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Celebrants from as far away as Colorado, Texas, and Minnesota turned out recently to applaud one another's achievements and to honor five outstanding alumni volunteers for their exceptional service to UMUC.

Each year, the university's alumni association recognizes individual alumni, faculty, staff or friends who enrich the UMUC community through intellectual, social, cultural and service contributions.

Before conferring the special honors, UMUC President Javier Miyares praised the alumni as a group for distinguishing themselves through their service, philanthropy and professional achievements.

"You are ambassadors. Your every success increases the success of your UMUC degree … for yourself, the more than 160,000 alumni around the world and for the future students who will join your ranks," he said.

Awards were granted in the following four categories.

The Distinguished Alumna Award

The highest alumni award granted at UMUC was created in 1976 to recognize an alumna or alumnus who has achieved, both personally and professionally, while demonstrating exemplary service.

The 2014 recipient, Dona Hildebrand '57, has been proving for more than six decades that women "can do more than just sit at home and knit." A pioneer in the U.S. Air Force, the retired lieutenant colonel served in the Vietnam War, 1967–68. Her military career not only spanned 24 years, from 1951 to 1975, it also spanned the globe. Hildebrand was stationed in Spokane, Washington; Alaska; Germany; France; England; Thailand; Japan; Washington, D.C.; California and Alabama.

From the very beginning, she understood the importance of higher education and pursued her degree with vigor. "I took classes from UMUC in my different overseas and stateside assignments, and today I really support the school all over the world because I know UMUC has helped so many people," she said.

Among them was her late husband, a successful Air Force pilot who flew many dangerous missions but always felt he was missing something because he lacked a college degree. Hildebrand encouraged him to attend UMUC. "He did, and it made a world of difference for him and his whole family."

She established the Floyd G. Hildebrand Endowed Military Scholarship Fund in his memory to provide educational opportunities to U.S. Armed Forces veterans, active duty, and other UMUC undergraduate students. It is a testament to Hildebrand's abiding commitment to helping UMUC maintain its status as the leader in providing higher education opportunities to the military community.

This fall, she is planning a reception in Colorado to connect alumni to networking opportunities there. Said Hildebrand, "I was very surprised and flattered and pleased that I was recognized, but I would support [UMUC] whether I was recognized or not. UMUC has a world of experience working with the military."

The Edward A. Parnell Outstanding Alumnus Service Award

Kirk W. Clear '03, U.S. Air Force (Ret.), knows how to demonstrate impact. Recognized for exceptional volunteer service over the course of the 2013–14 academic year, Clear has played a significant role in advancing Alumni Association activities with the same dedication he displayed while advancing student matters as a UMUC undergrad.

He chaired the Student Advisory Council, represented UMUC on the Maryland Higher Education Commission's Student Advisory Council and was chosen to deliver the student address for his graduating class.

A past president of the Alumni Association, Clear has spoken about online education on behalf of UMUC at the National Press Club and served as a guest speaker at UMUC's Washington PostLecture Series on Military and Veterans Affairs. He also served as a panelist for UMUC's webcast, "From the Battlefield to the Boardroom" and shared tips on making a successful transition from a military to civilian career.

Clear is a senior consultant with WBB, Inc., and is working on a contract with the U.S. Secret Service. He authored The Treaty on Open Skies, published in 1998, which has been translated into Russian and distributed in more than 30 countries.

Achiever Award

Kemisola Lofinmakin and Philip Callahan were this year's Achiever Award honorees. Lofinmakin, who has served on the Alumni Association board since 2005 and is vice president of programming, led efforts to increase recent graduates' participation in board activities.

Callahan chaired the 2013 Munich campus reunion that brought more than 100 alumni together in Maryland, and is involved both in planning the 2016 reunion, to be held in Germany, and in fundraising efforts to create an endowed scholarship.

Executive Business Leader Award

UMUC graduate and serial entrepreneur Willis K. Drake III founded Ongoing Operations, LLC, to help organizations such as hospitals and financial concerns that routinely deal with sensitive data meet their high security needs and special hosting requirements. He also founded CU Wallet, LLC, to assist credit unions with data management.

In 2013, Drake established an endowed scholarship fund for IT students at UMUC.