Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients
The Distinguished Alumni Award honors alumni who make noteworthy contributions in their professional lives, in public service, or in University of Minnesota service.
James “Doc” Carlson ’65, 2013 recipient
James “Doc” Carlson ’65, professor emeritus of music, served the University of Minnesota, Morris from 1978 until his retirement in 2009. Over the course of 31 years, Carlson was instrumental in establishing the Morris jazz program. He introduced a variety of classes into the music curriculum, including Jazz Combo, Jazz Ensembles, and Multicultural Music. In 1979, Doc created the now renowned University of Minnesota, Morris Jazz Fest. He received the Horace T. Morse-Minnesota Alumni Association Award for Outstanding Contributions to Undergraduate Education in 1993 in 2000 he received Morris’s Faculty Distinguished Research Award and was named Minnesota Music Educators Association (MMEA) Educator of the Year. He was inducted into the MMEA Hall of Fame in 2006. Prior to beginning his career at Morris, Carlson taught at Augsburg College and Manchester College.
Carlson graduated with distinction from Morris with a degree in music education. He went on to receive a master of music with high distinction from Moorhead State College in 1968 and a doctor of music education with high distinction from Indiana University in 1972. Carlson received the Morris Dean’s Award in 1965, a School of Music Scholarship from Indiana University in 1969, and a North Dakota Education Association (NDEA) Title IV Fellowship in 1970.
Mathew J. LeFebvre ’87, 2013 recipient
Mathew J. LeFebvre ’87, professor of costume design at the University of Minnesota, began his career at the University in 1996. Since achieving the rank of associate professor in 2002, LeFebvre has produced designs for 52 professional (juried) productions at significant venues, including five off-Broadway productions, 20 for the Guthrie Theater, five for the Milwaukee Repertory Theater, four for the Kansas City Repertory Theatre, and 15 for Penumbra Theatre Company. He received the Theatre Development Fund (TDF) Irene Sharaff Young Master Award for distinguished costume design in 2012, Lavender Magazine’s Best Costume Designer in 2010, an Ivey Award as a member of the production team for RUINED in 2010, and an Honorable Mention in the Star Tribune’s Artists of the Year in 2003.
LeFebvre received a degree in theatre arts from Morris and a master of fine arts from the University of Minnesota in 1996. His design work has been praised by such prominent publications as The New York Times, Daily Variety, New York Daily News, the New York Sun, The Wall Street Journal, and Entertainment Design.
Ann Michels ’92, 2013 recipient
Ann Michels ’92, actress and singer with the George Maurer Group, has worked extensively as a performer since graduating from Morris. As an actress, she has appeared in nearly 60 productions with over 25 companies, including Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, the Guthrie Theater, the Pantages and Hennepin Theatre Trust, and North Star Opera. She has also starred in three films and done voice work for animated features, commercials, and voiceovers. As a vocalist, Michels has spent 15 years recording with the George Maurer Group. She has also been a featured soloist with the Minnesota Orchestra, The Playwrights Center, and Saint Mark’s Cathedral. She will record and perform “Stations of the Heart,” a theatrical song cycle commissioned for her by Nautilus Music Theater.
Michels also works as a vocal coach and acting instructor. Prior to her career as a performer, she taught seventh-grade English and coached gymnastics at Morris Area High School. Michels graduated with distinction from Morris with a degree in theater, English, and secondary education as well as a coaching endorsement. She has studied voice under Janet Ahern, Barb Larson, and Jeanne Traun Grace and has done additional training at Theater de la Jeune Lune with Barbara Berlovitz.
Robert Hansen ’73, 2012 recipient
Robert Hansen ’73 graduated with a theatre and English double major. He earned a master’s degree in theatre while a student at Florida State University and, later, a doctorate in the same field from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. As an instructor of theatre at Bowling Green University in Ohio, Hansen also chaired the theatre department and served as managing director of the Huron Playhouse (Ohio’s oldest continuing summer theatre). Afterward, he joined the faculty of the University of North Carolina, Greensboro (UNCG). There he served as the head of the communication and theatre department and later the broadcasting/cinema and theatre department.
