Nevada Alumni Association awards
Each year, the Nevada Alumni Association honors outstanding alumni and friends who have demonstrated remarkable professional achievement and dedication to their community and the University. If you know someone who bleeds silver and blue, let us know! They just may be who we're looking to recognize in the following categories:
- Alumna/Alumnus of the Year
- Alumni Association Service
- Outstanding Chapter of the Year
- Outstanding Young Alumni
- Professional Achievement
- Silver & Blue Appreciation Award
- University Service
Nevada Alumni Association Award recipients
Each year the Nevada Alumni Association honors outstanding alumni and friends for their professional achievements and support of the University of Nevada. Traditionally this recognition takes place at multiple events during Homecoming Weekend, but since we are unable to gather as a large group right now due to state of Nevada and CDC COVID-19 pandemic guidelines, this year’s honorees will be recognized during a virtual event on Zoom Friday, October 23, 2020. For more information on how to join us for this virtual event, please call Colleen Dietlein in the Office of Alumni Relations at (775) 784-6620.
Alumnus of the Year, James Hardesty ’70 (accounting)
Justice James W. Hardesty graduated from the University of Nevada with a Bachelor of Science in accounting in 1970. While an undergraduate student, Justice Hardesty was elected as president of the student body and named Outstanding Senior Graduate.
In November 1998, Justice Hardesty was elected as a district court judge for the Second Judicial District of Washoe County, Reno, Nevada. In November 2001, and again in 2003, he was elected by his fellow judges to serve as chief judge of the Second Judicial District Court. Justice Hardesty also served as president of the Nevada District Judges Association in 2003.
In November 2004, Justice Hardesty was elected to the Nevada Supreme Court and was re-elected without opposition to the Court in 2010 and 2016. Justice Hardesty has served as chief justice of the Nevada Supreme Court in 2009, 2015, and will serve as chief justice in 2021. In 2014, he led the Nevada Supreme Court’s educational effort to amend the Nevada Constitution to create a Court of Appeals, which the voters approved in the November election. Nevada’s Court of Appeals commenced on January 5, 2015, and is currently located in a new courthouse in Las Vegas. The Nevada Supreme Court recently announced that it will name the new courthouse after Justice Hardesty.
Justice Hardesty was born and raised in Reno, Nevada. He attributes his time at the University of Nevada, Reno as one of the most important experiences in his life. Not only did he obtain a great education, but he met his wife, Sandy. They have been married for 49 years and have two children, Kristy Grow and Robin Johnson, and five grandchildren. He is an avid Wolf Pack fan and has been a season ticket holder since 1975. One of his proudest moments was the inclusion of his family’s name in the University's Honor Court.
Alumni Association Service, Brenda Boone ’07 M.Ed. (educational leadership)
Brenda has been an educator in Churchill County for 23 years. In 1997, she moved to Fallon with her family, where both she and her husband worked as teachers. Brenda completed her Bachelor of Arts in education at Carroll College in Helena, Montana.
In 2002, her husband completed his Master of Education through the University of Nevada, Reno which encouraged her to do the same. While teaching and raising their son, Brenda would drive to Reno in the evenings and during the summers to take classes on campus. She finished her master’s degree in educational leadership in 2007.
Currently, Brenda serves the Churchill County School District as an inclusive services coordinator. Previously, she served as vice principal at Churchill County High School, an instructional coach for teachers K-8, an elementary education teacher, and a middle school special education teacher. She is passionate about seeing her students, staff, and school district improve and achieve greatness!
Brenda has been involved in leading the Fallon Alumni Chapter for many years which includes helping organize their FUNdraising events and ensures the Chapter awards yearly scholarships to deserving students.
When Brenda is not working, she and her husband love to golf, visit their son and daughter-in-law in Montana, and attend Wolf Pack football and basketball games.
Brenda is both grateful and humbled to be honored with the 2020 Alumni Association Service Award!
