2014 Alumni Achievement Award Recipients
John Ahlquist '63
John Ahlquist, Walnut Creek, Calif., has been a certified health physicist for 41 years and a leader in applied and environmental health physics, environmental restoration, decontamination and decommissioning of nuclear facilities and sites, emergency response, and management. He began his career at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1965 where he was involved in the testing of nuclear rocket reactors for deep space exploration. He was a nuclear safeguards inspector in Vienna, Austria, for the International Atomic Energy Agency, and was a director for environmental restoration and for environment, safety and health with the Department of Energy. He concluded his career in management oversight of three national laboratories operated by the University of California. He continues to work toward improvements in restoration of nuclear sites.
Sandra Cartie '82
Sandra Cartie, Princeton, N.J., is senior vice president and chief audit executive of Bristol-Myers Squibb. Cartie has been named by Treasury & Risk magazine as an outstanding women leader in finance and is widely acknowledged for “being a change agent, successfully building focused teams, creating leaders, implementing rapid transitions and adding value to improve operations.” Cartie is a leader in the company’s diversity and inclusion efforts, and finds gratification in nurturing, motivating and developing others, while creating a culture of inclusion to maximize each team member’s potential. Cartie created a strategy that engages Bristol-Myers Squibb employees around the world in sustainability efforts by founding the company’s “Go Green” initiative to preserve the environment, which contributed to the company’s No. 1 ranking on Corporate Responsibility Magazine’s “Best Corporate Citizens” listing in 2012 to 2014.
Dr. Roger Leopold '62
Dr. Roger Leopold, Fargo, N.D., has been a research entomologist in the USDA Agricultural Research Service for more than 44 years and is recognized internationally as a leading authority in the areas of insect reproduction and cryopreservation. His research, vision and leadership has provided the foundation for the current appreciation that insect cryopreservation and dormancy technology is an area of critical importance to providing safe and stable insect control systems that aid global food production. Leopold is widely considered to be among the top one percent of his scientific peers. He has written over 150 publications, including journal articles, book chapters, scientific proceedings, technical reports and abstracts. Further, he was the recipient of the Sir Frederick McMaster Fellowship for Distinguished Foreign Scientists.
Vernon Tolo, M.D. '64
Vernon Tolo, M.D., Pasadena, Calif., is chief emeritus of the Children’s Orthopaedic Center at Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles, where he was orthopaedic chief for 22 years, following 11 years as chief of pediatric orthopaedics at Johns Hopkins. He is the John C. Wilson, Jr., Professor of Orthopaedics at the Keck School of Medicine at University of Southern California. His primary clinical interests are spinal deformity, skeletal dysplasia, cerebral palsy, and pediatric trauma. He has mentored and been the role model for many younger orthopaedic surgeons. He has been president of the Scoliosis Research Society, the Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America, and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. He is editor-in-chief of the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery.
2014 Sent Forth Award Recipients
Roxana Saberi '97
Roxana Saberi is an author, journalist, inspirational speaker and human rights advocate best known for her reporting and imprisonment in Iran during 2009. After worldwide attention was given to her plight, Saberi was released and she wrote of her experiences in the book “Between Two Worlds: My Life and Captivity in Iran.” She has worked with Reporters Without Borders, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, and United4Iran. She received the NCAA Award of Valor for demonstrating uncommon bravery and courage in the face of grave personal danger. At Concordia, Saberi played soccer and graduated summa cum laude. Saberi has a master’s degree in broadcast journalism from Northwestern University and a second master’s in international relations from the University of Cambridge. She has reported for NPR, BBC, ABC Radio, Fox News and Al Jazeera America.
Richard Sommer '00
Richard Sommer is a member of the award-winning cast of “Mad Men,” a cable television drama that centers on the lives of power-hungry men and women in the New York advertising scene in the 1960s. Sommer has also been featured in “The Devil Wears Prada,” “Law and Order,” and several national commercials and theatrical roles. He is a volunteer with Operation Homefront, an organization committed to helping spouses of enlisted men and women get an education, as well as helping wounded warriors upon their return home. Sommer sang in The Concordia Choir and played the lead role in the Concordia Theatre production of “Fiddler on the Roof.” He has a master's degree in acting from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Sommer lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Virginia, and children, Beatrice and Patrick.
