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University of Central Missouri
Warrensburg, MO 64093
Contact: Jeff Murphy
WARRENSBURG, MO (Oct. 5, 2009) –UCM alumni who have used their knowledge and skills to benefit the national sports media, fight the war on terrorism, and to clean up one of the nation’s most toxic radioactive waste sites will be honored as UCM Distinguished Alumni Friday, Oct. 9. Part of the annual Homecoming celebration, the 2009 Distinguished Alumni Dinner begins at 6:30 p.m. in the Elliott Union ballroom following a reception at 5:30 p.m.
Honorees are Distinguished Alumni Award recipients Bryan Burns, vice president, strategic business planning and development for ESPN, Bristol, CT, and Robert L. Buhrkuhl, Ph.D., retired director of financial management and comptroller, United States Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base, Tampa, FL. Also to be honored is Distinguished International Alumnus Charles Olaiya, Sc.D., senior industrial hygienist at the U.S. Department of Energy Savannah River Site, Office of Safety Quality Assurance, Aiken, SC.
Since his graduation from the UCM in 1972 with a bachelor’s degree in communication, Burns has taken what he considers the “ultimate on-the-job” training as a student in the university’s public relations and sports information areas to become an executive in the sports media industry. Having spent his early years after college working for organizations such as the Kansas City Royals and Major League Baseball, he joined ESPN in 1996, after serving the organization as a client at his New York City-based consulting firm, The Paragon Alliance. Since 2000, he has provided leadership in strategic planning and development for ESPN, where he has been responsible for the creation of a wide variety of ESPN television productions, including ESPN Today, ESPN Now, ESPN Full Court, MLS/ESPN Shootout for Major League Soccer, and ESPN Extra. He was an integral part of the creation of the business planning for ESPN HD in 2002 and ESPN2 HD in 2005, two services that propelled the organization into high definition television years ahead of its competitors. Such efforts contributed to his induction into the Academy of Digital Television Pioneers, and being recognized three times by CableFAX Daily as one of “Cable’s 100 Heavy Hitters.”
Burns’ career includes 16 years in Major League Baseball, seven of which were spent as senior vice president, business operations for the Office of the Commissioner, where his responsibilities included handling worldwide television operations and overseeing special events such as the World Series, League Championship Series, and the All-Star Game. He was director of broadcasting for the Kansas City Royals, 1974-1983.
Robert L. Buhrkuhl
Now retired and residing in Warson Woods, MO, Buhrkuhl helped to fight the war on terrorism by expediting billions of dollars in critical supplies to military troops. He graduated from UCM in 1969 with a bachelor’s degree in law enforcement and political science, having served as ROTC cadet corps commander and being recognized as a Distinguished Military Graduate. He obtained a master’s degree in business administration from the university in 1971, and went on to earn a doctorate at St. Louis University in 1980.
Buhrkuhl served 21 years in the U.S. Army Reserve and attained the rank of colonel. He served in a number of progressive positions with the military, most recently becoming director of financial management and comptroller for the United States Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base, Tampa, FL, in 2007. In that capacity, he was directly responsible for five subordinate command comptroller organizations; $8.4 billion in funding; a broad range of missions including preparing, submitting, and defending budget submissions and supporting products; analyzing the execution of the command’s funding; and advising the U.S. Special Operations Command, Theater Special Operations Commanders, and Component Commanders on all financial management matters. In 2004, he began working at the Pentagon as the first director of the Joint Rapid Acquisition Cell. He reported to the Secretary of Defense through the Undersecretary of Defense, leading a team of 26 general officers, admirals, and senior executive officers. They were responsible for ensuring that U.S. commanders who engaged in combat, the military departments, and other defense agencies were rapidly equipped with state-of-the-art technology. They streamlined the normal lengthy acquisition process to successfully address war-fighting needs.
Olaiya is an environmental health scientist who has contributed to improved safety conditions associated with the cleanup of hazardous waste at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Hanford Site in Richland, WA, as well as the DOE Savannah River Site in Aiken, SC. Currently a resident of Riverdale, GA, he grew up in Nigeria,and went on the study in the U.S., first earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration and industrial management at The University of Texas-San Antonio in 1990, then a master’s degree in industrial hygiene from Central Missouri in 1993. He followed up with a doctorate in 2006 from Tulane University in New Orleans. His dissertation at Tulane provided break-through research on the removal of chromium from nuclear waste, a process which is pending patent approval and expected to save the DOE an estimated $2 billion. In addition, his work in this area also led to his receiving the department’s Exceptional Services Award.
Olaiya began working two years ago as an industrial hygienist and environmental health scientist in the Office of Safety and Quality Assurance DOE Savannah River Site. Before moving to the Southeast, he dedicated more than 14 years at Hanford, a site where plutonium was developed for nuclear weapons used during World War II and later during the Cold War. While at Hanford, he worked in the area of health risk assessment, industrial hygiene, occupational health medical monitoring and construction safety. He also was a tank waste remediation industrial hygienist, health risk assessment specialist, and occupational health and safety program manager for the Hanford High-Level Waste Tank Farms.
Wanting to help fellow Africans and inner-city youth in America, he started a scholarship at UCM in honor of his mother, Alice Fayemi Olaiya.