Skip to Main Navigation | Skip to Content

UCM Magazine
Events Calendar
Join the Nation
Lead and Follow
Liberty Mutual
We Like You


Distinguished Alumni to be Honored

Contact: Alumni Relations and Development   
WARRENSBURG, MO - University of Central Missouri’s Alumni Association will honor three individuals who have excelled in the aviation, scientific research and medicine fields during the Distinguished Alumni Dinner Friday, Oct. 24.

Honorees Recognized at Homecoming Event

The dinner is part of the 2003 Homecoming celebration. It takes place at 6:30 p.m. in the ballroom of the Elliott Union, immediately following a 5 p.m. reception at Selmo Park. This year’s Distinguished Alumni Award recipients are Thomas H. Kunz ’61, ’62, Boston, and Dr. John Romito ’69, Leawood, Kan. The Distinguished International Alumnus Award will be presented to Banchar Patrasuwan ‘91, Bangkok, Thailand. This is only the second time this award has been presented to an international alumnus.

The awards recognize exceptional professional and personal achievement and extraordinary distinction in a chosen field among alumni. Individuals who want to attend the recognition dinner should purchase tickets by Oct. 17 by calling the Office of Alumni Relations and Development, Smiser Alumni Center, at 660-543-4705 or e-mailing

Dr. Tom Kunz

Kunz is one of the world's leading mammalogists. He currently serves as professor of biology and director of the Center for Ecology and Conservation Biology at Boston University.  A former resident of Independence, he earned double major undergraduate degrees from Central in biology and physical education in 1961. Upon completing his graduate degree from Central in 1962, Kunz accepted a job to teach biology and serve as assistant football and track coach at Shawnee Mission West High School until 1967. During that time he completed a master’s degree in biology at Drake University and was accepted into the graduate program of the University of Kansas. He was awarded a doctorate in systematics and ecology at KU in 1971.

After earning his Ph.D., he was appointed to the biology faculty at Boston University where he advanced through the ranks from assistant to professor in biology. He served as department chair from 1985-1990, prior to accepting his current post.

Kunz established a highly successful and widely acclaimed Program in Tropical Ecology allowing undergraduate students opportunities to spend a semester in Ecuador studying and conducting research in various climate and geographical zones. He also developed a reputation as an international authority on bats.

His research has focused on topics such as how free-ranging bats acquire and allocate energy and nutrients during reproduction. This led to research worldwide in places such as Puerto Rico, Trinidad, Ecuador, India and Malaysia. He authored more than 170 publications, and was an editor, contributing author or author on at least five book projects. His latest work, “A Guide to Bats of North America,” was released in 2002 by Oxford University Press.

Kunz’s research also has been featured on several national television and local PBS stations including National Geographic Explorer.

Dr. John Romito

A dedicated physician and humanitarian, Romito earned his Bachelor of Science degree in zoology from Central, and completed his medical degree from the University of Kansas in 1973 with a specialty in orthopedic surgery. He is now in private practice in Overland Park, Kan. Romito serves as chair of orthopedics at Overland Park Regional Medical Center, and is an active staff member at Shawnee Mission Medical Center and St. Luke’s South Hospital.

His work in the medical field has been recognized by other professionals in the field who have honored him for his efforts. In 2000 he was selected by his fellow doctors in Greater Kansas City as not only the Outstanding Orthopedic Surgeon in the metropolitan area for the year but as one of the three Outstanding Orthopedic Surgeons of the decade.

He and his wife, Cynthia, who is also a physician, have given their time to provide medical services in areas in western Kansas where the services of a surgeon and allergist are not available. Several times a month, they fly their private airplane into these areas to meet with patients.

Romito also combines his faith with volunteer service, locally, nationally and internationally. He conducts Bible studies and lectures to church groups, and has conducted a number of mission trips that have taken him to other countries. These include travel, at his own expense, to countries such as Russia, the Philippines, Haiti, and Honduras to establish community programs for improvement of living conditions, and to establish community health programs. He has also been invited to missions in Vietnam and Cuba, as well as Hong Kong, Israel and Egypt.

During the 2000 fall commencement, Dr. Romito and his wife were honored by Central as recipients of the Distinguished Service Award. Romito was recognized, in part, for his service to the University of Central Missouri Foundation Board of Directors, of which he is a past president, vice president and treasurer.

Banchar Patrasuwan

Patrasuwan has succeeded in the international aviation arena. He came to Central with his wife and two children in 1989 to pursue a Master of Science degree in aviation safety, following a career as an officer in Thailand’s Air Force. He learned about the program from a former supervisor, who had also studied on campus.

His previous experiences, coupled with the preparation he received in aviation safety, as well as areas such as aviation management, airport planning and design, and aircraft accident investigation, provided him with the background he needed to form his own company. After graduating from Central in 1991, Patrasuwan returned to Bangkok and opened his own business, Thai General Aviation Technology, Ltd.

Patrasuwan’s company, which is the only such firm in Thailand, offers a wide range of aviation training and educational services in cooperation with educational institutions, including Central Missouri State. TGAT organizes study groups, seminars and training courses in Thailand and abroad to serve the needs of top and middle management in both the public and private sector of the aviation industry.

Patrasuwan’s company provides pilot training and educational materials as well as aviation charts and maps. His main career objective is to help build a general and civil aviation base in a country that, until recently, has had little activity in these areas. General and civil aviation groups as well as the Thai Air Force have benefited from his training programs, some courses of which are taught by the company owner.

Recognizing the value of an education from Central, Patrasuwan has recommended the university to a number of individuals in his homeland. At least eight of them have come to campus to pursue the Master of Science in Aviation Safety degree, and another 20 individuals have come to Central to enroll in other programs or simply to take courses of interest. Some of his top employees are graduates of the MS degree program. A tireless supporter of the university, Patrasuwan maintains an office space at TGAT to allow alumni in Thailand to maintain contact with Central. He also maintains a data base of Central alumni living in Thailand.