Campus and Community


Distinguishing Features

Awards program highlights strengths within the UWSP alumni rank

When UWSP was celebrating its Diamond Jubilee year in 1969, organizers decided the time was ripe to make a show of honoring Pointers who had distinguished themselves throughout the university’s illustrious history. That year, awards for distinguished achievement and university service were presented to seven outstanding Pointers, including former university president William C. Hansen and several renowned faculty members. Thus was born a tradition that became known as the Distinguished Alumni Awards.

Brief video interviews with
past award winners can
be found by clicking on the
following links:

The recognition program has adapted and grown with the times. Since 1969, three separately titled honors recognizing specific facets of alumni contribution have been folded into the annual awards ceremony. Beginning in 2010, the practice of recognizing an open number of recipients morphed into a presentation of only four awards annually, with a recipient from each college. Given these permutations, the original honors were renamed the Distinguished Alumni Council, and they, combined with the newer awards, became known collectively as the Distinguished Alumni Awards.

UWSP’s Distinguished Alumni Awards honor those who have blazed new trails over, around and through any obstacles in their path; reached great heights in their professional fields; and dedicated themselves to serving others. There are four award categories under the Distinguished Alumni banner: the Distinguished Alumnus Award, the Mary Ann Nigbor Volunteer of the Year Award, the Trailblazer Award and the Lifetime Achievement Award.

The Distinguished Alumnus Award is bestowed upon one alumnus from each college who has demonstrated exceptional achievement in his or her professional field. Honorees are reviewed by the UWSP Alumni Board of Directors from a pool of candidates. The selection committees for the Distinguished Alumni Council are comprised of the UWSP Alumni Board's Awards and Recognition Committee and the UWSP Alumni Board's Executive Committee, as well as current and emeritus faculty and staff. Final recommendations from these committees are forwarded to the Chancellor.

Those who have given freely of their resources to the benefit, directly or indirectly, of UWSP are honored with the Mary Ann Nigbor Volunteer of the Year Award. The award is named for former Alumni Board of Directors president Nigbor, who volunteered her time and talents for 40 years. She also served on the UWSP Foundation Board, and co-founded the university’s First Nighters arts series. Nigbor continues to be an amazing friend to UWSP in many ways.

Trailblazer Award winners are alumni who, since graduating fewer than 10 years prior, have achieved outstanding professional accomplishments in their area of study, employment or research. The award is given as warranted at the discretion of the Alumni Association. The Lifetime Achievement Award is bestowed under guidelines similar to those for the Trailblazer Award, although the time frame is bumped to 20 years post-graduation and winners’ great achievement can occur in any given area, be it professional, personal, or service-related.

Four Pictures Together

Presentation of the awards typically takes place during Homecoming weekend, when a large number of alumni are back on campus and able to take part in the celebration. This year’s winners were feted at a ceremony on Saturday, Oct. 14. A gap in the ceremony left by the omission of the Trailblazer Award, which was not presented in 2017, was filled by bestowment of the William C. Hansen Distinguished Service Award, posthumously, to former UWSP Foundation Board member Lela Jahn. In other years the Hansen Award has been presented during Founders Day festivities.

To help the entire campus community share in the pride generated by these awards, the UWSP Alumni Board of Directors has established a Distinguished Alumni display, located outside the Alumni Room in the Dreyfus University Center. Plaques featuring images and information pertaining to past Distinguished Alumnus Award recipients flank a video monitor offering touchscreen presentation of past Volunteer, Trailblazer and Lifetime Achievement award winners.

Looking forward to next year, members of the university community may nominate alumni for the 2018 edition of any Distinguished Alumni award. It’s a perfect way to show your Pointer Pride.