Indiana State University Newsroom

2015 Distinguished Alumni announced

September 1, 2015

The Indiana State University Alumni Association will recognize Sam Dixon, '72; Ava Gore, '74, GR '82; Frances Reece Kepner, '41; and Jerry Reel, '60, with its Distinguished Alumni Awards for 2015. The awards will be presented Oct. 16 as part of the university's Homecoming.

Dixon, a Mississippi native, was prime minister of the Black Student Union at State, a key figure in the 1969 takeover of the university's administration building and chief author of a list of demands concerning the teaching of black history. He considers his roles in the development of the Charles E. Brown African-American Cultural Center and the African-American studies program to be his proudest achievements.

Upon graduating from Indiana State with a bachelor's degree in social studies, Dixon taught at Malcolm X University in Chicago and Indiana University before embarking on an 18-year career as chief bailiff in Marion County Superior Court in Indianapolis. He was intake director of the county's drug treatment diversion program and a charter member of the Indiana Association of Drug Court Professionals. Since then, he has returned to his roots as an educator. He teaches at Highland Junior High School in Anderson and also coaches boys' basketball.

Upon completion of her master's degree in criminology, Gore was the first Indiana State graduate hired by the U.S. Marshals Service and quickly moved up the ladder becoming the first female instructor, first female inspector and first female gun-carrying chief deputy marshal in the agency's history. She earned recognition from the International Association of Women Police and the Marshals Service for her contributions to the National Asset Seizure and Forfeiture Program and Witness Security Program. She also earned accolades from the Miami-Dade Chiefs of Police Organization, Kiwanis Club of Mobile, Ala., and Indiana State's chapter of Lambda Alpha Epsilon American Criminal Justice Association.

After her retirement from law enforcement, Gore taught music and science at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Catholic School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. She now volunteers much of her time at the school in a substitute and administrative capacity.

The youngest daughter of Indiana State graduates Raymond and Clara Applegate Reece, Kepner attended the Indiana State Lab School and later enrolled in the university, where he father served for 30 years as a professor of history. While most of her classmates prepared for teaching careers, Kepner aspired to become a librarian. After completing a Bachelor of Arts at Indiana State, she earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in library science from the University of Michigan and worked as a manuscripts librarian at Michigan's prestigious William L. Clements Library of American History, where she catalogued rare original papers from the Colonial and Revolutionary War periods.

When her husband enrolled at The Ohio State University following World War II, she joined him in moving to Trumbull County, Ohio, where they worked to restore a small, neglected family farm. When a car crash left her husband paralyzed, Kepner put her career on hold to serve as his caregiver while raising the couple's two young sons and managing the farm. She returned to academia as head librarian at Thiel College in Pennsylvania and, for 22 years, in Indiana State's library, serving from the Normal Hall days to the current Cunningham Memorial Library. Kepner will be recognized posthumously. Her sons, Lee and Ray, are third generation Indiana State graduates who have honored their parents by establishing a scholarship in their name and will be accepting their mother's award.

When Reel left his family's home in Wheatland, Ind. to study biology and chemistry at Indiana State, he intended to become a high school teacher, but his plans changed when his faculty advisor encouraged him to pursue a Ph.D. Upon graduation from Indiana State, he completed master's and doctoral degrees from the University of Illinois and completed two years of postdoctoral research in biochemistry at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. He went on to a 39-year career in the field, working with two pharmaceutical companies, one not-for-profit research institute and three contract research laboratories.

Reel is a retired vice president of reproductive endocrinology and toxicology at Bioqal and is the holder five patents, including the "morning after" pill. His philanthropic support of the university includes the Center for Genomic Advocacy and the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience. He and his wife also established the Jerry and Joan Reel Scholarship Endowment.

Photo: - Sam Dixon

Photo: - Ava Gore

Photo: - Frances Kepner

Photo: - Jerry Reel

Contact: Hilary Duncan, assistant director, Indiana State University Alumni Association, 812-514-8453 or