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Meet the Class of 2017

Dr. Amy Apprill

Dr. Amy Apprill, Raytown South High School, Class of 1996

Dr. Amy Apprill graduated from Raytown South High in 1996. She attended the University of San Diego, where she earned her Bachelor of Arts in Marine Science in 2001. She later earned a Master’s Degree and Ph.D. from the University of Hawaii in 2004 and 2009, respectively. Dr. Apprill served as a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow at the University of Hawaii, Manoa while pursuing her Ph.D.

In 2004, she was awarded the Watamull Scholarship for Academic Achievement from the University of Hawaii, and in 2006, she received the Hiatt Student Education Scholarship from the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology.

From 2009 to 2011, Dr. Apprill received the Post-Doctoral Scholar Fellowship from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), a world-class institution for ocean research and education. She was appointed as an assistant scientist at WHOI in 2011.

Dr. Apprill has published over thirty scientific articles and has given nearly three-dozen national and international presentations in her field. She has served as a reviewer for a dozen professional journals of marine biology and associated topics.

Dr. Apprill is an international expert in marine microbial ecology. Examples of her work include using drone technology to examine the upper respiratory microbiome of large whales and understanding the role of coral-associated bacteria in regulating the chemicals involved in coral bleaching. She has participated in 25 scientific expeditions worldwide, including leading a new scientific collaboration to study the coral reefs of Cuba. 

As a part of her work as a scientist, Dr. Apprill strives to educate students and the public on the topics of marine biology, coral reefs, and women in science. Dr. Apprill was featured in Science Magazine’s “XX Files: Extraordinary Science, Extraordinary Women” video series about famous female scientists. She is currently a tenure-track Oceanographer at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. 

Gene Graham

Gene P. Graham, Jr., Raytown South High School, Class of 1976

Gene P. Graham, Jr. is a 1976 graduate of Raytown South High and served as president of his senior class. He was also co-captain and Rotary Club Defensive Demon of the 1976 basketball team. After high school graduation, Gene obtained two degrees while at the University of Missouri, Columbia and received his law degree from The University of Missouri - Kansas City in 1984.

Upon graduation from law school, Gene practiced law at Graham & Graham, P.C. with his father for five years until his father retired. He joined the firm of White, Graham, Buckley, & Carr, LLC in 1990. Gene is an outstanding trial lawyer who has been involved in three class action discrimination cases; sexual, racial, and AIDS discrimination cases; and many personal injury cases. He is now recognized as a specialist in representing victims of proprietary school fraud. 

Gene has achieved recognition at the highest levels. He carries an A rating in the Martindale

Hubbell legal directory. He is also highly recommended for ethical conduct by Martindale Hubbell. He was named as one of the Top 50 lawyers in the State of Missouri. Gene is a frequent lecturer for the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar and the Eastern Jackson County Bar Associations.

While Gene’s professional affiliations and achievements are numerous, he is very proud of his appearances before the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals and the Missouri Supreme Court. In both cases, he persuaded each of those high tribunals to change the law in a manner that benefited his clients. 

Gene was president of the Western Missouri/Eastern Kansas Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates in 2010. He has also served as past president of the Eastern Jackson County Bar Association.

Gene is most proud of his marriage to Lori for 26 years, and his children, Patrick, Lindsey, and Jack.

Liz Kelley-Hansen

Liz Kelley-Hansen, Raytown South High School, Class of 1969

Liz Kelley-Hansen is a 1969 graduate of Raytown South High School. Normally, people find their passion in their adult years, after they have some time to sort through their options; however, Liz found her passion for dance in her teens. At 14, she was youngest member of the Corps De Ballet at Starlight Theatre in Kansas City, and she has spent her life as a singer, dancer, dance instructor, and studio owner.

At the age of 17, Liz moved to California to follow her dream of working with famous actor and dancer, Gene Kelly. It was performing with him that caught the attention of Greg Garrison, the producer of the Dean Martin Show. Liz was invited to join the singing and dancing entourage known as the Golddiggers on the Dean Martin Show in 1969. 

