Montana State University

Four MSU alums to be honored at homecoming

September 29, 2010 -- MSU News Service

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Tel: (406) 994-4571
The Montana State University Alumni Association is honoring four MSU graduates this homecoming with its highest awards, the Blue and Gold Award and the Alumni Achievement Award.

Tom and Celia O'Connor of Gallatin Gateway, Chuck Karnop of Bozeman, and Dave Johnson of Bigfork are the four award recipients who will be honored during MSU homecoming.

The Blue and Gold Award is the most prestigious award granted by the MSU Alumni Association. It honors those who have rendered lifetime service or who have brought national or international distinction to MSU or to the state of Montana. Candidates must have achieved prominence through service to one or a combination of: profession, family, country, world, university, philanthropy or humanity. Recipients of the Blue and Gold Award are recommended by the MSU Alumni Association Board of Directors to the president of the university.

The Alumni Achievement Award recognizes alumni of Montana State who have distinguished themselves through significant achievement in a specific field or endeavor. Award recipients are selected by an Alumni Association appointed committee.

All of the awards will be presented by MSU President Waded Cruzado at the President's Homecoming Luncheon and Alumni Awards Ceremony from 11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m., Friday, Oct. 8, in the Hannon Hall dining room. Tickets are $18 per person.

This year's honorees are:

Blue and Gold Award
Tom, '63 IArt & Tech, and Celia (Smith) O'Connor, '63 Math:

The O'Connors have been actively involved with MSU since their student days in the early 1960s. In addition to their degrees from MSU, Tom earned an MBA from Memphis State University, and Celia earned a graduate degree in computer science and statistics from Texas A&I.

They were married in Danforth Chapel on campus the day after graduating from what was then MSC. After graduation, Tom had a 26-year career with the Navy. Celia established a career in teaching and working with software engineering companies providing technology and computer engineering solutions to government and private industry.

After raising two sons and retiring, Tom and Celia returned to the Gallatin Valley in 1997. Both have been actively involved in their commitment to MSU by giving their time and financial support to the MSU Libraries, MSU Athletics, MSU Alumni Association, Museum of the Rockies and the Sigma Nu Fraternity.

Separately, they have also been actively involved with Kiwanis, American Red Cross, Gallatin Valley Air Shows, P.E.O. and the Gallatin Gateway School Board. They also volunteer with the Warriors and Quiet Waters nonprofit organization whose mission is to employ the therapeutic qualities of fly fishing in Montana to help heal traumatically wounded veterans.

Blue and Gold Award
Dave Johnson, '67 CE, '68 CE M:

After graduation, Johnson was employed by Continental Oil Company for 13 years in Utah, Oklahoma, Texas and Montana. In 1981 he was offered a promotion with a move to Houston. He declined the promotion because he loved Montana and wanted to raise his family in the state. He was offered a job with the Montana Power Company, where he stayed until he retired in 2002, after serving 18 years as vice president over several groups within MPC, now NorthWestern Energy. He served on various industry boards associated with Conoco and MPC throughout his career.

Johnson has been a member and past president of the Butte YMCA; a member and board member of the Butte Exchange Club, Butte & Flathead Valley Pachyderm clubs. He has also been active with diabetes awareness and youth soccer and baseball clubs.

Johnson has been a 30-year member of the Bobcat Booster Club; past president of the MSU Statewide Bobcat Advisory Board; co-founder of the Butte Booster Club; Butte Steer-a-Year Syndicate; and Butte Quarterback Club; co-founder of the Butte Cat-Griz Golf Tournament; a member of the Flathead Valley Quarterback Club; season ticket holder for football and basketball since 1980; a member of the MSU Alumni Association Board of Directors for 13 years serving as the treasurer and president; and the MSU Alumni Association representative to the MSU Foundation Board.

He and his wife, Pat, have also established a trust as part of their estate plan, which divides funds between the MSU College of Engineering and MSU Alumni Association. Johnson's latest endeavor was serving as the lead project manager for the Spirit and Alumni Plaza projects.

Alumni Achievement Award
Chuck Karnop, '63 SecEd, '67 Zool M:

Karnop, a Harlowton native, served as MSU's head athletic trainer (1968-2002) during two national championships and nine Big Sky Championships in football, five Big Sky basketball titles, and many national rodeo championships.

Former Bobcat football player and assistant coach Joe Tiller, who became head coach at Wyoming and Purdue, called Karnop a "great ambassador for Montana State... He certainly doesn't have a vocation, but rather an avocation to Montana State University."

Karnop was well known for his ability, and willingness, to counsel Bobcat student-athletes.

"He served as a sounding board and counselor for countless number of players and coaches, and his commitment to the athletes and to this school is something that he has been able to pass on to many, many people," said MSU Associate Athletic Director Dan Davies, who played football at MSU during Karnop's long career.

Ginny Hunt, MSU's first full time women's athletic director, credits Karnop for his role in advancing women's athletics into a prominent position at MSU.

Contact: Rose Hanson, MSU Alumni Association, 406-994-2401,