UF Alumni Association to Bestow Awards to Exceptional Individuals
World-renowned horseman, trainer, and former UF equestrian instructor Dan Huss will be named a Distinguished Alumnus for his extraordinary training and performance contributions to the equestrian world.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in western equestrian studies and science in 1983, graduating summa cum laude, and has gone on to successfully compete at the international level and train hundreds, including lauded equestrians such as Meri Marsh ’03, M ’16 (UF’s Equestrian Studies and Equine Management director) and National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) judge Nick Baar ’02.
In 2018, Huss, riding Ms Dreamy, was part of the Team USA reining squad that won gold during the World Equestrian Games, and he won a silver in individual competition. Huss and Ms Dreamy’s Senior Reining finals run at the American Quarter Horse Association World Championship Show has become legendary. He has been a finalist in every major NRHA event in the U.S., and is currently an NRHA judge and clinician.
After working at his alma mater for 19 years, Huss and wife Wendy, a 1986 UF graduate, trained for Double Run Farms in North Carolina. Subsequent work included training for non pro rider Jose Vasquez in Chicago, and at Even Odd Farms where they established their own training barn. Huss helped form the legacies of NRHA Hall of Fame stallions Wimpys Little Step and Smart Like Juice.
The couple now owns and operates Huss Performance Horses based in Scottsdale, Arizona, where Huss uses the compartmentalized training process he developed at Findlay to instruct top level non pros, derby, youth riders, and greenhorn riders. The business also offers sale prep of 2-year-olds and older for private sales or auctions.
Earl W. DeLong
The Gold Medallion Award will be presented in honor of the late Earl W. DeLong. This honor is posthumously bestowed to alumni who had superb records of distinguished career accomplishments and had made outstanding contributions to their profession, to their university, and/or to their community, but who had not been appropriately recognized by the University prior to their deaths.
DeLong died in October 2017. He had graduated from Findlay College in 1948 with a Bachelor of Science in commerce and history, and a teaching certificate, and expressed appreciation for the education he received as a returning World War II veteran. He served in the U.S. Air Force as a radio operator in Korea.
He was a co-founder of Clinton Heights Golf Course near Tiffin, Ohio in 1956. Within a few years, he became sole owner and operated the business until he sold it in 2003.
The DeLongs, including wife, Gladys, are known for their generosity in supporting building projects on UF’s campus over the years. In 2013, they created a $1 million unrestricted gift to UF through a joint charitable gift annuity. In 2012, the DeLong Creativity and Presentation Room was established in Old Main, and the couple contributed to the 2013 renovation of Egner Center for the Performing Arts’ lobby, making possible new handicap-accessible restrooms.
In 2013, the DeLongs also established the first Oiler Promise unrestricted endowed scholarship through The Findlay Fund, and they endowed a visiting executive lectureship for the College of Business.
George M. Whitson
George M. Whitson will receive the Arch Award, which is presented to a member of the University of Findlay community who has demonstrated loyalty and support of the institution for at least 25 years, and who does not hold a UF degree.
A successful businessman and community leader, Whitson has served on UF’s Board of Trustees since 1992. In 1991, he became a Distinguished Associate of the University of Findlay. Whitson remains a strong UF proponent and ambassador whose vision and guidance have helped countless students attain meaningful careers and lives of service.
Whitson graduated from East Lansing High School in Michigan and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration from Michigan State University. He also served in the U.S. Army Military Police Corps at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where he was a military police operations instructor.
He then became a real estate salesman and broker, and later joined Marathon Oil Company as a real estate representative and manager, serving in Lansing, Detroit, and Findlay. In 1965, he established his own development company that buys, sells, leases, and develops Northwest Ohio land. Whitson has been responsible for many major regional land developments, including commercial property west of I-75 in recent years.
Whitson’s community service activities also include serving as Findlay area chairman of the Ohio Foundation of Independent Colleges and Universities; and as a board member for the Public Broadcasting Foundation of Northwest Ohio, Winebrenner Theological Seminary, Hancock County Chamber of Commerce, and Findlay Development Board.
He and Mrs. Whitson live in Findlay, and are devoted to their five children and their grandchildren.
Lt. Col. Kathleen Cannon
Retired Lieutenant Colonel Kathleen Cannon, a decorated U.S. Army veteran who served as a pilot and Foreign Area Officer, and is a 1987 graduate of Findlay College, will be named a Distinguished Alumna for her outstanding military service.
Cannon earned a bachelor’s degree in equestrian management with help from a U.S. Army ROTC scholarship. She was able to become commissioned as a Second Lieutenant and serve 12 years in Germany, Korea, and the United States as a Blackhawk helicopter pilot, platoon leader, and company commander.
