Walsh Announces 2022 Outstanding Alumni Award Recipients

Walsh University will honor its 2022 Outstanding Alumni on Friday, September 16, with a special ceremony that includes the presentation of the Outstanding Achievement Award, Professional Achievement Award, Distinguished Service Award and Young Alumni Leadership Award.

This year’s honorees include:

Outstanding Achievement Award: Steven Burger ’90, ‘12; Teresa Reolfi ‘15

Professional Achievement Award: Ben Davis ‘96

Distinguished Service Award: Marlene Toot ‘85

Young Alumni Leadership Award: Ashley Collins ’10, ‘16; Dr. Aaron Hollis Palmer ‘11

The Outstanding Achievement Award honors alumni for their achievements, leadership and contributions to their professions, their communities and their alma mater.

Steven Burger ’90, ’12, Chief Financial Officer for Employers Health in Canton, has been awarded numerous accolades and has always made it a priority to give back to the community. He is a current board member and past president and treasurer of the Beacon Charitable Pharmacy in Canton.  He serves as treasurer of the Akron Area Chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), a member of the Stark State College Foundation Board, member of the Mercy Development Foundation Board, and the Stark Community Foundation Audit Committee. Burger was a member of the United Way of Greater Stark County’s 2020 and 2021 Campaign Cabinet serving as chairman of the nonprofit and Cornerstone divisions. As an alumnus of Walsh University, he serves on the President’s Advisory Board, DeVille School of Business Advisory Board, Accounting Advisory Board and as a mentor. He also coordinated an Employers Health Ohio TechCred training program through Walsh University.  In 2015, Burger was honored as the Crain’s Cleveland Business – CFO of the Year. He earned his bachelor’s degree in accounting from Walsh University, as well as his MBA.  He is also a Certified Public Accountant and a graduate of Leadership Stark County.

Teresa Reolfi ‘15, exhibits compassion and kindness in everything she does.  Nominated by a lifelong friend, Reolfi grew up in Canton, practiced her Catholic faith while raising a socially conscious, Christ-centered family in the St. Paul Parish, and was a devoted Walsh University employee, where she worked as a Student Service Center Representative for five years and 12 years and a Coordinator until her retirement in 2022.  In addition to volunteering for countless university events and supporting the Walsh Fund for student scholarships, Reolfi has consoled struggling students, brought them bags of groceries and necessities, and she’s even pulled out her personal checkbook to write a check so that a student could register for the next semester.  She is the definition of an unsung hero. Reolfi graduated from Walsh University in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in accounting and was a nominee for the Walsh University Tower of Excellence Award, the University's most prestigious and long-standing Student Affairs honor.

The Professional Achievement Award was established in 2017 to recognize alumni who have experienced significant achievement in a profession or career achievement. 

After a decade in enterprise sales with Fortune 500 companies such as Xerox, Parametric Technology and EMC, Ben Davis ’96, left the corporate world to become an entrepreneur in Silicon Valley, following his passion for sports and technology. Davis co-founded Pixiem in 2003, which was among the first of its kind as a developer and publisher of mobile video games. In 2005, Pixiem was acquired by WinWin Gaming. Davis co-founded Phizzle in 2006 and has led the company through major innovations and technology adaptations from consumer data to IoT machine data, while raising $25 million in Venture Capital funding. He is a board member at Elon University, School of Communications; member of the Alliance of Chief Executives; and a board member of Boys Hope Girls Hope. Formerly a professional basketball player in Europe, he currently resides in San Francisco. Davis is a graduate of Walsh University with a Bachelor of Arts in Business.

The Distinguished Service Award was established in 1994 to recognize alumni who have provided exemplary service to the Alumni Association. 

Marlene Toot is a native of Canton, Ohio. She attended Canton South High School and then began a 17-year career with The Timken Company. During the final years of her career there, as a mother and night student, she graduated from Walsh in 1985 Summa Cum Laude.

