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.

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.

Submit a nomination for the Alumni Achievement Award.

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.

Submit a nomination for the Graduate of the Last Decade (G.O.L.D) Award.

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.

Submit a nomination for the Purple Pride Award.

The Warrior Way Award

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

Submit a nomination for The Warrior Way Award.

Award Winners

Dr. Donna J. Helble (Dec. 17, 1948 - March 13, 2017) was born in Davenport, Iowa - the only child of Donald and Helen (Krause) Helble - and spent her childhood in De Witt, Iowa, which always held a special place in her heart.

Dr. Helble graduated from Simpson College with a B.A. in elementary education and French, received an M.S. in remedial reading from Winona State University in 1974, and an Ed.D. in language arts education from the University of Northern Colorado.

Education and children’s literature were Dr. Helble’s passions. Following in her mother’s footsteps, she began her teaching career at Minnesota City Elementary School as a second-grade teacher. In 1973, she moved to Goodview Elementary School, where she taught grades one through four in the Program for Learning in Accordance with Needs. In 1988, Dr. Helble began her career at Winona State University as a professor of education. She also served as adjunct professor at St. Mary’s University of Minnesota and the University of Northern Colorado.

While at Winona State, Dr. Helble chaired the popular community-wide “Reading on the Mall” event for 25 years. Through activities designed by her Children’s Literature classes at WSU, the event promoted children’s literacy in Winona and the surrounding communities. A booklet of activities was published for parents, teachers and day care providers. The day-long February event attracted over 2,000 people annually, and each child who attended the event received a new book to take home.

As a proud and dedicated member of the Rotary Club, for 26 years Dr. Helble was chairperson of the Rotary Readers program, which sent Rotarians into elementary classrooms on a monthly basis to read to children. Three books were donated to the classrooms each month, and once a year Rotary gave a book to each student.

Dr. Helble also worked with Books for Babies, another Rotary Club project, to donate board books that community health nurses could take to visits with new parents to encourage them to begin reading aloud to their children. Over 5,000 books were donated through the program. Through Rotary Club, Dr. Helble chaired the Shadow Program for over 28 years, matching high school students with Rotarians or community members in a profession in which they were interested. Dr. Helble also designed the model for the “Maxwell Math Club,” an after-school enrichment program for elementary students held on the Winona State campus.

In the wider community, Dr. Helble served as president and board member of the following organizations: Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Winona, Winona Rotary Club, United Way of the Greater Winona Area, the Winona County Unit of the American Red Cross, the Winona County Cancer Society, the Winona Friends of the Library, the Winona Community Foundation, and the Winona branch of the American Association of University Women. She also served on the boards of the Winona Area Public Schools Foundation and the Winona State University Foundation, where she was heavily involved in planning for WSU’s Education Village.

For these and other professional and community contributions, Dr. Helble was the recipient of many awards, including: Winona Teacher of the Year, inclusion in Who’s Who Among American Teachers, the Thomas Stark Award from the United Way, the Celebrate Literacy Award from the International Reading Association, the Athena Award for Women in Leadership from the Winona Chamber of Commerce, Rotary International Distinguished Club President Award, Winona Health Ben & Adith Miller Community Service Tribute Award, a Certificate of Appreciation from the City of Winona for increasing literacy among community youth, and a certificate from the Minnesota Senate for promoting literacy. Her name was also included in Who’s Who of American Women, the international Who’s Who of Professional Businesswomen, and Outstanding Young Women of America.

Beyond her professional and civic contributions, Dr. Helble will be remembered as an energetic, witty, loving and giving friend to many people locally and around the world. She never stopped learning through her many activities, friendships, and extensive travels. Moreover, Dr. Helble’s generosity of spirit as well as her personal savings, and her love of educating children, will continue to benefit a grateful community for decades to come.

Dr. Atique Ahmed received his BS in Chemistry from Winona State University in 1997, his Ph.D. in Molecular Medicine from Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in 2007 and his postdoctoral scholar training in Neuro-Oncology and Stem Cell Biology from the University of Chicago in 2009.

Dr. Ahmed currently works at Northwestern University in Chicago in the Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center as an Assistant Professor of Neuro-Oncology. Prior to joining Northwestern, Dr. Ahmed was a faculty member of the Department of Surgery at the University of Chicago. He has received numerous awards, including the most Impactful Research Project of the Year Award in the field of Human Gene Therapy, the National Institute of Health (NIH) Pathway to Independence Award in 2013, and the American Cancer Research Scholar (ACS) Grant Award in 2015.

