Skip to main content

IU Presents Its Highest Honor for Alumni

Sketches of Antonia Wilson Bluher, Karen Schuster Webb, and Brian T. Shockney
The 2023 Distinguished Alumni Service Award recipients. Left to right: Antonia Wilson Bluher, Brian T. Shockney, and Karen Schuster Webb. Sketches by Bonnie Jo Sklarski.

The Distinguished Alumni Service Award program was established in 1953 to honor IU graduates’ service, achievement in professional fields, and commitment to improving their communities on the local, state, or national level. It is the highest accolade an IU graduate can receive—with this year’s honorees, only 358 alumni have received it. IU President Pamela Whitten presented the awards Oct. 19, 2023.

Antonia Wilson Bluher, BS’83

Antonia Wilson Bluher spent nearly 30 years at the National Security Agency in Fort Meade, Md., doing the subtle, secretive, and highly important work of cryptology.

At the NSA, the world’s largest employer of mathematicians, Bluher was a senior cryptologic expert who specialized in a branch of mathematics known as number theory, which is crucial to the encryption and decryption of digital communications—both core functions of the agency.

Bluher’s contributions to our nation’s security were recognized by former President Barack Obama, who twice awarded her the Presidential Meritorious Rank Award and named her the 2015 NSA Researcher of the Year. In 2022, President Joe Biden awarded her the Distinguished Presidential Rank Award for sustained extraordinary achievement in government.

“I truly believe that there is no other mathematician working for the U.S. government who has made more contributions to the national security mission than Toni Bluher,” wrote Mary Reed, head of the School of Mathematical Sciences at the Rochester Institute of Technology and Bluher’s former NSA supervisor.

Bluher credits IU and Professor Emeritus Maynard Thompson for the opportunities presented to her as an undergraduate. Ever the mentor, she continues to encourage the next generation of young people interested in the field mathematics with the advice: “Keep your curiosity alive.”

Brian T. Shockney, BS’90, MHA’94

As the first person in his family to go to college, Brian Shockney—IU Health’s senior vice president of system regional operations and a graduate of both IU Kokomo and IUPUI—has fashioned a career that will inspire other first-generation seekers of higher education to follow in his footsteps. In his current role, he oversees the Academic Health Center, Riley Children’s Health, and all regional and rural IU Health hospitals.

Shockney devotes time to leadership and mentorship roles across the state. He serves on the Indiana Hospital Association’s Board of Directors and is a member of the Association’s Council on Workforce Development

“Brian represents the best of IU, reinforcing the importance of one IU,” wrote Benjamin Liechty, BA’06, IU Kokomo’s director of alumni relations and campus ceremonies. “He gives of his time, talent, and treasure in a multitude of ways.”

Shockney is the recipient of several recognitions and awards, including the American Hospital Association Shirley Ann Monroe Leadership Development Award and the IU Kokomo Alumni Hall of Fame.

Shockney and his wife, Angela, BS’91, also a first-generation college student and IU Kokomo graduate, established the Shockney Family Scholarship at IU Kokomo to support students who aspire to be the first people in their families to get a university education.

Karen Schuster Webb, BA’68, MS’73, PhD’80

Karen Schuster Webb has devoted her career to higher education and social justice, with an emphasis on increasing equity of access to educational opportunities. In her role as president of Union Institute & University—a private university based in Cincinnati—she has lived her values, establishing the university’s Institute for Social Justice.

Webb founded the Institute for Social Justice to “rekindle the university’s founding mission as a university without walls and borders.” That effort led the Institute to conduct outreach across the globe, and it has helped the university attract faculty members such as Hassana Alidou, who previously served as the Republic of Niger’s ambassador to the United States and Canada.

“Dr. Webb is a wise soul and true servant leader who has always believed that diversity equals excellence,” wrote Josefina Baltodano, the founder and executive director of the Executive Leadership Academy at the University of California, Berkeley, in a DASA recommendation letter. “She serves as an ideal role model to other higher education leaders in how to transform higher education for the better.”

Among other accolades and awards, Webb was named one of the Top 25 Women in Higher Education and Beyond by Diverse Issues in Higher Education magazine.

Webb has served as chair of the American Council on Education Women’s Network Executive Council and currently serves on the Board of Directors for the American Council on Education.

Written By

Brian Hartz

Brian Hartz, MA’01, is a journalist and tennis coach based in St. Petersburg, Fla. In addition to writing for the Indiana University Alumni Magazine, he covers business news for the St. Pete Catalyst.

Related stories

graphic of three students sitting at desks

Finals Week Chronicles

From a massive snowball fight to a mid-exam evacuation to a “victory cigar,” these stories truly capture the uniqueness of finals week at IU.

Elder Watson Diggs: ‘The Dreamer’

In 1916, Elder Watson Diggs, founder of Kappa Alpha Psi, became the first Black graduate of the IU School of Education.

Stephen Hofer standing in front of the Indiana Memorial Union

Alum Stephen Hofer: More than an ‘Aviation Attorney to the Stars’

Game show contestant. Genealogical curator of Dunn Cemetery. Aviation attorney. Stephen Hofer, BA'76, walks readers through his life.

A gift wrapped in IU-themed wrapping paper

Holiday Gift Guide for the IU Alum in Your Life

Gift ideas sourced from IU alum-owned businesses and the IU Alumni Association’s trusted corporate partners.