Alumni Association Service, Elizabeth Krayk ’07 (nursing), '17 MSN (nursing)
Libby grew up in an outdoor rural mountain community, full of compassionate family and community members. Her family worked hard to instill caring values and though they didn’t have it easy, they taught her that they were lucky to live surrounded by nature, have basic necessities, and be loved.
Libby has been a nurse for 12 years working in cancer care and palliative care. She is currently a palliative care nurse practitioner at Renown Health. People often comment, “that must be so sad.” The truth is, she believes she is privileged to witness the beauty of humanity and given the opportunity to heal people every day. The Latin root of the word palliative means to cloak. Her team provides a cloak of support through managing distressing symptoms whether they are physical, emotional, mental or spiritual. She and her team help people amplify their voices and thoughts, which are often difficult to find or are buried in a complex health care system. Thanks to excellent mentors, Libby has made it her duty to seek education to ask the right questions at the right time and help people feel better through expert symptom management.
When she is not working, Libby enjoys being outdoors and spending time with loved ones. She is passionate about social justice, the environment, serving on the steering committee for the Orvis School of Nursing Alumni Association and has helped organize year-round events to keep alumni actively engaged.
Alumni Association Service, Curtis Worrall ’98 (management)
Curtis is an entrepreneur at heart and the owner of Whispering Vine Company in Reno.
His early adulthood was spent working a variety of jobs while squeezing in classes at the University of Nevada. While working as a hotel bellman, he opened two successful gift stores in local casinos. In 1996, he opened the Purple Bean, a coffee bar on Seventh Street in Reno.
As Curtis developed a growing interest in wine in his early adult years, he decided to open his first wine store on Mayberry Drive in 1998. He graduated with his Bachelor of Science degree in business management that same year. Curtis opened additional locations of Whispering Vine in 2010, 2015, and 2018. He believes that the love and support of his family and giving back to the community are key factors of his success.
Along the way, Curtis also began to grow his interest and talent in the culinary arts, becoming an amateur chef in the area. He is in his twenty-sixth year of marriage with his wife, Laura '92, '99 M.S., who he met at the University. His children Katie '19 and Kyle (Class of 2022) both attended Reno High School, Curtis’ alma mater.
Outstanding Chapter of the Year, Young Alumni Chapter
The Nevada Young Alumni Chapter is for alumni who have graduated within the last 10 years. Members have the opportunity to connect and network through various social and community service events. The chapter also raises money to award University scholarships each year.
The board has collaborated to host monthly events such as the Reno Rodeo Night, a football tailgate in partnership with Strengthen the Pack, the annual Mystery Bus trip, and a holiday mixer that incorporates giving back to the community. The Chapter’s main fundraising event, Beer Fest, is typically held annually in late spring and hosts more than 1,000 attendees.
The Chapter strives to distribute at least $7,500 in scholarship funds each year to deserving Nevada students, but they are proud to have awarded $15,000 in 2016, $12,000 in 2017and $15,000 in 2018, 2019 and 2020. They will be awarding $15,000 once again in 2021.
Nevada YAC has been working to find new ways to engage with their membership and recruit new members through other outlets such as social media and their new blog. Topics on both platforms range from member spotlights to various post-grad tips.
Outstanding Young Alumna, Katie Coleman ’04 (journalism), ’06 M.A. (journalism)
Originally hailing from the Carson Valley, Katie Coleman is a fourth-generation Nevadan who now lives in Reno. Her ancestors emigrated from Germany to Winnemucca, giving deep meaning to the lyrics of ”Home Means Nevada.” Katie was in the first University of Nevada freshmen class to be awarded the Millennium Scholarship. Her college major shifted from medicine to business to journalism – the revelation that she might be quite good at advertising led her to the Reynolds School of Journalism where she learned from the best (shout out to Bob Felten and Bourne Morris!). She also made friendships that have stood the test of time.
