CHADRON – Speakers for Chadron State College’s first in-person commencement ceremonies since the pandemic will be Dr. Merlin Butler at the 9 a.m. graduate ceremony and Dr. Richard Koza at the 1 p.m. undergraduate exercises. Both events will be in the Chicoine Center. Each guest will be required to have an invitation and wear a face mask. Public seating will be available in the Don Beebe stadium where the festivities will be broadcast via CSC Live on the videoboard.
Koza’s long association with Chadron State College has included playing football for the Eagles, earning a bachelor’s and two graduate degrees and teaching courses, serving as chair of the Business Academy, several years as Faculty Athletic Representative, and receiving the 2006 Teacher Excellence Award.
In addition to his connections with CSC, Koza, who is retiring this year, has owned and operated a local real estate business and an insurance agency and taken an active role in community affairs.
Born in Portsmouth, Virginia, and brought up in Florida before moving to Wyoming as an eighth grader, Koza graduated from Torrington High School. He attended Eastern Wyoming College for two years, then transferred to Chadron State, where he played football and completed his Bachelor of Science in Education with a coaching
After graduation, Koza taught health and physical education and coached in Benkelman, Nebraska, for a year, then spent five years teaching and coaching in Ogallala. Upon returning to Chadron in 1978, he earned licenses in real estate, appraising and insurance, became part owner of Associated Brokers Real Estate and purchased Larson Insurance Agency.
The return to Chadron also included resumption of Koza’s academic education at CSC. He earned master’s degrees in education and business administration and in 1996 completed a Ph.D. at the University of Wyoming.
In the early 1980s, Koza had his first college teaching experience as an instructor of Chadron State’s off-campus real estate classes. A one-year contract to teach marketing for the college in 1996 led a couple years later to a full- time position. Through the years he has taught a variety of business courses, with his focus most recently on finance and strategic management.
During Koza’s time at Chadron State, the Business Academy has received specialized accreditation with the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs, changed from a traditional semester format to an eight- week course structure, implemented an online Master of Business Administration course, and began to offer undergraduate courses online and face-to-face.
As a teacher, Koza said he has enjoyed seeing the energy and excitement that new and returning students bring to the campus and community each year, and the collaboration and friendships with other faculty members. He singled out Dr. Margaret Crouse and Dr. Charles Cressy as faculty mentors and is appreciative of the opportunities Chadron State has provided to publish papers and present at academic conferences.
Koza and his wife, Kris, were married in 1973, have three children, all with degrees from Chadron State, and six grandchildren. Besides traveling with his wife and visiting their children and grandchildren, Koza said his retirement plans include playing golf, fishing, and relaxing.
Butler was raised on a small farm or ranch in the Sandhills, attended a rural one room schoolhouse until eighth grade and graduated from Stuart High School in 1970. He attended Chadron State College and graduated in 1974 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in education and a year later with a Bachelor of Science majoring in Biology-Pre-Medicine. Butler received a Distinguished Service Award from CSC in 1986.
Butler earned his medical degree from the University of Nebraska in 1978 and completed an American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics (ABMG) accredited fellowship in medical genetics in 1983. He became a Diplomate of the American Board of Medical Genetics in 1984 and earned his Doctor of Philosophy from Indiana University. He became a Founding Fellow
of the ABMG in 1993. Before joining the faculty at the Kansas University Medical Center in 2008, he was a tenured Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Pathology and Director of the Regional Genetics Program at Vanderbilt University.
From 1998 to 2008, he was Section Chief of Medical Genetics and Molecular Medicine at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri. Butler also served as a Professor of Pediatrics and recipient of the William R. Brown Endowed Chair in Medical Genetics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine.
Since 2012, Butler has been the Director of the Division of Research and Genetics within the clinical department at the Kansas University Medical Center, the Medical Director of the Genetics Clinic, and a tenured Professor of Psychiatry, Behavioral Sciences and Pediatrics.
He is ABMG board certified in Clinical Genetics and Clinical Cytogenetics and has established clinical practice experience in diagnosing and treating complex genetic disorders, rare diseases with behavior problems and intellectual disabilities such as fragile X, Burnside-Butler, and Angelman syndromes, with expertise in the diagnosis, treatment, natural history studies, and genetic subtype- phenotype correlations specifically with Prader-Willi syndrome.
Butler is married to Ranae Kisker, a retired dietician, originally from McCook, Nebraska. The couple has two children, Brian and Michelle. Michelle is a financial planner living in Nashville. She and her husband, Jeff, have three sons. Brian, who is a mechanical engineer lives with his wife, Brittney, and two daughters, in Shawnee, Kansas. They enjoy family vacations involving sightseeing, outdoor activities, hiking, and fishing.
—CSC College Relations