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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

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April 15: Distinguished Alumni Achievement Awards

Eight alumni will be recognized in an event in Ostrander Auditorium.

Minnesota State University, Mankato Media Relations Office Announcement, 4-7-2016

Mankato, Minn. – The 2016 Minnesota State University, Mankato distinguished alumni honorees include the owner, president and CEO of a cargo security company, a nursing administrator and educator, a retired high school chemistry teacher and a disaster program manager for the American Red Cross.

The University’s Alumni Association will present its Distinguished Alumni Achievement Awards to four individuals at 6:30 p.m. Friday, April 15 on campus in the Centennial Student Union’s Ostrander Auditorium. Four additional awards will be presented to recognize humanitarian work, successful young alumni and service to Minnesota State Mankato.

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 recipients are: David Falk, Waconia, Minn.; Debora Natvig, Greenwood, S.C.; Maurice Oehler, Prairie du Chien, Wis.; and Jeffrey Stewart, Rosenberg, Texas.

Falk, a 1969 business administration and economics graduate, is the owner, president and CEO of Transport Security in Waconia, Minn. He is being recognized for his financial and philanthropic contributions to various organizations throughout Waconia. Many of his contributions centered on restoration of the city and historical buildings, education and beyond.

Natvig, who earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing in 1971 and a master’s degree in health science in 1976, is being recognized for her passion and expertise in the medical field, including developing and revising health care guidelines for the South Carolina Department of Disabilities and Special Needs. Natvig previously served as executive associate dean for strategic management & practice and professor for the Department of Biobehavioral Nursing College at Georgia Regents University.

Oehler, who bachelor’s degrees in chemistry in 1955 and secondary education in 1956, is a retired high school chemistry teacher at Prairie du Chien (Wis.) Schools. Oehler is the founder of “National Mole Day,” a day of engaging students in the practice and study of chemistry. The national day was started with a small article in The Science Teacher newsletter about Oehler’s idea for celebrating the day, which grew into a national organization in 1991.

Stewart, a 1979 law enforcement graduate, is currently the disaster program manager for the American Red Cross in Houston, Texas. Stewart has served in the United States Navy, as well as in the Minnesota Army National Guard and as a police officer in St. Paul, Minn. Stewart later became a pastoral minister for 16 years and received a doctorate degree in organizational leadership from Bethel Theological Seminary.

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 Ginger Zierdt, Mankato, Minn.

Zierdt, who earned both a master’s degree (educational leadership—2002) and an education specialist degree (2003) from Minnesota State Mankato, went on to earn a doctorate in 2009 from the University of Nebraska in educational studies, with a specialization in educational leadership and higher education. A tenured full professor, Zierdt currently serves as the University’s interim assistant vice president for undergraduate education. She was selected by Minnesota State Mankato as its 2014 recipient of the Claire E. Faust Public Service Award.

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 Carol Martin, Lititz, Pa.

Martin graduated from Minnesota State Mankato in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene. Today, in addition to seeing, treating and educating patients, she volunteers at Water Street Health Services, a dental clinic in Lancaster, Pa. She has also devoted time to organizing and participating in a dental mission in Honduras, where she has completed seven trips to provide dental care to more than 650 children and their teachers in rural areas.

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 recipients are Sophia Bera, Austin, Texas, and Michael D. Leech, Astoria, N.Y.

Bera earned a bachelor’s degree with a double major in theatre arts and women’s studies in 2005 from Minnesota State Mankato. She is a certified financial planner, public speaker and the founder of her own firm, Gen Y Planning. Bera volunteers her time by giving financial literacy presentations in high school classrooms, and she also serves as an adjunct faculty member at Minnesota State Mankato.

Leech earned a bachelor’s degree in mass communications in 2008 from Minnesota State Mankato. Since graduating, he worked for KEYC TV in Mankato and also produced, directed and starred in several commercials for the Maverick 4 Theatre. He eventually became an intern in the mailroom of the “Late Show with David Letterman” and worked his way up to become a full-time writer for the show.

More information on the awards can be found online or by calling (507) 389-3235.

Minnesota State Mankato, a comprehensive university with 15,193 students, is part of the Minnesota State Colleges & Universities system, which comprises 31 state institutions.

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