2013 Alumni Achievement Award Recipients
Murrae N. Freng '46
Murrae Freng, Plymouth, Minn., has enjoyed a long and distinguished career as a band and choral conductor in Brooten, Minn., and Alexandria, Minn., high schools. He served as executive director of the Minnesota State High School League for 15 years where he guided the activities of high school athletics, music, speech, and drama. He was a leader in instituting gender equity and the evolution of high school women's athletics in Minnesota. He is a charter member of the halls of fame of the Minnesota Music Educators Association and the Minnesota State High School League, and is the recipient of the F. Melius Christiansen Memorial Award. Freng inspired countless students to pursue excellence, and he is widely respected for working for the betterment of others. Watch Video
George C. Halvorson Jr. '68
George Halvorson, Sausalito, Calif., is chairman and chief executive office of Kaiser Permanente, the nation's largest nonprofit health plan and hospital system serving more than 9 million members and generating $50 billion in annual revenue. He has chaired the World Economic Forum's Health Governors meetings in Davos, Switzerland, and is the recipient of the Louis Sullivan Award for outstanding leadership in healthcare quality and the American Hospital Association's 2013 Award of Honor. He is the author of several guidebooks on healthcare reform, and he has served as an advisor to foreign governments on issues of health policy and financing. Halvorson previously held management positions with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, and HealthPartners in Minneapolis. Watch Video
Morris L. Lanning '66
Morrie Lanning served Concordia College for nearly 40 years as the primary advocate for students. He pioneered the development of a student leadership program that flourishes today. He made sure that students are "at the table" for discussions on curriculum changes, long-range planning and budget development. He also has lived a life of public service, including serving as major of Moorhead, as a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives, and on numerous boards and commissions for the state and region. He is known as a consummate practitioner of the deliberative process with a sure grasp of the issues at hand. Most recently, he sponsored legislation that enabled state participation in building a new multi-use Vikings stadium. Watch Video
Karen (Lattu) Polzin '77
Karen Polzin enjoyed a successful 33-year career at Cargill where she held many high-level leadership roles within the controller's organization. During her tenure, she was the controller of their global grain and oilseed businesses and a lead controller over many North American businesses. At the end of her career Polzin helped lead a team focused on improving global business processes and simplifying software application at Cargill. She is a longstanding volunteer leader at the Plymouth Christian Youth Center in Minneapolis where she is revered for her considerable skills in nonprofit governance, finance and strategic management. She has also served in a variety of capacities on behalf of the college as a member of the advisory board for the Offutt School of Business. Watch Video
2013 Sent Forth Award Recipient
Alan Bjerga '95
The 2013 Sent Forth alumni award recognizes Alan Bjerga '95 who, through his example of career dedication and global impact, exemplifies the mission of Concordia College. Bjerga is the author of the book "Endless Appetites: How the Commodities Casino Creates Hunger and Unrest." He covers agricultural policy for Bloomberg News, served as one of the youngest presidents of the National Press Club, and is past president of the North American Agricultural Journalists. In 2012, he joined the faculty of Georgetown University as an adjunct instructor. He has been recognized for his work on hunger and agriculture by the Society of American Business Editors and Writers, the New York Press Club, the Kansas Press Association, the North American Agricultural Journalists, and the Overseas Press Club.
Bjerga grew up on a farm near the town of Motley, Minnesota. A graduate of Concordia College and the University of Minnesota, Bjerga began his career with the St. Paul Pioneer Press and also reported for the Sioux Falls Argus Leader and The Witchita Eagle. In 2012, the University of Minnesota School of Journalism and Mass Communication honored him with its "Above the Fold" award for outstanding achievement by alumni under 40. Along with his frequent appearances on Bloomberg Television, he has also been a contestant on "Jeopardy!" and "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?". He has also competed for the standup comedy title of "DC's Funniest Journalist."
2012 AAA Recipients
Dr. Thomas Berquist '67
Dr. Thomas Berquist, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., has served in the highest leadership and teaching positions at the Mayo Clinics, and is one of the founding doctors who pioneered the Mayo Clinic Jacksonville site, where he established the first residency program in radiology and chaired the radiology department. Berquist has distinguished himself as an internationally and nationally recognized diagnostic radiologist with specialty expertise in musculoskeletal imaging. He is the author of hundreds of peer-reviewed articles in medical journals and has written several radiology textbooks. He is credited with providing the vision and direction for all educational activity at Mayo, where he is revered as a model educational leader.
