Recipients of 2006 awards from the Bradley University Alumni Association (BUAA): from left, Gene Morse ’59, Natalie Bartusek Bonetti ’94, and Ron Maestri ’63 MA ’67.
on Founder’s Day
Distinguished Alumnus Award
Ron Maestri ’63 MA ’67 is the Distinguished Alumnus Award recipient. The award recognizes a graduate whose professional or civic activities bring the highest distinction to themselves, their community, and to Bradley.
Maestri is the chief operating officer and executive director of the New Orleans Zephyrs AAA baseball team. He began his coaching career at Princeville, Spalding, and Pekin high schools before returning to Bradley in 1967 as an assistant coach for baseball, football, and basketball. In 1971, he was named head baseball coach and assistant basketball coach at the University of New Orleans and served as athletic director there from 1979 to 2000. With Maestri as the coach, the University of New Orleans baseball team won the Sun Belt Conference title in 1978, and he was named coach of the year. Maestri’s team became the first Louisiana school to compete in the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska. From 2000 to 2005, he was director of NCAA events for the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation. During that time, he was executive director of the 2002 NCAA Women’s Volleyball Final Four, the 2003 Men’s Final Four, and the 2004 NCAA Women’s Final Four.
Maestri is a member of seven halls of fame: New Orleans, American Baseball Coaches, University of New Orleans, Louisiana Italian-American, Louisiana, Bradley Athletics, and Greater Peoria.
Outstanding Young Graduate Award
Major Natalie Bartusek Bonetti ’94 is the Outstanding Young Graduate Award recipient. This award recognizes a graduate who has gained early and exceptional professional or civic achievement with continued involvement in the University.
Bonetti is deputy director of protocol, Headquarters Air Force Space Command, at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado. She completed the prestigious Air Force dietetic internship and was one of only 50 from a field of 8,000 selected to serve in the Air Force intern program at the Pentagon. She pioneered the development of the new Air Force Fit-to-Fight Program for all active duty military personnel. Bonetti was a key contributor to a program that spawned a state and nationally recognized Responsible Drinking Campaign, reducing base DUIs by 27 percent and underage drinking by 74 percent.
Bonetti has been named Air Force Space Command Company Grade Dietitian of the Year and has received two Air Force Commendation Medals, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and the Joint Meritorious Unit Award.
She holds a master’s degree in organizational management from The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. She and her husband Pete live in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Lydia Moss Bradley Award
Gene Morse ’59 received the Lydia Moss Bradley Award, given in recognition of his outstanding commitment and service to Bradley. Morse is a partner in Gene Morse & Associates, Lincoln National Life Insurance. He is past president and lifetime member of the Bradley B-Club and played on Bradley’s first National Invitational Tournament (NIT) championship team in 1956. He has served on the Braves Club (formerly Chiefs Club) board and is a member of the Bradley Athletics Hall of Fame, the Greater Peoria Sports Hall of Fame, and the IHSA Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Morse is a past-president of the Bradley University Alumni Association. His accomplishments include restructuring the BUAA board to better reflect the needs and goals of the University, its students, staff, and alumni, as well as refocusing the efforts of the BUAA toward enhancing the student experience through a variety of innovative programs. He is serving a second term on the Bradley University Council. He and his wife Judith Gray Morse ’62 have established the Morse Endowed Scholarship at Bradley.
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