As a member of the IMC competition team and presenter at the regional and national competitions, Katie got a taste of agency life that left her wanting more. She went on to receive her master’s degree, also from the Reynolds School of Journalism, and then on to a career of agency and in-house marketing roles at the GMAA Group, International Game Technology, and KPS3.
Today, Katie is the communications director for the Nevada Rural Housing Authority (NRHA), which promotes, provides, and finances affordable housing opportunities for all rural Nevadans. She has the privilege of helping lead communications efforts for the agency’s rental services programs, homeownership program Home At Last, and real estate development and management efforts. Housing is at the epicenter of life success, and NRHA’s work in the affordable space is recognized as innovative, compassionate, and effective.
When she’s not busy promoting affordable housing opportunities on behalf of NRHA, you can catch her being a true Disney dork in her multigenerational household with her husband, son, and dad.
Outstanding Young Alumnus, Hunter Frey ’11 (english)
While going to college wasn’t always at the top of Hunter’s list, it was after living in Reno that Hunter fell in love with the area and decided to attend the University of Nevada, Reno. As a student, he enjoyed walking, jogging, hiking and biking in the surrounding areas.
He graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree from the College of Liberal Arts and decided to enlist in the Navy. His current position is an aviation machinist’s mate 2nd class.
Once Hunter’s term of service is complete, he plans on returning to teaching college-level English, as he spent time teaching English 101 before he joined the Navy. Hunter enjoys the connection, creativity, and diversity of teaching English. Contributing to a more inclusive world is important to him.
When he’s not working, Hunter enjoys spending time with his wife, Courtney, and daughter, Trygge. They like to read books, watch movies, cook food, make videos, music, art, dance, and play with their dog.
Outstanding Young Alumna, Erica Tabano ’10 (marketing)
Erica is a native Nevadan who graduated from the University of Nevada with a bachelor's degree in marketing in 2010. As a student, she was actively involved on campus serving on the ASUN programming board and even hosted some of the very first student events at the JCSU! She is also a founding member of the Nevada chapter of her sorority, Sigma Kappa.
After graduation, she took a job with Custom Ink and has been with the company for over eight years. As a sales manager, she has played an integral role in helping the company grow into one of Reno’s premier workplaces with an indispensable tie to the local community.
Erica has continued to be involved in University events and extracurriculars, including serving as the current president of the Nevada Young Alumni Chapter. She is an active volunteer for her sorority, serving both on the local and national board of directors. In addition to her multiple leadership roles, Erica volunteers over forty hours a year for other non-profit organizations throughout northern Nevada.
In her free time, you can find her with her family and friends, skiing at Mt. Rose, running the Reno-Tahoe Odyssey, or cheering on the Pack! You will never find her wearing red.
Professional Achievement, Richard Clark ’02 (history), ’09 M.A.T. (teaching of history)
Richard Clark was born and raised in Reno, attended Little Flower School, and graduated from Bishop Manogue High School in 1998. After receiving scholarship offers from Gonzaga, Dominican, and Santa Clara, Richard chose the University of Nevada for financial reasons and it had the education program he wanted to pursue.
After graduating from Nevada in 2002 with a bachelor’s in secondary education, he began student teaching at Reno High School in both U.S. History and Life Science. After student teaching, Richard was hired to teach U.S. Government, Student Leadership, and Alternative Education Science. He is now seventeen years into a career in which he has taught U.S. Government, U.S. History, Alternative Education Science, Student Leadership, and Freshmen Seminar. For the last thirteen years, he has also taught Advanced Placement Government and We the People. Richard has also led the Social Studies Department for the last ten years.
His passion for history and politics motivated him to pursue his Master of Arts in teaching history from Nevada in 2009 and his National Board Certification for teaching in 2011. Since starting the We the People class in 2007, Richard’s students have earned four district championships, five state championships, and seven trips to the national finals. They finished sixth in the nation this past spring. Teaching civics and constitutional history has become his passion - a passion that he has passed along to his students.
