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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

2017 Honorees

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Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award

Presented to graduates who have achieved high rank or honor in their professions, have a widespread effect on their communities, and are recognized for their achievements over the course of their careers.

Randy Sampson

Randy Sampson graduated Summa Cum Laude in 1980 from Minnesota State University, Mankato (formerly Mankato State University) with a B.S. Accounting/Finance. Randy has served as President and CEO of Canterbury Park (formerly Canterbury Downs) since the company’s inception in 1994.  He also served as CFO from 1994-2001 and assumed that role again in December of 2016.  Randy oversaw the successful reopening and operation of the racetrack, which had closed in 1992.  Under Sampson’s leadership the company steadily grew in revenues and profitability as it expanded its business operations.  Revenues have increased from $17.6 million in 1995, the first full year of operation, to $52 million in 2016. 
Not only a savvy business man -- Sampson has given back to Minnesota State Mankato as a College of Business Advisory Board member ('10-'14), served on the steering committee for the Big Ideas campaign, and hosts an annual College of Business Alumni gathering at Canterbury Park (hosting more than 900 alumni in 2016). In 2009, Sampson received the Distinguished Business Person Award from the College of Business.
In 2016 Canterbury Park, under Sampson’s leadership, completed a corporate restructuring to facilitate the development of the underutilized portions of its 380 acre property in Shakopee.  The restructuring separated the racetrack and entertainment business from the approximately 150 acres of land available for development by forming two subsidiaries, Canterbury Park Entertainment, LLC and Canterbury Development, LLC.  The Company is currently working on mixed-use development plans for Canterbury Commons, a unique place to live, stay, work and play.
Canterbury Park currently welcomes more than 1.1 million visitors each year for horseracing, card casino, and various special events and has approximately 400 full-time employees and over 600 additional seasonal and part-time employees. Canterbury Park has been a Minnesota Keystone Program Member since its inception, contributing 5% of pre-tax profits to community and charitable causes.  Donations are primarily through grants from the Canterbury Park Minnesota Fund.
In 2014, Canterbury Park was named a top 100 workplace by the Star Tribune.  In 2003, Canterbury Park was named one of America’s 100 fastest growing small companies by Fortune Small Business, and in 2001, Canterbury Park was named one of the 200 best small companies in America by Forbes Magazine. In 1997, Randy was named to CityBusiness' Forty under Forty, an annual listing of Minnesota's top 40 business leaders under the age of forty. He is past president of the Minnesota Thoroughbred Association, past Vice President and current board member of the Thoroughbred Racetrack Association, and a national racetrack industry association. 
His previous work history includes working as an auditor for Touche Ross and Co. (Currently Deloitte and Touche) 1980-1985, Auditor. Randy also earned his Certified Public Accountant in 1982 (inactive.)
Randy is now married with four children and enjoys horseracing, walking, bike riding, attending Twins Fantasy Camp with family members, and coaching his three sons’ youth baseball and basketball teams. Randy graduated from Hector High School in 1976 as the Class Valedictorian. Click here to watch Randy's video!

Humanitarian Award

Presented to graduates whose lives exemplify service to humankind. They have demonstrated exceptional dedication and are recognized for their humanitarian contributions and achievements.

