The Special Achievement Award

The Special Achievement Award is given to an alumnus/alumna over the age of 36 who has proven leadership abilities, excelled in his or her chosen field, and has given faithful service to Ashland University and the community.


Kirk A. Domer, `99

Kirk is a Professor of Scene Design at Michigan State University, where he served as the Department of Theatre Chairperson for ten years. He received his B.A. in Theatre from Ashland and MFA in Scene Design from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His book Collaboration in Theatre co-written with Rob Roznowski, explores the collaboration process between director and designer. As a member of United Scenic Artists, Local USA 829, Kirk has designed scenery, projections and props throughout the country, including Stages Repertory Theatre (world premiere, MacGyver: The Musical), A.D. Players, Williamston Theatre, Eastman Opera, Ohio Light Opera, Jewish Ensemble Theatre, Performance Network, BoarsHead Theater, Madison Repertory Theatre, Wharton Center, Make*A*Circus, and two of Mitch Albom’s world premieres: Ernie and Hockey, The Musical.



Dr. Christina Fox earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology degree from Ashland University in 1998 and a Doctorate in Optometry from the Pennsylvania College of Optometry in 2002. Dr. Fox has owned and operated her own practice in Bucyrus since 2008. She has participated in 15 vision mission trips in various countries over the years with VOSH OH (Volunteer Optometric Service to Humanity). Dr. Fox is currently on the VOSH board of directors and the Bucyrus Rotary Club board. She also volunteers her time in her local school systems doing school screenings and educational presentations. Dr. Fox is also in the process of becoming a foster parent.



In 1972 Harold “Bud” Boughton became Ashland’s first-ever Academic All-American in football playing for the Eagles’ Undefeated (11-0) football team. Also a member of the Ashland Lacrosse team, he was inducted into Ashland University's All-Sports Hall of Fame in 1991. Bud earned a Bachelor of Science degree in 1973.

In his career he has coached college football, held professional sales positions with three FORTUNE 500 companies and helped take a banking software company public (NASDAQ) in 1996. More recently, Bud has turned his interests to writing and has had three books and numerous articles published.

He is an active member in his church and is also a certified official with both USA Hockey and US Lacrosse. Bud considers himself “a blessed man” and has always felt that his Ashland experience impacted his life in the most positive way. Active on the professional speaking circuit, Bud now lives in Greenwood, IN with his wife, Cindy. He has two sons, four stepsons and nine grandchildren.



Eric W. Wiedenmann ’73 is an entrepreneur with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration, magna cum laude from Ashland and an MBA ’75 from Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University. He had held Vice President of Marketing positions at Fortune 500 companies and family owned business before he founded Market Development Group, Inc. in 1997. He is a member of AU’s Dauch College of Business and Economics Advisory Board, Northwestern Leadership Circle and an alumni board member for Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity. Eric lives in Danville, California with his wife Anne and son William.





Rick Spreng `70 graduated from Ashland University and entered the insurance industry with insurance sales; serving in the insurance business for 46 years. The Spreng Smith Agency is a part of the Keystone Insurers Group and Spreng has been on the board of directors for the last seven years. Additionally, Spreng has been involved in association work for 25 years. He served on the board of the Independent Agents and Brokers Association of Ohio and ended his service as President of the board. During a merger of this organization with the Professional Insurance Agents Association, Spreng served on the new board of Ohio Insurance Agents. Nationally, he served for the Insurance Agents and Brokers Association board. Early in his career, Spreng joined the board of both Boy Scouts and Junior Achievement, eventually becoming district chair for the Boy Scouts of Ashland County. He was later appointed as Vice President of the Johnny Appleseed Council, which included Richland and Crawford counties. Due to his contribution, Spreng was awarded the honor of Silver Beaver with his volunteer leadership. Spreng’s community service continued with his position as a founding board member for the Ashland City Schools Academic Foundation and his involvement in the United Way. He has acted as chairman of the United Way Board as well as campaign chairman. Spreng has served on the board as chairman of the Ashland Area Chamber of Commerce. As a member of Trinity Lutheran Church of Ashland, he has served on its church council as Lay Leader of the church. Spreng has also served on the board and as chairman for the Brethren Care Village of Ashland. He is a current member and previously served as president for the Ashland Rotary Club, representing the clubs in Northwest Ohio for a 30-day good will trip to Turkey. Since 1985, Spreng has also been involved in the Ashland BalloonFest. For Ashland University, Spreng has served as campaign chair for the Annual Fund. He also served on the Alumni Board and has been involved in two committees for accreditation. In the past, Spreng has served on a capital campaign committee and he currently serves on a committee. Spreng has since retired from the business of selling insurance and the involvement with the state and national association.



In 1990, Karen Terhune Duncan founded “Matters Magazine,” a well-celebrated lifestyle publication in northern New Jersey. Today, she remains at its helm as publisher and editor-in-chief. Celebrating the magazine’s 25th year in 2015, she has been recognized as a news influencer by New Jersey’s business communities. Passionately involved in local affairs, she was the 2000 recipient of Maplewood, New Jersey's Distinguished Service award and received the Essex County, N.J., Family Service Award in 2008. She remains involved in issues for the mentally disabled through New Jersey’s ARC and Mane Stream, equine assisted therapies.

