Banking & Finance
Sharon Miller Koechner joined Empire Bank as a mortgage loan officer. Koechner, who holds a bachelor’s degree from Drury University, has 17 years of experience in banking and real estate lending.

Trust Company of the Ozarks promoted Sumer Tripp to trust officer. Tripp brings nearly 10 years of financial industry experience to the firm’s administration team.

Eric Nelson, an MSU history professor and a dean’s fellow for transformation, was among 14 recipients of the 2012 Governor’s Award for Excellence in Education. Nelson, who received a doctorate from the University of Oxford, teaches undergraduate world history and graduate level courses on the European reformation, the French revolution and the European witch hunts.

Strafford High School achieved the state’s A+ Schools designation after students met academic, attendance and tutoring standards. Graduates from A+ schools can earn scholarships to cover tuition and academic costs at Missouri’s public two-year community colleges or technical schools.

Dr. Michael Pfander, a veterinarian from Clever, was appointed to the Missouri Veterinary Medical Board during a Senate Gubernatorial Appointments Committee hearing. The board, which is made up of six members serving four-year terms, examines, certifies, licenses and regulates veterinarians in Missouri.

Three Myer Hotels Inc. properties in Branson were named finalists for Choice Hotels’ International 2012 Inn of the Year for the Comfort Inn brand. Comfort Inn & Suites, Comfort Inn at Thousand Hills and Comfort Inn West were selected for performance in branding and customer service among 1,400 Comfort Inn properties worldwide. This year, the three hotels also have been recognized as Choice Hotels Platinum properties, an honor given to the top 3 percent of hotels in the flag.

Julie Allwardt joined Nixon & Lindstrom Insurance as personal lines department manager. Allwardt, who earned a master’s degree in business administration from MSU, has 12 years of insurance experience.

Christiaan D. Horton joined Carnahan Evans Cantwell & Brown PC in its transactional and litigation dispute resolution practice groups. Horton’s concentration is in business, commercial and civil litigation; mergers and acquisitions; corporate and business law; and real estate and construction law.

The Southwest Missouri Higher Education Alliance elected three new officers: Ann Elwell of Webster University, president; Abby Gordon of Bolivar Technical College, secretary and treasurer; and Katy Brandes of Drury University, education fair coordinator.

The Foundation for Springfield Public Schools named two new members to its board of directors: Keran Lemons of Arvest Bank and Scott Bratcher of Marlin Co.