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2024 Distinguished Alumni announcement

The USD 373 education endowment committee announces this year's recipients of the NHS Distinguished Alumni award.

The 2024 NHS Distinguished Alumni recipients are Erin Gough McDaniel (1998), Kate Brubacher (1998) and Murray Penner (1979).

Erin Gough McDaniel (1998) graduated from the University of Kansas with a degree in journalism in 2002. Following a few years of working in the newspaper industry, McDaniel returned to her hometown for a career in public service, serving as the Director of Communications for the city of Newton, KS. Here, McDaniel bridges the gap between citizens of the Newton community and the local government. She writes press releases, fields questions from area media, posts to social media and represents Newton at events with a heart of civil service. In her spare time, McDaniel serves as marketing/communications chair for the civic group, the Newton Lions Club. She also served a term as president, and immediately following, received the Melvin Jones Fellowship for her dedicated service to Lions and the Newton community. For years, McDaniel has organized the Lions downtown Halloween walk and the Lions Club Parade of Lights. Most recently, McDaniel has served an instrumental role in writing grants and communications for All Together Now, the program bringing an inclusive playground to Slate Creek Elementary in Newton where kids of all abilities can play together.

Kate Brubacher (1998) is the 42nd presidentially appointed U.S. Attorney for the District of Kansas.
She was nominated by President Biden and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. As U.S. Attorney she
is the chief federal law enforcement officer for the District, which encompasses all 105 counties
in Kansas. Ms. Brubacher is the first woman to hold the office. As U.S. Attorney, Ms. Brubacher supervises the investigation and prosecution of all federal crimes and the litigation of all civil matters in which the United States has an interest. She leads a staff of approximately 100 lawyers, paralegals and other support professionals who work in three offices associated with the federal courts in Wichita, Kansas City, and Topeka, Kansas. Ms. Brubacher is a fifth-generation Kansan, and a native of Newton, Kansas. She is a 1998 graduate of Newton High School where she enjoyed a wide range of activities including orchestra, theatre, tennis, soccer, basketball and newspaper staff. They form her foundation and some of her fondest memories. Ms. Brubacher received her bachelor’s degree from Stanford University and her law degree from Yale Law School. She also holds a Master of Arts in Religion from Yale Divinity School. After law school practiced corporate law at large firms in New York, New York before returning to the heartland in 2016.

Murray Penner (1979) graduated Magna Cum Laude from Bethel College in December 1983 with a bachelor's degree in social work and a minor in Psychology. Penner’s life work has been in public health beginning in 1986. From June 2001 to October 2018, Penner worked in Washington DC for NASTAD (National Alliance of State and Territorial Aids Directors), a leading national HIV organization focusing on supporting state health departments in their HIV response, eventually working up to serving as executive director. Penner then made a career change, and from 2019-2023 worked on the Undetectable=Untransmittable campaign and served as the Executive Director of U=U Plus and the U.S. Executive Director of the Prevention Access Campaign. The U=U Campaign aims to change the narrative about living with HIV. In 1986, Penner tested positive for HIV and, thanks to the advances in HIV drugs and treatment, he has led a normal, healthy life for 40 years. He has spent much of his career working to bring awareness of the advancements in HIV treatments and reduce the stigma of living with the disease. His passion and work have been to end the HIV epidemic. Penner’s HIV work is recognized nationally. Penner is currently an independent consultant focused on public health with an emphasis on HIV Programs, non-profit management, and improving access to healthcare to achieve health equity.

Newton High School has produced a number of outstanding graduates over the years and this award program recognizes their efforts. These alumni also serve as an inspiration for current NHS students, as they strive to create their own personal and professional roles in our community, state, nation and world.

Recipients will be inducted during NHS commencement activities in May and their names will also be added to the NHS Alumni Wall of Fame, located inside the main entrance at Newton High School. 

For a full list of past recipients, click here.