NSU will honor Distinguished Alumni at May 4 banquet

2018 Distinguished Alumni

ABERDEEN, S.D. – Four Northern State University alumni will be honored at NSU’s first-ever spring Distinguished Alumni Banquet.

The event will take place on May 4 starting at 6:30 p.m. at Aberdeen’s Ramkota Convention Center. One graduate from each of Northern’s four schools will receive a Distinguished Alumni Award, which are given to individuals who have distinguished themselves through personal successes and civic contributions, while bringing a sense of pride to the college community.

The 2018 NSU Distinguished Alumni Award winners are:

School of Business Award Winner and Spring Commencement Speaker

Carolyn Thompson, a 1991 NSU graduate with degrees in accounting and management, is a public speaker and author of the book “Cutting to the Core: Finding What Matters Most Through the Eyes of a Survivor in Life & Business.” She is the founding attorney of Thompson Law P.C., a firm in Sioux Falls that is solely dedicated to estate planning and business succession.

Her business strives to positively impact families for generations to come. Thompson doesn’t just talk about estate plans, she practices what she preaches – before she was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia and given just weeks to live, she had already done as much planning as she could by finishing her annual estate plan review. After that, she put the rest of the planning into her “perfect Papa’s hands.”

Thompson, who now travels around speaking about her journey through life and business, will also deliver NSU’s spring commencement address on May 5 at the Barnett Center.

“I can still recall when Admissions Counselor Barry Samsula adorned our high school to talk about Northern State University. How I remember his name, I’m not sure, perhaps because his talk changed my college trajectory and clearly made an impact on me. When I made the college visit, I knew I was home,” Thompson said. “The security I felt at NSU would do me well as I was leaving my cozy hometown of Parkston, S.D. I was blessed to have several key professors who took an interest in my future. It was with their guidance that my interest in law school was sparked. Fortunately they also advised me to take (and pass) the CPA exam. That served me well, but over the years, I discovered that the truth of who I am is that I am an entrepreneur with the heart of a teacher who happens to practice law, serving people around the region to design their estate plans. I have been blessed to meet thousands of people who have shared with me and my fellow attorneys their dynamic stories and countless life lessons. So thank you, Northern State University, for this great honor and for allowing me to be me, and then fostering an environment where that ‘me’ could keep evolving into a better me, hopefully leading a life of positive impact just so many, many people have positively impacted my life.”

Millicent M. Atkins School of Education Award Winner

Bryan DeBates is a 1993 Northern graduate with a degree in elementary education. DeBates works as vice president of education for the Space Foundation in Colorado Springs, Colo. In 2014, he was the recipient of the International Astronautical Federation (IAF) Frank J. Malina Astronautics Medal.

“I am deeply honored and grateful to be receiving this award and to join the long line of distinguished alumni from NSU who have helped shape its rich history,” DeBates said. “I hope my story inspires others at Northern to believe that an education here can propel them to change lives around the world.”

School of Fine Arts Award Winner

Chris Maunu, a 2003 NSU graduate with a degree in music education, works as director of choral activities at Arvada West High School in Colorado. Earlier this year, Maunu was selected as a finalist for the 2018 Music Educator Award at the 60th GRAMMY Awards out of thousands of educators across the United States.

“Singing is one of the most vulnerable activities that exists. We create sound from within our bodies and share it, opening ourselves up to judgment and criticism. My goal as a choir teacher is to help my students to develop courage through singing and becoming vulnerable, authentic human beings,” Maunu said. “Northern was a terrific place for me to grow in this respect. When I arrived at NSU, I didn’t have a great deal of confidence as a performer, much less as a future teacher. The faculty welcomed me, gave me opportunities to perform, and helped me gain the confidence necessary to be successful in the music field. I am forever grateful.”

College of Arts and Sciences Award Winner

Dr. Rochelle Nolte, a 1992 NSU graduate with degrees in biology and environmental science, has spent several years working as a physician with the U.S. Public Health Service. Her awards have included being recognized by the U.S. military with the PHS Commendation Medal, Special Assignment Award, Presidential Unit Citation, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Crisis Response Service Award, and the Army Achievement Medal.

"I could go on and on about my experiences with Northern's bio and chem departments and the wonderful faculty that launched me out into the world. Where else could a shy undergrad student have professors like Lynn Hodgson, Sam Gingrich, and Susan Landon-Arnold as mentors and advisors who knew me by name starting as a freshman?” Nolte said. “In the upper-level classes, we frequently had small groups taught by full professors in a setting that most students would not get to experience until graduate school. The faculty cared about what all of us wanted to do after graduation and helped ensure that all of us were well prepared for what we were about to do next (medicine, physical therapy, optometry, microbiology, chemistry, ornithology, research position at NIH—as a class we had varied goals).”

Public Invited to Distinguished Alumni Banquet

The public is welcome to attend the Distinguished Alumni Banquet, which includes a social hour reception at 6:30 p.m., dinner at 7:30 p.m., and the program and awards ceremony at 8 p.m. Admission is $25 per adult and $10 per child. To attend, please RSVP to the NSU Foundation by April 25 by calling 605-626-2550 or emailing nsualumni@northern.edu.

About Northern State University

Northern State University is a regional university that offers outstanding academics and exceptional extracurricular activities at an affordable price on a safe, welcoming campus. Northern State recently announced its Educational Impact Campaign, with a goal of raising $45 million for a new South Dakota School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, new athletic and recreation fields, and an on-campus regional sports complex. Once the campaign is complete, NSU will be the recipient of more than $100 million in privately funded building projects and scholarships within a decade. To learn more, visit NSU Admissions.