Bethany College Announces 2011 Alumni Award Recipients  

BETHANY, W.Va. — Bethany College will honor four of its outstanding alumni during its annual Alumni Awards Dinner on April 30 as part of the College’s Alumni Weekend festivities. Recipients of the Alumni Achievement Award, Alumni Community Service Award and the Alumnus of the Year Award will be recognized.
“Bethany College maintains strong relationships with its many alumni who have furthered their Bethany education by achieving professional success and impacting their communities in countless positive ways,” stated Bethany College President Scott D. Miller. “I look forward to honoring the exceptional accomplishments of four such individuals during this year’s Alumni Awards presentation.”
Dr. Rodney Hurl, a 1952 graduate of Bethany, will receive the College’s Alumnus of the Year Award. Hurl, a retired physician in Marysville, Ohio, served on the Bethany Board of Trustees from 1971-1997. He continues as an Emeritus Life Trustee. He earned his M.D. from the Temple University School of Medicine.
Hurl provided funding for the College to purchase the building now known as the Judith R. Hurl Education Center — named in honor of his late wife, a 1953 Bethany graduate and member of the College’s first graduating class of education majors — from the Brooke County school district. Dr. and Mrs. Hurl also established and contributed to The Robert D. & Esther B. Hurl Chemistry Endowment, The Hurl Library Endowment and Hurl departmental endowments in art, biology, chemistry, and education. Recently, Hurl donated his personal library collection of 2,500 volumes to the Phillips Library.
The Rev. Dennis Sparks, an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), will receive the Alumni Community Service Award. Rev. Sparks graduated from Bethany College in 1971 and earned his Master of Divinity degree from Texas Christian University (Brite Divinity School). He serves as the Executive Director of the West Virginia Council of Churches. Through community service related to disasters and as a public policy advocate with a focus upon children, the environment, health and corrections, he has served the West Virginia people at critical moments. In 2010 he was a leader in supporting the families who lost loved ones in the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster. He was recognized in 2008 by the National Association of Social Workers (West Virginia Chapter) as the Public Citizen of the Year. The Citizens Action Group of Charleston presented him with the Thomas A. Knight Excalibur Award, and the West Virginia Lawyers for Justice honored him with its President’s Award.
He has served as Director of Ecumenical Issues for the Ohio Council of Churches and as an interim pastor of the Karl Road Christian Church. He work experience also includes service as Regional Community Relations Manager for North Central Region, Hallmark Television Network (Odyssey); Executive Director for Akron Association of Churches; Interim Campus Minister for Ohio University, Athens; and Community Organizer Executive Director of Human Action Community Organization, based in the Chicago area. He is currently working as Interim Pastor for the First Christian Church in Ravenswood, West Virginia.
Dr. W. Blair Geho and Steffanie D. Lewis will be presented with this year’s Alumni Achievement Awards.
Geho, a 1960 Bethany graduate, attended the Western Reserve University’s School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio. Western Reserve’s combined M.D-Ph.D program was the first of its kind in the nation. He received his doctorate in Pharmacology in 1964 and was given a joint appointment in the Departments of Pharmacology and Surgery while he completed the last two years of medical school. He received his medical degree in 1966 and continued on with the Medical School faculty. During 1964-1967 Blair’s laboratory was in the Department of Surgery at Cleveland Metropolitan General Hospital, a teaching hospital of Western Reserve University School of Medicine. His laboratory was a part of the U.S. Army’s hypovolemic shock research program. In 1967, Geho accepted a position at The Procter and Gamble Company, where he became the first medically trained research physician at P&G.
In 1981, Geho left P&G to embark on a new entrepreneurial phase of his career, founding an early biotechnology firm, Technology Unlimited, Inc., (TUI) in Wooster, Ohio. At Technology Unlimited, he led pioneering teams developing novel nanotechnology delivery systems for drugs ranging from insulin to chemotherapies and small molecules for a variety of diseases. TUI was successful in partnering one of its technologies with Novo Nordisk, one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies.
Since then he has participated in the formation of a number of biotechnology companies, serving as both Chief Science Officer and CEO. He has also served on numerous Boards of Directors for technology ventures. Geho has generated more than 20 issued US patents and his research focused on targeted-drug delivery technologies, and his technology inventions have been the recipient of more than $40 million in various forms of venture capital and other types of funding. He is a member of the Dean’s Visiting Committee, which provides oversight for Case Western Reserve University’s School of Medicine. Currently, Blair has focused on the development of novel, patented nanotechnology delivery systems that enable the targeting of drugs like insulin to specific cells in the body.
Lewis graduated from Bethany College in 1958 and is a founding attorney, Vice President and Secretary of The International Business Law Firm P.C. (IBLF) in Washington, D.C. Since 1999 she has been General Counsel to Baltia Air Lines, Inc., a U.S. start-up airline. She has also held the office of General Counsel, Director of Legislative Affairs and Administration in the Helicopter Association International. Lewis has served as a 50 percent owner of Parkair, Inc. and as the owner operator of a commercial salmon seining business in Alaska. From 1958 to 1964 she taught in Pennsylvania, Washington, Alaska and Connecticut and also participated in American Friends Service Committee and the International Arbetslag projects in Mexico and Sweden.
Lewis has engaged in a wide variety of legal work at IBLF, including litigation and counseling as well as the supervision of a multi-lingual staff and international travel on legal projects involving issues of treaty, regulation, business, property, injury and aviation.
Bethany College is a small college of national distinction located on a picturesque and historic 1,300-acre campus in the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia. Founded in 1840, Bethany is the state’s oldest private college.