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Four to Receive UW Distinguished Alumni Awards

October 2, 2013
Three men and a woman
The University of Wyoming 2013 Distinguished Alumni Award recipients are Thomas M. Botts, Joseph Drew, Joseph R. Geraud and Rita Meyer. (UW Alumni Association)

By Julianne Couch, UW AlumNews

Four University of Wyoming graduates will receive Distinguished Alumni Awards during UW Homecoming Saturday, Oct. 12.

The 2013 recipients are retired Shell executive Thomas Botts (B.A. ’77, civil engineering); award-winning automobile dealer Joseph Drew (B.S. ’63, business administration); law professor and retired UW administrator Joseph R. Geraud (J.D. ’50); and utility company executive, retired Air Guard colonel and former state auditor Rita Meyer (B.A.’82, middle school education; B.S.’89, accounting).

They will attend several Homecoming activities; ride in the parade Saturday, Oct. 12; and be recognized during the Cowboys' football game against New Mexico at 1:30 p.m.

Botts eschewed the chance to run the family’s ranch outside of Riverton, but took his father’s advice and attended UW, where he was involved in Mortar Board, Tau Beta Pi and the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Upon graduation, Shell Oil hired him as a civil engineer. Two weeks later, he married his “childhood sweetheart,” Shelley, moved to Ventura, Calif., and started his 36-year career with that company. Botts eventually led a team of 30,000 employees and contractors at 30 refineries and chemical sites around the world.

By 1990, he was division operations manager, responsible for onshore upstream operations in the western half of the U.S.; later, he assumed responsibility for both engineering and operations as division production manager.

In 1995, he was appointed treasurer of Shell Oil Co. Three years later Botts moved to London, holding positions as U.K. gas director, U.K. oil director and U.K. managing director. In 2003, he moved to the Netherlands and became executive vice president for exploration and production, Europe. He was named executive vice president of Global Manufacturing Royal Dutch Shell in 2009. He retired in 2012.

Now that Botts is retired from Shell Oil, he is living full time in Wyoming and has turned his attention to UW's engineering program. In 2012, he was appointed by Gov. Matt Mead to the Wyoming Governor’s Energy, Engineering, and STEM Integration Task Force for UW.

“The governor and the Legislature have a vision that is really unique,” he says of the task to create a top-tier engineering school at UW.

Drew is owner and president of the Drew Auto Center, an award-winning Ford-Volkswagen-Hyundai dealership in La Mesa, Calif. The oldest family-owned dealership in San Diego County, Drew Auto Center sells new and used cars; rents and leases vehicles; provides auto repair and service; does body repair and painting; and sells parts and supplies.

Drew’s father, Elmer, started Drew’s garage in 1927. After the local Ford dealership in town folded during the Depression, Elmer was awarded a Ford franchise in 1934.

“I grew up in the business because our house was behind the shop for a while, which was very typical at that time,” Drew says.

During college, Drew met Kay Klingaman, who would become his wife; and Alpha Tau Omega fraternity brother Mike Sullivan, who would eventually become Wyoming’s governor from 1987-1995. 

“Consistent throughout Joe’s life has been his creativity and enthusiasm, his work ethic and integrity, and his natural salesmanship,” Sullivan says. “All of these traits have obviously contributed to his lifetime success in business and community.”

After graduating from UW in 1963, Drew entered the Army. In 1965, upon his discharge, Drew and his wife drove to California and he started working at the family dealership the next day.

“What was easy for me was selling and making business work,” Drew says. “So, that’s the field that I chose.”

Drew was named Time Magazine Dealer of the Year in 1988 and a UW College of Business Distinguished Alumnus in 1997.

“It is a humbling experience,” Drew says of being named a UW Distinguished Alumnus. “When I think of all of the people who graduated from UW, I can hardly imagine being nominated. It makes me blush to think about it.”

Geraud has served his alma mater, his state and his nation in several capacities during a lengthy legal career.

After graduating from the UW College of Law at the top of his class, Geraud returned to the university in 1955 as a faculty member. He taught full time until 1969, becoming a full professor in 1962.

In 1964, he was appointed special assistant attorney general for the UW Board of Trustees as an additional duty. His teaching duties ended when he began service as vice president for student affairs. He continued to serve as special assistant attorney general for the UW trustees until his duties were changed in 1972 to university legal counsel, which he performed until 1980, when he returned to full time-teaching in the College of Law.

He retired from the Navy with the rank of commander after 42 years of active and reserve service.

Upon retirement from UW, he returned to his hometown of Riverton, where he served for a decade as a member of the Central Wyoming College Foundation.

“I know the impact he has had on hundreds of attorneys, in Wyoming and across the country, in their education and practices, especially in the field of natural resource law,” says Wyoming Supreme Court Chief Justice Marilyn Kite, who studied under Geraud. “His expertise in oil and gas, mining, public lands and property law contributed to the UW College of Law’s reputation as one of the leading natural resources law schools in the region and the country.”

Meyer has had a distinguished career, serving in the military, being elected to state office and currently serving as vice president for Rocky Mountain Power in Wyoming.

She grew up in Nebraska and later moved to Centennial. Her late husband, Charles, had a thriving dentistry practice in Laramie. Meyer earned education and accounting degrees from UW; an MBA in international business from Denver’s Regis University; and a master’s degree in national resources strategy from National Defense University in Washington D.C.

She always had an interest in the military and enlisted as an airman and officer in the Wyoming Air National Guard. Since entering the military in 1974, Meyer has had many assignments. She attained the rank of full colonel in 2004 and served as 153rd mission support group commander from 2001-2007.

Meyer is a combat veteran deployed in support of Operation Desert Storm, Operation Provide Comfort and Operation Enduring Freedom. She retired in 2007.

In her next phase of her career, Meyer was elected Wyoming state auditor from 2007-11, and later ran for governor after her first term expired.

“Rita’s public service tenure is diverse and admirable, and she is certainly worthy of this recognition. As a public official, she spoke to groups throughout the state, although she was not required to do so,” says Nancy Freudenthal, former Wyoming first lady and a United States district judge. “I particularly appreciated her powerful message of giving back to our communities, volunteerism and public service. Her resume shows she walks her talk, an attribute we in Wyoming respect and appreciate.”

She has served on several UW boards and has been active in her community.

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