FHSU Alumni Association announces Homecoming 2021 honorees


Seven Fort Hays State University alumni will be honored at the Alumni and Friends Awards Banquet on Friday, Oct. 1 during Homecoming. For details on how you can celebrate these award winners during FHSU’s Homecoming week, visit www.FHSUHomecoming.com.

This year’s three Alumni Achievement Award recipients are Dave Fate ’83, Fairview, Texas; Col (Ret) Jerry Stecklein ’65, Colleyville, Texas; and Dr. John Kim ’77, Long Grove, Ill 

The Alumni Achievement Award, the association’s highest recognition of its graduates, was established in 1959 to recognize graduates of the university for outstanding achievement based upon meritorious service to society or the community. The award is based upon career and professional achievements, service involving community betterment and philanthropic activities, and educational achievements.

The Young Alumni Award recipients for 2021 are Regan Ochs Reif ’13, Great Bend; and Dylan Bathurst ’10, Los Angeles, Calif.

The Young Alumni Award is designed to recognize those early in their careers who have had outstanding achievements and recent accomplishments. The award is based on professional and educational achievements, community activities, honors and awards received and other noteworthy items of merit since graduation. Candidates must hold a bachelor’s degree from FHSU, be members of the 10-15-year classes and be under the age of 40 as of Jan. 1 of the year the awards are presented.

This year’s Nita M. Landrum Award goes to Josh Dreher ’09, Hays.

The Nita M. Landrum Award recognizes alumni or friends who have provided sustained volunteer service for the betterment of the Alumni Association and/or FHSU, in their home communities or at any local level.

The Distinguished Service Award goes to Mary Schreiber Porterfield ’68, ’68, ’77, Goodland.

The Distinguished Service Award recognizes individuals who have demonstrated a continuing concern for humanity on a universal, national, state or community level; who support spiritual, cultural and educational objectives; and who endorse and exemplify the highest standards of character and personal attributes. It is reserved for alumni or friends of the university.

Profiles of the 2021 Honorees:


Dave Fate

Dave Fate, a native Kansan from rural Belleville, KS, graduated in 1983 with a B.S. in finance and went on to lead a remarkable career in the commercial finance industry. Currently he is the Chief Executive Officer at Stonebriar Commercial Finance, a company he founded and has led to become the largest independent commercial finance and leasing company in the United States. He began his career in 1983 as a credit analyst with CIT in Wichita. ITT Capital Finance soon lured Fate to the Plano, Texas area where he quickly assumed key leadership roles first with ITT and then as a co-founder of two commercial finance and leasing companies, all of which started from scratch and each with phenomenal growth and success. Transamerica Equipment Finance grew to $3.2B before it was sold, after which AIG Commercial Asset Finance built a $3.5B portfolio before Fate left AIG to form Stonebriar in March, 2015.

Fate currently leads a team of 47 professionals at Stonebriar, ranked #1 by the finance and leasing industry’s leading trade journal in assets, new business volume, and volume per employee. In 2018 Fate was selected from the industry’s most senior leaders for the Monitor’s inaugural MVP award, and Goldman Sachs recognized him as one of 2020’s 100 most intriguing entrepreneurs.  In July of this year he was honored by the christening of a new 3,400 hp push boat, the MV Dave B. Fate by one Stonebriar’s key strategic maritime partners.

Fate has demonstrated the importance of community, education and helping others. He often serves as a mentor and promotes qualified young employees into leadership roles in the industry. One of his favorite projects, First Tee, is an initiative to raise financial support, teach life skills and provide educational opportunities for at-risk youth through golf. He has been a strong Equipment Leasing and Finance Association (ELFA) industry advocate during his career through many service roles and is actively involved in the ELFA’s Emerging Talent and Women’s Counsel initiatives designed to attract, hire, and encourage a diverse pool of current and future leaders with the same opportunities he experienced.

William Farrell, Jr., longtime friend, mentor and one-time boss noted, “Success cannot be measured purely by personal gains, but by the legacy you leave behind. Dave is known as a tremendously smart, hardworking innovative leader who is responsible for the success of four large organizations during the span of his career, but more importantly, he will one day be remembered for his positive impact on the industry as a whole and for his immeasurable contributions to the personal and career success of those around him.” 

Fate lives in Fairview, Texas with his wife, Tasha Fate. They have two children, 26-year-old son Grant and 23-year-old daughter, Jordan.  Both live in Dallas, Texas. 

Col (Ret) Jerry Stecklein

Hays area native, Jerry Stecklein graduated in 1965 with a degree in Business Administration. Following graduation, he volunteered to serve in the U.S. Air Force and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. He attended the USAF Undergraduate Pilot Training program, graduating near the top of his class.

However, his love for flight actually began when he was a 9-year-old boy living on a farm near the small town of Munjor, and his father bought a small plane. Stecklein once recounted, “When we flew to other farms and landed in their pastures, my job was to guard the plane and keep the cows from chewing on it. The airplane was covered with a treated fabric, and they loved eating it.”  This simple experience led to his love of flight, his decision to join the U.S. Air Force and his distinguished career in the military service and related business ventures spanning decades.

Stecklein’s first assignment was as a flight instructor in the Cessna T-37B jet trainer, teaching USAF Academy, College/University USAF ROTC and Officer Training School graduates, and allied student pilots from NATO countries as well as from Saudi Arabia and Iran. He taught them how to fly and perform all aerobatic, instrument, navigation, and formation maneuvering to military standards in jet aircraft operations. He also was an academic instructor, and as President of the Junior Officer’s Council, initiated a program to introduce junior officers to military and civilian leaders, and spearheaded a campaign to make the public aware of the exceedingly inhumane conditions USAF and Navy airmen endured in prison camps after being shot down and captured while flying combat missions in the Vietnam theater of operations.

Stecklein was then selected to fly the RF-4C, Phantom II jet and assigned to Udorn Royal Thai AFB, Thailand, in 1971. He flew 173 combat missions over North and South Vietnam and Laos and earned four awards of the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Force award for heroism and extraordinary achievement in aerial flight, and 14 awards of the USAF Air Medal.

Upon returning to the United States where he continued as a combat-ready pilot, Stecklein fulfilled many roles, including work at the Pentagon where he was responsible for moving USAF flight training activities from actual aircraft flight to flight simulators and then served on Project Checkmate to combat Cold War actions.  He also served in multiple command positions in the US and overseas, including Commander of the USAF’s largest undergraduate pilot training wing. His final assignment was the Assistant Director of Operations of the USAF Air Training Command where he was responsible for all USAF pilot, navigator and space operator training.

Stecklein then transitioned into management and leadership roles in the defense industry, working for a large defense contractor. In the late 1990s, serving as the company’s Director of Engineering Support, he realized a significant aviation training industry need for automated tools to assist flight training managers and improve the quality and safety of commercial flight training.  Unable to convince the company CEO the idea merited the necessary sizeable investment, Stecklein retired from his position and together with three partners started…


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