PITTSBURG - Pittsburg State University will honor three alumni with its 2016 Dr. Kenneth K. Bateman Outstanding Alumni Award during Homecoming activities on Oct. 7 and Oct 8.
The recipients were selected based on their professional achievements and community and organizational involvement. The award recipients will speak to students in various classes on Friday, Oct. 7, and will be introduced at a public reception in their honor at 4:30 p.m. that day in the Wilkinson Alumni Center. They will ride in Saturday’s Homecoming Parade in the morning and will be recognized at the Homecoming football game that afternoon.
This year’s recipients are: Holly Cranston, M.D., a physician in Pittsburg; John Lair, program director with New Hope Services and Special Olympics coach, of Pittsburg; and Father Mike Simone, director of vocations and chancellor of the Catholic Diocese of Wichita.
Holly Cranston earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from PSU in 1998 and a medical degree from the University of Kansas Medical School in 2003. At KU, Cranston received four of the seven awards given at graduation from the Family Medical Residency Program, including the Jack C. Walker Award for the most outstanding resident in family medicine and the research award for the most outstanding family medicine research project. She also completed a year as a fellow in Geriatric Medicine at KU.
Cranston started her medical career in Pittsburg and opened her own private practice and clinic, The Cranston Clinic, in 2007. Today the clinic employs two nurse practitioners and six additional employees.
Cranston’s Medical Board Certified Specialties include family medicine, geriatrics, hospice and palliative care.
Cranston practices at Via Christi Hospital where she has served as chief of the medical staff and on the board. From 2011 until 2013, Cranston was medical director for Via Christi’s Home Health Services and was director for Southern Care Hospice between 2010 and 2012.
Cranston holds memberships in the American Directors Medical Association, the Kansas Academy of Family Physicians and the American Academy of Family Physicians.
Cranston continues to support Pittsburg State and PSU students through her mentorship of students in both the PSU Doctor of Nursing Practice and Pre-Med Programs.
Cranston and her husband, Greg (BS 1996), have two children, Caitlin, who is 11; and Madison, who is 8. They live in Weir.
John Lair earned a bachelor’s degree in recreation from PSU in 1996 and later a master’s degree in recreation from Missouri Southern State University.
Lair began his professional career in Pittsburg at New Horizons, where he worked with adults with intellectual disabilities. New Horizons eventually grew into New Hope Services and Lair transitioned into the role of program director.
In 2001, Lair began the work of establishing a Special Olympics team, which became the New Hope Bulldogs and today serves as a bridge between people with intellectual disabilities and the community. He is a certified coach in 16 team and individual sports and has volunteered more than 2,000 hours for Special Olympics last year alone, all in addition to his full-time job.
In 2015, Lair was selected as powerlifting coach for the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games. In 2011, he was a Special Olympics USA coach at the 2011 World Games in Athens, Greece.
Under Lair’s guidance, New Hope athletes have graduated from Special Olympics’ Global Messenger program, in which they are formally trained in public speaking and advocacy. In addition, a majority of the New Hope athletes are employed in the Pittsburg community, with Lair serving as their volunteer job coach.
Lair also established two nutrition programs for his athletes and has inspired them to improve their daily fitness and nutritional habits.
For his work, Lair has received the highest honor Special Olympics can bestow upon a coach.
Lair and his wife, MeLinda, live in Pittsburg.
Father Michael Simone
Father Michael Simone earned a bachelor’s degree in business, majoring in accounting, in 1996. From 1997 until 2003, he studied at Mount Saint Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Md., earning a master of arts degree in theology and a master’s of divinity in theology. While at Mount Saint Mary’s, Fr. Simone studied Spanish in Cuernavaca, Mexico, gaining advanced proficiency in Spanish.
Fr. Simone was ordained a priest in the Catholic Diocese of Wichita in 2003 and assigned as associate pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Wichita that same year. In 2004, he was assigned assistant director of the Office of Worship in the diocese and later that year assigned vice chancellor of the diocese.
From 2006 until 2008, Fr. Simone studied at the University of St. Thomas Aquino in Urbe in Rome, Italy, earning a spiritual theology license and gaining advanced proficiency in Italian.
In 2008, Fr. Simone was named director of vocations for the Diocese of Wichita, where he is responsible for the formation of seminarian candidates, overseeing the application process of seminary candidates and recruiting and promoting vocations to the Catholic priesthood in the southeastern 25 counties of Kansas.
The diocese of Wichita currently ranks in the top 3 percent nationally for the number of seminarians per capita.
In addition, Fr. Simone serves as the parish administrator of the 1,000-family, bi-lingual St. Anne Parish, with a school of nearly 180 students.
Fr. Simone is the son of Jerry and Carol Simone, Pittsburg.