When Richard is not teaching, he loves spending time with his family, reading, and enjoying the outdoors while running, camping, biking, and hiking.
Professional Achievement, Glen Krutz ’90 (political science), '93 MPA (public administration)
Glen serves as dean of the Oklahoma State University College of Arts and Sciences. He is also a professor in the Department of Political Science and the Puterbaugh Foundation chair. He previously served as senior vice provost and professor at the University of Oklahoma. Glen and his wife, Julie Gann-Krutz, lived as faculty-in-residence at OU’s Headington Hall, where they mentored the student residents.
He held his first faculty position at Arizona State University, spending fall and spring semesters in Tempe and summers in Washington, D.C. with ASU students as director of the ASU-in-Washington Program. His public service orientation pre-dates his professorial career, including work as a legislative staffer for Sen. Richard Bryan ’59 on Capitol Hill and later as an analyst and special assistant to the chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education.
His books include “Hitching a Ride: Omnibus Legislating in the U.S. Congress” (The Ohio State University Press), “Treaty Politics and the Rise of Executive Agreements: International Commitments in a System of Shared Powers” (University of Michigan Press), and the popular and free open-source text “American Government” (OpenStax/Rice University). An award-winning instructor, Glen continues to teach each semester in Stillwater.
Glen credits his success to the deep experiences he had at the University of Nevada, Reno, where he earned his B.A. and MPA. He was an active student, serving as ASUN president and in the Student Orientation staff (where he met his wife). Glen and Julie, and their newborn son, Matthew, moved to College Station, Texas in 1994. There, Glen completed his Ph.D. and Julie earned her master’s degree. While in Aggieland, Julie gave birth to a second son, Ryan, and to their daughter, Rachel.
When he’s not working, Glen enjoys spending time and traveling with his family, playing golf, or taking in live theater and music.
Professional Achievement, Teela McCullar ’04 (accounting), ’06 M.Acc. (accounting)
The Millennium Scholarship is what drew Teela from Las Vegas to the University of Nevada, Reno. She received her Bachelor of Science in accounting with high distinction and her master’s degree in accountancy. Teela was also selected as the University’s Top Scholar of the College of Business Administration in fall 2006.
She joined Barnard Vogler & Co., a CPA firm, in 2005 and became director of the firm within the first 10 years. In 2016, she became the youngest shareholder in the history of the firm. Teela was fortunate enough to be one of 30 young CPAs across the nation and the first Nevadan selected to attend the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) exclusive Leadership Academy in 2010. The Academy spurred her interest in becoming not only a leader in her own firm but in the community and her profession as well.
Teela has served on the Nevada Society of CPAs Board since 2012 and was elected as board chair in 2017, becoming the youngest board chair in the organization’s history.
She believes the best part of being a CPA is the relationships she has built with her clients and co-workers. They are the reason she loves what she does every day.
Professional Achievement, Naida Parson ’89 Ph.D. (psychology)
Naida is a native of Las Vegas, Nevada. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and Black studies from the University of California, Riverside, a master’s degree in African American studies with an emphasis in psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles and is the first African-American woman to earn a doctoral degree in clinical psychology from the University of Nevada. Naida is also the first African-American from the state of Nevada to be licensed as a clinical psychologist. She has provided individual, family, and couples counseling and psychotherapy for 30 years.
She is active in the Las Vegas community as a motivational speaker, author, seminar instructor, and mentor. Naida has been said to have a profound and creative “way with words” and has provided motivational speaking, training, and seminars for several civil, corporate, and community organizations including the Las Vegas Urban Chamber, Nevada Business Services, The Public Education Foundation, MGM and Mirage properties, the Clark County School District and various youth, church and community organizations. She is a certified John Maxwell leadership coach, speaker, and trainer. Naida is also the sole proprietor of A Way With Words, which is the parent company for her speaking, writing, seminar events, and workshops.
Naida is the daughter of Stella Mason Parson, the first African-American woman to attend and graduate from Nevada in 1952. Since then, every generation of her family has a Nevada graduate.
