Amy Smit

Hockenberg, Iowa Farm Bureau, Bondurant, Murphy, and Hernandez receive 2022 Iowa Character Awards

DES MOINES (August 4, 2022) – The Robert D. and Billie Ray Center at Drake University hosted the 2022 Iowa Character Awards on Friday, July 29, at Prairie Meadows Event Center. Twelve Iowa individuals and groups were recognized for their exceptional character, including Bud Hockenberg, Iowa Farm Bureau, the community of Bondurant, Renee Murphy, and Katie Hernandez.

An Iowa Character Awards primetime special featuring the 2022 award recipients will air on Fox affiliate stations during the following dates and times:

  • Fox 17 (Des Moines) on Tuesday, August 9 from 8-9 p.m.
  • Fox 28 (Cedar Rapids) on Friday, August 12 from 6-7 p.m.
  • Fox 44 (Sioux City) on Saturday, August 13 from 5-6 p.m.

The Iowa Character Awards special will also be posted at

The Ray Center’s top award, the Robert D. Ray Pillar of Character Award, was presented to Bud Hockenberg. Harlan ‘Bud’ Hockenberg is a trusted advisor, visionary strategist, and dear friend of The Robert D. and Billie Ray Center at Drake University. Bud and Governor Ray shared a lifelong friendship and commitment to positively impact the lives of others. They worked together on many initiatives over the years. Governor Ray turned to Bud for advice and guidance through organizational transitions that led to The Ray Center acquiring the global rights and responsibilities for CHARACTER COUNTS! and Pursuing Victory With Honor from the Josephson Institute in 2019. Bud’s thoughtful guidance and ethical leadership has shaped the work of The Ray Center for over two decades.

Iowa Farm Bureau received the Partner of the Year Award. Iowa Farm Bureau is a longtime supporter of CHARACTER COUNTS! and The Ray Center and has invested in character education throughout Iowa. They represent the values that Iowans embody: dedication to hard work, passion for the land, and character rooted in faith and family. Iowa Farm Bureau believes it is important to invest in Iowa Youth, helping to develop great character, strong work ethic, and exceptional leadership skills. They also support the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union, Iowa High School Athletic Association, Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation, Iowa 4-H, and Iowa FFA Foundations that prepare the next generation of agricultural innovators. Farm Bureau has been a valued partner of The Ray Center since 2013.

Bondurant received the Community of Character Award. Bondurant citizens focus on building a sense of community and belonging. The Chamber of Commerce, the Bondurant Community Foundation, and the American Legion host events to help community members build relationships and support each other. The school district, the city, and the library all have Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committees stemming from the community’s desire to ensure all residents are welcomed and valued in Bondurant. Citizens are also proud of how community members care for each other. For example, members of a gym coordinated volunteers to assist older residents with yard work. The City Council is proud of a program that provides snow removal for low-income disabled residents (even though many times when Public Works arrived to do the work, a neighbor had already cleared the sidewalk.)

Renee Murphy received the Character Champion Award posthumously. Renee Murphy was a proud advocate for CHARACTER COUNTS! and The Robert D. and Billie Ray Center before her passing in October 2021. She loved the Six Pillars of Character and believed in the profound impact teaching and modeling good character could make in communities. Renee’s passion for character and leadership guided her to serve on many community, civic, and volunteer boards. She was a teacher and mentor at the Ankeny Leadership Institute, on the Board of Trustees at Simpson College, and co-founder of Ankeny 100 Women. Renee was passionate about serving others and committed to making the world better. She was a champion of good character through advocacy and the work to improve her community.

Katie Hernandez received the Youth Citizen of Character Award. Katie Hernandez is improving her school and community through her scholastic and extracurricular activities. Her teachers praise her resilient optimism and commitment to social justice. One of Katie’s teachers said, “What sets Katie apart from other students I have worked with is her outstanding respectfulness, fairness, and care for others. Katie lives her life to raise others up and help those in need. She deeply respects others and their beliefs and stands up to protect all people.” In addition to volunteering for many causes, she is a founding member of the Ankeny Political Engagement Club. This nonpartisan club explores political candidates, promotes learning all sides of an issue, and engages in civil political conversations.

The Ray Center annually recognizes Iowans who show the Six Pillars of CHARACTER COUNTS!: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and good citizenship. Since 2005, the organization has recognized more than 150 Iowans for showing good character.

The 2022 Iowa Character Awards are presented by Hy-Vee, FOX 17, Prairie Meadows, Murphy Enterprizes, and Alliant Energy. For a complete list of 2022 Iowa Character Award recipients or to submit a 2023 nomination, visit

The Ray Center helps create strong, vibrant communities that value positive, healthy relationships and respectful behavior. Through public awareness and programming grounded in research, we provide character education and leadership development resources to produce meaningful, measurable, and sustainable results in schools, organizations, families, and communities.


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Bud Hockenberg

Iowa Farm Bureau

Renee Murphy
Katie Hernandez