Ronald Gadberry '58
In his 45-year teaching and coaching career, Ronald Gadberry, Fargo, N.D., influenced young lives as a model of integrity and good character. He built perennial powerhouse wrestling programs at Moorhead and Hillsboro high schools, and has the rare distinction of being chosen to coaching halls of fame in two states – Minnesota and North Dakota. A man of faith, Gadberry is well respected and well known for building deep and life-changing mentoring relationships with hundreds of students who credit him for being a lasting influence in their lives.
Dr. Patricia Kubow '89
Dr. Patricia Kubow, Bowling Green, Ohio, has built an international reputation as a leading voice in collegiate education. The themes of citizenship and democratic education has been at the heart of her work. Kubow is an education professor at Bowling Green State University, where she has built close contacts and associates in all corners of the globe, and her national and international networks continue to grow. She is the recipient of the Outstanding Citizen Achievement Award by the United States Agency for International Development. She is a member of the 1988 Concordia women’s basketball national championship team, a two-time academic All-American and a member of the Concordia Athletic Hall of Fame.
Allan Stokke '62
Allan Stokke, Newport Beach, Calif., is generally regarded as one of the finest criminal defense attorneys in southern California and one of only a handful to be included in the “Best Lawyers in America” listing. Stokke has co-authored legal textbooks and is a frequent speaker on legal and ethical issues. During his 47-year legal career he has earned a solid reputation for high integrity, strong work ethic and as a dedicated community volunteer. Ever true to his rural upbringing, he returns to his family’s Red River Valley grain farm each summer to help with harvest.
2012 Sent Forth Recipient
Joanna Thiele '97
Joanna is a registered nurse specializing in labor and delivery at Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park, Minn. She is the co-founder and former board member of the nonprofit Haiti Mission Project, which brings much-needed relief to the impoverished island nation. Since 2005, Joanna has been both missionary and fundraiser for the Haiti Mission Project. Her efforts have helped build an orphanage, medical clinic and food storage building, in addition to helping countless individuals. Joanna’s work in Haiti exemplifies her sharing of God’s hope and love with those who feel hopeless, all the while making enduring friendships. She is about to embark on her 15th volunteer trip there. After narrowly escaping injury in the 2010 earthquake, Joanna helped organize a field hospital and personally staffed the pharmacy, working each day until the job was done. The director of a maternity center in Port-au-Prince recalls Joanna’s 16-hour workdays and her calm, level headed, kind and affectionate care to the hundreds of wounded. Joanna’s response to the call to serve is an inspiration to others who are moved by her vision for helping the people of Haiti. Because of her, many others have volunteered in Haiti and have fallen in love with the people of that beleaguered country. Joanna’s volunteer work has included mentoring high school and college students, food packing at the Feed My Starving Children program, and hospice. In recognition of her volunteerism, she has received the Park Nicollet Health Services Community Service award and the Sarah Harrison Knight award.
2011 AAA Recipients
Maj. Gen. Michael Ennis ‘71
Maj. Gen. Michael Ennis, Oakton, Va., graduated from Concordia with a burning desire to utilize the language skills he learned in French and Russian. Then Uncle Sam stepped in and Ennis was drafted into the U.S. Marine Corps. Over the next 37 years, he served as a translator on the Washington- Moscow “hotline” for President Reagan; as a liaison to the Soviet Forces in Potsdam, East Germany; as an inspector on the Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty; as an attache in Moscow; and finally as the deputy director of operations at the Central Intelligence Agency.
Clint Hill ‘54
Clint Hill, Arlington, Va., was a Secret Service agent assigned to the White House and served Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Ford. He was in the motorcade in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, assigned to protect Mrs. Kennedy when President Kennedy was assassinated. He is credited with saving her life. After leaving Concordia, Hill entered the U.S. Army and served as an intelligence agent. He was discharged in 1957 and entered the Secret Service. Hill’s career and actions have been recognized worldwide. He retired in 1975 as an assistant director. He and coauthor Lisa McCubbin are writing a book titled “Mrs. Kennedy and Me,” which will be published in spring 2012 by Simon & Schuster.