She is currently the senior pastor of New Antioch Christian Fellowship in Las Vegas and New Antioch@Aliante in North Las Vegas.
Professional Achievement, Angela Taylor ’85 (marketing), ’91 MPA (public administration), ’04 Ph.D. (educational leadership)
Angie is the president and CEO of Guardian Quest, Inc., an organization specializing in providing diversity and inclusion, leadership and organizational development training, and consulting solutions for educational, governmental, corporate, and military clients across North America. In addition to her work speaking, training, and coaching, she continues to serve her community. In December 2014, she was appointed to the Washoe County School District Board of Trustees, becoming the first African-American to serve in that capacity. In 2016, she was elected as board president by her colleagues, and most recently, she was elected by the citizens in District E to serve a full four-year term that began in January 2017. Her colleagues selected her to serve a second term as president through 2017.
Education, diversity and inclusion, leadership, and faith are the areas that she loves and those that have driven her success.
Angie has earned a doctoral degree in educational leadership, holds a Master of Public Administration, and a bachelor’s degree in business administration, all from the University of Nevada. Her background is in higher education where she completed a storied 20-year career at Nevada.
She has served on numerous committees, task forces, and boards for the University, the local community, and nationally. She has received many awards and recognitions for her leadership and community service including membership in four halls of fame and inclusion on two “people to watch” lists.
Angie is a passionate, energetic presenter and has dedicated her life to making people and organizations better. She has recently penned her first book, “Leadership Matters: Lessons that Shaped My Leadership,” which is highly sought after wherever she speaks. She is also an ordained minister and serves as the administrative assistant pastor at Greater Light Christian Center in Reno.
Silver & Blue Appreciation, Northern Nevada HOPES
Northern Nevada HOPES is a nonprofit community health center located in downtown Reno. Its mission is to provide affordable, high-quality medical, behavioral health, and support services for all.
Expert care teams provide integrated medical and wellness services to individuals and families in our community. The organization welcomes everyone, wherever they are in life, and provide a safe and accepting place to access comprehensive, patient-centered health care services. Northern Nevada HOPES works to reduce barriers to care for underserved communities.
Services offered include adult and pediatric primary care, chronic disease management, behavioral health counseling, substance use counseling, case management, nutrition, pharmacy, transportation, financial wellness, and much more. HOPES’ welcoming and innovative one-stop-shop health care model improves access to care for more than 12,000 individuals and families in northern Nevada.
Silver & Blue Appreciation, Estelle J. Kelsey Foundation
Estelle was born in Detroit, Michigan on January 1, 1913, to Nichols and Dorothy Nichols. She married Albert Jamieson who passed on August 29, 1959. They had a beautiful daughter, Marianne J. Kerr. Marianne was tragically killed in an automobile accident on January 9, 1982, at the age of 41.
On January 5, 1967, Estelle married her long-time boss and wonderful man, Clinton W. Kelsey, who went by the name of Don. Following retirement, they came west and divided their time between Hawaii, Palm Springs, and Reno. Mr. Kelsey passed away on January 11, 1982.
Estelle traveled the world and collected artifacts from each country she visited. She was a very active, intelligent, conscientious and caring individual who took full charge of her life until her death on April 13, 2013, at the age of 100 years old.
She wanted the Estelle J. Kelsey Foundation to be created and funded upon her death to help those in need of a better life. She had a special place in her heart for children in need. Her hope was to help them grow, learn, and fulfill their dreams and aspirations.
The Estelle J. Kelsey Foundation was established in the state of Nevada in 2014. It was organized and is operated to provide grants primarily to strengthen the existing programs and projects of civic and cultural, social services, medicine, and science, as well as religious facilities and programs.
Grants are limited to purposes within the United States, however, the Foundation gives preference toward serving the needs of northern Nevada. Any organizations that apply must hold a determination letter from the Internal Revenue Service stating that the organization is qualified under section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code, or other identification to establish eligibility to receive charitable contributions.
