Supporters Honored at 19th Annual Distinguished Alumni & Service Awards

Posted on March 18, 2024
Amber Day

The University of South Alabama National Alumni Association honored alumni and supporters at the 19th annual Distinguished Alumni & Service Awards. Those recognized were, from left, Travis Bedsole Jr., Dr. Jack DiPalma, Susan Bedsole, Alexis Atkins, Maxey Roberts representing the USA Foundation, Chandra Brown Stewart, John McMillan representing the USA Foundation, Dan Ollis and Peter Lindquist.  data-lightbox='featured'
The University of South Alabama National Alumni Association honored alumni and supporters at the 19th annual Distinguished Alumni & Service Awards. Those recognized were, from left, Travis Bedsole Jr., Dr. Jack DiPalma, Susan Bedsole, Alexis Atkins, Maxey Roberts representing the USA Foundation, Chandra Brown Stewart, John McMillan representing the USA Foundation, Dan Ollis and Peter Lindquist.

The University of South Alabama National Alumni Association honored alumni, scholarship supporters, a USA Health physician and the USA Foundation during the 19th annual Distinguished Alumni & Service Awards gala on March 14 at the MacQueen Alumni Center on campus.

“We are delighted to have the opportunity to recognize the achievements of our alumni, friends and supporters,” said Margaret Sullivan, vice president for development and alumni relations. “These individuals have shown outstanding leadership in their respective career fields, to the University and in their communities.”

The ceremony took place as the USA National Alumni Association celebrates its 50th year.

“The Distinguished Alumni & Service Awards is an opportunity to pause and recognize alumni and friends who are passionate about the University of South Alabama,” said Kim Lawkis, president of the National Alumni Association. “It’s a celebration of both their professional accomplishments and their personal commitment to the success of our University.”

Videos telling each honoree's story were shown at the event. The awardees are:

Distinguished Alumni Award

Dr. Peter J. Lindquist and Richard D. “Dan” Ollis received this year’s Distinguished Alumni Award. 

Lindquist, a Mobile native, earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing in 2006 and master’s in executive nursing administration in 2011, both from the University of South Alabama. He earned a Doctor of Nursing Practice from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the University of Alabama in 2015. Lindquist has shown throughout his career the leadership, service and selflessness that as a student earned him the University of South Alabama’s Spirit of Nursing Award. 

Lindquist serves as chief clinical learning officer for HCA Healthcare and corporate and senior vice president for HealthTrust, PG. He previously served as the division chief nursing executive for the HCA Mid-America, a multi-market healthcare network that spans Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Missouri. Lindquist began his career in multiple roles with Ascension Health, including a stint as chief operating officer/chief nursing officer with Providence Hospital (now part of USA Health) in Mobile.

Near and dear to his heart is Danita’s Children, a charitable organization that cares for orphans and impoverished children in Haiti. Lindquist has served on the Board of Directors since 2014. In 2018, he lived for several months in Ouanaminthe, Haiti, to help oversee construction of an operating room at a 50-bed children’s hospital there. When not caring for patients or phoning U.S. hospital executives to ask for donations of supplies and equipment, he played basketball and soccer with the children. 

“This is a part of the country where no healthcare services like this are offered,” Lindquist said. He cared enough to personally devote countless hands-on hours to filling that need.

Lindquist resides in Nashville, Tennessee.

Ollis joined a Small Business Institute entrepreneurship program at the University of South Alabama, which planted a seed that Ollis nourished into a flourishing creative business. He has now become one of the University’s most active alumni on the West Coast – and one of its biggest football fans.

After earning his degree in accounting in 1980 from South, Ollis became a top salesman for Masland Carpets in Virginia. That earned him a promotion to a position in Los Angeles. It was there he met a Kansas City interior designer named Hal Swanson. They clicked immediately, and Ollis ’s entrepreneurial dreams came true with the creation of Swanson-Ollis Interiors, a highly successful Los Angeles-based interior design firm that includes antiques acquisition and features its own collection of handcrafted home furnishings.

Their work has been featured across the globe and in multiple design houses on the West Coast. Ollis has distinguished himself as a leader in the design industry and has earned a reputation for his exceptional work ethic, innovative thinking and dedication to excellence. It has been profiled in their book “Interior Views – From Classical to Contemporary.”

Ollis has worked to increase the West Coast visibility of the University. In 2022, he and Swanson celebrated the Jaguars’ football game against UCLA with an alumni dinner party at their Los Angeles home featuring University President Jo Bonner.

Reflecting on his journey from those long-ago accounting classes to his current career of making the world more beautiful, one house at a time, Ollis said, “Success lies in how you move forward and create it for yourself.”

Ollis and his partner, Hal Swanson, reside in Los Angeles, California.

Distinguished Service Awards

Katherine Alexis Atkins and Chandra Brown Stewart received this year’s Distinguished Service Award. 

Atkins was a single mother with a full-time job when she enrolled at the University of South Alabama. She had dropped out of college years before to work for her father at Budweiser-Busch Distributing Co. Inc. of Mobile. “I really did not need a degree,” she said, “but it was a personal goal I wanted to accomplish.” 

Atkins earned a degree in human resources in 1997 from South – and she has become one of the University’s greatest advocates. Nominated by a friend to the National Alumni Association Board of Directors, Alexis eventually became president and served on the committee for building the MacQueen Alumni Center. She is now vice chair of the University’s Board of Trustees as well as a member of the Jaguar Athletic Fund Board of Directors and the Mitchell College of Business Executive Advisory Council.

She is a longtime volunteer and past chair of Feeding the Gulf Coast, formerly the Bay Area Food Bank. As co-owner and recently retired vice president of human resources at her family’s business, she credited the employees as “the real secret of our success.”