Currently, he is an associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences at UNCG his responsibilities include curriculum and teaching, freshman seminars, and the online bachelor of arts in liberal studies program. In 2007, he donated part of his extensive collection of theatre materials to the UNCG libraries, thus establishing the Robert C. Hansen Performing Arts Collection. Hansen has also served as officer in the North Carolina Theatre Association, the United States Institute for Theatre Technology—Ohio Chapter, the American Theatre Association, the Southeastern Theatre Conference, and the National Association of Schools of Theatre.
In addition to his theatre work, Hansen has been active in historic preservation of the Moravian community in Bethania, North Carolina. He is the star of the 60-minute documentary film Saving the Hansen House, broadcast on North Carolina Public Television. The film, by Deni and Will McIntyre, documents restoration of an 18th century Moravian farmhouse while investigating its history.
Puncky Heppner ’73, 2012 recipient
Puncky Heppner ’73 graduated from Morris with a psychology major. He obtained a master of arts and a doctorate in counseling psychology from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. He currently holds a Curators’ Distinguished Professorship—the highest distinction—at the University of Missouri (MU). Heppner is also a director of the Coalition for Cultural Competencies (an organization he co-founded in 1998). He has a long history of promoting American diversity issues and has played a significant role in providing multicultural and cross-cultural training in the MU Counseling Psychology program.
Heppner has published over 200 articles and book chapters, written nine books, made hundreds of presentations at national conferences, and delivered over 70 invited presentations and keynotes across 14 countries. His research focuses on how people cope with stressful life events and, more recently, how culture changes those coping mechanisms.
His work in particular has examined people’s perceptions of their abilities to confront and solve problems. In this endeavor he has created the Problem Solving Inventory (PSI), which is sustained by one of the top publishers in the U.S. for twenty years. The PSI assesses a person’s appraisal of his or her own abilities to resolve stressful life events.
Heppner is the recipient of three Fulbright awards from Sweden, Ireland, and Taiwan. He is a fellow of the American Psychological Society and in three divisions of the American Psychological Association: Counseling Psychology, Society for the Psychological Study of Ethnic Minority Issues, and International Psychology. Heppner served on several national and international editorial boards and as editor of The Counseling Psychologist.
From 2005 to 2006, he occupied the post of president at the Society of Counseling Psychology of the American Psychological Association, and he was distinguished with the Leona Tyler Award, the Society’s highest award, in 2009. He is also the recipient of numerous other national, university, and community awards for his leadership, research, teaching, mentoring, international work, and promoting diversity and social justice issues.
Maddy Maxeiner ’76, 2012 recipient
Maddy Maxeiner ’76, as a Morris philosophy alum, has used her numerous talents to benefit the University of Minnesota, Morris community. Beginning her career as a freelance writer, Maxeiner volunteered for state election campaigns and worked on campus through grants. In 1981, she became the coordinator of Alumni Affairs. Previously this part-time position fell under the duties of many other offices and positions.
Under Maxeiner’s leadership, the office of Alumni Relations grew. Today, more opportunities for alumni to connect with one another exist than ever before. Profile is written and edited by the staff of Alumni Relations and University Relations as a means of displaying the achievements of Morris alumni, students, and faculty. It began as a newsletter sent to dues paying members of the Alumni association, written and edited solely by Maxeiner. When the dues system was taken out, the newsletter adapted and became a university magazine called “UMM to You” and was sent to all alumni, parents of students, faculty, and staff.
The Alumni Association gained more visibility on campus under Maxeiner’s direction when Morris’ 20th birthday was missed, she and several students planned events for a 21st birthday, in 1981, instead. She was also vital in procuring funds for the Student Center. Writing most of the communications to legislators, alumni, parents, and friends of Morris to gather support for the Student Center, her work was instrumental to the existence of this campus hub of student life.
Now the vice chancellor for External Relations, Maxeiner oversees the offices of University Relations, Alumni Relations, and Fund Development. She also served on several chancellor search committees, served as the Functions and Awards Committee chair, and as a member of the Campus Resources and Planning Committee. She earned her masters degree in philanthropy and development from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota in 1997.