University Service, Dennis Green ’17 (criminal justice)
Dennis graduated from the University of Nevada in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a minor in sociology.
He has always been passionate about being involved in his community. While an undergraduate, he was active in various organizations on campus, such as Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc., Blue Key Honor Society, the ASUN Senate, and the Multicultural Greek Council. He even served as the University’s Mascot, Wolfie Jr., in the Nevada Cheer & Spirit program.
Today, he is the office coordinator at Figure Technologies and an assistant cheer coach for the Nevada Cheer & Spirit Program. Dennis is motivated by being involved in his community and his workplace and loves being at the heart of wherever he is. His favorite part about what he does is that he gets to help others succeed and make an impact on those around him, whether it is professionally in the office or in service of the community after hours.
Dennis serves as community outreach chair for the Nevada Young Alumni Chapter and presides over the scholarship committee. He regularly volunteers for campus events such as First in the Pack Career Development Day and Perform with the Pack. He also plans Wolf Pack Reading Week.
When not working, you can find Dennis on game day at Nevada sporting events or with his team giving back to his community. He has currently contributed more than 1,500 volunteer hours in the Reno-Sparks area and loves every second of being a proud Nevada alumnus.
University Service, Dr. David White ’99 (biology)
As a native Nevadan, David is the proud owner of David White DDS in both Reno and Elko. Along with dentistry, his true passions lie in leadership, mentoring, and political advocacy, in which he has won numerous awards. In 2017, he served as president of the Nevada Dental Association and is currently the vice-chair of the American Dental Association’s Council on Government Affairs.
When considering colleges, David chose to spend his undergraduate career at the University of Nevada. With his long-term goal of admittance into dental school, the University was the perfect fit as it was budget-friendly and he could remain close to home to receive the support needed to be successful. What fulfills him most about dentistry is giving back to his communities daily. Whether patients come in seeking help for a toothache or they are unsatisfied with the way their smile looks, it's his pleasure to give patients the smile they deserve while boosting their morale and confidence.
David has been the advisor for the Nevada Pre-Dental Society at the University of Nevada since 2004. With his help, the University has had over 700 students accepted into dental school.
David is an avid outdoor and action sports enthusiast. When he's not at his office, David enjoys spending quality time with his two children and visiting the mountains to ski, snowboard, dirt bike, or mountain bike.
University Service, Reverend Jackie Leonard ’71 (speech & theatre)
Reverend Jackie Leonard’s life and career reflect a deep commitment to her ministry, community, and University.
The Leonard family has a longstanding connection to the University, with her parents Paul ’36 and Gwen ’37, as well as her brother Guy ’77, joining her as alumni. While Jackie was working as a manager for Mervyn’s in Reno in 1977, Guy was killed by a drunk driver. The tragedy caused her to re-evaluate her life and drew her back to her church. A series of what she called “holy nudges” led her to study at the San Francisco Theological Seminary, a transformative period in which she earned a master’s degree in divinity.
A distinguished ministry career followed, including disaster recovery work and a decade spent as a police chaplain serving the Reno Police Department, Washoe County Sheriff’s Office, and Nevada Highway Patrol. Working with people affected by death and trauma gave her tremendous respect and appreciation for law enforcement. Jackie also has served on the pastoral staff of St. John’s Presbyterian Church in Reno since 1995.
Jackie and her parents have supported numerous colleges and programs on campus through an endowed chair in journalism as well as scholarships in journalism, English, history, philosophy, physics, music, and theatre.
“What I’ve learned is that kindness is the cardinal virtue and life is endlessly diverting,” she told the Nevada Silver & Blue magazine in the Spring 2010 issue. “Don’t be afraid to give — of yourself, your time, your talent, your purse. Every gift counts.”
