Alumni Achievement Award
Michael Benitez, Jr.
PhD ‘15 Educational Leadership and Policy Studies
A director in higher education by age 25, Michael Benitez, Jr.’s work as a servant leader and scholar activist throughout his career has a paramount impact on the lives of others.
He has been invited to speak, present, consult or read his poetry at over 350 locations with the goals of: creating awareness; integrating and advancing DEI and multiculturalism; and transforming organizations.
Benitez is sought after to share his thoughts about critical issues in higher education and society at large in documentaries, publications and podcasts and he is routinely quoted or referenced in articles.
His time at Iowa State was a major steppingstone in his life, making it possible for him to grow and assume challenging and rewarding roles across a variety of institutions in the United States.
Benitez earned the Pacific Northwest Association for Institutional Research and Planning’s Best Presentation Award in 2017 and the NBSLDC Dr. Carroll F Hardy ‘To Form A More Perfect Union’ Award in 2011.
He also serves in high-level leadership roles in local, state, and national organizations such as the Denver Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Colorado Department of Higher Education Equity Champions and the CREED Board of Directors.
Countless students, organizations and individuals have benefitted from Benitez’s dedication to helping cultivate and sustain diverse, equitable and inclusive institutions of higher education.
He is currently the vice president for diversity and inclusion and a tenured professor at the Metropolitan State University of Denver. He and his wife, Arianna, live in Denver with their children.
Alumni Achievement Award
Laura Brannen West
MFS ‘10 Family Financial Planning
West Des Moines, Iowa
Laura Brannen West is the founder and managing partner of West Financial Advisors where she has dedicated the past 16 years to improving the lives of others through financial planning.
West began her career in corporate accounting and finance, making a mid-career transition to family financial planning where she found more meaning in her work. She credits Iowa State’s master’s program for giving her a foundation to serve clients in a different way than most in the personal financial planning industry.
Her work with clients helps them understand future financial possibilities – setting a vision based on their values. West Financial Advisors is one of the top wealth management firms in Des Moines, managing over $500 million in assets across 250 households. They are known for changing how Iowans think of a financial planner through their dedication to deep, personal engagement and client communication. The firm is one of the few fee-only firms in Iowa and is part of the 20 percent of firms in that category nationally.
West is a member of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, an organization dedicated to fee-only financial planning. She is licensed in Iowa as a certified public accountant and holds the designation of Retirement Income Certified Professional.
Along with her passion for helping people, West spends countless hours giving back to her community through organizations like the United Way, Story County Community Foundation, her local school board, and many other roles that help build strong communities.
West lives in West Des Moines with her husband and business partner, Brian. They have three children – Ally, Jack, and Mike.
Helen LeBaron Hilton Award
JacqueLynn (Jacque) Andrew
‘74 Home Economics and Journalism
Jacque Andrew’s 30-year communications career in the fields of education and healthcare culminated as the community relations director and public health information officer for Greene County Medical Center.
The development of future leaders has remained a focus through Andrew’s career, from her work as coordinator for “Greene County Visions 2000” to her service with Leadership Iowa.
As chair of a five-state regional leadership conference, her efforts brought over 400 incoming Rotary International club presidents to the Iowa State campus in 2017 for training – establishing the continued practice and event location for the group.
As president of her Rotary Club, Andrew’s leadership was instrumental in the relocation of three refugee families from Kosovo to Jefferson, Iowa. While serving as Rotary district governor, she traveled to India, immunizing children against polio, assisted with a health project in Guatemala, and volunteered in a rural community development project in Mexico.
Andrew guided the board of a non-profit childcare center in the design, funding, and construction of a $2.1 million center – increasing childcare openings by 50 percent for the children and families in the area.
A founding board member of Why Not Us, the group of 67 women financed the renovation of a flood-damaged, woman-owned restaurant in Jefferson – significantly impacting the city’s downtown economy.
Honored with the Association of Business and Industry’s Leadership for Iowa Award, Andrew has also been inducted into the Iowa 4-H Hall of Fame. In 2019, she received Rotary International’s highest global honor – the Service Above Self Award.
Andrew is a life member of the Iowa State University Alumni Association. She and her husband James reside in Jefferson and have three daughters and nine grandchildren.
Virgil S. Lagomarcino Laureate Award
MS ‘99 Education
Laura Doering has spent her career contributing to the success of Iowa State University’s students, faculty and staff, the Cyclone community and higher education.
Her vast experience in public education led to her being named Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management at Iowa State in 2017 where she oversees strategic enrollment for the university. Her leadership has helped Iowa State stay well above the average in student retention and graduation in comparison to public land-grant institutions.
Doering developed a passion for the student experience early in her career while she was an activities director working with student leaders. With a goal of creating the best possible experience for students, Doering led Iowa State’s Student Success Council that focused on new and improved initiatives to help students learn and graduate. As a member of the leadership team, she helped implement Iowa State’s nationally recognized and award-winning learning communities program.
Within the higher education industry, she is active in the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO). She has been a presenter at conferences, served on committees, was president of the upper Midwest region and has received numerous awards and honors from the organization for her contributions to higher education.
Doering spends time giving back to her community by supporting the Iowa Food Bank, serving meals at the Central Iowa Shelter & Services for the homeless, and is a foster care advocate.
Doering is an annual member of the ISU Alumni Association. She and her husband Jon reside in Ankeny, Iowa and have two daughters, Lizzie and Natalie.
Outstanding Young Professional Award
‘16 Athletic Training
Some of Michael Montgomery’s earliest childhood memories are cheering on the Cyclones at Hilton Coliseum and Jack Trice Stadium with his family. Those experiences helped shape his future as a Cyclone and his ascent to the top of his field.
Montgomery has provided high-level health care and injury rehabilitation services in the National Football League (NFL), National Basketball Association (NBA), and the NCAA Division I level, all before the age of 30.
While attending Iowa State, he excelled in the classroom and gained experience outside it, working alongside mentors with various Cyclone sports. His dedication during the academic year earned him two summer internships with the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs where he continued to build his body of work. Montgomery also went on to earn his master’s degree in sport performance and injury prevention.
His path led him back to Iowa State where he served as the assistant director of athletic training for the Cyclone football team. In this role, he helped establish new protocols he learned during his time in the NFL.
Montgomery is currently works for the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans as the assistant athletic trainer, a role rarely held early in a person’s career. He is a key member to the team’s organization and an outstanding role model for aspiring athletic trainers.
Montgomery and his wife Katie live in Metairie, Louisiana.