Ronald E. McRoberts ’69, 2012 recipient
Ronald E. McRoberts ’69 is a mathematics alum. He received master’s and doctoral degrees in biostatistics from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Presently, McRoberts is a mathematical statistician at the Northern Research Station, U.S. Forest Service in Saint Paul. He has contributed to environmental science through his work on acid rain, sustainability, and climate change. His roles for the United Nations in international climate change studies include expert meetings, a review of satellite image-based methods for detecting deforestation, and co-authorship of the revised Good Practice Guidelines for forest monitoring under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
McRoberts has contributed to environmental assessments for the European Union, Guyana, Brazil, Russia, the Republic of Korea, and for non-governmental organizations such as the World Bank and the World Resources Institute. He has served on multiple panels for the National Science Foundation to evaluate funding proposals for climate change research. His contributions to sustainability in this country are through the National Forest Inventory and the Forests on the Edge project, which uses geographic information systems techniques to identify areas where private forest services are threatened by development, fire, insect pests, and diseases.
Elected as a Fellow by the American Statistical Association (ASA), McRoberts has received several national and international awards. He was elected to the International Statistical Institute in addition to the Italian Academy of Forest Science. The ASA selected him for their Distinguished Achievement Award and he earned the Honor Award for Excellence from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He was presented with a Visiting Scholar Award from the mathematics department of the University of Göttingen in Germany.
David Eckmann ’78, 2011 recipient
David Eckmann ’78, chemistry major, graduated from the University of Minnesota School of Medicine and completed a residency in diagnostic radiology. His area of expertise is neuroradiology, in which he completed a fellowship. As a radiologist at St. Paul Radiology and an American College of Radiology Fellow, Eckmann’s contributions to his profession are significant. Active at both the national and state level of the American College of Radiology and the Minnesota Radiological Society, he has served in numerous leadership positions and is viewed as the state “mentor” of radiology residents. Eckmann worked closely with the St. Paul Radiology Foundation, the only radiology group in the nation that has its own foundation for philanthropic support. He has served as a board member for the East Africa Medical Assistance Foundation for five years. The foundation supports the radiology department at Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center (KCMC) in Moshi, Tanzania. The foundation coordinates donations of radiology equipment and supplies, sends hundreds of consultants and teachers to the hospital, and founded a training program that places radiology practitioners throughout East African areas that have previously never had radiology services available. Eckmann is currently involved in an alliance between the foundation, the Atomic Energy Commission in Vienna, and the Tanzania government to build a KCMC cancer center, so that patients in Tanzania will have the same treatment options as patients in the United States.
Gary McGrath ’68, 2011 recipient
Gary McGrath ’68, history major, earned a master of science in student personnel administration at Western Illinois University and a doctorate in higher education administration from Indiana University. He served the Morris campus for 17 years of his career in higher education, first as director of activities from 1968 until 1972, then as vice chancellor of student affairs from 1986 until 1999. He also coached Cougar golf teams. Many of Morris’s distinguishing characteristics, both in educational philosophy and physical space, can be traced back to the years that McGrath served Morris. He led the successful lobbying effort to secure capital funding for the Student Center in 1992. His strategies, in particular using students’ voices to tell the campus story, became the foundation for the successful lobbying effort to secure capital funding for Science and Math and the Regional Fitness Center, and for significant improvements to several campus buildings. McGrath built strong student development and support services. He encouraged new programs supporting diverse and inclusive learning environments. He added support for the recruitment, retention, and success of students of color. He advanced women’s athletics on campus including securing legislative special funding for gender equity to establish the women’s soccer program. In 2010, McGrath retired as dean of student affairs from Arizona State University Polytechnical Campus, where he helped lead the establishment of a new campus. During his leadership, the student body grew from 1,400 students in 1999 to more than 9,000 students in 2010, and student activities, residential life programs and facilities, health and wellness programming, and diversity programs were created. He has served as a leader in the National Association for Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.