College and Unit Distinguished Alumni
College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources, Catherine Clark ’96 M.S. (resource management)
Catherine grew up in southern California and received her bachelor’s degree in geography from California State University, Northridge in 1988. Upon moving to Reno, she enrolled at Nevada and received her master’s degree in resource management in 1996. With her Nevada degree in hand, Catherine worked hard and advanced in the environmental field. Her experience includes working for several government agencies (National Park Service, State of California and Washoe County), environmental consulting, and most recently for a mining and mineral processing development company, Lithium Nevada (part of Lithium Americas Corp.).
Lithium Nevada is developing the Thacker Pass Project, one of the world’s largest lithium deposits located in northern Nevada. The company is developing a world-class lithium mine and chemical processing facility that will ultimately produce lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide, both used to make lithium batteries to fuel the electric car industry.
Catherine has been with Lithium Nevada for over nine years and serves as environmental director, focusing on environmental compliance and regulatory issues for the company. She has also managed extensive environmental baseline surveys, obtained agency permits for several mining operations and exploration drilling programs. Catherine has worked closely with the University on some of these studies and she has enjoyed working with the Rangeland Sciences group on the development of the Sagebrush Habitat Restoration Fund sponsored by Lithium Nevada.
Catherine likes to work hard and is passionate about being honest and ethical. When she is not working, she enjoys boating at Lake Tahoe and hiking throughout the Sierra. She has been married to her husband, Brian, for 32 years and proudly calls Nevada her home.
College of Education, Suzette Champagne '99 M.Ed. (elementary education)
Suzette earned her bachelor’s degree in sociology from Willamette University in 1993 and a Master of Education from Nevada in 1999. She received her National Board Certification in 2009. Suzette is in her 26th year of teaching elementary school and she currently teaches at Jessie Beck Elementary School. This school has a special place in her heart because she is graduate from there, as are both her children.
Suzette has science education in her blood, as she was raised by two University of Nevada science professors. She feels that great science education is essential, and there is nothing better than seeing the look of wonder in her students’ eyes when they learn something new or make sense about concepts in the world around them. She was recently honored with the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching in fall 2019.
Suzette always knew that she would live in Reno because of its location and beautiful mountains. When not in the classroom, Suzette can be found scuba diving, traveling, cooking, hiking with her husband, or spending time with her grown children. Her husband, Justin, is a local attorney who graduated from Nevada in 1996; her son, Ethan, is currently a sophomore at Nevada; and her daughter, Madeline, just graduated from Boise State University.
College of Engineering's James G. Scrugham Medal Recipient, Joel Madison '86 (mechanical engineering)
Joel received his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Nevada, Reno in 1986. Originally from Elko, the University was a natural fit, particularly since he was the first member of his family to attend a university and be awarded a degree. After graduating from Nevada he went on to earn a master’s degree in aerospace engineering from Pennsylvania State University.
Following graduate school, Joel embarked on a career that would start in the aerospace industry but see him transition to a completely different industry, only to return “home” to aerospace years later. His first job was as a member of the technical staff with the Rocketdyne Division of Rockwell International (known today as Aerojet-Rocketdyne), where he played a key role in the company’s hypersonic engine program. He transitioned into the oil and gas industry in 1995, accepting a position as a project engineer at Ebara International Corporation in Sparks, Nevada. Joel steadily progressed through the ranks at Ebara, eventually being named president and CEO in 2006. He held the position for seven years before making his transition back to the aerospace industry. Joel began working at Sierra Nevada Corporation in 2014 as corporate vice president, and after four successful years in that role, he was promoted to his current position as chief operating officer. One of his major responsibilities is overseeing the development of SNC’s Dream Chaser® spacecraft.
Throughout the years, Joel has remained connected to the University and the College of Engineering, participating on the Industry Advisory Board and helping to facilitate the establishment of an aerospace engineering program within the College of Engineering. Joel lives in Reno with his wife, Kim.
