JOPLIN, MO (SNS) – The Missouri Southern State University Alumni Association has announced the annual Outstanding Alumnus and Lion-Hearted Award recipients, who will be honored during the Homecoming 2015 All Alumni Awards Dinner.

This year’s Outstanding Alumnus Award will go to Keifer Thompson, one half of the husband and wife music duo Thompson Square. Thompson and his wife, Shawna, have released two albums which produced a combined 10 chart singles on the Hot Country Songs and country airplay charts. Two of these singles, “Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not” and “If I Didn’t Have You,” – reached No. 1 on the charts. The group is an active force in popular/country music.

Thompson graduated from MSSU with a degree in psychology in 1996. He is a native of Miami, Okla.

The Thompsons met at a singing competition in Nashville, Tenn. and worked as solo artists before deciding to form a duo. Thompson Square signed to Stoney Creek Records, a sister label of Broken Bow Records, in January 2010. The couple revealed in August of this year they are expecting their first child, due in January. The Thompsons have been married for 16 years.

Thompson Square performed at Downstream Casino Resort for the opening of the new Mercy Hospital in Joplin in late January 2015.

The Lion-Hearted Award is designed for those who are not MSSU graduates but who have made significant contributions to the growth and development of the university. This year’s award will go to Missouri Southern State University President Emeritus Dr. Julio León and his wife, Vivian.

León spent 25 years as the President of Missouri Southern and nearly 40 total years as a member of the Southern faculty and administration. He was named “President Emeritus” a few months after his retirement in August 2007.

Since retirement, León has served as interim president of Colorado State University and as a special advisor to The University of Texas System’s Office of Academic Affairs. He has been actively involved in national higher education organizations and served as president of the board of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities and vice president representing the U.S. for the Inter-American Organization of Higher Education. He has also served on the board of the American Council on Education and on the President’s Council of the American Association of Governing Boards.

Vivian León was one of the guiding forces behind the Missouri Southern International Piano Competition (MSIPC).  The competition drew contestants from over 50 nations around the globe until it ended after 12 years in 2008. She continues to be a well-known presence in the Joplin artistic/music community.

Thompson and the Leóns will be honored during the awards dinner on the evening of Friday, Oct. 23.  A four-course steak dinner at will begin 7 p.m. at Twin Hills Country Club, with a reception at 6:30 p.m. Dinner is $25 per person and requires reservations by Tuesday, Oct. 20.

Reservations can be made by calling 417-659-5466.