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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

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April 21: Distinguished Alumni Achievement Awards

The campus community and public are invited to this event. RSVPs are required.

Minnesota State University, Mankato Media Relations Office News Release, 3-20-2017

Mankato, Minn. – The 2017 Minnesota State University, Mankato distinguished alumni honorees include the president and CEO of Canterbury Park in Shakopee, Minn., a middle school teacher, a retired educator and an executive for Warner Bros. Consumer Products.

The University’s Alumni Association will present its Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award, Humanitarian Award, Harold J. Fitterer Service Award and Recent Alumni Award at 6 p.m. Friday, April 21 on campus in the Centennial Student Union’s Ostrander Auditorium. The event is open to the public. Registration is required.

The Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award is presented to graduates who have achieved high rank or honor in their professions, had widespread effect on their communities and are recognized for their achievements over the course of their careers. This year’s recipient is Randy Sampson, Chanhassen, Minn.

Sampson (top left in photo), a 1980 graduate with a bachelor’s degree in accounting/finance, has served as president and CEO of Canterbury Park (formerly Canterbury Downs) since the company’s inception in 1994. 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.

The Harold J. Fitterer Service Award is presented to graduates who have given distinguished service to Minnesota State Mankato through work preserving and promoting university programs. This year’s recipient is Joleen Hartung Durken, Inver Grove Heights, Minn.

Durken (top right in photo), a 1963 graduate with a bachelor’s degree in vocational home economics education and minor in speech, is a retired educator. She was previously employed by the Minnesota Department of Education in several supervisory roles. Durken’s service to Minnesota State Mankato as an alumna has spanned more than four decades, and it continues to grow and strengthen each year. Durken has served four terms on the Alumni Association board of directors, and she was president from 1973 to 1974. She is also a member of the Minnesota State Mankato President’s Society and Legacy Society, supporting education programs on campus.

The Distinguished Alumni Humanitarian Award recognizes graduates whose lives exemplify service to humankind, and who have demonstrated exceptional dedication to humanitarian causes. This year’s recipient is Stuart Keroff, St. Paul, Minn.

Keroff (bottom left in photo) graduated from Minnesota State Mankato in 1996 with a bachelor’s degree in social studies (history). Keroff worked in retail, as a travel agent and in telecommunications before receiving his teaching licensure. He now teaches middle school social studies. At Community School of Excellence, he founded the Asian Penguins, 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 and give them 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.

The Distinguished Young Alumni Award honors graduates 35 years old or younger who reached personal or professional achievements early in their careers, positively impacted their communities, and show promise for continued success. This year’s recipient is Josh Hackbarth, Burbank, Calif.

Hackbarth (bottom right in photo) graduated from Minnesota State Mankato in 2001 with a bachelor’s degree in management information systems and later went on to earn an MBA from the University of Minnesota. He has more than 15 years of Global Fortune 100 experience in marketing, strategy, sales, product management and operations. Hackbarth is currently the vice president, worldwide franchise management & marketing for Warner Bros. Consumer Products. Hackbarth works alongside directors, producers and artists to shape stories and characters that ensure a solid brand foundation.

More information on the awards is available at or by calling (507) 389-3235.

Minnesota State Mankato, a comprehensive university with 15,110 students, is part of the Minnesota State system, which comprises 31 state institutions. 

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