Achievement Day Highlights

Citation for Achievement Honorees

We presented three accomplished William Jewell graduates with the 2024 Citation for Achievement. They share their personal and professional journeys in these brief videos.

John Gill, ’79
President, Gill Grain Company
Managing General Partner, Gill Family Investments, LP

Lilia Toson, ’07
Attorney-in-Charge, Civil Citywide Units
The Legal Aid Society

Craig Zahnd, ’89
Senior Vice President and General Counsel
Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City


The Critical Thinker of the Year Award

Susan Chambers and Esther George seated on stageWe are proud to announce Esther George (right) as the recipient of this award. She was selected for encompassing William Jewell College’s seven attributes of a Critical Thinker: analytical, passionate, creative, problem solver, humanitarian, truth seeking and innovative. George was president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City and a member of the Federal Open Market Committee from 2011 to 2023. Her Fed service spans more than 40 years including considerable experience as a bank supervisor. George currently serves on the boards of the Hallmark Corporation, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, Peterson Institute for International Economics and the Kansas City 2026 World Cup.   

Citation for Achievement Honoree Bios

  • John Gill, ’79

    President, Gill Grain Company; Managing General Partner, Gill Family Investments, LP

    John Gill, ’79, is president of Gill Grain Company and managing general partner of Gill Family Investments, LP. Gill Grain Company is situated on a 3,000-acre family farm near Richmond in the Missouri River Valley. The Gill Family Investments, LP, oversees oil and natural gas investments in Oklahoma, Texas and Colorado and other investments. In support of the farm operations, Gill serves as an officer of multiple levee and drainage districts in northwest Missouri. He is responsible for emergency operations during flood events marshalling federal, state and local resources to mitigate flood risk from the Missouri River and its tributaries. During his 11 years on the Jewell Board of Trustees, he served as Finance Committee chair and Board chair.

    Gill graduated from Jewell with bachelor’s degrees in business administration and economics. He also graduated from the University of Missouri Agricultural Leadership Training Program. While at Jewell, he participated in several music programs including Concert Band, Liberty Symphony Orchestra and Cardinal Brass, played intramural sports and was a member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia music fraternity.

    He has been an active member of Rotary International where he has served as president of the Richmond Club, district governor, representative to the 2019 Rotary Council on Legislation and as chair of the District Rotary Foundation. He is the recipient of The Rotary Foundation’s Citation for Meritorious Service and Jewell’s Alumni Board of Governors’ 2023 Distinguished Alumni Service Award.

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  • Lilia Toson, ’07

    Attorney-in-Charge, Civil Citywide Units, The Legal Aid Society

    Lilia I. Toson, ’07, is a civil rights lawyer and advocate for justice. She is the Attorney-in-Charge of Civil Citywide Units at the Legal Aid Society in New York City, the nation’s oldest and largest not-for-profit legal services organization. In this role, she leads staff representing New Yorkers across a broad spectrum of specialties through the organization’s Economic Equities Project, Employment Law Unit, Family/DV Unit, Government Benefits & Disability Advocacy Project, and Health Law Unit.  Toson was most recently a Supervising Attorney in the Civil Law Reform Unit of the Legal Aid Society where she represented the interests of low-income people through lobbying and policy litigation, including on matters of national importance. 

    She previously handled cases regarding civil and constitutional rights as an assistant attorney general for New York State and served as senior counsel in the Affirmative Litigation Division of the New York City Law Department, an associate at Cleary Gottlieb and a clerk for Judge Duane Benton of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

    Toson studied political science at Jewell where she was involved in UNITY and excelled in debate, earning the top speaker in the nation at the National Parliamentary Tournament of Excellence. She attained her J.D. from New York University School of Law.

    She serves as the vice chair of Artistic Noise, a Harlem-based nonprofit that brings the power of artistic practice to system-involved youth and others throughout the community. She was awarded the 2017 New York City Bar Municipal Affairs Award, the 2019 National Bar Association’s “40 under 40” award and the 2021 New York Law Journal’s Rising Stars Award. Also in 2021, she was a Women inPower Fellow at the 92nd Street Y Belfer Center for Innovation and Social Impact. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, Reuters, the New York Law Journal, Law360 and other national and local media.