Stuart Keroff

Stuart Keroff graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Social Studies: History in 1996. He very briefly started his studies at Mankato as a Theatre major, but eventually found a better fit in the Social Studies Department. He received his Social Studies degree, and studied under professors such as Rich Hall, Teresa Smith, and Clark Johnson.
Keroff spent several years working in retail, as a travel agent and in telecommunications before going back to receive his teaching licensure, beginning his career in elementary education. He then worked in three local charter schools teaching third and fifth graders, and then transitioned into middle school social studies. At Community School of Excellence, he was able to make his biggest impact when he founded the Asian Penguins.
As a social studies teacher for the Community School of Excellence, Stuart Keroff recognized those who lacked access to an internet-connected computer were at a distinct disadvantage in today's society. Instead of referring families with limited English skills to other programs, he created a solution. He took his own time to learn about refurbishing computers and about the Linux operating system and other free open source software packages. He used free software to minimize the costs of providing computers to families who would otherwise not be able to afford them. He went a step further by teaching his students to refurbish (including installation of the operating system and software), install the computers and train families in their use. Thus began the Asian Penguins.
This gave the students in his program a sense of achievement while overcoming language and cultural barriers. In addition to installing the computers and training the users, the Asian Penguins work with the providers of low cost broadband internet to assure the recipients are able to have full online access.
The Asian Penguins are the first and only Linux users group based in a Hmong school
anywhere in the world. They gain knowledge of open source software and use it to refurbish old computers, which are gifted to families. The Asian Penguins have given away 89 computers and have provided over 120 computers to the school for students to use in class. Stu makes his home in Saint Paul, where he lives with his wife Anne and their two children.
While a student at Minnesota State Mankato, Keroff was a member of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, and through this organization took a journey overseas on a summer trip to Israel, Jordan, and the West Bank, where he did volunteer work. During his Mankato years, he also sang lead for two local bands. It was while he was a student at Mankato State that he met his future wife, Anne Stabe. Click here to watch Stuart's video!

Harold J. Fitterer Service Award

Presented to graduates distinguished by their record of service to Minnesota State University, Mankato and to their communities. They have engaged in continuing efforts to preserve and promote Minnesota State Mankato programs through their time, treasure and talents.

Joleen Hartung Durken, '63

Joleen Durken is a retired educator, employed previously by the Minnesota Department of Education in several supervisory roles. She earned a bachelor's in Vocational Home Economics Education with a minor in Speech from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her service to Minnesota State University, Mankato as an alumna has spanned more than four decades and continues to grow and strengthen each year. Durken has served four terms on the Alumni Association Board of Directors, and was President from '73-'74. She is also a member of Minnesota State Mankato's President's Society and Legacy Society, supporting education programs on campus. She has received many awards and accolades spanning her professional and volunteer experience including the Governor's award for multi-agency initiatives, a leadership award for improving access to secondary vocational education, a certificate of appreciation from Minnesota alternative schools and area learning center directors, a competitive federal grant to begin school-age childcare in Minnesota, and was elected as an emeritus member of the Minnesota 4-H Foundation. Durken continues to give her time, talent and treasures to support Minnesota State Mankato. 


Recent Alumni Award

Presented to recent graduates who have reached personal and/or professional achievements early in their careers, have positively impacted their communities and show promise for continued success.

Josh Hackbarth, '01

Josh Hackbarth, an '01 graduate of the College of Business in Management Information Systems, has had tremendous career advancements after his recent graduation. He is a seasoned MBA with more than 15 years of Global Fortune 100 experience in marketing, strategy, sales, product management and operations. Hackbarth has global expertise and insight across many industries, with a focus on entertainment, retail and technology.

´╗┐Now Hackbarth is the Vice President, Worldwide Franchise Management & Marketing for Warner Bros. Consumer Products. Prior to being hired by Warner Bros., he was the Vice President of Global Brand Strategy and Franchise Development for DreamWorks Animation. He served as franchise director for films such as How to Train Your Dragon, Voltron, TrollHunters, Captain Underpants, Croods, Felix the Cat, Where's Waldo and Masters of the Universe. Hackbarth works alongside directors, producers and artists to shape stories and characters that ensure a solid brand foundation. He works closely with executive leadership, category business leaders (e.g. consumer products, digital/gaming, TV, feature, marketing) and regional heads to execute market strategies and tactics to successfull launch, grow and maintain the brands around the world!

Hackbarth has also held senior management positions with and Target, and was employed with GE Money and 3M. Climbing his way to success after graduation, Hackbarth has since acquired his MBA in Marketing and Strategy from Carlson School of Management, and an MBA Exchange with Hong Kong University of Science and Technology in the School of Business and Management. His career passion is anchored in building brands by combining content, product and experience-based marketing initiatives with innovative storytelling.

In his earlier years, he was an active student at Minnesota State Mankato, involved with Delta Sigma Pi, the Honors Program, Residential Life and several College of Business student organizations.