The Professor Raymond W. Bixler Award

The Professor Raymond W. Bixler Award recognizes excellence in education. It may be given to a member of the Ashland University faculty, regardless of his or her alma mater, or to an Ashland University alumnus/alumna who has achieved distinction at any level in education.


Kathleen Richey-Walton, `78

Kathy received her Bachelor of Science degree from Ashland and Masters of Arts degree from the University of Iowa. As a student at Ashland, she was a member of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, the Board of Governors and the Black Student Union. In her senior year she was named the MVP of the Lacrosse Team, MVP of the Field Hockey team and was the Outstanding Physical Education major.

Kathy has taught in the public schools of DeKalb County in Decatur, Georgia since the Fall of 2000. Since arriving in the public school system, she has received numerous recognitions: the Garland F. Pinholster High School Coach of the Year (2008, 2010); BCA (Black Coaches and Administrators) National High School Coach of the Year (2009); the Bobby Cremins State Coach of the Year (2009); Teacher of the Year (2009) for GAHPERD (Georgia Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance), as well as the Southwest DeKalb High School Teacher of the Year (2014).

Coach Walton was inducted into Southwest DeKalb Athletic Hall of Fame (2018); Slippery Rock University Athletic Hall of Fame (2019); and her hometown, Bellefontaine High School Hall of Fame (1996). In 2021, the basketball court at Southwest DeKalb High School was named in her honor, recognizing the five state championships she and her teams won.

In 1991, Kathy trained the Niger National Women’s Basketball team, and then served as the Envoy for the Niger Olympic Team during the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta. She was also the Assistant Project Director for “The Olympic Woman: A Curriculum for Georgia Middle School Students” as well as coaching with USA Basketball in 2005, 2010 and 2018.

Kathy currently resides in Decatur, Georgia, with her husband, William, and has three children, Richey, Stephan, and Sydnee.



Mark Smithberger earned three degrees from Ashland University: his undergraduate degree in Integrated Social Studies, Master’s degree in Education Administration, and his doctoral degree in Educational Leadership. Mark’s teaching career began at Berkshire High School, and later, Bay High School and Strongsville High School. In 2019, he was named principal at Berea-Midpark High School. Throughout his career, Dr Smithberger has been recognized for his work; most recently receiving the 2019 Ohio Association of Secondary School Administrators Ohio Principal of the Year. He serves on the Telesis Advisory Council for the School of Education at Ashland University and is an adjunct professor at Baldwin Wallace University in the School of Education. Mark and his wife Lisa reside in the Cleveland area with their two children, Matthew and Claire.


NEIL GUPTA, `01 M.ED., `06 ED.D.

An Ashland native, Neil Gupta received his undergraduate degree from Miami University and then began his teaching career at Ashland High School. He earned a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from AU and went on to complete his doctoral degree in Educational Leadership at AU. Neil was promoted to Assistant Principal at Ashland High School, and then became the Director of Secondary Curriculum for Ashland City Schools. Dr. Gupta served as the Director of Teaching and Learning and the Director of Assessment and Programming for New Albany Plain Local School District. Since July 1, 2015, Dr. Gupta has been serving as the Director of Secondary Education for Worthington City Schools. Dr. Gupta serves on the Board of Directors for the Ohio Association of Secondary School Administrators Association, is a member of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development and the National Association of Secondary School Principals and consults with others in the areas of leadership coaching and design thinking. Neil and his wife Kari reside in the Columbus area with their two children, Keegan and Jaiden.



Dr. Tiffany Tynes Curry has worked for the Columbus City District since 2001. She has developed after-school workshops for the Ohio Improvement Process, leading teachers to learn how to use data to improve their instructional practices in reading and mathematics. In 2016, Tiffany received the Weinland Park Teacher of the Year award and in 2017 became the Ohio recipient of the Milken Educator of the Year Award. Dr. Tynes Curry earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Elementary Education from Wittenberg University and a Master of Education Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Ashland University. In 2017, she earned her Doctorate of Education in Teacher Leadership degree at Walden University.





James A. Montaquila `66 is a school administrator, business owner and community service volunteer. He received his Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education from Ashland College and his Master of Science in Secondary Education from the University of Akron. Now residing in Peninsula, Ohio, Montaquila started his career in 1966 as a social studies teacher in Nordonia Hills Local Schools and Woodridge Local Schools. From 1975 to 2008, he participated in an administrative role for various local school districts. During 2008 to 2011, Montaquila worked as a driver training teacher for the Universal Driving Training Center and he currently acts as an entrepreneur in residence at Believe in Ohio. As an active member of the community, Montaquila has been a board member for the Cuyahoga Valley Homeowners Association, a candidate for the Summit County Council, and a chairperson for the Portage County Retired Teachers Association Scholarship Committee. He has served as a member of the Peninsula Library Board, as President of the Boston Township Board of Zoning Appeals, as a school board member for Woodridge Local Schools, and as Vice President of the Cuyahoga Valley Communities Council. Additionally, Montaquila took a critical role in establishing and supervising a G.E.D. program for incarcerated juveniles that produced over 200 successful candidates each year. The program included the first membership for a juvenile corrections institution in the Ohio High School Athletic Association and permitted an intake process of over 1,200 students each year. Montaquila also has contributed to the community with his position as marketing director for the National Driver Training School (Universal Driving Training Center), as business owner/manager for Peninsula Hardwoods and as owner/manager of the Terry Lumber & Supply Company. During the 1980s and 1990s, Montaquila owned and operated two successful lumber establishments that had over $10 million in annual sales at that time. He grew the sales from one of the companies to five states and negotiated with the National Park Service for funds to relocate a full service lumber yard.