Thomas McRoberts ’68, 2011 recipient
Thomas McRoberts ’68 (1946–2010), history major, continued to be a student advocate and campus leader long after he served on Morris Campus Student Government as a student leader himself. After graduating, McRoberts earned a master of arts in history at the University of Oregon. He returned to Morris in 1975, taught history, and served as first assistant and then associate director of continuing education. In 1988, he coordinated Morris’s first common freshmen course, Inquiry: Values in the Changing World. His contributions to the University’s masters in elementary education program resulted in Recognition of Service Awards in 1986 and 1988. In 1991, the University honored him with the John Tate Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Advising. In 1993, he received the all-University Academic Staff Award. In the early 1990s, McRoberts helped establish the Center for International Programs, a program that has significantly benefitted Morris international and study abroad students, as well as faculty. He served on the committee that developed the Gateway program in 1995 and invented the Summer Scholars program. In 2003, McRoberts was honored with the University of Minnesota President’s Award for Outstanding Service recognizing exceptional commitment to the University community. In 2006, McRoberts was appointed director of Continuing Education, Summer Session, and Regional Programs, and the Center for Small Towns (CST) after serving as interim director for one and one half years. In that same year, CST in partnership with the city of Morris won the Carter Partnership Award for Campus-Community Collaboration. In total, McRoberts contributed 34 years of loyalty, innovation, wisdom, compassion, kindness, gentle influence, dedication, and graciousness to the Morris campus. McRoberts served all people in all avenues of life, on campus and in the community. He was an active member of the Morris Human Rights Commission.
John Tavis ’85, 2011 recipient
John Tavis ’85, chemistry and biology, earned a doctorate in molecular and cell biology from Pennsylvania State University. He completed two post doctorates, first at Pennsylvania State University and then at the University of California, San Francisco. He is professor of molecular microbiology and immunology at St. Louis University School of Medicine, where he is known as a gifted teacher and strong leader. His research focuses on hepatitis B and C viruses. His research has received support from the National Institutes of Health and the American Cancer Society (ACS). His work, ranging from detailed biochemistry of replication enzymes and their substrates to the use of the antiviral regimen of interferon and ribavirin in Hepatitis C patients, will “ultimately translate to benefit cancer patients around the world,” according to his ACS nominator. In addition to his research, Tavis is an avid volunteer leader with the ACS. He began as a volunteer peer reviewer serving on the Molecular Cell Biology and Microbial Pathogenesis peer review committees and later served as chair and vice chair. He is currently a member of the Council for Extramural Grants at the ACS, a position offered to only a small number of cancer research leaders from around the country. The council oversees all peer review panels and is responsible for setting pay lines and for review of grant policies. Tavis is also the academic editor for the journal PLoS One.
Susan E. Jackson ’74, 2010 recipient
An internationally respected scholar and researcher, Rutgers University Professor of Human Resource Management Susan Jackson’s expertise is in the area of organizational psychology, the “field that subserves the science of management.” Her research focuses on three different areas: stress/burnout, strategic and international human resource management, and diversity. She is the author of numerous books, including textbooks, and periodical articles. Jackson has recently built a new Web site, GreenHRM.org, to create a virtual community for scholars and practitioner with growing interest in the area of sustainabilities connection with human resource management.
Jackson’s nominators state that she has “risen to the international top of her field,” and describe her work as having “real-world impact.”
After earning a degree in psychology and sociology at Morris, Jackson completed a doctorate and masters of arts in social/organizational psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. She has served on more than 15 editorial boards and was elected as fellow on four occasions. She currently serves as president of the Academy of Management, the “oldest and largest scholarly management association in the world.”
(From the 2010 news story)
Dennis Anderson ’73, 2010 recipient
An award winning journalist and conservationist, Anderson is an outdoor columnist and editor for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. In 1982, he served as a principle founder and first national chairperson for Pheasants Forever, a wildlife habitat and conservation organization that now has more than 125,000 members in the United States and Canada. In 2008, he played a major role in the passage of the Minnesota Clean Water, Land, and Legacy Amendment.