She was selected to become an Army Foreign Area Officer, and studied Mandarin Chinese at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, along with graduating from Harvard University with a master’s degree in East Asian studies. Cannon went on to work as an advisor on China strategic security issues for the Department of Defense, as a China military analyst, and as the Army attaché in Hong Kong. She also served combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and is a Legion of Merit award recipient.
In 2012, Cannon retired from 25 years of Army service at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and returned to her passion of horse riding. She is currently competing in eventing at the regional and national levels, and is earning a financial services master’s degree at Saint Joseph’s University.
Jim Steffen will be named a Distinguished Alumnus for inspiring others to improve and maintain their health through fitness.
Steffen played basketball for the Oilers and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in physical education from the University in 1994. He has gone on to use his knowledge and skills as an athlete and personal trainer to motivate others to start and continue a fit lifestyle.
Currently the owner of XT Fitness in Findlay, Steffen formerly worked as a personal trainer at two of the top-rated health clubs in the country: East Bank Club in Chicago and Frog’s Gym in San Diego.
After realizing the challenges facing all overweight individuals, Steffen’s mission became motivating people to start a healthy eating and exercise lifestyle, and showing people that fitness can be fun. With more than 30 years of experience in fitness and wellness, he has trained everyone from professional athletes to young children to senior citizens, helping to guide them toward making fitness a part of their lives. He is known as “America’s Fun Fitness Coach.”
Steffen has delivered numerous motivational presentations to many students at primary, middle, and high schools, colleges, corporations, military facilities, sports teams, organizations, and churches. He has appeared on “Live! With Regis and Kelly,” “The Jay Leno Show,” ESPN’s “SportsNation,”and is a two-time competitor on the popular fitness challenge American Ninja Warrior.
He is the author of “Fun Fitness for Families” and a co-author of “Unleash Your Greatness,” and has hosted his own show called “Findlay Fitness” on University of Findlay TV (UFTV).
Jane McCleary, former Hancock County Schools Curriculum and Instruction director, will be named a Distinguished Alumna for having a profoundly positive impact on youth through her exceptional career as an educator.
McCleary first earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from UF in 1973 before going on to earn a master’s in administration and supervision from University of Dayton. She received certification in gifted education from the Ohio Department of Education in 1997, and prior to becoming a director, worked as a reading teacher, an English and language arts teacher, and a middle school science teacher.
During her more than 20-year career at Cory-Rawson Local Schools, McCleary was the recipient of the Ohio Conservation Education State Teacher of the Year award in 1996, established the school’s first gifted program, and served on the Gifted Education Task Force. She also co-developed a highly successful inter-county language arts enrichment program, the Cory-Rawson English Festival, for students in grades 5-8.
As part of her work with Hancock County Schools, she supervised the Hancock County Gifted Education Program, received professional development grants totaling over $600,000 for the schools, and developed and implemented a multi-county high school marine science program which culminated in in-depth field studies of fresh water and various marine environments in the county.
Outside of her career, she has most recently been serving as Grant Committee chairperson for the Handbags That Help philanthropic organization, whose mission is “to build strong families.” She is or has been a Mazza Museum docent, a Hancock County United Way volunteer grant reader, a board member and president of the Blanchard River Watershed Partnership, and a Findlay/Hancock Community Foundation grant reader for Hancock Reads.
Jack Mendes will receive a Distinguished Alumnus Award for his success in business innovations and for his noteworthy contributions to aviation safety.
Mendes graduated from then Findlay College in 1973 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and has been at the forefront of creating and supplying games for the amusement/theme park/arcade industry.
Starting before he graduated and continuing to the present day, Mendes has worked for Bob’s Space Racers Inc., the world’s largest manufacturer of custom games for customers such as Disney, Universal, Six Flags, Busch Gardens, Cedar Point, and more. As a seller and servicer of gaming equipment to customers in roughly 120 countries, BSR employs 200-plus employees and owns 21 U.S. patents, with Mendes named inventor or co-inventor of more than half of them. BSR’s most recognized product is the game and social icon called Whac-A-Mole. He is currently the president of BSR Group LLC, a management division of the company.
Mendes is an airline transport pilot CFII Certified Instrument Flight Instructor who has been flying for 36 years. He was selected by the Federal Aviation Administration as an Air Safety Counselor/FAASTeam Representative, and organizes monthly aviation safety seminars and educational programs on aviation safety.
He has received many awards from and served on the Board of Directors and as an Executive Finance Committee member for the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA). He is also a founding member of the IAAPA manufacture and supplier committee 1994 to 2013 and 2015 to present.