Every year, the Winona State University Alumni Society recognizes alumni, faculty, staff and community members for accomplishments in their careers and contributions they have made to WSU and their communities, living the university’s mission to improve the world.

WSU will host its annual Distinguished Awards Banquet at 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 14, at Visions Event Center, as part of the university’s 2016 Homecoming celebration.

This year, James Churchill (’94) and Luke Merchlewitz (’01) will be honored with the Distinguished Alumni Awards. The Distinguished Young Alumni Awards will be given to Kelsey (Gowin) Mellard (’06) and Jake Runestad (’09). Gary Grob (’62, ’65) will be honored with the Distinguished Faculty/Staff Award, and Mark Dorn (’85) will be honored with the Distinguished Service Award. Tom Volkman, Dean Clark, Scott Cyert and Troy Fegre will be honored with the Heritage Award and will serve as Grand Marshals for the parade.

More information on these awards can be found on the WSU Alumni website at www.winona.edu/alumni.

More information on WSU’s Homecoming can be found at www.homecoming.edu/sal/homecoming.asp.

Brief biographies of the recipients are below:

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 bachelor’s degree 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 (NIMH). More information about Churchill can be found at https://news.winona.edu/8906/churchill-receives-distinguished-alumnus-award/.

Merchlewitz received his Bachelor of Science 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. More information about Merchlewitz can be found at https://news.winona.edu/8918/merchlewitz-receives-distinguished-alumnus-award/.

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, specifically with payment and delivery. More information on Mellard can be found at https://news.winona.edu/8929/mellard-honored-as-young-alumna/.

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 for 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. More information about Runestad can be found at https://news.winona.edu/8921/runestad-honored-as-young-alumnus/.

Grob received his undergraduate degree in elementary and physical education from Winona State College in 1962 and his master’s from the college in 1965.  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 1977 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. More information on Grob can be found https://news.winona.edu/8912/grob-receives-distinguished-facultystaff-award/.

Dorn played Warrior football and graduated from WSU with a Bachelor of Science 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 Transportation Consultant and an Athletic Event Manager at St. Olaf College. 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. More information on Dorn can be found at https://news.winona.edu/8909/dorn-receives-distinguished-service-award/.

Volkman, Clark, Cyert and Fegre are avid fans of WSU and its athletic programs. Cyert and Fegre are employees with Chartwells at WSU, Volkman works at Hy-Vee, and Clark is retired. As some of WSU’s biggest athletic supporters, the men rarely miss a game and all said their favorite part of the university is the people, students and athletes. Read more about the four Heritage Award honorees at https://news.winona.edu/8924/wsu-recognizes-heritage-awardees/.