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

Carl Stange earned a bachelor’s degree in Speech and Theater Arts in 1983 and a master’s degree in Professional Development-Counselor Education in 2002. In his 33-year career at Winona State, Stange was a key figure on campus and instrumental as the Director of Admissions.

During his tenure, Stange recruited hundreds, if not thousands of students to Winona State by sharing his passion for his alma mater. He helped develop long-lasting relationships with the students, faculty and staff and community members.

Stange created and implemented the Degree Audit Record System (DARS), initiated the WSU PALS Weekend program, supervised the Veteran’s Benefit program, coordinated campus visits and keynote presentations, along with leading the admissions staff to support recruitment efforts and enrollment programs.

Along the way, Stange kept WSU on the map at local, state, and regional college fairs in addition to organizing luncheons, ice cream socials, summer college bus trip tours for potential students.

Stange received several accolades for his dedication to Winona State that include:

  • Engaged Faculty Leader Award
  • Minnesota Campus Compact Presidents’ Civic Engagement Steward Award
  • WSU’s Inclusion and Diversity Unsung Champion Award
  • WSU Distinguished Faculty & Staff Award
  • MSCA Friend of School Counselor Award

Some of his favorite memories of Winona State are the 2006 men’s basketball championship game where he got to be Wazoo, the passing of the books from Maxwell to Krueger Library and the final graduation ceremony he attended in 2017.


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. The recipient is chosen by a committee of WSU employees from various departments.

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).