Anderson’s nominators state, “Dennis has educated and informed literally thousands of Minnesota and regional citizens about conservation and natural resource management…the impact of his writing transcends sitting at a keyboard and describing fishing, or hunting, or outdoor pursuits. He is a practitioner of conservation biology and natural resource management. He educates the public around the issues of habitats, species that live in those habitats, and the potential for strengthening such habitats.”
After earning a degree in English at Morris, Dennis Anderson ’73 completed a master of arts in journalism at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. His honors include a Pulitzer Prize finalist for specialized reporting a Scripps Howard Foundation Best Conservation Reporting in a Major Newspaper Award a national Associated Press Sports Editor Award for investigative reporting twice winner of the Frank Premack Award for best public affairs reporting and twice winner of the Twin Cities Best Newspaper Columnist Award.
(From the 2010 news story)
Kenneth Bruss ’78, 2009 recipient
With nearly 30 years of varied positions in the food and pharmaceutical industry, Kenneth Bruss ’78, chemistry, currently serves as director of technical operations for sanofi-aventis, a pharmaceuticals manufacturing firm. His role encompasses three major areas including health safety and environment, site security, and the overall facilities and maintenance area for the site including site capital investments.
Bruss earned a master of science in business administration from Avila University, Kansas City. He was honored in 2005 as the campus's inaugural Latterell Visiting Alumnus.
(From the 2009 news story)
Randy Koopman ’78, 2009 recipient
Randy Koopman's career path has led him from field service engineer to technical sales representative to regional manager to director and, finally, to his current position as senior director for Waters Global Services. The company's waters products are used by pharmaceutical, life science, biochemical, industrial, academic, and government organizations working in research and development, quality assurance, and other laboratory applications including regulatory compliance.
“It has been a great ride with more ahead,” states Koopman, a 1978 chemistry major. “If someone had laid out this vision for me during the graduation ceremonies at UMM, I would have been awe struck. My thanks go out to the students and faculty of UMM for playing a key role in my life and career.”
(From the 2009 news story)
Michael Rodriguez ’89, 2008 recipient
An associate professor at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, in the College of Education and Human Development, Michael Rodriguez '89 researches psychometric properties of tests and applied measurement with particular interest in Latino youth development and students with disabilities. He participates in a United States Agency for International Development project that is developing a national assessment program in Guatemala. He is the recipient of the 2008 Robert H. Beck Faculty Teaching Award from the College of Education and Human Development; the 2005 Albert J. Harris Research Award of the International Reading Association; and the 2004 Community Service Award from the College of Education and Human Development.
Rodriguez, a psychology major, earned a doctorate from Michigan State University and a master of arts in public affairs from the University of Minnesota.
(From the 2008 news story)
Lorie Gildea ’83, 2007 recipient
An associate justice with the Minnesota Supreme Court, Gildea completed her four-year undergraduate education at UMM in three years with a 4.0 (A) grade point average. She was named a Scholar of the College, a member of the Dean's List and received a Medal for Outstanding Undergraduate. She holds a juris doctorate from Georgetown University Law Center where she graduated magna cum laude in 1986.
She is the chair of the Supreme Court’s Gender Fairness Implementation Committee and serves as the Court’s liaison to the Minnesota Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Rules of Juvenile Protection Procedure, and the Board of Legal Certification. Gildea also serves on the Council and the Assembly of the Minnesota State Bar Association. Gildea is the author of an article, "Sifting the Dross: Expert Witness Testimony in Minnesota after the Daubert Trilogy," which was published in the William Mitchell Law Review. She is also profiled in a book by UMM Chancellor Sam Schuman, titled Old Main: Small Colleges in Twenty-First Century America.
Gildea’s charge as an associate justice with the Supreme Court is to review decisions of lower courts to determine if the lower courts correctly applied the law. Her decision early on to attend UMM was significant for her as well. "…the day I decided to attend UMM was one of the best days of my life," said Gildea.
