-1996 and has performed throughout the United States, as well as in France, Germany, and Spain. As Principal Trumpet of the Louisville Orchestra, he recorded more than 30 compositions by many of the leading composers of the twentieth century. Mr. Rommel performs regularly with the Cincinnati Symphony (including performances in Beijing, China, on the symphony’s concert tour for the 2008 Olympics), the Indianapolis Symphony, and the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra. He was also a member of the Nashville Symphony from 1979-1988.

John Rommel’s chamber music experience includes performances with Summit Brass, the Saint Louis Brass Quintet, Fulcrumpoint New Music Project and the Nashville Contemporary Brass Quintet. He has performed as a soloist in many different venues. Mr. Rommel has extensive commercial recording experience in the studios of Nashville, Tennessee, and Indianapolis, Indiana. John Rommel’s students hold positions in orchestras, military bands, and universities in the United States, as well as in Canada and Europe. His primary teachers were William Adam, Louis Davidson, and Leon Rapier, with additional studies with Vincent Cichowicz and William Scarlett.

Elizabeth Partin
School of Nursing

Elizabeth Partin, 85N, received a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from UofL’s School of Nursing in 1985. She also received a Master of Science in Nursing from the University of Kentucky in 1991 and a Doctor of Nursing Practice from Case Western Reserve University in 1997.

Partin’s peers consider her as a most effective strategist for nursing legislation for advanced practice and registered nursing in Kentucky. She has bridged a relationship between various nursing organizations that allows nursing to speak with one voice in the policy making arena in Kentucky.

Partin is the recipient of the 2013 American Association of Nurse Practitioners Nurse Practitioner Advocate of the Year Award, 2010 Kentucky Nurses Association Nurse of the Year Award, the 2006 Kentucky Nursing Excellence Award, the 2006 Senate of the Commonwealth of Kentucky Honors Proclamation, and the 1994 Nurse Practitioner of the Year for the State of Kentucky.

Partin, and her husband, Gary, have three children.

Maria C. Hernandez-Peck
Raymond A. Kent School of Social Work

Maria C Hernandez-Peck, 68GK, received a Master of Science in Social Work from the Raymond A. Kent School of Social Work. She also received a Bachelor of Arts from Barry University in 1964 and a PhD from the University of Denver in 1980.

Dr. Hernandez-Peck is a national expert on aging and caregiving. Her primary research interests are in the area of family caregiving and retirement decisions of older farmers. Dr. Hernandez-Peck has served as Director of the Center for Studies in Aging at Eastern Washington University School of Social Work from 1983 through 2013. She has had the priviledge of attending three White House Conferences on Aging, two of them as a governor’s representative. In 1981, she was selected to serve on the National Advisory Committee to the Conference.

Dr. Hernandez-Peck’s contributions to the social work profession and the field of aging have been recognized at the local, state, and national levels. In 2013, she was named Outstanding Faculty for Excellence in Community Engagement at Eastern Washington University. Excellence in teaching has been recognized in being selected as Social Work Educator of the Year by the Washington National Association of Social Workers and Teacher of the Year for the EWU Inland Empire School of Social Work in 1987. Recognition for her contributions to the community service delivery system includes awards from Spokane Community Mental Health, The Alcoholism Council of Colorado, the Spokane Employment Retirement System, and the Spokane Gay and Lesbian Community. Leadership in the field of aging and long-term care has been highlighted by the State Council on Aging with the Excellence in Action Award and the Leadership Award from the Washington Association of Area Agencies on Aging.

Dr. Hernandez-Peck has been and continues to be affiliated with many professional and civic organizations. She currently serves on the boards of Spokane Refugee Connections, Frontier Behavioral Health Services, Aging and Long Term Care of Eastern Washington, and the National Association for Hispanic Elders. Past board involvement includes Washington NASW, Washington State Board of Health, Washington Legislative Task Force on Mental Health, Spokane Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, and the Washington State Board of Examiners of Nursing Home Administrators.

Michael B. Biddle
JB Speed School of Engineering

Michael Biddle, started MBA Polymers about 20 years ago - literally from his garage in California. In addition to leading the technology and business development, he raised over $150 million from private, VC, PE and strategic investors to fund the development and growth of MBA Polymers.

Biddle worked for several large companies, namely GE, Cummins and Dow, before striking out on his own in 1992. He received a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Louisville and a Ph.D. in Polymer Science and Engineering from Case Western Reserve University, both with high honors. He was also a Sloan Fellow at Stanford University (Executive MBA).

Biddle has received numerous international awards. He won the prestigious 2012 Gothenburg Award for Sustainable Business (previous winners include Al Gore, Kofi Annan and Gro Harlem Brundtland – the former President of Norway), the 2010 Economist Innovation Award for Energy and the Environment, the 2006 Intel Tech Museum Award and was named a 2006 World Economic Forum Tech Pioneer. Biddle also won the first Thomas Alva Edison Award for Innovation and the first Ascent Award for Entrepreneurship.

Biddle’s TED talk has over 1 million views and hundreds of positive comments across the Internet, being hosted by over 50 different websites.

Biddle and his wife, Elisabeth, have two children.