PITTSBURG — It all started with a barrel of apples.

Year after year, Pittsburg State University commemorates being, well Pittsburg State University with their oldest tradition, Apple Day.

In the early 1900s, Senator Ebenezer F. Porter with the assistance of Kansas Manual Training Normal School Auxiliary Principal Russell Station Russ, and Pittsburg Mayor Clarence Price, along with faculty and other community leaders, helped secure a $100,000 to build Russ Hall.

The apples came into play after the funding bill was passed and Price was fined a barrel of apples for lobbying on the floor of the legislature. Of course, news spread upon their arrival back home and with students being disciplined for absences during that time, it was decided to celebrate by fining Russ and his faculty with apples too. Russ was established in 1907.

Apple Day is a milestone at the university, something founded for the future — for the students, PSU President Steve Scott said.

“We have such a rich tradition, we are grounded in that and we love to revisit it,” he said.

Throughout the day Monday, there were various activities starting with an apple dessert contest. The contest winners in this year's Apple Pie division were Ashley Wadell (1st Place), Madeline McCoy (2nd Place) and Brad Stefanoni (3rd Place). The contest winners in this year's Apple Dessert division were Kiralyn Mosier (1st Place), Madeline McCoy (2nd Place), and Heather Busch (3rd Place).

Then three individuals, Dr. Richard Peterson, Dr. Mindi Garner, and Frank Naccarato, were recognized at a reception with a Distinguished Service Award for their time and talents at PSU and then again at the Apple Day Convocation.

During the convocation the university recognized the Dr. Robert K. Ratzlaff Outstanding Faculty Awards, 32 instructors were nominated and the following three were selected:

Assistant Professor in Teaching & Leadership Gloria Flynn serves as a mentor to special education teachers in the community and teaches courses tailored for inclusive teaching in the classroom.

Kristen Livingston, the assistant director for Student Diversity and now the faculty advisor to the public relations and advertising club, We Rise, and the Students for Sustainability, also facilitates the new Gorilla Media Group.  

For the third time since her employment at PSU in 1992, Barbara McClaskey, a professor in nursing.

The keynote speaker was Pittsburg State's first Good Apple Award winner, Nick Popejoy, a 2014 graduate who teaches and coaches for Webb City School District. This award was established to honor a recent graduate who was puts into practice "what it means to be a gorilla."

New to the Apple Day presentation, Professors Beyond the Classroom Grant Awards — funded by the PSU Student Government Association — were announced. 

They include:  
• Rebeca Book, an associate professor in Plastics Engineering Technology, who received $1,000 to fund a conference trip with two other professors and 20 students to the National Plastics Exposition.
• Delia Lister, director of Nature Reach in the Biology Department, who received $1,000 for her Study Away program to Alaska with 10 students from the Biology Department. The grant will help cover travel, lodging, boating in Glacier Bay, hiking national forests, and visiting sea urchin nurseries.
• Andrea Kent-McConnaughey, an assistant professor in Graphics and Imaging, who received $1,000 to supply GoPro Fusion 360-degree camera equipment and software in her classroom. The equipment will enable her students to create full 360-degree content that will be used in instruction and for innovative university marketing campaigns.
• Rick Hardy, assistant professor in Health, Human Performance, and Recreation, who received $500 for a program that will take students to recreation, leisure, and training facilities in the region. Students will be able to interact with working professionals and facilities for which their degree program prepares them to enter.
• Portico Bowman, University Professor of Art, who received $400 for a program to Crystal Bridges Art Museum in Arkansas, where students will interact with art that spans five centuries of history. Students will also be able to speak with professionals about Museum Studies and their future career field.
Voya Outstanding Employee Recognition Awards were also announced. These recipients will each receive a $750 stipend. This year’s Unclassified Staff honoree was Assistant Director of International Recruitment & Undergraduate Admissions Aaron Hurt.
This year’s University Support Staff honoree was the Senior Administrative Assistant for the Kansas Center for Career & Technical Education Tracey Eagon.
The Golden Gorilla Award — established in 1997 to recognize students achievements — went to: Victoria Ho, Alexandra Battitori, Jodi Stuhlsatz, Abigail White, Kolleen Gladden, Caitlin Martin, Elena Flott, Brittany Worthington, Bianca Rodriguez, Piper Misse, Emily Dickey, Skyler Jones, Lauren Sullivan, Jacob Brown, Lindsey Chambers, Amber Demaranville, Malory White, Ryan Cipriani, Christen Miller, Jaina Mills, Talia Ayala Feliciangeli, Long Xiao, Cara Zacny, Amanda Robinson, Zachary Denton, and Bethanne Elliott.
For the last scholarships, students had to be present at the Apple Day convocation to win and will be attending the fall semester at PSU. The Centennial Scholarships are given by the PSU Foundation, this year's recipients were Madison Westervelt ($500) and Kayla Masisak ($1,000).

— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at spotter@morningsun.net or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.