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  • Craig Zahnd, ’89

    Senior Vice President and General Counsel, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City

    Craig Zahnd, ’89, has more than 30 years of legal experience. He joined the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City in 2019 as senior vice president, general counsel, chief ethics officer and chief compliance officer. He leads the Bank’s Legal, Governance and Public Affairs Division and serves on the Bank’s Management Committee. He previously served as managing director and general counsel of the Americas at Swiss Reinsurance Company, managing a team of attorneys on a variety of legal and regulatory matters. Prior to Swiss Re, Zahnd served in legal roles at GE Capital and Shook, Hardy & Bacon LLP.

    Zahnd graduated from Jewell with a Bachelor of Arts in Business Management. While at Jewell, he served as Student Senate president, was a member of Aeons men’s honorary fraternity, Mortar Board honor society, recipient of the Bill “Pee Wee” Summers Award (the “Senior Male Who Will Walk the Farthest”) and the Wall Street Journal Business Award. He earned his J.D. from University of Virginia School of Law.

    He has served on the community support committee for Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault (MOCSA) since 2014, was an officer for the Overland Park Chamber of Commerce for five years and completed 10 years of service on the Jewell Board of Trustees, including the role of vice chair. His Jewell family legacy includes more than a dozen alumni and spans three generations, starting with his father, Larry Zahnd, ’55. Craig and his wife, Deana (McCrossen) Zahnd, ’88, have two sons, Andrew and Jewell alumnus Adam, ’22, and Deana’s father is Jewell Trustee Emeritus Rev. Jim McCrossen.

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Thank you to our sponsors

  • Presenting Sponsor – $25,000

    Steven Karbank
    Mark and Karen Mathes, Jared & Mary Mathes (Honorary Chairs)
    Marise Stewart, Jennifer Gravina and other ZTA Sisters

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  • Underwriters – $10,000

    ECCO Select
    The Ever Glades Fund
    Gautreaux Family Fund
    Muriel McBrien Kauffman Family Foundation
    Premier Network, LLC
    Dianne C. Shumaker

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  • Benefactor Sponsors – $5,000

    American Public Square at Jewell
    Bradco Incorporated
    Charles and Susan Chambers
    Commerce Bank
    Tyler Griffin
    Donald J. Hall
    Husch Blackwell, LLP
    JE Dunn Construction Company
    Russ and Melanie Cline Family Foundation
    David and Julie Warm
    Joanne Webster

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  • Ambassador Sponsors – $3,000

    Arvest Bank
    Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City
    John and Melissa Dowling
    Edmond Dental & Implant Assoc., Matthew J. Holloman
    Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City Alumni
    Fresh Ideas
    Gilmore & Bell, P.C.
    Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce
    Guadalupe Centers
    Jeff and Sarah Hon
    Kapke Willerth
    KCUR 89.3 / 91.9 Classical KC
    Liberty Hospital
    McConnell & Associates
    The Miller Group
    Perspective Architecture + Design
    Brian and Holly Place
    Shirley Neff Pryor
    Chris and KC Rosson
    Jim and Lisa Shoemaker
    Spencer Financial
    Rein Staal
    Steve and Sandra Stites
    Strickland Construction
    Qiana and Cedric Thomason
    Craig and Deana Zahnd
    Eric and Tracy Zahnd
    Zipco Restoration

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  • Scholar Sponsors – $1,000

    Kristie Holder Agee
    David and Amy Anderson
    Jayne Phillips Calvert
    Jill and Marshall Dean
    Stephen Hemphill
    Illig Family Foundation
    Larry and Debbie Harman
    Shirley and Barnett Helzberg, Jr.
    Lynn and Carol Hogue
    David Israelite
    Tim and Jorja Krause
    Tom and Jan Kreamer
    Mr. and Mrs. Gregory E. Lund
    Barbara Koval Nelson
    Jim and Marcia Pierce
    David and Mary Powell

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