During a three-year span, she had the honor of working with Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Charles Nelson Riley, Goldie Hawn, Vincent Price, Jimmy Stewart, Tina Turner, Sonny and Cher, Barbra Streisand, Ernest Borgnine, and Jimmy Durante, to name a few. In 2017, Liz was invited to participate in Deana Martin’s Las Vegas tribute for her father Dean’s 100th birthday. In 1970, Liz toured with the Bob Hope USO tour in Vietnam, performing for troops throughout the country. Liz’s service to veterans is notable and has continued throughout her life. As a part of her service, she makes appearances with Huey Helicopter and is currently lending her support to a new effort to build homes for displaced veterans.

In 1978, Liz returned to her roots in Kansas City and taught at the Westport Ballet Company, American Dance Center, and the Jewish Community Center.  She opened her own dance studio, Dance Studio 1 in 1984, which has been and continues to be the home to many aspiring young dancers over the past several decades.

For her support of veteran causes, Liz was honored with the National President’s Award and a lifetime membership from the Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 243. On September 3, 2017, Liz received a Department of Defense Vietnam War Commemoration Certificate of Honor.

John Von Kieffer

John Von Kieffer, Raytown High School, Class of 1961

John Von Kieffer graduated from Raytown High School in 1961. Three years later, he received a Bachelor of Science from the University of Missouri, and in 1965, he completed a Master of Arts in Music, also at the University of Missouri.

Kieffer began his conducting career at Omaha Public Schools, working at McMillian Junior High and Indian Hills Junior High. During his tenure at Indian Hills, the band and orchestra program increased from only 13 students to become the largest school music program in Omaha with more than 200 students.

In 1974, Kieffer became the director of the Benson High School band program for Omaha Public Schools, where he remained for eight years. Benson High became the first Omaha high school band program to enter marching band competitions, winning several during this eight-year span. In 1979, the Nebraska Governor declared a “Benson High School Band Day” for the state.

Starting in 1981, Kieffer served with distinction as Olathe South High School’s band director, where he stayed for 22 years. His band performed at the Opening Day Ceremonies for the Kansas City Royals and at the seventh game of the 1985 World Series. While Kieffer was at Olathe South, his students received 223 first place trophies and countless Division 1 awards.

In 1983, Kieffer was selected for Leadership Olathe and 30 years later, he was selected Chairman of their Alumni Association. Kieffer was named National Band Director of the Year in 1991 by Bands of America, an organization that promotes marching band competitions. In 2012, he was inducted into the Omaha Benson High School Hall of Fame. 

Kieffer is actively involved with the 1961 Raytown High Alumni class. He has served in many community service roles for the city of Olathe. He is proud to say that he had the opportunity to positively impact the lives of students for 38 years, and has attempted to continue doing so during retirement.

Karen Koster

Dr. Karen L. Koster, Raytown High School, Class of 1980

Dr. Karen L. Koster graduated from Raytown High in 1980. Four years later, she completed her undergraduate degree in Organismal Biology at the University of Kansas, graduating with Highest Distinction and Departmental Honors. 

In 1984, she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious honor society.  She was awarded a National Science Foundation Fellowship to pursue graduate research, and in 1991, Dr. Koster received her Ph.D. from Cornell University in Plant Physiology.

Following a year of post-doctoral research at the University of California, Riverside, Dr. Koster began her career at the University of South Dakota as a Biology professor. The college has recognized her teaching, research, and service by presenting her with the Richard and Sharon Cutler Award for Liberal Arts in Education, and in 2012, she was selected as the 60th Annual Harrington Lecturer in Liberal Arts for the College of Arts and Sciences, University of South Dakota.

Dr. Koster is a respected scientist with highly cited publications in her field. She has worked in labs around the world, serving as a visiting scientist in Australia at RMIT University, in South Africa at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and at two U.S. Department of Agriculture labs in the United States. Through her intellect, pursuit of knowledge, and experiences as a teacher and a researcher, Dr. Koster has made a difference for thousands of students and within the scientific community. She has been elected to several leadership positions in professional societies, including the American Society of Plant Biologists and the International Society for Seed Science. 

Dr. Koster was awarded an Honorary Lifetime Membership to the International Society for Seed Science for her service to the society and the discipline in 2014. Currently, she is the Associate Chair of Biology at the University of South Dakota.