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Senate to submit nominations for award

October 15, 2009

This November, the External Relations Committee will nominate potential alumni to receive the Distinguished Alumni Award at spring commencement to honor their achievements since graduation.

The Distinguished Alumni Award was first established on April 14, 1959 when an alumni faculty committee was having problems with establishing an alumni chapter. This committee took their concerns to President Kleinpell asking for the establishment of an outstanding alumnus award to help further the committee.

The External Relations Committee conjured up four criteria that an alumnus would have to possess in order to be considered for the award.  These criteria included personal accomplishments in their field, civic responsibility and contributions to their community, continuing interest in the university and the highest integrity in professional, public, and personal relations, according to Director of Development and Alumni Relations Dan McGinty.

The winner of the first Distinguished Alumni Award was Dean Smith, an otolaryngologist and eye specialist. Since then there have been 63 recipients of the award, ranging from teachers to financial advisors. From 1969 on, two alumni received the award each year until 1986 when the committee decided that only one alumnus/alumna would be honored each year.

The nominations for the award are made by members of UW-River Falls Faculty Senate External Relations Committee based on their recommendations. The information gathered about each nominee by the Director of Development and Alumni Relations, Dan McGinty, is given to the Alumni Committee. Each member ranks all of the nominees, then votes are totaled and information is passed on to
Chancellor Dean Van Galen for consideration.

The Executive Relations Committee is made up of ten members with at least one representative from each of the four Colleges and the fourth Division; the Chancellor, the Director of the News Bureau, the Executive Director for University Advancement, the Director of Development and Alumni Relations as well as two representatives from Student Senate, according to the Faculty and Academic Staff Handbook.

“I am amazed by the unbelievable accomplishments of our alumni. Time after time, I hear comments from our distinguished alumni on how well their UW-River Falls education prepared them for their professional careers. This is a tribute to the many outstanding faculty and staff that are committed to teaching excellence and who are dedicated to our mission in helping students learn,” McGinty said.

Many of UWRF’s academic and athletic buildings are named after winners of the Distinguished Alumnus Award, such as the Wyman educational building and the Hunt Arena.

“I feel that most students are not aware of the awards that the University gives out and the Distinguished Alumnus Award is no different,” junior Katherine Rogge said. “The only people who are most likely made aware of this award are those participating in the commencement ceremony where the chosen speaker addresses.”

This will be Chancellor Dean Van Galen’s first year working with the Executive Relations Committee, and helping to choose the final recipient of the award. Although the committee is new to him he is excited to help bestow this honor on one of the alumni of UWRF and is hopeful that students will become more involved in the awards on campus.

“River Falls has over 38,000 alumni and many have gone on to do impressive things in their lives,” Van Galen said. “As a university, it is important to recognize these accomplishments and to show students the places you can go in the future.”