Riverland seeks nomination for Alumni Award

Release Date: February 20, 2020

Categories: Foundation Media Release

Leaders in Government, Education, Health Care,
the Arts, Faith and Business Among 23 Previous Awardees

Nominations opened recently for the 2020 Riverland Community College Distinguished Alumni Award which recognizes contributions Riverland alumni make and increases the pride all alumni, students, staff and faculty have for Riverland.

The award is bestowed on an individual who attended Riverland and has distinguished himself or herself. Since 1979, 23 Distinguished Alumni Awards have been conferred. (See list following this release)

The awardees are 16 males and seven females. Seven had careers in education, Seven in business, three in health care, three in the law, two in the arts, and one in ministry. Seven awardees have been elected to public office at a local or regional level.

Past awardees include a Broadway actress (Ashton), the 1987 Minnesota Teacher of the Year (Goodnature), a serial entrepreneur (Robinson) and the Mayor of Rochester, Minn. (Brede). One even created a long-running local television program (Matt). Some awardees have earned advanced degrees: three Doctorates of Philosophy (PhD), three Doctors of Jurisprudence (JD) and one Doctor of Medicine (MD).

“This is an opportunity for our amazing Alumni to be recognized for their achievements.  I am so excited to see the nominations for Distinguished Alumni 2020” said Kim Nelson, Riverland director of grants and alumni relations.

The most recent Distinguished Alumni, Nancy Chistophersen, was named in 2018. Christophersen is now retired from a long career as an instructor at Riverland Community College.

Nominees for the 2020 award will be evaluated on a significant contribution to the achievement of Riverland’s vision, established and/or strengthened Riverland’s community partnerships and contributed to a community in a significant way. The Distinguished Alumni recipient will be recognized at the Riverland Community College commencement May 15.

To be considered for the award, a nominee must have attended one of these colleges that now are considered Riverland Community College:

• Albert Lea Area Vocational Technical Institute

• Albert Lea/Mankato Technical College

• Albert Lea Technical College

• Albert Lea Technical Institute

• Austin Area Vocational School

• Austin Community College

• Austin Junior College

• Austin State Junior College

• Austin Technical College

• Austin Technical Institute

• Minnesota Riverland Technical College

• Owatonna Extension Center - Austin State Junior College

• Owatonna Higher Education Center

• Owatonna College and University Center

• Riverland Community College

Deadline to nominate is Friday, March 6, 2020, at 4:30 p.m. Late nominations will not be considered. Online nominations to https://www.riverland.edu/alumni are encouraged.

Past Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients appears on the following page.

Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients

The Distinguished Alumni Award program began in 1979 to honor distinguished alumni in recognition of their personal and professional achievements, contributions to the achievement of the college’s and/or foundation’s mission, community leadership that promotes partnerships with the college, and/or significant contributions to society or the community. Beginning 2004, the award is bestowed every even-numbered year.

Year Award


Position when awarded


James Mork

Judge, Minnesota District Court


LaVonne Painter



Colleen Ashton



Phyllis (Dankers) Yes

Artist & Educator


Stephen Wright



Tom Nelson

Senator, State of Minnesota


Mary Weber Keenan

County Commissioner, Mower County


Paul Goodnature



Charles Jahren

ACC Instructor


James Flannery

ACC President


Jerry Anfinson

Certified Public Accountant 


Fred Robinson

Business Owner, Robinson Business Forms


Joe Matt

Minister, Crane Community Chapel


J. Douglas Myers

Superintendent, Austin Public Schools


Greg Meyer

Business Owner, State Farm Insurance


C. Jerry Nelson

Professor of Agronomy, University of Missouri -Columbia


Ardell Brede

Mayor of Rochester, Minnesota


J. Thomas Mott

Judge, Minnesota District Court


Scott Richardson



Donna Schumacher

PhD, RN, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota


John J. Gray, Jr.

Assistant Secretary-Treasurer of The Hormel Foundation


Alice Holst

Operations and Acquisition manager at US Bank


Nancy Chirstophersen

Riverland Community College Instructor