In short,  Atkins cares, and she gives back. The University of South Alabama, and its students and alumni, have benefited immensely from her active involvement. “I can’t tell you how much I enjoy it,” she said. “My heart is totally into it.” 

Atkins has two children, Kyle and Todd, and she and her husband, Michael, reside in Mobile, Alabama.

Brown Stewart’s career and passion involves helping people, as her 1999 Master of Science in Community Counseling degree from South indicates. In the nearly two decades as executive director of Lifelines Counseling Services in Mobile, she has built an organization that serves tens of thousands of people each year with everything from mental wellness services and crisis response, to credit counseling and social service referrals. Through her leadership, Lifelines Counseling has become one of the most vital non-profit social service organizations in the Gulf Coast region.

Brown Stewart’s expertise in program and organizational planning, organizational development, and infrastructure building has led to documented success in overcoming the challenges of limited resources and financial constraints to design high-quality, cost effective and comprehensive services for the community. She is extremely skilled in building community support, key coalitions and strategic partnerships.

Brown Stewart’s volunteer resume reflects the life of a servant leader. She has devoted countless hours to volunteer organizations both locally and across the state, including the Dora Franklin Finley African American Trail, Housing First, Council Against Violence, the Alabama Contemporary Art Center and the Junior League of Mobile, where she served as president. She proudly serves as a member of the University of South Alabama Board of Trustees. She is a graduate of both Leadership Mobile and Leadership Alabama.

Brown Stewart and her husband, Leonard, live in Mobile.

V. Gordon Moulton Distinguished Service Award

Susan D. and Mr. Travis M. Bedsole Jr. received this year’s V. Gordon Moulton Distinguished Service Award.

Susan and Travis Bedsole have continually demonstrated professional competence, compassion and enthusiasm for young people to achieve their potential through access to education. To this end, they have volunteered a significant amount of time, talent and resources to the University of South Alabama and continue to do so with a true servant’s heart. Travis is a retired attorney and a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve. Susan has nearly 50 years’ experience as an early childhood educator. In 2010, they endowed the Travis M. Bedsole Jr. and Susan D. Bedsole Endowed Scholarship in Education, which goes to a University of South Alabama education major who plays an NCAA sport. In 2014, as a member of the J.L. Bedsole Foundation Distribution Committee, Travis was instrumental in the foundation’s decision to establish the J.L Bedsole Foundation Endowed Scholarship Fund at the University, which was matched by the Mitchell-Moulton Scholarship Initiative.

The Bedsoles strive to foster meaningful connections between the University and the greater community. They facilitate speaking engagements and partnerships and champion the work of the USA Literacy Center, which is a particular favorite of Susan’s. Travis has devoted countless hours of service as a member and Chair of the College of Education and Professional Studies Advisory Council.

“They have been adopted into the Jaguar Family,” said Executive Vice President and Provost Dr. Andi Kent, “and I am confident they will continue to work tirelessly to advance the mission of our University.” 

The Bedsoles have two children, Preston and Edward, and reside in Mobile.

William J. “Happy” Fulford Inspirational Achievement Award

Dr. Jack Anthony DiPalma is the recipient of this year’s “ William J. “Happy” Fulford Inspirational Achievement Award. DiPalma, a native of Brooklyn, New York, arrived in Mobile in 1987 to establish the Division of Gastroenterology at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine. DiPalma established the division’s clinical research program and the gastroenterology fellowship training program. In the classroom, he draws such respect that students bestowed on him the Red Sash teaching award for 13 consecutive years.

DiPalma has been a valuable member of the University’s Frederick P. Whiddon College of Medicine for more than three decades. He has brought national and international acclaim to the University and USA Health as a result of his work and leadership in organizations such as the American College of Gastroenterology, of which he is a former president, and the World Gastroenterology Organization Foundation. Locally, he has served on, and as a leader of, the Board of Censors of the Mobile Medical Society, the Mobile County Board of Health, Leadership Mobile and the Mobile Botanical Gardens. He has been invited to lecture and teach in several countries around the globe.

DiPalma and his wife, Ann, are longtime, multi-sport season ticket holders and generous donors to Jaguar Athletics. In his spare time, he serves as the faculty advisor for the University’s bass fishing team. 

The DiPalmas have two children, Elizabeth and Sister Mary Michael, and reside in Mobile.

Community Partner Award

The recipient of the Community Partner Award is the University of South Alabama Foundation. The Foundation was created in 1968 with its sole purpose being to support the University, its academic programs, faculty and students. Through this support, the USA Foundation has positively impacted not only the South Alabama community, but the entire Gulf Coast region through the education of our citizens and the excellent healthcare options available to our populations.

For more than 55 years, the USA Foundation has supported the University in ways large and small. Since 1990, the USA Foundation has contributed more than $259 million to the University and USA Health. In 2023, the Foundation donated more than a quarter mile of bayfront property as a living laboratory for the Stokes School of Marine and Environmental Sciences. Additionally, this past year, the University broke ground on the new Frederick P. Whiddon College of Medicine, thanks in large part to a $30 million transformational gift from the Foundation.

The USA Foundation’s continual support of students, faculty, academic programs, research and healthcare initiatives plays an even bigger part in making South what it is today. The Foundation funds more than 100 scholarships every year and has contributed more than $27.9 million for scholarships in total. It supports 37 professorships every year, for a total of more than $86.3 million. It has provided more than $145.4 million for academic programs.

The USA Foundation has devoted itself to building a stronger Gulf Coast by strengthening the impact of the University of South Alabama and supporting the surrounding community. The Foundation embodies the qualities of a community partner through their commitment to the education of our region’s citizens and the healthcare needs of our population.

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