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NKU Alumni to honor Zalla, Butler, Merrick and Smith at annual awards, traditional kickoff to homecoming

Supported by excellent faculty, graduates of Northern Kentucky University go on to blaze new trails in their professions and in their communities. The four distinguished individuals who will be honored at NKU’s Alumni Awards Dinner next week exemplify the impact faculty have on students, who as alumni then apply the lessons learned at NKU to make an impact upon the community and the world.
The honorees include one of the nation’s top creative minds; one of the region’s leading philanthropists and legal minds; a young alumnus leading the region’s fight against opioid addiction; and a longtime professor whose impact upon students extends far beyond the classroom.
“Mary Zalla, Marty Butler, Jason Merrick, and Dr. Lynne Smith live the NKU promise every day by putting others first, leading with excellence, and making a lasting impact,” said Alumni Board of Directors President Tom Wiedemann (’90). “We are pleased to honor them during Alumni Weekend & Homecoming.”
The Alumni Awards Dinner is Friday, Feb. 10 and serves as the traditional kickoff to Alumni Weekend & Homecoming activities. A reception begins at 6 p.m., followed by dinner at 7 p.m. at the James C. and Rachel M. Votruba Student Union Ballroom. Tickets include admission to all Homecoming Weekend activities and an exclusive NKU Tartan apparel item.
“We invite all alumni to come home to NKU next weekend to help us celebrate these distinguished honorees, and also to see how much this beautiful campus has changed, compete for bragging rights in the annual chili cook-off, and, of course, help root on the Norse at BB&T Arena,” Wiedemann said.

Mary Zalla

Mary E. Zalla (’87, College of Informatics) will receive the Outstanding Alumnus Award for her trailblazing work in global brand development. As Global CEO of Landor Associates, Zalla has led brand development efforts across industries such as consumer packaged goods, pharmaceuticals, specialty chemicals, travel and leisure, and more. She is an industry leader in the conceptual development of new brands, brand architecture analysis and design, and strategic brand positioning.
“If creativity is the engine, then inspiration is the fuel,” she said. “I believe as an organization, we owe our employees the type of environment, physically and culturally, that allows them to be as creative as they can be.” 

Marty Butler

Martin C. (Marty) Butler (’77, Chase College of Law) of Covington will receive the Distinguished Service Award for his dedication to NKU and his philanthropic work in the community. Butler has given of his time and talents to organizations such as Parish Kitchen, Senior Citizens of Northern Kentucky, Project Shelter, and NKU’s VISION 2015 Regional Stewardship Council. Butler and his brother, Bill, co-founded The Life Learning Center to prepare individuals for productive, sustainable careers through education, training, and life coaching. A partner at Strauss & Troy, Butler specializes in commercial and residential real estate, including general commercial transactions; corporate law; commercial lending; commercial litigation; corporate organizations; zoning; and probate, trust and estate planning and administration. In 2016, he was named the Cincinnati-area Lawyer of the Year for real estate law by U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Lawyers” publication. He is Member Emeritus of NKU’s Board of Regents, and in 2014 was awarded NKU’s Lincoln Award.

Jason Merrick

Jason Merrick (’16, College of Education & Human Services) will receive the Outstanding Young Alumnus Award for his leadership in the region’s fight against opioid addiction, including his advocacy for life-saving treatments and support of recovering addicts. In 2013, he founded People Advocating Recovery, a grassroots organization dedicated to breaking down the barriers between addiction and recovery. As Director of Inmate Addiction Services at the Kenton County Detention Center, Merrick also created and administers the Jail Substance Abuse Program.
“Jason’s dedication to addiction recovery, and his ability to put himself through school while making a giant impact on Northern Kentucky, makes him an ideal candidate for the Outstanding Young Alumnus Award,” wrote a former colleague.

Lynn Smith

Dr. Lynne Smith, Professor of Teacher Education will receive the Strongest Influence Award for her commitment to NKU students. Since 1988, Smith has worked to educate generations of teachers and has made an impact in and out of the classroom. In 2006, she received NKU’s highest faculty honor, the Frank Sinton Milburn Outstanding Professor Award.
“Lynne is a skilled instructor who provides a lens of practicality to course study,” said a former student. “She was supportive in and out of class. Lynne always took the time to answer questions, provide support and offer her assistance. She has a personal connection with her students beyond content that makes you feel important to her personally.”
For information or to attend the Alumni Awards Dinner, please go to go.nky.edu/alumniweekend.

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