Alumni Awards

Recipient Acceptance Remarks

Michael McGinley, ’82 expanding section

I am both honored and humbled to receive the Maurice O. Graff Distinguished Alumni Award for 2020.  I wish I could be with you today to thank you in person and share in a celebration with family, friends, faculty, staff and my fellow award winners.  These uncertain times we are living in required a “virtual” decision to be made some time ago, but I assure you that I am with you in spirit and the gratitude I feel is not diminished in the least.

I want to start by congratulating all my fellow awardees. This is an impressive group! You all have accomplished so much, and it is a great honor to be included in such a distinguished group.  In addition, I’m sure you all, as I am, are incredibly honored to be included among the past honorees.  When one walks through the Cleary Alumni & Friends Center and takes a moment to reflect upon the incredible accomplishments of past awardees, it is overwhelming. Congratulations to you all.

I want to thank the Alumni Association committee and university leaders for nominating me, considering my accomplishments and choosing me for this award.  It was unexpected, and I am thrilled to accept this award.  It is now and always will be one of the most treasured highlights of my career.

Thank you to the UWL faculty and staff that were here during my undergraduate years, 1978-1982.  You taught me to think, ask questions, and provided me with first class learning opportunities.  I want to say a special thank you to Dr. Martin Venneman, Dr. Mike Winfrey, and Dr. Robert Burns, and Mr. Larry Trammel.  Each of these individuals from the UWL Microbiology Department played a crucial role in setting the foundation upon which I was able to build a successful career in the Life Sciences.

Thank you to the UWL Office of Residence Life, especially Dick Kohler, Ruth Kurinsky, and Dave Dorman, for affording me the opportunity to serve as a Resident Assistant in Coate Hall my final two years at UWL.  In addition to the financial support, which was sorely needed at the time, this position helped me to form leadership skills, teamwork skills, and a sense of responsibility that I did not possess at the time. I’m not sure I would have taken a chance on me at that point in my life, but I am eternally grateful that others saw something in me that I did not see in myself.

Last, but certainly not least, I want to thank my family. My wife Kathi and our three children Morgan, Nathan, and Sean.  A simple thank you doesn’t seem like enough. You have both supported me and sacrificed on my behalf, through both the good times and difficult days of post-graduate education and a professional career.  I could not have done any of it without your love and support.  This award is our award.


Kara Pennoyer, '06 expanding section

I am deeply honored to have received the 2020 Rada Distinguished Alumni Award. Ron and Jane Rada have an incredible reputation and have done so much for the La Crosse and UWL community.

As a student who was never at the top of the class, I will be forever grateful for the professors and staff at UW-La Crosse who helped build my confidence and inspire me to go into a career that I truly love. Dr. Kara Lindaman and Karolyn Bald not only supported me in the classroom, but they also advocated for me at my internships and as I applied to and started graduate school. 

Years later when I was looking to leave academia, then-State Representative Jennifer Shilling took a chance on an out-of-state resident with little political experience, to work in her Capitol office. Over 10 years with Jennifer showed me how to truly serve the community you live in and the meaning of public service. Currently, I get to work every day for an amazing Governor while surrounded by a passionate and supportive team who always have each other’s back, even as we continue to battle a never-ending pandemic. This especially applies to our fearless leader, Chief of Staff Maggie Gau, who went out on a limb and offered me my current job while I was home on parental leave with a newborn.

I am also deeply grateful to Janie, Keli, and Kelsey for all of their work with the Alumni Association. My time on the board was always fulfilling and fun and that is especially on display today with the amount of work that went into making this virtual event a great time. 

And of course, the most gratitude goes to my family, my husband Jeff, and almost-3 yr old Arlo, who roll with the punches of an unpredictable and demanding career. And to my parents and sister who supported me growing up, no matter how low my grades and motivation were, and who have literally saved us over the last year providing childcare and other support. 

We truly cannot get where we’re going without the support of those around us. I have been privileged to have amazing women in my life who have devoted their work to lifting up other women and making their communities and the state a better place for all. 

Thank you again for this award. I hope to continue on this legacy of lifting up those around me and carry on the Rada family’s commitment to public service for years to come.

Penny Kroening, ’85 expanding section

It is truly an honor to be awarded the 2020 Burt and Norma Altman Teacher Education Award which recognizes outstanding educators and their significant contributions made to children and communities. It is a heartfelt joy to be recognized by the University of La Crosse for steadfast perseverance in the journey of helping students find their joy of moving.  For me, teaching is more than the use of curriculum and instructional methods, it is making connections with students, families, staff, and the community. Creating pathways to engage and extend physical education for a student beyond the limits of class time to make sustainable growth.

