MBU honors outstanding alumni

Recipients of MBU’s 2013 Outstanding Alumni Awards pose for a photo Nov. 7 after receiving their awards during the 2013 Homecoming Chapel. Pictured, from left, are Erin and Rick Chamness (’04), Gary Hoelzer (’01) Melissa (Gowen) Payton (’04), Steven Zabriski (’75) and Paulo Ribeiro (’08, ’09, ’12).


In conjunction with Homecoming 2013, Missouri Baptist University’s Alumni Association honored outstanding alumni who have made a significant impact in their communities and made efforts to improve society.

Honorees were selected by the Alumni Board of Governors and recognized at MBU’s Alumni Chapel service, which was held Nov. 7.

2013 Educator of the Year

Paulo Ribeiro is an award-winning educator and a three-time graduate of MBU, holding his Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology, Master of Arts in Teaching, and Educational Specialist in Curriculum & Instruction. In addition, he is a current doctoral student. He teaches Health and Physical Education at Southwest Middle School in the Parkway School District. Paulo is a 2009 recipient of the MBU Service Award and a 2012 Recipient of the Missouri Gold Exemplary Physical Education Award. Paulo left his home country of Brazil to attend MBU. While completing his degrees, he participated in the Men’s Soccer program and worked for Campus Operations.”2013 Distinguished Alumni Award

2013 Outstanding Young Alumni Award

Melissa (Gowen) Payton graduated from MBU in 2003 with a bachelor of music degree in vocal performance.  Recently, she has been seen in Union Avenue Opera’s productions of Il trovatore, Otello, Pirates of Penzance, Turandot, and Madama Butterfly.  Melissa continues to perform as an oratorio soloist for many St. Louis-area churches, choruses, and orchestras, including Masterworks Chorale, The St. Louis Philharmonic, and The Bach Society of St. Louis, where she held served as a Soprano Young Artist for five years and now is a Principal Singer. She continues to maintain a private voice studio at Mozingo Music and most recently accepted a new position as the Executive Director of the Bach Society of Saint Louis.

2013 Outstanding Young Alumni Award

Rick and Erin (Lenihan) Chamness graduated from MBU in 2004. They became close friends during their time at MBU and both majored in Religious Studies. After graduation in 2004, Rick went on to study at Southern Baptist Seminary and Erin moved to Taipei, Taiwan to teach English as a Second Language and do missions with a local church. In 2007, Rick joined his friend Erin in Taipei; the two became engaged and were married in 2008. Currently Rick and Erin are still living in Taipei, Taiwan. Erin is an education administrator for over six English schools and Rick is starting a new business venture in higher education consulting, and they are both involved in ministry in their church in Taipei.

2013 Service to the University Award

Steven Zabriski is a 1975 graduate of what was then Missouri Baptist College. He was very involved in the Student Government Association and served as President of the Association his junior and senior year. Between his junior and senior years, the college experienced a time of financial setbacks. Steven worked over that entire summer to secure additional financial support for the school. He was awarded the Campus Service Award in 1974 due to his work in this position. Since graduation, he has continued to support Missouri Baptist University by providing significant financial resources and steadfast support. Steven lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife Cathy. They have 2 children and a son-in-law, 2 step-sons and a daughter-in-law, and a grandson.  He works for Polycom, Inc, where he has been for 18 years, as a Senior Product Manager in the interactive videoconferencing group.

2013 Distinguished Alumni Award

Gary Hoelzer is the City Administrator for Town and Country, Mo., overseeing the daily operations of the City. He served 32 years in policing and has taught at the undergraduate and graduate level at MBU since 2007. Gary has had numerous articles published on criminal justice and organizational leadership topics and is currently part of the teaching team for the St. Louis area Leadership Project sponsored by the St. Louis Area Police Chiefs Association, the U.S. Attorneys Office and St. Louis University. He has been married to MBU alum, Shari Ann, for 32 years and they have four children.