Estelle (Johnson) Spottiswoode ’46
Estelle (Johnson) Spottiswoode, London, has dedicated her life to music and the arts. After Concordia, she attended Julliard Summer School where she studied with opera star Maggie Teyte. Teyte recommended that Spottiswood study the Jean de Reske method of singing with Grace Vernon. When Vernon returned to the U.K, Spottiswood followed her. She has given numerous recitals and sung in operas, including the second televised opera broadcast in the U.K. At age 70, she focused on drawing and painting in her studio and gave her first one-woman show two years later. She celebrated her 85th birthday with a recital of Grieg, Debussy and Hahn.
Dr. James Westgard ‘63
Dr. James Westgard, Madison, Wis., is co-founder and principal in Westgard QC Inc., a small business providing tools, technology and training for laboratory quality management. He is also an emeritus professor in the department of pathology and laboratory medicine at the University of Wisconsin Medical School. His life work has been improving the accuracy and precision of clinical laboratory work used to make what can be life and death decisions.
2011 Sent Forth Recipient
Sara Meslow '92
Meslow is the founder and executive director of Camp Odayin. As a lifelong camper and heart patient, she discovered her calling in founding the only camp in the Midwest for children with heart disease. Meslow has a bachelor's degree in social work and communication, as well as a master's in youth development leadership from the University of Minnesota. She served as an elementary school social worker in Forest Lake, Minn., and volunteered at a summer camp for heart patients in California before her mother suggested she start her own in Minnesota. Camp Odayin, founded in 2001, serves more than 350 people annually. Meslow believes in the positive impact summer camp can have on everyone, especially children with special health concerns.
2010 AAA Recipients
Virgil Syverson '41
Virgil Syverson is widely known as "Mr. Music" in western North Dakota. In nearly six decades of teaching, he has been a positive influence for thousands of students and an inspiring role model for countless music educators. Syverson has been recognized nationally for his contributions to the music world, receiving the Legion of Honor medal from the John Philip Sousa Foundation and the lifetime achievement award from the Phi Beta Mu music fraternity. He was band director at Williston Public Schools for 39 years, the founder and director of the Williston Cowboys Drum and Bugle Corps for 54 years, and 42 years conducting the Williston City Band.
David M. Anderson '67
Following a distinguished career in the Air Force, Anderson is a Boeing 767 First Officer flying international routes for United Airlines. He is the founder of the Second Sight for Sore Eyes charity, leading efforts to gather used eyeglasses for free distribution in Thailand. His efforts have resulted in the delivery of tens of thousands of eyeglasses to needy adults and school children. A 23-year Air Force veteran, Anderson served two tours of duty in Vietnam as a C-130 reconnaissance and special operations navigator. He is the recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross, two Air Medals, the USAF Commendation medal and two Meritorious Service medals.
Carol Ann Olson '74, M.D., Ph.D.
Carol Ann Olson is senior vice president for Pharmaceutical Development and chief medical officer at Immtech Pharmaceuticals. As one of few women in top management positions in the medical and scientific field, she is following a mission framed through a life of scientific and medical inquiry, teaching, mentoring and service to others. Olson's focus is on the development of new oral medicines to treat neglected diseases, including malaria and African sleeping sickness, which are fatal parasitic diseases exclusively affecting rural populations in Africa. She organizes clinical trials for drug testing in central Africa, Asia and South America.
Kelby Krabbenhoft '80
Kelby Krabbenhoft is president and CEO of Sanford Health-MeritCare, a $2.1 billion organization that is the nation's largest nonprofit, integrated rural health care system. His vision sets direction for 18,000 employees, 27 hospitals, 174 clinics, 33 long-term care facilities and 65,000 health plan members in 120 communities across the upper Midwest. The system features physician-hospital service integration and includes centers of excellence in health care delivery and innovative research, education and health plan programs. Krabbenhoft established the vision for T. Denny Sanford's $400 million gift, the largest gift ever given to a health care organization in America. The gift supports the implementation of the Sanford Initiatives, which includes global children's clinics, research centers and finding a cure for Type 1 diabetes. He previously served as president and CEO of Sanford Health, Sioux Falls, S.D., and in leadership roles at several other health organizations. He received the Modern Healthcare Up and Comers Award in 1994.