(From the 2007 news story)
Jon Mukand ’80, 2006 recipient
Jon Mukand graduated from UMM in 1980, receiving a bachelor of arts in chemistry and English. He earned a master of arts in English from Stanford University in 1985, a doctor of medicine degree from Medical College of Wisconsin in 1985, and a doctorate in English literature from Brown University in 1995. Mukand is a poet, author, researcher, and a physician specializing in rehabilitation medicine (physiatrist).
Mukand is currently principle investigator for the BrainGate Neural Interface System, which seeks to improve the quality of life for paralyzed patients by increasing independence. A silicon chip implanted on the surface of the brain records electrical activity that is transmitted to a computer that decodes and translates the signals allowing the patient to perform simple tasks via a second computer.
A love of literature and medicine merge in Mukand's poetry. In addition to authoring numerous scientific articles and editing two textbooks, Sutured Words: Contemporary Poetry about Medicine and Vital Lines: Contemporary Fiction about Medicine , he has published several poems, including: "Offering," "Revisions of a Medical Record," and "Oxygen."
Dwight Purdy, professor emeritus of English, one of Mukand's nominators states: "So far as I know, he [Mukand] is the only published and respected poet to publish extensively, too, in medicine. Some like William Carlos Williams, have been practicing physicians who published volumes of poetry. But Mukand is alone, I think, as a poet publishing widely in a scientific field. And although I am not qualified to speak about his scientific work, it seems to me consistent in its creative, cutting edge research with Mukand the poet. His work on quadriplegia and the structure of the brain might well be called a form of poetry."
Mukand is medical director at the Southern New England Rehabilitation Center and serves as an assistant professor at Boston University and Tufts University.
(From the 2006 news story)
Stuart Starner ’65, 2006 recipient
Stuart (Stu) Starner graduated in 1965, receiving a bachelor of arts in physical education, a minor in history, and secondary education certification. He began his career in higher education as assistant basketball coach to Head Coach Jim Dutcher of the University of Minnesota Gophers and then served as head coach at Montana State University.
In 1995, his professional career grew to include the areas of higher education fundraising and planned giving. He served as associate director of development and planned giving at the University of Texas at San Antonio; the director of major gifts for intercollegiate athletics at Montana State University, and the chief executive officer at the University of Houston Athletics Foundation. Starner currently serves as director of major gifts at the 12th Man Foundation—Texas A&M University.
Fellow alumni Gary L. McGrath '68, dean of student affairs at Arizona State University, was one of Starner's nominators for the award. He notes that Starner, like many UMMers in the 1960s, grew up within 50 miles of the Morris campus. A three-sport athlete--football, basketball, and baseball--Starner was a leader on and off the field. McGrath states: "I have a great deal of respect for Stu Starner. In the highly competitive field of Division I intercollegiate athletics, Stu has been a successful head men's basketball coach at two institutions. Over the last ten plus years, Stu has applied his considerable management and leadership skills to become an effective university development officer. Stu is an excellent example of a UMM graduate from a small town in Minnesota who has had a very successful career."
(From the 2006 news story)
Paulette Fairbanks Molin ’66, 2005 recipient
Paulette Fairbanks Molin graduated in 1966, receiving a bachelor of arts in French and English. She continued her education at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, where she earned a master of fine arts in 1975 and a doctorate in 1987, both in educational administration. Her dedicated career in education included serving as director of an American Indian elementary curriculum project for the Minneapolis Public Schools and as assistant dean of the graduate college and director of the American Indian Educational Opportunity Program at Hampton University in Virginia.
Professor of History Wilbert Ahern nominated Molin for the award. He praised the noted educator and author's professional and civic accomplishments, especially noting Molin's "path-breaking" study of stereotypes with which Indian children must deal. He also stated: "As a charter member of the National Caucus of the Woodcraft Circle, Molin, a member of the Chippewa Tribe from the White Earth Reservation, has helped create a supportive climate for other native authors."
Molin is coeditor of American Indian Stereotypes in the World of Children , coauthor of Encyclopedia of Native American Religions , and the author of numerous articles, poems and stories. Molin has served as curator for several major exhibitions including Enduring Legacy: Native Peoples, Native Arts at Hampton and To Lead and To Serve: American Indian Education at Hampton Institute, 1878-1923, a traveling photographic exhibition which has been presented at numerous sites across the United States including Harvard University.