A 1976 graduate of Ashland University, Duncan majored in Home Economics Education, however NYC beckoned and she went to work for Milliken & Company, a global textile corporation that combined science with design. She remained in the fashion and textile industry moving through the ranks predominately in advertising. In 1987, she founded her own agency, Visual Impact, and opened offices in New Jersey where her firm remains. Her celebrated writing reaches tens of thousands avid readers every month.



In 2014, Patricia Williams founded Global Health Charities (GHC) in order to fund charitable hospital and education initiatives in poverty stricken areas of the world. Over the last 25 years, Williams has dedicated her career to the improvement of healthcare services and the development of hospitals in more than 30 countries around the world, working in both the private and public sector. Her work ranges from hospital planning, equipment planning, organizational development and management, to strategic planning, operational improvement and training of hospital personnel.

In 2008, she founded an international hospital planning, development and management company, Global Health Services Network (GHSN) with the goal of making a positive and sustainable impact on the health status of developing countries and emerging markets. She has most recently worked in Libya, Nigeria, Vietnam, Abu Dhabi, Myanmar and Ethiopia among others. She says her greatest accomplishment is her family – her husband Joe, Class of 1988, and their five sons (ages 19, 17, 13, 10 and 7). “They are the ones who inspire me and motivate me to do this work, which can sometimes get really challenging and a little scary in some locations,” she said.



John Denman, a 1979 graduate of Ashland College, majored in accounting and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration. Following graduation, he joined The J.M. Smucker Company, embarking on a 34-year career.

In 2005, Denman was promoted to Vice President, Corporate Controller and more recently, Chief Accounting Officer. Over his career, Smucker has grown from sales of $150 million to $6 billion.

Through Denman’s passion for Ashland, Smucker has established a close relationship with the University. A formal accounting and finance intern partnership has been created. Over the past seven years, Smucker has hired 11 Ashland students from the internship program. Last year, Smucker alumni established an endowed scholarship at Ashland, for which Denman served as the chairperson. He is also a member of the Ashland Accounting Advisory Board and on the Board of Trustees for the Center of Ethics in Financial Education in Cleveland.



A native of South Carolina, Dr. Ronald Brown received his Bachelor of Science degree in Biology with honors from Ashland University in 1975. He was one of 150 out of 3,000 applicants to be accepted to Harvard Pre-Medical Health Career Summer Program at Harvard University in 1974. It was there he made his decision to pursue a career in medicine. He received his M.D. degree from New York Medical College, Valhalla, New York in 1979.

His internship and residency training in Internal Medicine was performed at Emory University Hospitals in Atlanta, Georgia from 1979 to 1982 and he was the first African American to fellowship in the Department of Gastroenterology at then Medical College of Georgia, now Georgia Regents University in Augusta, Georgia. He completed the two year fellowship in Gastroenterology at the Medical College of Georgia in 1984. He is the first African-American Internal Medicine Sub-Specialist to practice in the area. Dr. Brown is owner and founder of Augusta Gastrointestinal Specialists, Inc. where he has practiced medicine for 29 years and is on active staff at three area hospitals: Doctors, Trinity, University, and the Augusta Surgical Center.



Ed Plank, known as Bud, enrolled at Ashland in 1937 and lettered in football, basketball and baseball and graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in business administration and economics. After serving in World War II for 24 months, he returned to Ashland University and earned a bachelor of science degree in education.

His 33 years of teaching were all in the Ashland City Schools where he began in the present middle school and had all boys in grades seven through 12 in physical education. He continued to teach in the new high school where he taught health, government, economics and later driver education. He coached baseball for 22 years and was an assistant basketball coach for 18 years. In 1979, he was honored as “Teacher of the Year.” When he retired in 1980, the high school baseball diamond was named “Bud Plank Field.”

He assisted Bill Mills in founding the Ashland County Sports Hall of Fame in 1984 and was inducted into the hall in 1992. He is a former member of the Ashland College Alumni Committee and for 12 years served on the selection committee for the Ashland University Sports Hall of Fame.

Betty Plank graduated from Ashland University with a bachelor of science in education degree with majors in English and speech. Her first teaching position was at Polk School and she moved to Wadsworth where she taught English and directed plays. After her marriage to Ed, she returned to Ashland and taught American Literature and Journalism for 16 years and substituted for 14 more.

She became an active member of the Ashland County Historical Society and served two terms as president. She developed an interest in local history and began writing historical articles for the Ashland Times-Gazette. Eventually these were compiled in a book titled “Historic Ashland County,” which was published in 1987. This was followed by two other volumes in 1995 and 2005.

In 2005, she was honored as a “Distinguished Alumnus of Ashland High School.” She and her husband were honored by the Historical Society in 2010 for their contributions to the community. In 1960, the couple adopted two nieces following the death of their parents in a plane crash.

Click HERE to nominate someone for the Special Achievement Award.