Plastics Engineering Technology graduate picked for Distinguished Service Award

The connections Kevin Griner (BSET ‘88) made as a student in Plastics Engineering Technology (PET) at Pittsburg State University, and as a resident of Pittsburg while he was here, helped him build a foundation and prepare for life, he said.  

That’s why Griner became an advocate and donor to the program as soon as he was in a position to do so, and he shows no signs of slowing down. 

To date, he’s helped raise through the Annual Plastics Alumni Golf Tournament well over $200,000, including building an endowed scholarship through the PSU Foundation, of more than $100,000. Additionally, from this endowment, $108,000 in scholarships have been awarded to students, and $20,000 to support the PET program.  

“We’re just getting started,” he said.  

It made him a logical choice for the annual Distinguished Service Award, said Director of Alumni & Constituent Relations Jon Bartlow.  

The award will be formally presented in a ceremony and reception planned for 2 p.m. March 7 in the Wilkinson Alumni Center in conjunction with Apple Day festivities. The event is open to the public.  

Motivated to give back  

Griner grew up and attended high school in Ft. Scott, Kansas.  

“I wanted to attend college, but funds were very limited, so I know how important scholarship money is,” he said.  

Through connections made at a summer job and through science teacher and alumnus Pat Lamb (BS ‘77, MS ‘79), Griner found a home at Pittsburg State.  

“I visited campus; everyone was so warm and welcoming — they showed what the program involved and where it could take you in life, and I knew on the way home that’s where I needed to go,” he said.  

A job at Vinylplex allowed him to begin applying what he was learning in the classroom and gain a respect for working in industry, and a job at Hollywood’s helped him learn “the business side of things.”  

A few years after graduating and getting his career started, he began attending Plastics Engineering Technology Advisory Council meetings at PSU.  

“It was a chance to interact with students, learn what the program needs, the direction it’s going, and that brought about my advocacy for donations, goods, and services,” he said. “I would ask myself, ‘Who do I know who could help benefit the university with a donation?’.”  

“Financial contributions weren’t big at that time in my life, because it was early in my career, but I could give time and help make connections.”  

When he started his own company in 1996 and had more resources available, he began supporting the program even more.  

“Memories of people like professors Henry Emadipour, J.D. Harvey, and Chris Ibeh fueled the motivation for the endowment we started,” said Griner, who today is president of Harold Payne Plastics, LC. “George Graham, along with local families like the Monsour family and Peak family, and business owner Mike Sittner, helped show Griner how special Pittsburg State was and provided further inspiration. 

Soon, he was coordinating an annual PET golf tournament to raise funds for scholarships, including a virtual one during the pandemic. Last year, the tournament at Crestwood Country Club raised over $40,000.  

He’s always mindful, he said, of the purpose: helping support students, because he remembered his time as a student.  

“We say that PSU has one of the top plastics programs in the nation,” he said, “and in my mind, it is the very top. There's an environment in the Kansas Technology Center that is known and studied by other universities — it's a definite point of pride. Good people have come through there as students and gone on to have important positions in corporations and companies. They got a great education — I got a great education.”  

That’s why he accepted this award, he said.  

“Most of the time I don’t accept these kinds of awards — not because I don’t have time, but because I don’t need recognition and pats on the back. I accepted it not as an honor to me, but to honor folks who have been involved in the program that supported it to the best of their abilities. This is for all of them. And, to maybe inspire others. If you see this, I hope it inspires you to do something for your university. Do something for the instructor, for the student, because it makes a difference.”  

Bartlow praised Griner’s in-kind gifts of machinery and valuable equipment that serves to improve the hands-on learning experience for PET students. Bartlow noted that since 2017, Griner has served on the PSU Alumni Association Board, and at Homecoming each year helps to arrange PET tailgating.  

For the past 30 years, Griner has helped support children’s charities, including the Love Fund in Kansas City, St. Joseph Institute for the Deaf in St. Louis, and The Blind Children’s Center in Los Angeles.  

“Wherever there are needs, just ask ‘How can I help?’,” Griner said. “All departments can use help – there are opportunities for anyone to give input, talent, time, and resources.”