Dr. Ahmed has research interests in the area of cancer evaluation, specifically on how cancer cells outsmart current therapies, eventually becoming resistant to such therapies and creating a huge barrier to cancer patients. He has written articles in more than 70 peer-reviewed publications and has been invited to speak at national and international conferences. He also has received sufficient grant funds from the NIH and ACS to build his own research program at Northwestern Fienberg School of Medicine, where he serves as the principal investigator and instructor for Ph.D. and undergraduate students who research the biology of brain tumors and ways to reprogram pathogenic viruses to destroy cancer cells. Some of his experimental works are currently evaluated to be introduced as clinical trials for patients with a brain tumor.

Dr. Ahmed is active in the Chicago community, where he is involved in fundraising efforts for the Northwestern Brain Tumor Institute that supports family members and patients with a brain tumor in the Chicago area. A committed contributor to the battle against cancer, his activist work assists nonprofit, nonpartisan national advocacy organizations like the American Cancer Society in engaging with elected and appointed officials, politicians, and candidates in order to ensure that finding a cure for cancer remains a top local, state and national priority. He also serves as an ad-hoc reviewer and provides guidance for many national and international organizations including the NIH and the Research Councils of the United Kingdom for their funding strategies as well as functioning as a reviewing editor for many high-impact peer-reviewed journals.

Furthermore, Dr. Ahmed has continued to have close contact with Winona State University. He has returned to campus to present to students in the classroom and to spend time with faculty in the College of Science and Engineering. He and his wife, Simona, a WSU alumnus herself, attend school alumni events in the Chicago area whenever they can, and they have volunteered to be WSU representatives at college fairs in the region. Dr. Ahmed also has served as a mentor to WSU students and has arranged for WSU students to participate in Northwestern University’s summer research programs in his laboratory.

Dr. Ahmed remains very grateful for his WSU experience and credits Winona State’s hands-on community-based education system for providing a solid academic foundation and valuable support leading to his successful career. He is a strong advocate, willing to share his significant experience and talent, along with his distinguished connections, to benefit WSU students and faculty in any way that he can.


Peter Henderson received his BA in history from Vanderbilt University in 1969 and went on to the University of Nebraska, where he received his Ph.D. in Latin American History in 1973. After teaching at Nebraska for two years and at Nasson College in Springvale, Maine, for three years, he returned to Vanderbilt to study law. He subsequently received his J.D. degree in 1981.

Dr. Henderson moved with his family to the Boston area, where he practiced product liability and real estate law until 1989. In the fall of 1989, he made a return to higher education, joining the history department at Winona State, where he would work until his retirement in 2013.

For 24 years, Dr. Henderson enjoyed a very successful career in higher education at Winona State. He designed and strengthened course offerings in Latin American history. For seven years Dr. Henderson also served as the Director of the ABA (American Bar Association) accredited Paralegal program, well respected for its intellectual rigor and the work ethic of its students. As Director, he helped more than 1,000 majors graduate and advance into their professional careers. At the same time, he twice guided the program through the ABA approval process.

Dr. Henderson was actively involved across campus throughout his time at WSU. He served on seventeen University committees, the Winona Oratorio Chorus Board, the Winona Symphony Orchestra Board, as well as serving as the Director of the WSU Honors Program.

Furthermore, Dr. Henderson served in multiple leadership roles at WSU, including as the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts under two university presidents (1996-2001 and 2008-2010), and the Director of the Honors Program (2002). Henderson also served on the Faculty Senate for several years and as Faculty Association President for one term.

Dr. Henderson’s record as an author and scholar in Latin American Studies is also well-established, having authored over a dozen articles in peer-reviewed journals and five books in his area of expertise. One of his books resulted in the creation of a documentary film on the Ecuadorian historical figure Gabriel Garcia Moreno, for which Dr. Henderson received special recognition from the National Academy of History of Ecuador. He is one of only four North Americans ever to have received this honor.

Dr. Henderson’s talent in research also led him to write a highly readable history of WSU entitled "Her Star Shall Not Dim: A Sesquicentennial History of Winona State." The book was published in 2008, in honor of the 150th birthday of Winona State University, and remains an important reference for any who hold an interest in the long and distinguished history of the institution.

For these accomplishments and many others, Dr. Henderson's name is synonymous with prestige and esteem at Winona State University and throughout the field of Latin American History. He is widely recognized by his peers as an outstanding scholar, teacher, colleague, and friend, and as someone who has consistently stepped up to meet the challenges of the university and to advance Winona State as a "community of learners improving our world”.

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).