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Alumni honored for accomplishments and service

President William R. Duffy II and Sharon Duffy congratulated alumni award winners (l-r) Lowell Tiedt '71, Service to Community; Col. (Ret.) James Richardson '81, Service to Country; Dano Grayson '10, Emerging Alumni. Urmilah Dass '03, Professional Accomplishment, and Shankar Thiruchelvam '03, Service to University, were unable to attend the recent Alumni and Awards Luncheon, which also recognized the UIU Class of 1964 for their 50th reunion.

Upper Iowa University (UIU) honored five alumni as part of the recent Alumni and Awards Luncheon held during the 2015 Homecoming celebration. In addition, special recognition was provided to the UIU Class of 1964 as they returned to the Fayette campus for their 50th reunion.

President William R. Duffy II presented the 2015 alumni awards to the following honorees for their accomplishments, either professionally, as an emerging alumni or through service to the University, community, or country:

Urmilah Dass ’03 of Bukit Setiawangsa, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, was presented the Professional Accomplishment Award. Dass is credited for establishing Valley Psychological Services (previously known as Medic Valley Specialists) in 2006 and quickly gained a reputable name among her clients and peers. She sees individual clients from all ages, couples and families.

Dass is the first clinical psychologist to kick off the Sensory Motor Instructional Learning Experience (S.M.I.L.E.) program for children with special needs at Hospital Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (HUKM), which was an unqualified success. She was also part of the multi-disciplinary team that ran the Obesity Clinic for children and adolescents.

Upon completion of her post-graduate training, Urmilah worked with refugees, the UNHCR and other NGOs at Medecins Sans Frontieres (Belgium chapter) in Kuala Lumpur. Her duties included conducting training for NGOS and providing supportive therapy for refugees at MSF clinics as well as at the Semenyih Detention Camp.

As a consultant clinical psychologist, her service also extend to patients and clients of Prince Court Medical Centre. While she provides a similar service to the Centre as in her private practice, Dass works side by side with a multidisciplinary team from various departments such as gynecology, rehabilitative medicine, neurology, cardiology, etc. In addition, she conducts talks and training for the Centre’s corporate clients.

Dass lectures at the HELP-CAT University College. Her psychology undergraduates deeply appreciate her vast experience in the field of psychology as she facilitates their knowledge and understanding in academic theories by involving them in “hands-on” experiences.

Dass has a natural calling when it comes to contributing her time and skill to humanitarian and social causes. She has been actively involved in a multitude of voluntary works from providing psychological services to women and children in homes and shelters to assessing mental health of refugees, including traveling with Mercy Malaysia to Bam, Iran, after the devastating earthquake there in 2004. While in Bam, she set up the Milk & Cookies Project to help get young children off the streets and into make-shift classrooms.

Dano Grayson ’10 of Phoenix, Ariz., is the 2015 recipient of the UIU Emerging Alumni Award. Grayson has fully utilized his artistic skills as a freelance wildlife/nature photographer since earning his bachelor’s degree in life science at Upper Iowa University.

Grayson was the Amazon Aid Foundation’s Artist of the Month in June 2012. He has worked on research projects in Peru and Ecuador, where he photographed and categorized wildlife in the Amazon rain forest. Some of his work has also been used by National Geographic.

A featured alumnus in a peer-to-peer publication for the Division (now the School) of Science & Mathematics, he has exhibited pieces of his photography at the UIU Bing Davis Gallery. In addition, Grayson provided a presentation on his work during Homecoming 2013.

Working with UIU Advancement and the School of Science & Mathematics to develop a calendar of nature photography to be sold by UIU, Grayson donated the proceeds to the School of Science & Mathematics Churbuck Dean’s Fund.

Shankar Thiruchelvam ’03 of Taman Cheras Permata, Selangor, Malaysia, was honored for his Service to University. Thiruchelvam has over 10 years of experience as a corporate trainer, clinical psychologist, counselor and lecturer. He received his bachelor’s degree in psychology from UIU and completed his master’s in counseling psychology at University Malaya. Currently, he is pursuing a Ph.D.

A consultant and corporate trainer whose focus is on delivering specific results and practical solutions to problems, Shankar uses case studies and group discussions of world class companies to learn from and benchmark against the very best.

Thiruchelvam’s areas of expertise include conflict resolution, effective business English communication, marketing strategies, call center/accent neutralization training techniques, effective telephone skills, team building, customer relationship management, excellent customer service, handling difficult customers & complaints, leadership & management skills, interpersonal & communication skills and self-awareness.

Apart from corporate training, Thiruchelvam lectures in the area of behavioral science, psychology, conflict management and counseling in various educational establishments in Kuala Lumpur and UIU-Malaysia. He also serves as a business consultant to firms and agencies in and around the Klang Valley, providing advice and acumen on business developmental activities, company growth strategies and public relations.

Thiruchelvam is rated as the best instructor by students on a yearly basis at UIU-Malaysia. He also provides internship placement for UIU students, who are then exposed to a full-fledged mental health rehabilitation unit dealing with psychiatric conditions and dysfunctions. This allows interns to be exposed to testing, assessment and therapeutic dynamics. The interns sit in and observe group therapy session and also talk to patients and become aware of their concerns.

Lowell Tiedt ’71 was recognized for his Service to Community. The Anamosa man graduated from Upper Iowa University with a bachelor’s degree in physical education/elementary education. In addition to serving over 32 years with Cedar Rapids Community Schools, the retiree served nearly 39 years with the Iowa Army National Guard. The longtime educator is a past president of Anamosa Community Schools.

A 15-year member of the Iowa Foundation for Agricultural Advancement, Tiedt also served 15 years as the Iowa State Fair 4-H Beef superintendent.

The UIU alumni representative’s community service is also recognized in Jones County, where he has served a combined 68 years as Great Jones County Fair president, and as a member of the Jones County Land Use Board, Jones County Extension Board, Jones County Youth Committee Board, and Jones County Cattlemen Association.

 Col. (Ret.) James Richardson ’81 was bestowed the Service to Country Award for demonstrating exceptional achievement in a professional career related to military service.

Col. Richardson is a 2002 graduate of the U.S. Army War College. He ultimately retired in 2007 at the rank of colonel. Residing in Plant City, Fla., he continues to serve his nation as a counter-terrorism specialist at U.S. Central Command. He is also an active member of Upper Iowa’s Military and Veteran’s Service Center initiative.

Col. Richardson enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves in 1979 while a student at Upper Iowa University. As part of the Mariana Boat Lift in 1980, he was federalized to assist in moving Cuban refugees to Fort McCoy, Wis., for which he was awarded the Humanitarian Service Medal.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in biology at UIU, “J.R.” was commissioned in the Army Corps of Engineers in 1981. He served seven years as a combat engineer in Europe. In 1988, then Captain Richardson transferred into the U.S. Army’s Special Operations Command, where he would spend the remainder of his 28-year military career. His military service included two combat deployments in Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm and Operation Joint Forge, respectively.

Col. Richardson’s awards and decorations include the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, Joint Meritorious Service Medal, Marine Corps Combat Action Ribbon, two campaign medals, multiple unit citations, U.S. Army Master Parachutist badge, as well as parachutist badges from eight foreign nations.

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