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News and Events

2013 Distinguished Alumni
Posted 01/13/2015 01:55PM

2013 Distinguished Alumni Honorees:

MICHAEL J. BJERKESETT '65 is currently the President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Handicap Housing Institute Incorporated (NHHI), where he supervises a staff of professional, para-professional and clerical employees to provide independent living services for seniors and the mobility impaired. His work involves a thorough understanding of HUD, HHS and Housing Finance Agency programs in order to develop housing alternatives, supervise management of properties, develop and disseminate design expertise, control allocation of funds, develop marketing/management plans, direct research, institute new programs and raise funds for continued operation of NHHI's corporate objectives.

For the past 38 years, NHHI has developed over 15,000 units of specialized housing in 46 buildings spread over seventeen states. The specialized housing provides an alternative to institutionalization for people with severe physical disabilities. Prior to this, Michael worked as a rehabilitation counselor at North Memorial Hospital and was the director of the United Handicap Federation.

Michael has been awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from Southwest State University, the Courage Award from the Courage Center and the WCCO Radio Good Neighbor Award. Michael received an Associate Arts degree from Bemidji State University in 1967, a degree in business from Southwest State University in 1971, and became a Community Organizer through the Industrial Areas Foundation Center for Urban Encounter in 1973. His own frustration in finding adequate housing as a handicapped person inspired his life's work. Michael currently resides in New Brighton, Minnesota.

MARK A. HELM '79 is the President, CEO and Chairman of the Board of Dolese Brothers Company, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Dolese Brothers, a supplier of construction materials including crushed stone, sand, gravel, ready mixed concrete and concrete block, has locations throughout Oklahoma and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The more than a century old privately held company employs 1200 people and is ranked in the top twenty by sales of aggregate and ready mixed concrete in the United States.

Prior to this, Mark was plant manager, area manager and divisional sales manager for Aggregate Industries of Englewood Colorado, a business development manager of CAMAS Inc., Lakewood Colorado, and a senior project engineer for Shiely Company in Eagan, Minnesota. The Dolese Brothers Company is nationally recognized for its quality. Mark is also involved in charity events that give to the community such as raising money for LLS and Diabetes.

Mark completed his bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis in 1984, and received a Master's in business engineering from the University of Saint Thomas in 1995. He resides in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma with his wife (the former Roxanne Norton who is also a Fridley graduate). They have two adult children.

CHRIS MEYERS JANDA '83 is the former Vice President of Perioperative Services at the University of Minnesota Medical Center, and the University of Minnesota Amplatz Children's Hospital, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. During her nearly five years working in surgery, Chris was accountable for safety, growth, experience and financial performance across three surgical sites for more than 24,000 adult and pediatric patients annually, and managed an annual budget of $100 million.

Prior to this position, Chris was Vice President of Supply Chain for Fairview Health Services, Minneapolis, where she redesigned and restructured supply chain operations across five hospitals and drove $22 million in savings for the organization. She has also served in a variety of leadership roles throughout her career including; director of materials management at Allina Health in Minneapolis; business leader of surgical services at United Hospital in St. Paul; and manager of United Center for Breast Care in St. Paul.

Chris has served on many national and local service and leadership committees, and has received numerous awards such as “Person of the Year", from the Journal of Healthcare Contracting, “One of the Top 10 to Watch" in healthcare contracting, as well as being the chair of the Miss Fridley Pageant for six years. Chris is an active volunteer and spends time mentoring emerging leaders.

She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Physiology from the University of Minnesota in 1988, and a Master's Degree in Hospital and Health Care Administration from the University of Minnesota in 1991. Chris resides with her husband and two children in Eden Prairie, Minnesota.

GREGORY J. KURR '81 is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Kemps LLC, a Minnesota Company that has developed quality dairy products since 1914. Kemps, currently based in Saint Paul, has annual sales of $850 million and employs 1300 people. The company provides its variety of quality dairy products nationally through retail stores and food service networks.

Besides his responsibilities as CEO, Greg serves on the executive board of the Minnesota Grocers Association. He is the past president of the Minnesota Frozen Foods Association and the Association of Manufacturers Representatives. Greg began working for Kemps in 1986 as a sales representative in Northern Minnesota and was promoted to vice-president of sales in 1999.

Greg is active with the American Cancer Society, Kowalski for Kids Foundation, and co-chairs an annual event that benefits the Centracare Health Foundation in support of children diagnosed with cancer. He and his wife reside in Elk River, MN. They have two grown children and are proud grandparents.

