WSU Distinguished AlumniEach year, Winona State University and the Alumni Society recognize individuals
for their outstanding commitment to the university, its mission, and to improving our world.

James Churchill ‘94

James Churchill '94

James Churchill ’94

Churchill served six years in the U.S. Marine Corps before coming to WSU as a first generation, non- traditional student, completing a major and double minors in two and a half years, and graduating with
a BA in 1994. He continued his studies at Indiana University, receiving a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology. He conducted additional post-doctoral research and taught for several years at Saint Louis University before accepting a position at the National Institute of Mental Health. Churchill has had multiple journal publications, book chapters and reviews in his field of study. At NIMH, he has served as a training program officer, led a national initiative on integrating neuroscience content into the K-12 classroom, served as director of training for the developmental division, served as lead for an Army focused data collection program on suicide in soldiers, leads President Obama’s BRAIN Initiative, is program officer for the Human Connectome Project, and serves as co-lead for the NIMH Suicide Research Investment Team. Churchill and his wife, Karen, have a daughter, Madison, and reside in Thurmont, Md.

Luke Merchlewitz ‘01

Luke Merchlewitz '01

Luke Merchlewitz ’01

Merchlewitz received his BS in elementary education from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, in 1983,
and completed his education with a master’s from Winona State University in 2001. He currently teaches second grade at Washington-Kosciusko Elementary School in Winona. An award-winning teacher, Merchlewitz’s accolades include: 2009 Winona Teacher of the Year, 2009 Minnesota Teacher of the Year Top 10 Finalist, and 2010 Minnesota Teacher of Excellence. He was also named a 2010 Top 10 Finalist for the NEA Foundation for Excellence in Washington, D.C.; a 2011 NEA Foundation Global Learning Fellow; and an NEA Foundation Senior Global Learning Fellow, 2012 to present. In 2014, Merchlewitz was the Winona Area Public Schools Foundation “Dare to Dream” recipient. He attended the EF Global Leaders’ Summit in Davos, Switzerland, in 2015 and the Maverick Teachers Global Summit in Kuppam, India, in 2016.

At WSU, Merchlewitz has served as an adjunct faculty member, a Teach 21 participant and speaker, and he currently serves as the WAPS liaison member on the Education Village Task Force. He has also supervised practicum students and student teachers, co-created the ‘Warriors to Readers’ program, and hosts reading tutors from Dr. Joan Sax Bendix’s WSU class to work with his second graders at W-K. Merchlewitz and his wife, Brenda, have two children, Peter and Sarah. The couple live in Winona, where they are avid community volunteers.

Distinguished Young Alumni

Kelsey (Gowin) Mellard ‘06

Kelsey Mellard '06

Kelsey Mellard ’06

Mellard, a community health major, was a scholarship varsity soccer player for the WSU women’s soccer team and was deeply involved in peer health education. She graduated in 2006 and continued her health education at the University of Kansas, where she received a master’s in public administration in 2008. Mellard was selected as one of the top 100 Women in Healthcare by Rock Health, and is a nationally recognized and sought after speaker on Medicare and Medicaid health reform, specific to payment and delivery. She has held many influential positions in the healthcare field including: research assistant at Kaiser Family Foundation; administrative fellow at Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics; senior consultant, Advisory Board Company; chief of staff/special assistant at Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation; vice president of health policy, UnitedHealth Group; vice president of business development and policy, naviHealth; and founder and executive director, Post-Acute Care for Research, Washington, D.C. Mellard currently heads up Health System Integration; is an advisor to Global One, an Ambulatory Surgery Center company; is an adjunct faculty member at WSU; and is a consultant to GLG professional learning. She resides in San Francisco, Calif.

Jake Runestad ‘09

Jake Ruenstad '09

Jake Ruenstad ’09

Runestad studied instrumental music education, music composition, at Winona State University, graduating Summa Cum Laude in 2009. While at WSU, he received the Minnesota Monthly November 2006 Student of the Month award, the MMEA Minnesota Collegiate Composer of the Year in 2006 and 2007, the Outstanding Student in Music Education in 2009, and the MENC Collegiate Professional Achievement Recognition Award in 2009. He continued his education at The Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University and received a master’s degree in music in 2011. Runestad completed student teaching in Lima,
Peru, through the Educators Abroad Global Student Teaching Program. He is an award-winning composer of music for orchestra, choir, wind ensemble, chamber ensembles, and opera. Having worked with leading ensembles around the world, he
has established himself as a distinguished young composer of “highly imaginative” (Baltimore Sun) and “stirring and uplifting” (Miami Herald) musical works. Samples of his music, along with information on upcoming events, are available on his website: Runestad currently resides in Minneapolis, Minn.

Distinguished Faculty/Staff

Gary Grob ‘62, ‘65

Gary Grob '62 '65

Gary Grob ’62 ’65

Grob received his undergraduate degree in elementary and physical education from Winona State College in ’62, and his master’s from WSC in ’65. While at Winona State, Grob played four years of Warrior baseball, serving as captain in the 1961-62 season. He also played in the NAIA College Baseball World Series in 1961 and 1962. Grob went on to receive a Ph.D. from the University of Utah in ’77, and returned to WSU that same year to develop the therapeutic recreation program, and to coach Warrior baseball for the next 35 years. He served as director of recreation for 25 of those years. Coach Grob tallied 1,020 wins during his WSU baseball career, was named NSIC Coach of the Year three times, District 13 NAIA Coach of the Year 15 times, and was selected Area 4 Coach of the Year in 1992. He was inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame in 1989, the ABCA Hall of Fame in 2002, the NSIC Hall of Fame in 2006, and the WSU Hall of Fame in 2006. Coach Grob retired from WSU in 2001 and lives in Winona with his wife, Marilyn.

Distinguished Service

Mark Dorn ‘85

Mark Dorn '85

Mark Dorn ’85

Dorn played Warrior football and graduated from Winona State University with a BS in business in 1983. He spent most of his career as owner and operator of several small transportation businesses, then as an independent contractor, and currently serves as a sales representative for Rihm Kenworth. Dorn and his wife, Linda, who live in Webster, Minn., believe very strongly in the gift of youth mentorship and volunteer regularly through their church and other organizations. Dorn was integral in starting the WSU chapter of Delta Sigma Pi, the business fraternity, and in 2006 received the Silver Helmet Award recognizing 25 years of service with Delta Sigma Pi. He served as regional director, district director, chair of awards and scholarships, and on the board of directors for the organization. Linda is also involved with Delta Sigma Pi, serving as district director, vice president of collegiate relations, and president of the Twin Cities Alumni Chapter.

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