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Brelynn Bille, Josh Baston named winners of 2024 Herfurth-Kubly Awards 

May 3, 2024 By Doug Erickson
Two photos; a woman on the left and man on the right.

Brelynn Bille, left, and John Baston, right. Photo by Doug Erickson/Photo by Joel Hallberg

University of Wisconsin–Madison graduating seniors Brelynn Bille and Josh Baston have been named 2024 winners of Theodore Herfurth and Teddy Kubly Awards for Comprehensive Undergraduate Excellence, among the oldest and most prestigious honors on campus. 

The awards are given annually to two seniors who have made the most effective use of their time at UW–Madison. Each winner receives $4,000. Established in 1928, the awards are supported by the family of Theodore Herfurth and Teddy Kubly. 

A committee comprised of faculty and staff, a former award recipient and a representative of the donor’s family selects recipients based on high academic achievement, effective communication skills, leadership in extra-curricular activities and financial self-support (such as scholarships and employment). 

Students must be nominated by a member of the faculty or academic staff and invited to apply. Of the 242 students nominated this year, 10 were selected as finalists and invited to a dinner with the selection committee. After dinner, each finalist gave two speeches, one prepared and one impromptu. At the end of the evening, the committee selected Bille and Baston as this year’s recipients. 

Brelynn Bille 

Bille, of Waupun, Wisconsin, will graduate this May with a bachelor’s degree in community and nonprofit leadership and certificates in disability rights and services and public policy. During her time on campus, Bille has been a passionate advocate for disability rights, often tapping personal frustrations to fuel broader change. She was part of the student coalition that successfully advocated for the establishment of a Disability Cultural Center on campus, and she has written guidebooks for the National Disability Mentoring Coalition on college advocacy. She interned with the special advisor on international disability rights through the federal Department of State. After graduation, Bille will complete an accelerated master of public affairs degree with the La Follette School of Public Affairs.

Josh Baston 

Baston, of Woodbury, Minnesota, will graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in materials science and engineering. He is interested in the design of novel materials for higher efficiency engines and has conducted research with three UW labs. Baston has interned at the Oshkosh Corp. and the Karlsruhe Institute for Technology in Germany. He is passionate about STEM education and growing industry-academia collaborations. Baston has been named an Astronaut Scholar, a DAAD Rise Scholar, and the top upcoming metallurgist by the American Society of Materials. Following graduation, Baston will be pursuing a doctorate in aerospace alloy design at the University of California-Santa Barbara with the support of the National Defense Science and Engineering Fellowship. 


The following eight students were finalists: Ashley Cheung (conservation biology, community & environmental sociology); Charlie Fahey (political science with a certificate in integrated liberal studies); Lina Godinez (marketing and management & human resources with certificates in sustainability and consulting); Cayden Kirkpatrick (astronomy-physics, history, and French with a certificate in American Indian and Indigenous Studies); Kamika Patel (international studies, communication arts, certificate in educational policy); Ciboney Reglos (global health, certificates in health policy and leadership); Sophia Schoenfeld (biology, certificate in health policy); and Lucy Steffes (astronomy-physics, physics, certificates in math, German, and history). 

Ten people pose for the camera, five seated in the front row and five standing in the back row.

Ten graduating seniors competed this year for two Theodore Herfurth and Teddy Kubly Awards for Comprehensive Undergraduate Excellence. Pictured in the front row, left to right, are Ciboney Reglos, Ashley Cheung, Lucy Steffes, Lina Godinez and Brelynn Bille (winner). In the back row, left to right, are Josh Baston (winner), Kamika Patel, Cayden Kirkpatrick, Charlie Fahey and Sophia Schoenfeld. Photo by Liam Beran

After 20 years of service, Michael Liethen has announced that he will be stepping down from the selection committee. Liethen received the award in 1967. From 1972 to 1988, he worked in the Chancellor’s Office, first as a legal assistant, and the last ten years as the chancellor’s legal counsel and founding director of the Chancellor’s Office of Administrative Legal Service (now Legal Affairs). 

My 1967 application for the Herfurth Award was both sides of a single handwritten page,” Liethen says. “Today, the applications extend to 10 typewritten pages revealing a greater breadth and depth of degree programs, and opportunities for extracurricular service and leadership. In my 20 years on the Herfurth-Kubly selection committee, I have witnessed a most remarkable advance in the intellect and accomplishments of our graduating seniors. And I am rewarded when we meet our finalists at the last stage of the competition — the award dinner where we get to hear prepared and extemporaneous speeches from some of brightest UW–Madison students who embody comprehensive excellence.”