College of Liberal Arts | Spring 2021

Meet the 2017 CLA Distinguished Alumni

For more than 25 years, the College of Liberal Arts has recognized the outstanding achievements of its graduates through the Distinguished Alumni Awards program. Recipients of this award have made significant contributions to society, and their accomplishments, affiliations, and careers honor the legacy of excellence at Purdue University and in the College of Liberal Arts.

BA 1994, English

Valerie Alexander is a senior executive with more than two decades of experience working at the intersection of mobilizing social change and awareness, applying effective communication and marketing expertise, and establishing meaningful strategic partnerships.

Alexander is the former chief marketing officer of the Clinton Foundation. During her seven years at the foundation, she built and led its global marketing, digital, special events, and partnership efforts. Prior to that, she served as a spokesperson and senior communications advisor for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign.

BA 1992, Brian Lamb School of Communication

Kathleen Henson is the founder and CEO of Henson Consulting, a national public relations firm in Chicago. She began Henson Consulting in 2001 to reinvent the modern agency and to provide clients with strategic counsel, unparalleled creativity, and tangible results. Henson Consulting serves a wide variety of international, national, and Midwest-based clients. Prior to starting her own agency, Henson was a senior executive at Edelman. She was selected to be on the “Top Women in PR” list by PR News in 2016.

Henson served as co-chair of the United Way of Metropolitan Chicago’s Women’s Leadership Council and currently serves in its fundraising cabinet. She is also on the board of directors of Breakthrough Urban Ministries and an active member of the prestigious Women’s Board of the Joffrey Ballet, for which she has co-chaired the fall fundraiser since 2013.


Kim Koeller is the managing director of Horizon Group International. She leads growth and innovation projects from strategy to execution for cross-industry clients ranging from entrepreneurial start-ups and midsize businesses to Fortune 500 multinational corporations. In addition, Koeller established Gluten & Allergy Free Passport in order to foster global social change for gluten-free diets, celiac disease, and food allergies. Prior to that, Koeller was a partner with Accenture in the global customer relationship management line of business.

Koeller is the creator of multiple award-winning books and mobile apps as well as a frequent speaker at national and international conferences. She holds an MBA in international management from Thunderbird School of Global Management.


Patrick McLaughlin is a 20-year veteran of PepsiCo, Inc., with a broad range of leadership experience in beverages and foods. In 2008, McLaughlin joined Pepsi-Cola North America to lead the human relations function through the acquisition of its two largest bottlers—a $7.8 billion transaction that made Pepsi the largest food and beverage company in North America, doubled the employee population in the United States and Canada, and increased worldwide sales to $66 billion.

Before joining PepsiCo, McLaughlin worked for Exxon USA based in New Orleans and developed his HR acumen in organizational development, labor, and HR generalist roles.


Susan McNab has served as a corporate officer at various companies for more than 30 years. She directed human resources and public relations in the acquisition of three companies and the sale of two, affecting a total of 8,000 employees. Most recently, she served as the vice president and chief human resources officer at PEMCO Financial Services in Seattle. Prior to her time with PEMCO, she was the vice president for people services and community partnerships for Starbucks and Seattle Coffee Company from 2001 to 2005.

McNab received her MA in counseling and personnel administration from the University of Maryland. She earned her MBA with an emphasis on finance and management from the University of Puget Sound. She also received her DBA with an emphasis on strategy and innovation from Capella University and an HCEO Certificate from the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California.