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COEHS Dean Erskine Smith and Kenneth Kutska
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COEHS Dean Erskine Smith and Mary Vacala
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COEHS Dean Erskine Smith and Veronica Moore
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COEHS at WIU Honors Alumni at Sept. 29 Luncheon

October 13, 2017

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MACOMB, IL – Three Western Illinois University alumni were honored at the College of Education and Human Services (COEHS) Alumni Celebration Friday, Sept. 29.

Ken Kutska (Bradenton, FL) received the Lifetime Achievement Award; Mary Vacala (Savannah, GA) received the Distinguished Alumni Award; and Veronica Moore (Philadelphia, PA) received the Young Alumni Award.

Kenneth Kutska

Kutska is the retired executive director of International Playground Safety Institute, LLC in Bradenton, FL. He earned his bachelor's degree from WIU in 1971 in recreation, park and tourism administration (RPTA).

During his 40-year leadership career, 31 years were spent as the director of parks and planning for the Wheaton Park District, with his area of expertise being management of play spaces for children. Kutska also became an active public speaker, expert witness and independent consultant. He volunteers for various organizations and has written numerous articles on play and playground-related issues.

During Kutska's employment with the Wheaton Park District, the office received the National Recreation and Park Association National Gold Medal Award for Excellence four times. This award can only be applied for every five years.

Kutska is a strong advocate for playground safety for children, conducting training sessions across the country, and he serves on several governmental committees on playground safety. He also developed a playground safety manual and has also authored and co-authored several books.

To be eligible for the Lifetime Achievement Award, nominees must have graduated from an undergraduate or graduate major within COEHS; have an exceptional record in a particular career discipline; made outstanding contributions in their field of expertise; an outstanding record of distinguished service, and a significant record of service/contribution to WIU.
Mary Vacala

Vacala is currently the co-owner and a physician assistant at Urgent Care of Berwick in Savannah, GA. She also serves at Chatham Orthopedics, conducting patient evaluation and management and coverage of high school and college sporting events.

She earned her bachelor's in health, physical education/athletic training from Western in 1979 and her master's degree in exercise physiology and adapted physical education in 1980. She became a physician assistant in 1988, after graduating from Alderson-Broaddus College in West Virginia and receiving her specialization in orthopedic surgery from the University of Nebraska in 2001. She was also an assistant professor at Western form 1979-80.

Vacala has served in numerous academic and medical appointments, including as department chair and program director of the South University physician assistant program and director of the Alderson-Broaddus College sports medicine program. She is also a guest lecturer on athletic training and wellness, nutrition and supplementation.

Recently, Vacala served as an athletic trainer for the U.S. Men's Paralympic Basketball Team in 2016 and traveled to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil with the team. Vacala was also the medical director for the U.S. Paralympics' women's basketball team in 2000 and traveled to the games in Sydney, Australia and four years later in Athens, Greece. In addition, she has done athletic training with numerous World Cup and Olympic teams.

To be eligible for the Distinguished Alumni award, nominees must have graduated from an undergraduate or graduate major within COEHS; achieved recognition for outstanding definable career accomplishments; made outstanding contributions in their field of expertise; a record of distinguished service and some level of service/contribution to WIU.

Veronica Moore

Moore is currently director of educational programs for Delta Upsilon Fraternity in Indianapolis, IN and director of emerging and culturally-based fraternal initiatives for the North American Fraternity Conference (NIC). She graduated with her master's degree in higher education administration/college student personnel from Western in 2007.

Recently, Moore was the associate director for student activities at Temple University, assisting with recruitment, selection, training, supervising and evaluating full-time staff and graduate externs within the main campus office. She also had oversight of all departmental programming budgets.

After her graduation from Western, Moore was the assistant director of fraternity and sorority affairs at Lehigh University. She was also an instructor in a Greek leadership course at Western in 2007 and served as a group dynamics facilitator in 2006.

Moore was awarded the 2014 Delta Upsilon Interfraternalism Award, which recognizes an individual, or group of individuals, whose efforts have advanced the fraternal movement. 

In addition to her work with Delta Upsilon, Moore is a consultant and guest lecturer. She is also a board member for the Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors from 2011-2017 and president from 2015-2017, serving as the first African American president in the history of the organization.

To be eligible for the Young Alumni Award, nominees must have graduated from an undergraduate or graduate major within COEHS; definable career accomplishments; made contributions in their field of expertise; a record of distinguished service; graduated within the last 10 years of the award date and preferably some level of service/contribution to WIU.

For more information about the COEHS awards, contact Dana Moon at

Posted By: Sydney Young (
Office of University Relations