Distinguished Alumni Award

Headshot of Zac Imel, Alpha Chi's 2024 Distinguished Alumni.
Zac Imel Wins 2024 Distinguished Alumni Award

Dr. Zac Imel, a tenured professor at the University of Utah and co-founder and chief science officer of Lyssn.io, has been named as Alpha Chi's 2024 Distinguished Alumni Award Winner. The award recognizes his exceptional contributions to the field of mental health and his groundbreaking interdisciplinary work. Imel has consistently demonstrated the values of academic excellence, integrity, and service that Alpha Chi embodies, and will be presented the award at the 2024 Alpha Chi National Convention in Birmingham, AL.

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At every national convention since 1987, an outstanding alumnus or alumna of the Society has been selected by the National Council from nominees supplied by chapters or directly by another Alpha Chi member (also up to three nominees may be named by the Awards & Honors Committee of the National Council). The recipient is then asked to accept an expenses-paid trip to speak at the next national convention and for the presentation of the award. If a chapter makes the nomination, the chapter of the person selected will receive a $200 honorarium.

Nominees should have been inducted as undergraduate or graduate members, should have made notable achievements in their chosen careers, and should represent the ideals of Alpha Chi. A nomination must include:

  • a letter from the nominating entity
  • a resume or C.V.
  • any additional documentation to aid the selection committee

The deadline for nominations for this award is March 1 annually. Alumni members can send nomination materials directly to the Executive Director. Chapter nominators should use the form in their chapter profile.


2023 — Dr. Ronald A. Johnson, a Baylor University professor on U.S./African American history and former CIA analyst.

2022Dr. Emily Smith, an undergraduate alumna of Wayland Baptist University (Texas Alpha Eta); Assistant Professor of Surgery and Global Health at the Duke Global Health Institute at Duke University.

2021 — Lala-Pritchard honored belatedly at 2021 virtual convention

2020 — Tana Lala-Pritchard, an alumna of the Oklahoma Gamma chapter, East Central University; leads the Strategy, Innovation and Communications function in WorldFish

2019 — Dr. U. Shivraj Sohur, alumnus of Angelo State University (Texas Alpha Iota); faculty member at  Harvard Medical School, part-time attending neurologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, and founding president of the 5-2035 Global Foundation for Community Health

2018 — Dr. John Pistole, alumnus and president of Anderson University (Indiana Alpha); 26 years of FBI service; appointed Administrator of the TSA in 2010 by President Obama

2017 — Dr. Ed Madden, inducted into Alpha Chi in 1984 at Harding University (Arkansas Eta) and received his master’s and Ph.D. at the University of Texas Austin; named Columbia, South Carolina’s first Poet Laureate, 2015

2016 — Avery Bourne, sworn in at age 23 as a member of the Illinois House of Representatives from the 95th District, alumna of Columbia College (Missouri Epsilon)

2015 — Reuben Ironhorse-Kent, member of the Iowa tribe whose work has appeared at the Smithsonian American Indian Art Museum, alumnus of Peru State University (Nebraska Delta) and the Institute of American Indian Arts (New Mexico Gamma)

2014 — General Tommy Franks, United States four-star general, retired from 38 years active military duty, alumnus of the University of Texas at Arlington (Texas Alpha Theta)

2013 — Leigh Hildebrand, senior assistant parliamentarian to the U.S. Senate, alumna of Westminster College (Missouri Delta)

2011 — Heather Triplett Biehl, former senior political analyst for the CIA, alumna of Westminster College (Missouri Delta)

2009 — Dr. Robert W. Sledge, alumnus of Southwestern University (Texas Alpha), served almost three decades of elective leadership with Alpha Chi

2007 — Dr. Tommy Hewett, AmeriPath Oklahoma City, alumnus of East Central University (Oklahoma Gamma)

2005 — Coleen Rowley, retired FBI agent, alumna of Wartburg College (Iowa Alpha)

2003 — Dr. David B. Clifford, chair of the department of neurology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, alumnus of Southwestern University (Texas Alpha)

2001— Clayton C. Anderson, NASA astronaut and mission specialist, alumnus of Hastings College (Nebraska Alpha)

1999 — Dr. Edwin W. Gaston, Jr., professor emeritus, alumnus of Stephen F. Austin State University (Texas Sigma)

1997 — Dr. Joe Hightower, professor of chemical engineering, Rice University, alumnus of Harding University (Arkansas Eta)

1995 — Dr. Mary W. Gray, professor of mathematics, American University, alumna of Hastings College (Nebraska Alpha)

1993 — Dan Rather, anchor and managing editor, CBS Evening News, alumnus of Sam Houston State University (Texas Omicron)

1991 — Dr. Robert H. Jones, professor of surgery, Duke University Medical Center, alumnus of Harding University (Arkansas Eta)

1989 — Dr. Richard Bieker, professor of economics at Delaware State College, alumnus of Murray State University (Kentucky Alpha)

1987 — Dr. John Michael White, professor of chemistry, University of Texas at Austin, alumnus of Harding University (Arkansas Eta)