Distinguished Alumni Honors

KENNESAW, Ga. | Oct 8, 2018

Three graduates recognized at annual awards

Three prominent Kennesaw State University alumni were recognized during KSU’s 27th Annual Distinguished Alumni Awards dinner, hosted by the Office of Alumni Relations and Annual Giving the evening of Friday, Oct. 5 at the Renaissance Atlanta Waverly Hotel and Convention Center. The event, sponsored by Nationwide, was held in conjunction with Kennesaw State’s 2018 Homecoming week.

Three deserving alumni – Matt Finn ’07, Daryle Higginbotham ’89 and Brian Pendley ’94 – were recipients of a 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award.

Distinguished Alumni Awards

The Distinguished Alumni Award program was established in 1992 to honor KSU’s most accomplished graduates on an annual basis. A distinguished alumnus/alumna is a person who exemplifies the ideals and mission of the University; demonstrates distinguished achievement in his/her chosen field at a local, regional and/or national level; and embodies the spirit of Kennesaw State’s commitment to community engagement through service, University involvement or philanthropic endeavors.

Finn, an Atlanta native, earned a Bachelor of Architecture at Southern Polytechnic State University. He began his career working for the Atlanta office of Perkins+Will, an interdisciplinary, research-based design firm with 2,200 employees in 25 offices worldwide. Finn’s experience working on complex architectural projects prepared him for practice-led research into such topics as facilitating psychotherapy for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, which has been featured by the American Institute of Architects and the Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture. In 2016, Healthcare Design magazine named Finn as the HCD 10 Researcher, making him the first practicing architect to receive this distinction.

Since October 2016, he has served full time as founder of Cognitive Design LLC, an Atlanta-based network of experts that provides consulting, design and research services for projects to improve human health and wellbeing. Ongoing and recent projects of Cognitive Design include a 10-acre master plan focused on reducing social isolation in rural communities; design guidelines for improving quality of life for low-income seniors in Mercy Housing; consulting with the National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research on how design can reduce childhood obesity in America; and the renovation of a 1910 Southern School Book Depository into Constellations, a shared workspace that supports small business and entrepreneurs in the historic Sweet Auburn neighborhood of downtown Atlanta.

Distinguished Alumni Awards - Matt Finn
“I’m forever thankful for my architectural education, not only because it empowered me to become an architect – which it did well as a five-year professional program – but also because it was a generalist education,” Finn said. “By earning my diploma in architecture, I learned about things like engineering and craftsmanship, public policy, cultures different than my own, and generally speaking, about empathy. These lessons have proven of great value in my life, reaching far beyond the classroom and my work.

“The years I studied at SPSU shaped how I think about design and my career path. It encouraged me to remain humble and follow my passion toward a career of lifelong learning. My classmates were awesome; we encouraged and supported each other to do our best work. My best friends from those formative years are still my best friends today; we support each other in our careers and also as husbands and fathers.”

Higginbotham is another graduate of the former SPSU who received his Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering technology. Earlier in 1982, he received his machinist and toolmaker certificate at Lanier Area Vocational-Technical School (currently Lanier Technical College) in Gainesville, Georgia. Higginbotham, a Marietta resident, has been a generous donor to KSU’s Southern Polytechnic College of Engineering and Engineering Technology, the Motorsports Formula SAE Team and Georgia BEST Robotics. After serving as chair of the SPSU Foundation from 2012-13, he remained as a trustee of the board of directors at Southern Poly and then Kennesaw State until 2016. Higginbotham was heavily involved with bathtub racing as a student on the Marietta campus and is still an active member of Sigma Nu fraternity. From his basement, he and his wife Becky started Higginbotham and Associates Inc. in 1988. Higginbotham formed Marietta X-Ray LLC in 1999 and Marietta Nondestructive Testing LLC in 2007. Today, Marietta NDT – with Higginbotham acting as its founder and chairman of the board – is a leading nondestructive testing equipment provider with a worldwide customer base. Under his leadership, Marietta NDT currently has more than 70 employees with 40 of them being graduates or interns from KSU or SPSU. Higginbotham and his company sponsor the annual Pumpkin Launch on the Marietta campus and were very involved in the startup of the R. Glenn Allen Endowed Scholarship at Kennesaw State. 

Distinguished Alumni Awards - Daryle Higginbotham
“KSU has provided Marietta NDT the engineering technology workforce we needed to become the leading company we are today,” Higginbotham said. “Engineering technology is the critical link between engineers and the manufacturing of the product. We simply make it happen and get our hands dirty.

“The University name has changed but the students and industries that KSU serves are the same. I look forward to continue supporting the engineering technology programs at KSU.”

Pendley obtained his Bachelor of Business in accounting with summa cum laude honors from KSU. At Kennesaw State, he was vice president and then president of the accounting club (now Beta Alpha Psi), along with treasurer of the Golden Key International Honour Society. Pendley stays connected to his alma mater and the Coles College of Business through the KSU School of Accountancy. He has been associated with the school’s advisory board for 18 years and presently is serving as immediate past chairman.

Outside of his financial support of nearly 15 years, Pendley has helped the School of Accountancy by securing grants from the Ernst & Young Foundation and being on its strategic planning committee. He has worked at Ernst & Young LLP for more than 24 years, currently as a partner in its assurance practice while also fulfilling the role of campus recruiting coordinator to Kennesaw State. In his position at EY, he serves clients in the services, life science, media and entertainment, distribution and diversified industrial products sectors. Pendley was on the Media Financial Management Association Board of Directors and later a member of its advisory committee. He lives in Acworth with his wife Dawn, also a KSU graduate, and their three children. Pendley is very active in his local community.   

Distinguished Alumni Awards - Brian Pendley
“Since graduating from KSU in 1994, I wanted to find a way to stay connected and was fortunate early in my career to be given that opportunity through our firm, EY, by assisting in our recruiting efforts on campus, which have increased meaningfully in recent years,” Pendley said. “I have enjoyed maintaining and building relationships with many of the great professors in the School of Accountancy, the College of Business, the development team and others. While my goal in this service and through our financial giving was not to receive special recognition, I am very honored and humbled to receive this award and proud to be counted among the fast-growing alumni of KSU.” 

Rich Cole, dean of the College of Architecture and Construction Management, presented the award to Finn, while Higginbotham was introduced by Renee Butler, interim dean of the Southern Polytechnic College of Engineering and Engineering Technology. Pendley accepted accolades from Kathy S. Schwaig, dean of the Coles College of Business. 

Master of ceremonies for the event was Ashlie Wilson Pendley ’96, ’15, a member of the Kennesaw State Alumni Association board of directors and a Distinguished Alumni Award winner herself in 2008. Also speaking during the ceremony were Pamela Whitten, president of the University; Jim Dunn, interim chief executive officer of the KSU Foundation and interim vice president for advancement, alumni and development; and Nathan Humphrey, president of the KSU Alumni Association.

“It was an incredible night, and true privilege to recognize these outstanding alumni for the significant impact they are having in their professional careers, and more importantly in their communities,” Humphrey said. “They are a fantastic representation of what it means to be KSU alumni.”

– Steve Ruthsatz

Photos by Lauren Kress

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 43,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.