Dr. Joseph Hendershott, a graduate of Ohio State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in education, holds a Master of Education in school administration and a Doctor of Education in leadership studies, both from Ashland University. He currently serves as executive director of field experiences and internships in the College of Education at Ashland University.

Hendershott has an extensive background working with at-risk and wounded youth as a teacher and administrator in traditional, alternative and correctional education settings. He has been a high school assistant principal, head principal, alternative school principal, and principal at The Village Network. As president of his own consulting firm, he has been a keynote/featured presenter at international and national conferences and has conducted staff training/professional development on understanding and working with wounded students, emotional literacy, empathy, esteem, inclusive communities, and other topics relevant to today’s educational climate. He has authored two books: “Reaching the Wounded Student” (Eye on Education, 2008) and “7 Ways to Transform the Lives of Wounded Students.” (Routledge/Taylor & Francis, 2016). Hendershott was named the National Crystal Star award winner for 2015 through the National Dropout Prevention Center/Network, which recognizes each year an individual who has contributed outstanding work in the area of dropout prevention and intervention. Hendershott and his wife, Dardi, are co-founders of Hope 4 The Wounded Educational Seminars.



Dr. Wilson has served as professor in the Doctoral Program at AU since 2008 after serving as a professor at the University since 1998. He received his Ph.D. in 1964, his M.Ed. in 1954 and his B.S. in Education in 1951, all from Ohio State University.

Prior to coming to Ashland, he served as chair for the Department of Leadership & Educational Supplies at Appalachian State University from 1994 to 1997 and started in education as a professor at Appalachian State University in 1987. After military duty in the U.S. Navy, where he retired as a captain, he served as superintendent at Cuyahoga Falls City School District from 1964 to 1987. He has received a number of awards, including the Buckeye Association of School Administrators Distinguished Service Award in 2001 and the American Association of School Administrators WE CARE Award in 1999.



Elizabeth Pastor is truly an icon among the thousands of people who have served Ashland University over its 136-year history. The quality of her teaching, artistic performances and service are beyond reproach and her reputation and accomplishments as a pianist reach far beyond Ashland University and the Ashland community. She has played throughout the country, including with the NBC Symphony, Albuquerque Symphony and Flagstaff, Ariz., Symphony.

Pastor received her Artist’s Diploma from Boston's Longy School of Music, where she studied piano with world-renowned pianists and teachers and furthered her studies in New York and Cleveland. She went on to become a member of the faculties of Ashland University and The Cleveland Institute of Music for more than half of a century. She is known as not only a demanding teacher but also a supportive one.

Pastor has been a multi-year recipient of Ashland University’s Mentor Award, and in 1987, was selected as the second Trustees’ Distinguished Professor, an honor given by the Board of Trustees for her outstanding service to the University as an educator, performer and campus leader. She also received an honorary doctor of humanities degree from Ashland in 2007.

She has served as a member of numerous University committees including the Faculty Welfare Committee and the University Promotion and Tenure Committee. In addition to her music career, Pastor had been the driving force behind AU’s Spectrum Series, which brings speakers and performers to campus, and the Music Department’s Guest Artist Series, and was also known for heading the Society for Ashland’s Preservation (SAP).



Susan Martensen serves as Clinical Associate Professor within the Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance Department at Cleveland State University. She has been a teacher and coach for many years now and served as president of Ashland Volleyball Officials Association in 2011-2012. She also serves on the Ashland County Sports Hall of Fame Selection Committee.

Martensen received her Master of Education degree from Ashland University in 1985, a Master of Arts degree from Adelphi University in 1978 and a Bachelor of Science in Education from Ashland University in 1974. Prior to going to Cleveland State, she served as professional instructor in Sport Sciences Department at Ashland University from 1979 to 2003, as Associate Athletic Director from 1985 to 1993, as Senior Women's Administrator from 1994 to 2003 and as Head Volleyball Coach from 1979 to 2002.


Kay (Walther) Leath, `93 M.Ed.

Leath of North Canton, Ohio, received a master of educational administration from Ashland University and is a doctoral candidate at the University of Akron. She has been an adjunct faculty member at Ashland University since 2002 and serves as a part-time faculty member at the University of Akron in the Family and Consumer Sciences Department. She teaches in grades 6-12 at North Canton City Schools, where she has been since 1982. She currently serves as the Community Education Coordinator & Freshman Mentoring Coordinator. Kay holds assistant superintendent, secondary administration and supervisor education certifications.

She has received several honors including the Kent State Jennings Institute Educator Award in 2010, the Plain Local Schools Distinguished Alumni Award in 2009, the Distinguished Alumni Award - Kent State University Stark Campus in 2000, the Outstanding Educator Award from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society N.E. Ohio Chapter in 2000, a Disney’s American Teacher Award nomination in 2000, the “Educator Of The Year” award from the Phi Delta Kappa McKinley Chapter in 1999, the Teacher of the Year - Semi-Finalist Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce in 1999, the Leadership Stark County Nominee in 1996, 1997 & 1998, WHBC “Apples for the Teacher” Award in 1996 and the “Good Neighbor Award” from the East Ohio Gas Company in 1993 and 1995.

She is a member of The Chestnut Society, the University of Akron Alumni Association Canton Women’s Club, the College Club of Canton, Ashland University Alumni Association, Congress Lake Country Club, Akron City Club and Kent State University Alumni Association.