Every year the Winona State University Alumni Society recognizes alumni, faculty, staff and community members for the accomplishments they have made in their careers and contributions they have made to Winona State and their communities, living Winona State’s mission to improve the world.
Norma Bondeson Gaffron (’51) and Scott M. Hannon (’72 & ‘76) will be honored with the Distinguished Alumni Award. Gloria J. Miller (’83 & ’89), Randolph W. Miller, Ph.D., and Dennis N. Nielsen, Ph.D., will receive the Distinguished Faculty/Staff Award. John Holst (’99) and Tasha Schuh (’03) will be honored with the Distinguished Young Alumni Award. In addition to receiving the Heritage Award, Jerry Miller will serve as Grand Marshal for the Homecoming Parade.
The honorees will be recognized at the Distinguished Awards Banquet Friday, Oct. 24. Many recipients will also participate in the Homecoming parade at 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 25, in Winona.
For more information visit www.winona.edu/alumni.
Brief biographies of the recipients are included below:
Norma Bondeson Gaffron graduated from the Winona State Teachers School (WSU) in 1951. She taught elementary school from 1951 to 1960 in Dodge Center, Mounds View and Duluth, Minn., before receiving a Bachelor of Science in education from the University of Minnesota in 1976. Gaffron has worked as a freelance writer since 1977, publishing articles in Field and Stream, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, SAIL, Jack and Jill, and Children’s Digest. She has published five nonfiction books for young readers and helped develop the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators in Minnesota. Read more about Gaffron.
Scott M. Hannon grew up in Winona and graduated from Winona Senior High School in 1967. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in industrial arts from WSU, along with a sixth-year certificate in education administration. A national champion handball player, he represented WSU in the National Intercollegiate Handball Tournament. In 1996, Hannon earned his Doctor of Education degree from the University of St. Thomas. He has served the Winona Area Public School System for more than 41 years as a teacher, principal, director of academic affairs and superintendent, retiring in 2014. Hannon earned numerous honors during his tenure, including Winona Teacher of the Year in 1984 and Minnesota Principal of the year in 2001. Read more about Hannon.
Gloria J. Miller graduated from Winona State with a bachelor’s degree in business in 1983 and a master’s degree in counselor education in 1989. She served as WSU’s Alumni Director from 1986 to 2002 and was an active member of the Winona community. In 2001 Miller was honored by the Winona Chamber of Commerce’s Women in Business, receiving the Athena Award for her exceptional community service. Miller and husband Randy received the Grand Marshal/Heritage Award at WSU Homecoming in 2000. Read more about Gloria J. Miller.
Randolph W. Miller served WSU for 32 years, from 1974 until his retirement as professor emeritus in 2006. His area of expertise was clinical exercise physiology, and he received his bachelor’s degree in physical education from the University of Manitoba, and his master’s degree and Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota. Miller served in numerous leadership positions at Winona State, and collaborated with local and regional hospitals and clinics to develop the on-campus cardiopulmonary rehabilitation program. WSU’s “Randolph R. Miller” Exercise Physiology Laboratory is named in his honor. In 1999 he was inducted into the University of Manitoba’s Athletic Hall of Fame, and in 2000 he was awarded the University of Minnesota’s M.A. Mork “Outstanding Educator of the Year” award from the College of Education and Human Development. Read more about Randolph W. Miller.
Dennis N. Nielsen earned his bachelor’s degree in geology from Gustavus Adolphus and his master’s degree and Ph.D. in geology from the University of North Dakota. He spent 28 years at Winona State University as a faculty member, chairperson in the Geology department, dean of the College of Science and Engineering, interim dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences, and vice president for Academic Affairs. He played a key role in securing legislative approval of the Composite Materials Engineering program and was instrumental in securing funding to establish the Miller Brothers School of Engineering and Stark Hall. After retiring from Winona State in 1998, Nielsen went on to serve as interim president at Metropolitan State University and Southwest State University. Read more about Nielsen.
John Holst received his bachelor’s degree from WSU in 1999, earned his Doctorate of Osteopathic Medicine from Des Moines University Osteopathic Medical Center in 2004, and completed his residency in Emergency Medicine at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Holst served five years active duty and another eight years as a Reservist for the U.S. Navy as a flight surgeon, and was awarded the Naval Achievement Medal, the Naval Commendation Medal and the Fleet Marine Force pin. He retired with the rank of Lieutenant Commander and is currently the Emergency Medicine Ultrasound Director at St. Mary’s Hospital in Duluth. Read more about Holst.
Tasha Schuh graduated from WSU in 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in communication and a minor in music. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in theology from Marantha College in Idaho. Schuh is a motivational speaker who travels the country to tell her inspiring story. As a junior in high school, Schuh fell 16 feet through a trap door on stage. The fall broke her neck, crushed her spinal cord and fractured her skull. Her book, “My Last Step Backward,” chronicles her journey from childhood to the horror of a near-fatal accident that led to the divine calling of a young lady making a difference in the world. Nominated by Mayo Clinic, Schuh received the 2012 National Rehabilitation Champion Award, and was named Ms. Wheelchair USA 2012-13. She sits on the board of the Rehab Unit Consumer Advisory Council through Mayo Clinic and mentors people who have recently experienced a spinal cord injury. Schuh lives in Ellsworth, Wis., with her husband, Doug Drogorub. Read more about Schuh.
For 16 years, Jerry Miller served the City of Winona as mayor, encouraging collaboration and communication. First elected in 1996, and re-elected by a landslide majority in 2000, Miller served four terms as mayor and almost two decades at the helm of city leadership. Prior to his election as mayor, he served two terms on the city council from 1980 to 1984. Miller has served on numerous boards, commissions and community groups, including the Human Rights Commission, the city’s port authority, and as chairperson of the Minnesota High Speed Rail Commission. Miller was born and raised in Winona, and he and wife Susan live in Winona. Together with his family, he owns and operates Miller Scrap on the east side of the city.