ANN HARRIS LEAF '90 is a front- line manager at Potomac Tracon, a radar facility located just outside of DC that deals with air traffic for Washington National, Dulles, Baltimore and Richmond. At Washington National, she is responsible for many VIP movements in a highly secure airspace, in particular presidential and congressional air traffic.

As a front-line manager, Ann manages day to day operations, as well as employee welfare, performance and future goals. Ann has worked for the Federal Aviation Association for the past thirteen years. She was an air traffic controller at Washington National, Midway Air Traffic Control Tower, in Chicago, Illinois, and Palwaukee Air Traffic Control Tower also in Chicago. Ann holds a private pilot license, commercial pilot license, a certificate in instrumental rating and multi-engine rating. She is a mentor for the Air Traffic Leadership Development Program, a Girl Scout Troop Leader, and a Career Day High School Advisor.

Ann attended the University of North Dakota, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical Studies and a Bachelor of Science in Air Traffic Control in 1995. It was through a class in Air Traffic Control that had been added to her program in Aeronautical Studies that she decided to get her degree in air traffic control. Ann lives in Stone Ridge, Virginia with her husband and two children.

STEVEN E. NELSON, '76 a member of the NCAA Management Council, is in his 18th year as Athletics Director at the University of Wisconsin-Superior. Nelson also served the NCAA as part of the Ice Hockey Rules Committee (1991-1998), the Men's Ice Hockey Championship Committee (2004-2008), which he chaired in 2008, and the Women's Ice Hockey Championship Committee (2009-2013), which he chaired in 2013.

This is Nelson's second tenure as athletics director, as he previously held the office from 1994-2000, while he was also the men's hockey coach. During that time, Nelson engineered the addition of men's soccer, women's soccer and women's hockey to the Yellowjacket sports. More recently he has overseen a department that has reached the NCAA tournament in three sports (men's hockey, women's hockey and softball) and had national tournament qualifiers in cross country, indoor track and field and outdoor track and field.

Nelson spent 14 seasons (1986-2000) as the head men's hockey coach at UW-Superior. As coach, Nelson turned the program into an NCAA Division III powerhouse, winning a conference championship (1994), two conference playoff championships (1994, 1997) and advancing to eight NCAA tournaments, including three appearances in the championship game.

A three-time NCHA and WIAC Coach of the Year, Nelson is the all-time wins leader at UW-Superior and has a career coaching record of 248-168-21. Away from UW-Superior, Nelson spent three years (2000-2003) as the commissioner of the America West Hockey League. Nelson, a graduate of the University of Minnesota, lives in Superior with his wife Amy and their three children.

MICHAEL SCHROER '75 is President and Co-owner of Bob's Produce Ranch of Fridley, Minnesota. Bob's Produce Ranch is a three generation family owned retail store featuring high quality perishable products. Mike has worked at Bob's since he was eight years old when working for his father, who founded Bob's in 1959. Seven years after high school, Mike, along with a cousin and long- time employee took over the business from Mike's father. In 1993, they doubled the size of the current location by remodeling the business and expanding the deli and meat departments.

Prior to taking over Bob's, Mike was an administrator for a machine tool and supply distributor business, and worked at Fridley Cable TV and while in high school, worked at the school's auditorium and athletic department. Bob's Produce Ranch has donated many hours and thousands of dollars to help many causes in the city of Fridley, such as donating cases of peaches to all block parties for Night to Unite.

Mike has maintained a strong presence in the Fridley Community, and gives generously to many causes and programs to help Fridley Public Schools. He has been Vice President of the Fridley Chamber of Commerce, a member of the Key Club Advisory Board, a board member for the Northwest Suburban Integration School District IB Advisory Board, a member and president of the Fridley Schools Foundation and a current member of the Fridley Community Education Advisory Council. Mike resides in Fridley with his wife and two children, who both attended Fridley Public Schools.

JOHN G. STARK, M.D. '67 received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology, Chemistry and Asian Studies from Saint Olaf College in 1971, and his MD from the University of Minnesota in 1976. His internship/residency took place at the Hennepin County Medical Center, Veteran's Administration Center and the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. He received Board Certification from the American Board of Orthopedic Surgery, Diplomat in 1984, and from Arthroscopy Board of North America, Diplomat in 1989. Dr. Stark resides in Deephaven, Minnesota. He has thirty two years of orthopedic experience.

