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UNI Alumni Association to present Heritage Honours Awards

September 30, 2011

Contact Amy Mohr, director, Alumni Relations, 319-273-3094,

Lindsay Cunningham, Office of University Relations, 319-273-6728,


CEDAR FALLS, Iowa -- The University of Northern Iowa Alumni Association will present its annual Heritage Honours Awards during a luncheon and program at 11:45 a.m., Saturday, Nov. 12, in the UNI Commons. Tickets are available for $15 for adults and $7 for children 12 and under by calling 319-273-6078. The awards program honors the professional accomplishments of UNI graduates and service to the university.

Gary Scholten (B.A. '80) will receive the Alumni Achievement Award for his outstanding overall professional accomplishments. Jean Trainor (B.A. '75) will receive the Alumni Service Award for her continuous service to UNI. Jason Lau (B.A. '99, M.A. '02) will receive the Young Alumnus Award which recognizes graduates of 40 years of age or younger who have excelled in their professions at a young age. Robert and Mary Ellen Molinaro will receive the Honorary Alumni Award.

Scholten, a native of Larchwood, Iowa, is senior vice president and chief information officer at Principal Financial Group. He has received numerous awards for his contributions to his industry and has been featured in national magazines. Scholten has led efforts in Des Moines and the State of Iowa to develop programs aimed at middle and high school students to generate interest in and preparation for careers in information technology.

Scholten was instrumental in developing UNI Day and Principal Day, an exchange between Principal employees in Des Moines and UNI students and faculty. He is also a charter member of the Advisory Board to the Department of Computer Science.

Trainor is CEO and president of Veridian Credit Union. She has received numerous awards for her dedication to building a better community. Trainor served on the United Way board of directors for 12 years and has been active in many organizations throughout the Cedar Valley. She is a recipient of the Matt Parrott Integrity award and the Distinguished Alumni award from Cedar Valley Catholic Schools.

Trainor has served UNI in many capacities including mentoring in Career Services, serving on the College of Business Administration Advisory Council and supporting the Gallagher-Bluedorn Performing Arts Center. She also hosted Inclusion Connection, an event that stressed the abilities of people with disabilities.

Lau grew up in Hong Kong and received a degree in social work from Hong Kong Polytechnic University. He graduated summa cum laude from UNI, earning both his B.A. and M.A. in Leisure, Youth and Human Services. He earned his Ph.D. in Education Policy & Leadership Studies from the University of Iowa.

While a student at UNI, Lau received several awards for his extensive volunteer work. He also started an international early childhood education consulting business with partner Winnie Wong. Due to the success of this business, he created the Global Competency Consulting Research Fund for Early Developmental Education. The fund will be used to help defray research expenses for UNI’s faculty and graduate students. He also created the Po Wa Opportunity scholarship to honor his parents.

Robert and Mary Ellen Molinaro's generosity is well known throughout the Cedar Valley. The University of Northern Iowa Alumni Association is recognizing these great friends of UNI for their extraordinary commitment to the university and the local community. The prestigious status of honorary alumnus will be bestowed upon them at the November ceremony.

Robert says benevolence and hard work were instilled in him as a child. Taking the lead from his mother, he has made an impact in the Cedar Valley by giving to those in need. Through the Molinaro Charitable Foundation, Robert and Mary Ellen have made gifts to Cedar Valley Hospice, Exceptional Persons, the University of Northern Iowa and many other organizations. As members of the UNI Panther Scholarship Club, their generous support has made an impact on student-athletes and several UNI athletic programs. In memory of their son, they established the Hank Molinaro Memorial Endowed Scholarship to support student-athletes in men'’s and women'’s golf. Robert is CEO of Warren Transport, Inc. and Mary Ellen is an active volunteer in the community.