Every fall, 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. Saturday, Oct. 21, at the Tau Rotunda on West Campus as part of the university’s 2017 Homecoming celebration.

This year, Rich Mancuso (‘67, ‘71, ’74) will be honored with the Distinguished Alumni Award. The Distinguished Young Alumni Awards will be given to Michelle (Fuhrman) Smith (’01) and Rachel T. Schromen (’10). Pauline (Connell) Christensen (’70) will be honored with the Distinguished Faculty/Staff Award, and Walton “Wally” Madland, (‘67, ‘72, ’76) will be honored with the Distinguished Service Award.

Amy Welch will be honored with the Heritage Award and will serve as Grand Marshal for the parade.

To register for the banquet, contact the Alumni Relations office by calling 507-457-5027 or by emailing alumni@winona.edu. Tickets cost $30.

For more information, visit http://www.winona.edu/alumni/awards.asp.

Rich Mancuso graduated from WSU with a BA in Sociology and Psychology, a BS in Secondary Teaching Certificate, and an MS in Education. While attending WSU, he was involved with Sigma Tau Gamma, Young Republicans, Inter-Greek Council, Newman Club and intramural sports. Mancuso has been recognized for excellence throughout his teaching career. He was named Teacher of the Year four times, received the JP Wilson Award for Academic Excellence at D’Evelyn Jr/Sr High and was selected among Who’s Who for America’s Teachers and Educators. Mancuso continues to be engaged in community service, working with the Rotary Club and serving on the Board of Directors for Crutches 4 Africa, a non-profit organization that distributes crutches and mobility devices to victims of polio and war. He has worked on numerous political campaigns, and in 2006 was a candidate for U.S. Congress in the 2nd District of Colorado. After retiring from teaching in 2013, Mancuso focused on writing, completing his first screenplay and releasing his first book, The Good Don. Mancuso resides with his wife, Debbie, in Evergreen, Colo., where they are avid community and church volunteers.

Michelle (Fuhrman) Smith graduated from WSU with a BS in Accounting. During her time at WSU, she was involved with many campus organizations, including Circle K, Inter Residence Hall Council, National Residence Hall Honorary, Accounting Association, Alpha Lambda Delta, Prentiss-Lucas Hall Council, Forensics, Homecoming Court, Catholic Newman Center and the Golden Key International Honor Society. Smith has continued her commitment to community engagement since graduation, and received a Volunteer of Excellence Merit in 2013. She is currently a Girl Scout Leader for two troops, Secretary of the Chequamegon Area, and a reader and greeter at St. Anthony of Padua Church. She also serves as the Secretary for the Price Ice Figure Skating Club, Board Member of the Woods and Waters Fine Arts Council, T-ball Coordinator and Coach, and Softball Assistant Coach for the Park Falls Area Youth Baseball and Softball organization. Smith currently serves as Deputy Clerk-Treasurer for the City of Park Falls. She and her husband John have two children, Alison and Mallory, and two fur babies, Lady and Cooper. The couple live in Park Falls, Wis., and enjoy spending time with their family and watching their children’s events in their spare time.

Rachel T. Schromen graduated with a BA in law & society and received her Juris Doctorate from William Mitchell College of Law. At WSU, she was actively engaged in Student Senate, WILL (Women’s Initiative in Leadership and Learning), Legal Society, GLBTA Partnership, PAVE (Promoting Awareness and Victim Empowerment) and FORGE (Fighting for Our Rights and Gender Equality). Schromen is owner and managing attorney of Schromen Law, LLC, which focuses on estate planning and elder law. She is co-founder and executive director of Domestic Abuse Legal Advocacy Center, PSC, which provides pro bono legal services to women and children staying in shelters in Ramsey, Hennepin and Hubbard counties. In 2016, Schromen was named “Solo Practitioner of the Month” by Attorney at Law magazine and earned the designation of “North Star Lawyer.” She was also voted “Favorite Woman Estate Planning Attorney, honorable mention,” by readers of Women’s Press magazine in May 2017. Schromen volunteers with Wills for Heroes and Cancer Legal Line, providing free estate planning to veterans, first responders and terminal cancer patients. She is also an ambassador for Guild, Inc., an organization that provides integrated treatment and services to individuals with mental illness. Schromen resides in Ramsey Hill, in St. Paul, Minn., with her husband, Curt Hennemann, and their dog, Mabel.

Pauline (Connell) Christensen received her BS in Home Economics Education from Iowa State University before coming to WSU to earn her MS in Educational Psychology and Counseling. She later received a Doctorate in Adult and Higher Education Administration from the University of Minnesota. Since 1973, Christensen has served in many roles at WSU. She was a pioneer in establishing non-traditional and off-campus programming, including partnerships with industry, adult education programming and College for Kids. She provided leadership for graduate, continuing education and summer school programs, and helped develop the Road Scholar program. Her professional awards include: MN Outstanding Adult Educator of the Year (1998); Outstanding Leader in Education Award (1991); and the MN Association of Continuing and Adult Education/Missouri Valley Adult Education Association Award. She established WSU’s Connell/Christensen Sociology and Psychology Scholarship, which has provided financial assistance to WSU students since 1976. Christensen is an active volunteer in the Winona community and has served on the WSU Retiree Center Advisory Board, Grandparents University, Learning Club Leadership and Curriculum Committee. She also served as Vice President, President, Past President and most recently as Treasurer for the Philanthropic Educational Opportunities for Women, and is a docent at the Minnesota Marine Art Museum and a volunteer with the Winona County History Center.

Walton “Wally” Madland graduated from WSU with a BS in teaching in 1967. While in school, he played linebacker on the WSU football team and served as a graduate assistant coach for WSU’s wrestling and football teams. Madland received his master’s in education administration in 1972, then worked for 14 years as an elementary and middle school principal. He obtained his specialist degree in education administration and also served as an adjunct professor in the University of Wisconsin system. He later transitioned to a role as a sales executive with a national commercial roofing contractor, living in Harrisburg, Pa., for 17 years. Madland has served on the Alumni Society Board for eight years, and held the role of President for four years. He is a Cornerstone Society member, and started the Joan Kangel Madland Cheerleading Scholarship to honor his late wife (also a WSU alumnus and a teacher for 34 years). Madland also headed a $100,000 endowed scholarship fund drive to pay tribute to Coach Robert (Bob) Keister, longtime football and track coach at WSU, and works closely with the committee that coordinates the annual football dinners. He resides in Winona in the summer and heads south to The Villages in Florida each winter to ensure that his golf game stays respectable.

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Brian Waldbillig

Brian is a Public Relations major and Communication Studies minor from Farmington, MN. His hobbies include photography, hiking and going to concerts.