Distinguished Award medallions

Distinguished Awards

Warriors Achieve

Each year at Homecoming, WSU and the Alumni Society recognize individuals for their outstanding commitment to the University, its mission and to improving our world.

Submit a nomination for a Distinguished Alumni Award.

Alumni Achievement Award

Recipients are graduates who have achieved prominence in their chosen field of endeavor and who have made significant contributions to the university, bringing honor to themselves and to their alma mater.

Graduate of the Last Decade (G.O.L.D) Award

This award recognizes graduates who have graduated 10 years or less and have distinguished themselves in their work or in their community. Volunteer service and contributions to the university are also considered.

Purple Pride Award

This award recognizes WSU faculty or staff who have elevated the esteem and prestige of the university through their commitment to the university and all of its constituent groups.

The Warrior Way Award

Recipients are WSU graduates or non-graduates who have voluntarily rendered significant contributions of time and talent to WSU.

Award Winners

Jean Sharon Abbott earned a bachelor’s degree in communication studies in 1998. Abbott is author of a memoir Misdiagnosed: My Thirty-Year Struggle with a Debilitating Disorder I Never Had (2015).

The work recounts her three decades of faith, perseverance, and courage following a childhood misdiagnosis, as she navigated life struggling to walk and reliant upon an electric cart. Though she still manages symptoms, her life is radically changed – and she uses her story to motivate and inspire others.

Abbott is a public speaker who presents to students about the impacts of kindness, bullying, and resilience. Likewise, she inspires church groups and corporate personnel, like those of IBM and Prudential, to choose positive attitudes.

In addition, she participates in interviews conducted by national and international print and other news media entities. In her spare time, Abbott volunteers for several organizations and serves as Midwest Connection Leader for Christian Women in Media.

Abbott frequents Winona and WSU, often engaged to speak on campus with current students.

Dr. Annelie Schmittel earned a bachelor’s degree in mass communication in 2009 and then a master’s degree in educational leadership in 2012.

Schmittel also holds a Ph.D. in sports communication from the University of Florida and is employed as the Vice President of Player Development for the Philadelphia 76ers.

Through her work, Schmittel creates, manages, and oversees development and implementation of programs that support professional and personal growth. She continuously produces innovative programming that serves players, staff, and families.

Prior to her current role, Schmittel held a similar position with the National Football League’s Oakland Raiders. In a male-dominated profession, she is the highest-ranking female in her organization, and among those across the National Basketball Association.

In addition, Schmittel is a published researcher with an expertise in crisis communication in sports, and has received several awards in recognition of her work.

While at WSU, Schmittel competed in several track and field jumping events. She is married to WSU football alumnus, Erik Steine.

Dr. Barbara Oertel earned a bachelor’s degree in English in 1982 and a master’s degree in English in 1985. Oertel also holds an Ed.D. in educational administration from the University of Minnesota.

In her 33 years of service to WSU, Oertel navigated several leadership roles, including Director of the Warrior Success Center and Interim Vice President of Enrollment Services at the time of her retirement in 2017.

Over the course of her career, Oertel was instrumental in endeavors such as creating the one-credit orientation course and integrating student services into one location within Maxwell Hall.

In addition to her positional accomplishments, Oertel served on All-University Committees and in many capacities for ASF – including State Level President and Chief Negotiator.

Through assisting state-level initiatives, Oertel often brought to light the needs of WSU and other institutions. Oertel received the:

  • Special Achievement Award in 2008 for her recommendations to improve advising structures, methods, and best-practices
  • Special Initiative Award in 2010 for data and recommendations inspired by the NSSE study
  • ASF Professional Excellence State Award in 2016

Dr. Tim Hatfield attended public schools in Norwood, Ohio, then went to Harvard University on scholarship. He graduated cum laude in 1967, then continued at the Harvard Graduate School of Education Harvard for his master’s degree in school counseling. After working for seven years as a high school counselor at the University of Chicago Lab School and the Northfield Mount Hermon school in Massachusetts, he came to Minnesota and earned his Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from the University of Minnesota. In 1980 he joined the Counselor Education Department at Winona State.

Dr. Susan Hatfield grew up in Detroit, Michigan, and later moved with her family to Avon Lake, Ohio. She attended Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees. In 1981, she come to Winona State at the age of 22 to teach in the Communication and Theatre Arts Department and coach the forensics team. She took a one-year leave of absence to attend the University of Minnesota, and received her Ph.D. in 1989.

Tim and Susan somehow managed not to meet at Winona State until 1985 and were married in August 1987. They both have had very distinguished careers at WSU, with service on various university committees and task forces as well as numerous publications.

Tim chaired the Counselor Education Department for 22 of his 30 years at WSU and was the founding co-director of the School Counselor Update summer program for 25 years. In 2008, he authored the book The Run, personal reflections on the legendary success of the Winona State men’s basketball team from 2006-08.

In 1990, Susan was asked by then-President Darrell Krueger to lead Winona State’s student learning assessment efforts. In 1991, she was named a Kellogg Foundation Emerging Leader in Higher Education. Her expertise in student learning assessment led her to be appointed by the United States Secretary of the Navy to the Marine Corps University Board of Visitors, where she served for thirteen years; and she also served for six years on the Board of Directors of the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology. She retired from WSU in 2015, and currently is a Trustee with the Palmer College of Chiropractic as well as the Senior Scholar at the Higher Learning Commission in Chicago.

Tim and Susan have been active runners, and completed 10 Marine Corps Marathons together, beginning in 2002. Most importantly, they are the proud parents of four children, Adam, Kate, Megan and Rick (who graduated from WSU in 2015) and of four grandchildren. In retirement they spend their time in Winona and Fort Myers, Florida.


About the Heritage Award

The Winona State University Heritage Award is given annually to an employee, retiree, alumni, or friend of the university who has left an indelible impression in support of Winona State University and its students, faculty and staff. A committee of WSU employees from various departments chooses the recipient. The following are some of the characteristics and qualities that the committee looks for when evaluating:

  • Serves as an official and unofficial ambassador of WSU
  • Raises the awareness of WSU within their community
  • Is committed to the success of WSU and its students, faculty and staff
  • Helps to make community and campus connections
  • Advocates for WSU students and issues that are important to them
  • Supports WSU Athletics as a Warrior “Super Fan”
  • Helps elevate and garner support and recognition for WSU and its students, faculty and staff
  • Servers as a liaison/supporter between WSU departments or programs and community partnerships

As part of the Winona State University Homecoming festivities each fall, the Heritage Award recipient serves as the Homecoming Parade Grand Marshal and participates in the coin toss prior to the Homecoming football game with the football team captains. 

Heritage Award Application

This application will need to be submitted to alumni@winona.edu.

For two decades, Winona State has been presenting awards to distinguished alumni and friends. View the complete list of award recipients (PDF).