It has always been my joy to state that I graduated from the University of Wisconsin La Crosse. The UWL alumni have blazed a trail of excellence through the education system here in Wisconsin and the nation. During my time at La Crosse my professors, course study, and collaboration with other students in the physical education program provided a solid foundation for me to build a strong teaching practice. I am thankful for the vision and challenge of those years at La Crosse.

I would like to thank Dr. Deb Sazama for nominating me for this award. I have had the honor of working with Deb and know the work she does every day with future professionals will continue to positively impact physical education here in Wisconsin. I also thank my family, friends, and co-workers who allowed me to set my bar high and have encouraged me to continue to strive for more. On a personal note, I would like to personally thank my Mom and Dad for voicing their honest fear when I announced I was headed to La Crosse as a physical education major. They were both 100% sure I would NEVER get hired as a physical education teacher. To their point, It was 1982, The depths of the Reagen Recession were upon the Nation. Physical Education Teachers were losing their jobs. School Districts were not hiring. My parent’s fear was clearly, I would go to college, create debt, and be jobless upon graduating. I had a different vision. I would succeed.  

And... I have succeeded. My measuring stick was the students before me in each hour of my daily classes. Bigger yet, each student within each class. Making sure that I made a connection with each student during our time together. My journey beyond my graduation from UWL has been filled with great rewards. Some awards, such as this distinguished award, can be displayed and others are forever in my heart. Smiles, laughter, joy, and thank-you's from students, parents, and a community. 

In closing, I am filled with joy to join previous Burt and Norma Altman award winners as well as the newly named awardees. Thank you for this honor and opportunity to be chosen for this distinguished alumni award.

Alumni Awards Virtual Ceremony

When: 9 to 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 18
Where: Online

Each year the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse is proud to honor and celebrate the achievements of alumni who have distinguished themselves through contributions to their profession and communities.

The virtual event goes live Saturday, September 18 at 9 a.m. Please join us for this special virtual recognition of outstanding UWL alumni! View the event here.

2021 Alumni Award Recipients

Maurice O. Graff Distinguished Alumni Award

Margaret Van Bree, ’82 +

  • Revered health executive, educator; collaborator; mentor.
  • Recipient of Exemplary Leadership Award, Ronald McDonald House of Providence; Career Achievement Award, Providence Business News; Houston’s 50 Most Influential Women, others.
  • Retired president of Rhode Island Hospital and Hasbro Children’s Hospital.
  • Bachelor’s in community health education; master’s in hospital administration, University of Minnesota; doctorate in public health, Tulane University.

Rada Distinguished Alumni Award

Anna Hatch, ’09 +

  • Renowned scientist in biomedical research, science diplomacy and science communication.
  • Recipient of the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship; P.E.O. Scholar Award.
  • Currently a Declaration on Research Assessment Program Director at the American Society for Cell Biology in Rockville, Maryland.
  • Bachelor’s in biology and chemistry; doctorate in biochemistry, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire.

Burt and Norma Altman Teacher Education Award

Scott Noet, ’90 +

  • Dedicated and respected long-time educator.
  • Recipient of the Goethe Institute American Fellow of the Year; Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History Minnesota Teacher of the Year; state and school Teacher of the Year; Transatlantic Outreach Program Fellow of the Year; others.
  • Currently a 7th and 8th grade social studies teacher at Owatonna, Minnesota, Public Schools.
  • Bachelor’s in history; master’s in education, Southwest State, Marshall, Minnesota.

Learn more about the 2021 recipients here

2020 Alumni Award Recipients 

Maurice O. Graff Distinguished Alumni Award

James Burkhart, ’68 - Physics and Math+
Michael McGinley, ’82 - Microbiology*

Rada Distinguished Alumni Award
Kara Pennoyer, ’06 - Political Science and Communication Studies*

Parker Distinguished Multicultural Alumni Award
Jennifer Miller, ’70 - History*

Burt and Norma Altman Teacher Education Award
Penny Kroening, ’85 - Physical Education*
Steven Olson, ’85 - Broadfield Social Studies*

Learn more about the 2020 recipients here

*Receiving award during virtual event at 9 a.m. on September 18, 2021.
+Receiving award during in-person event, September 2022. 

For questions about this event or to request disability accommodations (accessible seating, interpreting, closed captioning, FM systems, etc.), contact Keli Frigo at or 608.785.8494.

Sponsored by Alumni Association

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