Distinguished Award medallions

Distinguished Awards

Warriors Achieve

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

  • Distinguished Alumni 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 an award nomination for an alumni.
  • Distinguished Young Alumni Award recognizes graduates who are 45 years old or younger and have distinguished themselves in their work or in their community. Volunteer service and contributions to the university are also considered. Submit an award nomination for a young alumni.
  • Distinguished Faculty/Staff 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 an award nomination for a faculty or staff member.
  • Distinguished Service Award recognizes WSU graduates or non-graduates who have voluntarily rendered significant contributions of time and talent to WSU. Submit an award nomination for a strong supporter of WSU.
  • Distinguished Awards Banquet - Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018

Pauline (Connell) Christensen '70 - Distinguished Faculty/Staff

Pauline (Connell) Christensen received her BS in Home Economics Education from Iowa State University before coming to WSU to earn her MS in Educational Psychology and Counseling. She later received a Doctorate in Adult and Higher Education Administration from the University of Minnesota.

Since 1973, Christensen has served in many roles at WSU. She was a pioneer in establishing non-traditional and off-campus programming, including partnerships with industry, adult education programming and College for Kids. She provided leadership for graduate, continuing education and summer school programs and helped develop the Road Scholar program.

Her professional awards include:

  • MN Outstanding Adult Educator of the Year (1998)
  • Outstanding Leader in Education Award (1991)
  • the MN Association of Continuing and Adult Education/Missouri Valley Adult Education Association Award

She established WSU’s Connell/Christensen Sociology and Psychology Scholarship, which has provided financial assistance to WSU students since 1976. Christensen is an active volunteer in the Winona community and has served on the WSU Retiree Center Advisory Board, Grandparents University, Learning Club Leadership and Curriculum Committee. She also served as Vice President, President, Past President and most recently as Treasurer for the Philanthropic Educational Opportunities for Women, and is a docent at the Minnesota Marine Art Museum and a volunteer with the Winona County History Center.

Wally Madland '67, '72, '76 - Distinguished Service

Walton Madland graduated from WSU with a BS in teaching in 1967. While in school, he played linebacker on the WSU football team and served as a graduate assistant coach for WSU’s wrestling and football teams. Madland received his master’s in education administration in 1972, then worked for 14 years as an elementary and middle school principal. He obtained his specialist degree in education administration and also served as an adjunct professor in the University of Wisconsin system.

He later transitioned to a role as a sales executive with a national commercial roofing contractor, living in Harrisburg, Pa., for 17 years. Madland has served on the Alumni Society Board for eight years, and held the role of President for four years. He is a Cornerstone Society member, and started the Joan Kangel Madland Cheerleading Scholarship to honor his late wife (also a WSU alumnus and a teacher for 34 years). Madland also headed a $100,000 endowed scholarship fund drive to pay tribute to Coach Robert (Bob) Keister, longtime football and track coach at WSU, and works closely with the committee that coordinates the annual football dinners. He resides in Winona in the summer and heads south to The Villages in Florida each winter to ensure that his golf game stays respectable.

Rachel Schromen '10 - Distinguished Young Alumni

Rachel Schromen graduated from WSU with a BA in Law & Society and received her Juris Doctorate from William Mitchell College of Law in 2013. While at WSU, she was actively engaged in Student Senate, WILL (Women’s Initiative in Leadership and Learning), Winona State Legal Society, GLBTA (Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Allies) Partnership, PAVE (Promoting Awareness and Victim Empowerment) and FORGE (Fighting for Our Rights and Gender Equality).

Schromen is owner and managing attorney of Schromen Law, LLC, which focuses on estate planning and elder law. She is also co-founder and Executive Director of Domestic Abuse Legal Advocacy Center, PSC, which provides pro bono legal services to women and children staying in shelters in Ramsey, Hennepin and Hubbard County. In 2016, Schromen was named “Solo Practitioner of the Month” by Attorney at Law magazine and earned the designation of “North Star Lawyer” in recognition of the number of pro bono hours she provided to individuals in need. She was also was voted Favorite Woman Estate Planning Attorney, honorable mention, by readers of Women’s Press magazine in May 2017.

In her free time, Schromen volunteers with Wills for Heroes and Cancer Legal Line, providing free estate planning to veterans, first responders and terminal cancer patients. She is also an ambassador for Guild, Inc. , an organization that provides integrated treatment and services to individuals with mental illness. Schromen resides in historic Ramsey Hill, in St. Paul, Minn., with her husband, Curt Hennemann, and their dog Mabel. She enjoys exploring Minnesota and staying at historic bed and breakfasts –especially Winona’s Alexander Mansion. 


Michelle (Fuhrman) Smith '01 - Distinguished Young Alumni

Michelle (Fuhrman) Smith graduated from WSU with a BS in Accounting. During her time at WSU, she was involved with many campus organizations, including Circle K, InterResidence Hall Council, National Residence Hall Honorary, Accounting Association, Alpha Lambda Delta, Prentiss-Lucas Hall Council, Forensics, Homecoming Court, Catholic Newman Center and the Golden Key International Honor Society. Smith has continued her commitment to community engagement since graduation, and received a Volunteer of Excellence Merit in 2013.

She is currently a Girl Scout Leader for two troops, Secretary of the Chequamegon Area, and a reader and greeter at St. Anthony of Padua Church. She also serves as the Secretary for the Price Ice Figure Skating Club, Board Member of the Woods and Waters Fine Arts Council, T-ball Coordinator and Coach, and Softball Assistant Coach for the Park Falls Area Youth Baseball and Softball organization. Smith currently serves as Deputy Clerk-Treasurer for the City of Park Falls. She and her husband John have two children, Alison and Mallory, and two fur babies, Lady and Cooper. The couple live in Park Falls, WI and enjoy spending time with their family and watching their children’s events in their spare time.

Rich Mancuso '67, '71, '74 - Distinguished Alumni

Rich Mancuso graduated from WSU with a BA in Sociology and Psychology, a BS in Secondary Teaching Certificate and an MS in Education. While attending WSU, he was involved with Sigma Tau Gamma, Young Republicans, Inter-Greek Council, Newman Club and intramural sports. Mancuso has been recognized for excellence throughout his teaching career. He was named Teacher of the Year four times, received the JP Wilson Award for Academic Excellence at D’Evelyn Jr/Sr High and was selected among Who’s Who for America’s Teachers and Educators.

Mancuso continues to be engaged in community service, working with the Rotary Club and serving on the Board of Directors for Crutches 4 Africa, a non-profit organization that distributes crutches and mobility devices to victims of polio and war. He has worked on numerous political campaigns, and in 2006 was a candidate for U.S. Congress in the 2nd District of Colorado. After retiring from teaching in 2013, Mancuso focused on writing, completing his first screenplay and releasing his first book, "The Good Don". Mancuso resides with his wife, Debbie, in Evergreen, Colorado, where they are avid community and church volunteers.


Amy Welch - Grand Marshals

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).