Five Outstanding Alumni to Receive Odyssey Medals

CONWAY, Ark. (June 27, 2012) - Hendrix College will present the 2012 Odyssey Medal to five outstanding alumni at Founders Day 2012 on Thursday, Oct. 25 at 11 a.m. in Staples Auditorium.

The Hendrix Odyssey Medal is awarded by the Hendrix College Board of Trustees to alumni whose personal professional achievements exemplify the values of engaged liberal arts and sciences education. The medals are awarded in the project categories of Your Hendrix Odyssey: Engaging in Active Learning, the College's nationally-recognized engaged learning initiative.

The 2012 Odyssey Medal winners include:

  • Bret Jones '81 - Artistic Creativity
  • John Birrer '88 - Professional and Leadership Development
  • Lorna Collins Pierce '59 - Research
  • Bill Fiser '75 - Service to the World
  • Dee Davis '81 - Special Projects

Bret Jones '81

Raised in Pine Bluff, Bret Jones graduated from Hendrix in 1981 and went to England to study acting at the Drama Studio London. In 1988, he joined the dance company Zoots and Spangles, which specialized in Lindy Hop and tap dancing. He became a featured dancer, performing in shows throughout Europe. He appeared in Anthony van Laast's Astaire/Rogers tribute show Shall We Dance and in Fred Astaire: His Daughter's Tribute.  In 1995, he was cast as the male lead in the U.K. tour of Hot Shoe Shuffle. He has appeared in musicals such as Of Thee I Sing, Half a Sixpence, and My Fair Lady.  He has danced on television and in the film Pride and Prejudice.  He was in the original production of Ben Elton's Popcorn. From 2002 to 2004, he played an inventor in the original West End production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, directed by Adrian Noble. In 2011, he appeared in the West End premiere of Cool Hand Luke at the Aldwych Theatre, London.  He recently co-wrote and performed in a short film, Dead Thirsty, and is working with a co-writer in developing it into a feature film script. Jones has taught at performing arts conservatories, such as Guildford School of Acting and East 15 Acting School, and at Queen Mary, University of London. A dual U.S. and U.K. citizen, he currently lives in London.

John Birrer '88

A 1988 graduate of Hendrix, where he earned an economics and business degree, John Birrer is the senior vice president of customer experience at Charter Communications, Inc., and a member of its senior executive team. In this role, he oversees more than 8,000 customer advisors and is responsible for creating a best-in-class experience with the company's 8,200 in-home technical repair representatives. In less than two years, Birrer has led Charter to a 100 percent improvement in net promoter score, reduced churn by more than 40 basis points, and has driven improvements in Charter's results in the Forrester Research Customer Index. He has more than 20 years of experience in senior-level leadership and operations, customer service and loyalty positions, where he worked to transform businesses into customer-centric organizations. As the senior vice president of customer service for T-Mobile, he led T-Mobile to a coveted spot on BusinessWeek magazine's list of the top 25 customer service organizations (2006-2008) and helped T-Mobile to be recognized by Fortune magazine as one of the top 100 places to work in America (2009). He propelled T-Mobile from last to first in customer care performance as recognized by the J. D. Power and Associates award for "Highest Ranked Wireless Customer Service Provider" every year from 2004-2009. His customer service experience also includes seven years on IMB's World Wide Call Center Operations team and seven years with MCI Telecommunications.

Lorna Collins Pierce '59

After graduating with distinction from Hendrix, Pierce earned a master's degree in anthropology at San Jose State and a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Tennessee, where she specialized in paleopathology and forensic applications. She is a forensic anthropology lecturer at Santa Jose State University and Santa Clara University and the forensic anthropology consultant for the Santa Clara County Medical Examiner-Coroner's Office. She teaches law enforcement classes on the proper techniques for excavating clandestine graves, decomposition, identification of bones, etc. In addition to her academic research in paleopathology, she is on the board of directors of the Institute for Canine Forensics and the Canine Specialized Support Team, where her current research is exploring the depth of residual scent that certified human remains detection dogs can be trained to identify.

Bill Fiser '75

Arkansas native Dr. Bill Fiser trained in cardiothoracic surgery and general surgery at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), where he graduated medical school in 1979. He completed a surgical internship at the University of Minnesota. His primary interest is cardiac transplantation and mechanical cardiac support. He was in private practice in Little Rock from 1987-2000 and played a key role in the first heart transplant performed in Arkansas in 1989. Dr. Fiser is medical director for Arkansas Regional Organ Recovery Association (ARORA). Established in 1987, ARORA makes every effort to provide organs and tissues for life-saving and life-enhancing transplantation. Additionally, Fiser is an assistant professor of surgery in the UAMS College of Medicine and the research director for pediatric and congenital cardiac surgery at Arkansas Children's Hospital.

Dee Davis '81  

After receiving her political science and history degree from Hendrix, Dee Davis earned a master's degree in public administration from Texas A&M University. During a 10-year career in public relations, she spent three years on the public speaking circuit, edited two newsletters, wrote three award-winning public service announcements, did television and radio commercials, starred in the Seven Year Itch, taught college classes, lobbied both the Texas state legislature and the U.S. Congress, and served as the director of two associations. Davis has put her creativity to work in writing romantic suspense and time travel novels. Her highly acclaimed first novel, Everything in Its Time, was published in July 2000. She has sold 21 books and four novellas, including Chain Reaction, A Match Made on Madison, Midnight Rain, Endgame, and Enigma. Since then, she's won the Booksellers Best, Golden Leaf, Texas Gold and Prism awards and has been nominated for the National Readers Choice Award, the Holt and an RT Reviewers Choice Award.

Founded in 1876, Hendrix College is a national leader in engaged liberal arts and sciences education. Hendrix was named the country's #1 "Up and Coming" liberal arts college for the third consecutive year by U.S. News and World Report. Hendrix is featured in the 2011 edition of the Princeton Review as one of the country's best 376 colleges and is listed in the 2012 edition of the Fiske Guide to Colleges as one of 25 "Best Buy" private colleges. Hendrix has been affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1884. For more information, visit www.hendrix.edu.