Earlier in his career, Dr. Stark worked with Saint Paul Bone and Joint Surgeons, and Shriner's Hospital for Crippled Children, where he cared for complex foot problems, such as clubfoot, and other types of congenital deformity. He has been an Assistant Professor of Orthopedics at the University of Minnesota, practicing and teaching orthopedic residents and students in the care of low back problems and orthopedic trauma at Regions St. Paul.

Now back in private practice, Dr. Stark specializes in complex low back problems exclusively. He has traveled extensively internationally, instructing in new techniques and diagnostic methods of low back care but particularly in the emerging area of sacroiliac joint problems. He holds over two dozen patents related to systematizing the care and rehabilitation of orthopedic injuries, a Communication System for the rehabilitation data, and sacroiliac joint immobilization, just to name a few. His career has been dedicated to practicing, developing and teaching new methods of difficult low back trauma and other orthopedic injuries, while offering advances in patient education and understanding.

CHERYL TROCKE-FOWLER '85 is the manager of respiratory Care for Children's Hospital and Clinics. Cheryl is responsible for the day to day operations and strategic planning of the Cardio-pulmonary service line in Minneapolis, Saint Paul and peripheral sites. She oversees 257 employees, ten critical care units and the neonatal transport/flight team.

Cheryl previously worked as a Respiratory Care Practitioner for Woodwinds Health Campus in Woodbury. There she was responsible for providing patient care in all areas of the hospital. She provided ventilator-management, non-inventive ventilation, ABG analysis, oxygen therapy, patient assessment, PFT's and other patient care related duties. She also performed Medicare compliance audits, and assisted in scheduling and ordering supplies. Cheryl is a former Cardiopulmonary Manager at Lakeview Hospital in Stillwater. She also collaborated in developing a book for children that explains all aspects of dealing with asthma and respiratory problems.

Cheryl received degrees from the College of Saint Catherine, the University of Minnesota, Augsburg College and Lowthain College. She resides in Fridley with her husband and children.

ROBB WHITTLEF '90 is the creative director for Rochdale Spears, an international home furnishings manufacturer. With offices around the globe, Rochdale Spears is the industry leading supplier to many of America's top designer home brands and retailers. Robb is currently overseeing the Singapore launch of their international distribution platform, a creation of a Los Angeles based “Brand LAB" and the development of design partnerships throughout Europe and Asia.

Robb previously was the Vice President of Marketing, Visual and Advertising for Midwest of Cannon Falls. Through his product visual and print plan he was able to provide major growth making them the premier provider for Christmas and holiday décor. Robb was also part of the cast of HGTV's popular show Decorating Cents, and created innovative yet accessible home accessories and furnishings from cast-offs. Robb began his career in the design arena when he opened his first retail home store at nineteen, growing it from 1000 square feet to 10,000 square feet and counts his parents unwavering support as a foundation for that success.

Robb's products have appeared from mass market retailers to the trendiest of boutiques, including Macy's, Target and Restoration Hardware. He has licensed collections to numerous top wholesale companies including Kurt Adler Inc., Department 56 and Bobo Intriguing Objects. Robb has logged many TV appearances on CBS, Network, as well as Elle Décor and House Beautiful. He was named by Minneapolis and Saint Paul Magazine as the top interior designer of Minnesota. He still owns (with his brother Mike) an interior design firm in Minneapolis and resides in Los Angeles and Minneapolis.

2013 Circle of Excellence Award Honoree

Fridley High School Key Club

Key Club International is the oldest and largest service organization for high school students. Fridley High School's award winning Key Club was started by Tom Myra who also became the Club's first faculty advisor. Mary Bowen, who has served as advisor to the Club for the past 23 years recalls that membership has steadily increased from a few dozen students when she first came on board to almost 200 members. The club has also had five advisors to date; Al Farmes, Bruce Messer and Eugenie Burns and current advisors Jessica Baker and Michelle Miner who have been with the Key Club for two years.

Maintaining the Key Club International organization's vision of “caring competent servant leaders transforming communities worldwide," Fridley Key Club community service continues to be an invaluable asset to the Fridley community. This year, the Fridley Key Club reached a milestone accomplishment when it was recognized for the 10th year in a row as a Distinguished Diamond Level, the highest recognition awarded by Key Club International.

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