(From the 2005 news story)
Cy Thao ’95, 2005 recipient
Cy Thao graduated in 1995, receiving a bachelor of arts in political science and studio art. He helped found the Center for Hmong Arts and Talent in St. Paul and served as its first director. In 2000 he received a Bush Artist Fellowship that allowed him to complete a series of 50 oil paintings that he had begun as a student in 1993. The exhibition, "The Hmong Migration: Fifty Paintings" chronicles 5000 years of Hmong history beginning with creation stories and ending with a world map showing the many countries where Hmong people now make their homes. The powerful and moving exhibition was featured at the Minneapolis Institute of Art in 2004.
Jenny Nellis, professor of studio art, nominated Thao for the award. She noted Thao's dedication to serving others as exemplary, as a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives, as a member of the Hmong community, and as a member of the UMM community.
Nellis describes Thao's efforts on behalf of the Hmong living in Minnesota and studying at UMM as "uplifting and inspirational." In 2002 Thao launched a successful bid as representative for District 65A, the Frogtown neighbor in St. Paul which is home to a large Hmong population. In his service to UMM, the multi-ethnic student population, including the Asian Student Organization, has particularly appreciated Thao's support and guidance. He received the UMM Multi-Ethnic Distinguished Alumni Award in 2004.
(From the 2005 news story)
Leonard Munstermann ’64, 2004 recipient
In 1964, Leonard Munstermann was a member of the first graduating class, earning a bachelor of arts in psychology. He was the first senior president of the Morris Campus Student Association, the first undergraduate research assistant and also served as editor of the student newspaper during his undergraduate career.
After graduation, Munstermann accepted a position as a Peace Corps science teacher in West Africa where he developed a keen interest in insects that would lead to his life's calling. After returning to the U.S., he earned a master of science degree in zoology from the University of Minnesota and a doctoral degree in biology from the University of Notre Dame.
Munstermann is currently a research scientist in the Division of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases at the Yale School of Public Health. His research involves molecular genetics focused on the insect vector that provide clues to genomic organization, population structure and evolutionary relationships. His research utilizes Aedes mosquitoes and phlebotomine sand flies of New and Old World and emphasizes three genetic approaches:
- gene linkage mapping provides genetic backbone for isolating genes and macrogenomic evolution;
- genetic variability within an insect species in the form of isoenzymes or DNA base pair substitutions indicate population structure, population origin or taxonomic relatedness;
- identification of closely related vector species by (biochemical) genetic means.
Munstermann has authored and co-authored 173 publications. He has presented numerous papers and posters at meetings of scientific societies and a number of prestigious invited lectures. His research has been funded by grants received mostly from the National Institutes of Health, and he has received educational grants from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. He has been associated with other grants totaling several additional million dollars.
Munstermann also serves as associate curator in the Division of Entomology at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, a prestigious museum with 1.5 million insect specimens to organize and study.
A Presidents Club giving society member since 1998, Munstermann is a loyal alumnus of the University of Minnesota, Morris, and a strong advocate of its mission.
(From the 2004 news story)
John Dayton ’68, 2003 recipient
John Dayton graduated in 1968 with a speech degree and secondary education certificate. After serving several years in the UMM Admissions Office and two years with the U.S. Army, he enrolled in Texas Tech University School of Law in Lubbock. Following graduation, he joined one of the largest, oldest, most prestigious law firms in Dallas-Thompson, Knight, Simmons and Bullion-and specialized in real estate law.
In 1982 John stumbled upon an interesting property-a dining establishment-and discovered a talented chef. A few months later, he resigned from his law firm position and entered the world of hospitality by opening his first restaurant, Routh Street Cafe in Dallas. Currently, John is a partner in Cuisine Concepts the umbrella organization and operating company of Tejas, Goodfellow's and Tejas Express restaurants, The Franklin Street Bakery, and a restaurant management and consulting business, all located in Minneapolis.