Her interest in service to the community was found in two fields: health care and education. She entered Goodwill Industries as a volunteer, became a Trustee and later received the organization's Distinguished Service Award. She served on the Women's Board of Aultman Hospital for many years. She served on the Walsh University Board of Directors (June 2012-June 2021) where she was Chair of the Governance Committee and was a member of the Executive, Advancement and Academic Affairs Committees.

At The University of Akron, where she earned a Master's Degree in Nutrition, she is today on the Foundation Board and chairs the Stewardship and Women in Philanthropy Committees. She is also on the Foundation Board of Akron Children's Hospital and a member of the Children's Hope Roundtable Committee and the Cuddler Program. She recently rejoined the American Heart Association Board of Trustees and also does talks on nutrition for them. As a Walsh alumna, she serves on the Women's Board and is Chairman of the Scholarship Committee.

Toot is active on Walsh's campus as a nutrition and exercise speaker and is frequently seen at sports events and dropping off homemade cookies for the Student Center and the Cavs Cave food pantry.

The Young Alumni Leadership Award was established in 2017 to recognize alumni who are 35 years old or younger and have experienced exemplary professional achievement, focus on service to the community, and uphold a relationship with Walsh University through engagement and/or philanthropy. 

Ashley Collins ’10, ‘16, founder and Chief Operations Officer at AVO (Amore Vincent Omnia) Behavioral Health has a passion for helping those most in need, especially those in need of addiction and mental health recovery services. In honor of her sister who went missing after she couldn’t find the help she needed, Collins dedicated her life to creating a place to heal one’s mind, body and soul with evidence-based treatment. She consistently demonstrates values of excellence, integrity, respect, accountability, collaboration and dedication in her commitment to serving her community.  She has returned to campus for speaking opportunities, to be a professor for a day and she has partnered with Counseling Services to support Walsh students. Collins was the first in her family to earn a college degree.  Since graduating from Walsh with a degree in marketing and an MBA, she has blazed a trail of success, making a significant impact on Stark County and Northeast Ohio. She advocates and successfully lobbies for legislative matters that make a positive, substantive and measurable impact on the addiction and mental health fronts by providing much-needed services. She also established Arika’s Angels, a 501c3 nonprofit.  Collins is deeply immersed in the community as President of the Board of Directors for Community Health Center Addiction Services, the Opiate and Addiction Task Force Leading Education and Advocacy Group, and a member of the Summit County Addiction Task Force.

Dr. Aaron Palmer ’11, is a neurosurgeon, educator, and advocate.  He is currently completing a neurosurgical residency at Northwestern University in downtown Chicago, IL.  His father was the oldest child of Alabama sharecroppers and raised their family of seven in a two-bedroom home in inner-city Akron, OH.  Despite facing constant obstacles related to poverty, Palmer taught himself to buy, fix and resell used cars to pay for his college tuition after becoming interested in medicine in search of civil leadership. Dr. Palmer earned his medical degree at Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine in Dayton, OH where he was academically exemplary.  By the time he graduated he was inducted into the prestigious Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society, awarded “medical student of the year” three out of four years, and earned over $130,000 in academic scholarships. As a Northwestern neurosurgical resident physician, he was recently named as part of the inspiration for a $100,000 donation to train additional neurosurgery residents. Palmer mentors hundreds of students interested in medicine, researches disparities in health care and chairs the department’s community engagement committee.  These efforts aid his overarching goal to use his platform and resources to uplift his community. Palmer considers his greatest achievement to be using his journey into medicine to inspire, educate, and advocate for systemic change.  Through partnerships with academic institutions, churches, and foundations he has orated speaking events, created health screenings, and developed courses for the homeless.  He has been featured on CBS This Morning, The Chicago Tribune, and numerous other publications and social media promotions.  Palmer stands as a passionate, determined, and unwavering voice for the underserved and will not be stopped from continuing his father’s work in his community.

See the Canton Repository coverage here.