John gives generously and graciously to a variety of important organizations. He served as chair of the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts, an organization planning a multi-purpose performing arts complex in the Dallas Arts District. John also served as chairman of the board and president of The Dallas Opera and chair of The Dallas County Youth Village, a residential treatment facility for young people. He was an executive committee member of The Dallas Zoological Society and board member of ChildCare Dallas. He currently serves on the Board of Trustees of the University of Minnesota Foundation, The Taft School in Connecticut and Eaglebrook School in Massachusetts.
John co-chaired the UMM Campaign Minnesota Volunteer Executive Committee. The successful fundraising drive garnered much good will for UMM and almost $9.6 million dollars in private support for the campus.
(From the 2003 news story)
Robert Gandrud ’65, 2002 recipient
Bob Gandrud graduated in 1965 with a degree in mathematics. He immediately joined Lutheran Brotherhood, a fraternal financial services organization, as an actuary. After working in several divisions of the company including insurance, product developments, sales and marketing, and management information services, Bob quickly rose to the top ranks of management. Bob was named president in 1987 and chief executive officer in 1988. He led Lutheran Brotherhood for 12 years, overseeing a period of tremendous growth and change.
Over the years Bob has served on a number of business, community, college and church boards. He and his wife, Nancy, have helped build a dozen homes for Habitat for Humanity, and have been foster parents to more than 40 infants. Bob has continued his community involvement during his retirement, serving on the Luther Seminary Major Gifts Committee, making congregational visits, and serving as co-chair of UMM's capital campaign.
(From the 2002 news story)
Lue Her ’97, 2002 recipient
Lue Her was born in Laos and spent his earliest years in a Thai refugee camp. When his family immigrated to the United States, he grew up in a crime-ridden housing project in St Paul. His mother insisted that he attend a mostly-white elementary school in order to learn English more quickly, and Lue was soon translating for other Hmong parents.
Lue excelled in high school and thrived at UMM, earning degrees in political science and secondary education and becoming involved in a number of student organizations. After graduation in 1997, Lue received a Coro Fellowship in Public Affairs, a program that matches Coro Fellows with top executives in business, government, and philanthropy. Through this fellowship, he worked with Hmong-American Community, Inc., an economic development group that serves immigrants in the Central Valley of California. While there he helped farmers start a cooperative which sells thousands of dollars of Asian produce every week.
Since 1999, Lue has worked with the Minnesota Higher Education Services Office, where he manages AmeriCorps/Get Ready!, a national service program that helps disadvantaged students succeed in school and go on to college. He also assists in the recruitment and placement of students enrolled in UMM's English Language Teaching Assistant Program, placing them in semester long teaching opportunities in Thailand and Laos.
(From the 2002 news story)
Bruce Johnson ’71, 2002 recipient
Following graduation in 1971 with a degree in English, Bruce earned a Ph.D. in English and education, with studies in film, from Northwestern University. His first film, made in 1977, was a promotional documentary for the ABC mini-series "Roots."
Bruce moved to Hollywood in 1979 where he started out making low-budget teacher-education films for Dave Bell Associates, an independent television production company. He did everything: wrote, produced, directed, edited, and sound on location. Over the next several years, Bruce produced documentaries, industrial films and public affairs programs. His credits included "America, America," a series for the Disney Channel profiling extraordinary Americans, and "On Campus," a PBS news program that won him two of three Emmy Awards in 1983 and 1984. In 1985 Bruce joined Hanna-Barbera as a producer and became swept up in animation.
Bruce was named studio general manager when Turner Broadcasting acquired Hanna-Barbera in 1991. After several years, he began to miss the creative work that comes with producing, and in 1995, formed PorchLight Entertainment with the founding vision to "tell good stories that impart moral lessons." His target audience: the entire family. The company's flagship property is the very successful "Adventures from the Book of Virtues" - classic stories from around the world now in its fourth season on PBS. This series has been sold in over 75 countries worldwide. Next came "Jay Jay the Jet Plane," a preschool series that airs daily on PBS. The company has also produced movies for the Disney Channel, Fox Family Channel, Animal Planet, Hallmark, and others.
(From the 2002 news story)