College of Liberal Arts, Capt. Kenneth Collins '89 (music education)
Captain Ken Collins was raised in Reno and completed his Bachelor of Music Education at Nevada. He is incredibly grateful for the opportunities and instruction he received during his matriculation at the University. The personal attention from gifted faculty prepared him for success as a professional musician.
Following graduation, Ken joined the Navy as a musician and served as a percussionist in fleet bands in Guam and Newport, Rhode Island. He received a commission as a bandmaster/conductor in November 1998 and has been fortunate to lead Navy bands around the globe, including his time as director of Navy Band Northwest in Seattle, fleet bandmaster of U.S. Pacific Fleet Band in Hawaii, director of Navy Band Southeast in Jacksonville and director of Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe Band in Naples, Italy. Ken served as head of the Navy Music Program from May 2012 through April 2015, and the Chief of Naval Operations selected him as the 14th leader of the U.S. Navy Band in Washington, D.C., the Navy’s premier musical organization, in October 2015. The Navy has provided him and his family a wonderful life and has allowed them to see the world, but what he has enjoyed most is seeing the power of music in action, creating friendships, and fostering relationships across cultures.
Ken met his wife, Amy, while they were in the marching band together at Nevada. They have two children, KC and Stephanie. When he’s not working, Ken enjoys running and is an avid sports fan who enjoys cheering on his beloved Wolf Pack. Ken’s military decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal (2 awards), Navy Commendation Medal (3 awards), and Navy Achievement Medal (3 awards).
College of Science, Julie Robinson '96 Ph.D. (ecology, evolution and conservation biology)
Julie earned a dual bachelor’s degree in chemistry and biology from Utah State University and completed her Ph.D. in ecology, evolution, and conservation biology at Nevada. Her professional experience has included research activities in a variety of fields, including virology, analytical chemistry, genetics, statistics, animal behavior, field biology, Earth science, and remote sensing. She authored numerous scientific publications before moving to science management.
Following postdoctoral research at the University of Houston, Julie began her career with Lockheed Martin in the Image Science Laboratory at Johnson Space Center. She led a major NASA-sponsored scientific project to facilitate a distribution network for global maps of coral reefs in the developing world. Julie joined NASA as a civil servant in 2004 and has advanced her career within the organization by serving various leadership roles, notably as chief scientist of the International Space Station (ISS) Program from 2007-2018 and associate director of NASA’s Human Research Program from 2018-2019. She currently leads Science and Utilization Strategy for Human Exploration and Operations at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., where she provides science advice at the highest levels of the agency, promoting exploration research and demonstration strategies onboard all human spaceflight. She spent the last year coordinating a multi-platform research strategy that integrates the ISS and Artemis programs in preparation for human missions to Mars.
Julie received the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal in 2011. She was named Alumna of the Year for the National Youth Science Camp in 2017, received a Professional Achievement Award from the Nevada Alumni Association in 2016, and was selected for the Leadership Texas Class of 2008. Outside of work, Julie’s personal interests include serving on the boards of several nonprofit organizations, providing mentorship to engage girls in math and science, and singing jazz and classical music.
Mackay School of Earth Science and Engineering, Melissa Harmon '00 (mining engineering)
After graduating from the Mackay School at Nevada in 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in mining engineering, Melissa went to work for Newmont Mining Company in her hometown of Elko, Nevada. While working full-time, she completed a Master of Business Administration from Auburn University and obtained a professional engineer’s license in the state of Nevada.
Melissa has spent 20 years with Newmont Mining Company – 14 years in Nevada and the other six years in Ghana, Vancouver, and Colorado. She currently is the general manager of Newmont’s Cripple Creek and Victor Mine in Colorado and is an active member of the Mackay Executive Advisory Board and the Department of Mining and Metallurgical Engineering’s Professional Advisory Board. Melissa also serves as Newmont’s executive sponsor to the University, managing the 50 consecutive years of support that Newmont has given to Nevada. She has received safety leadership awards from the Nevada Mining Association and the Mine Safety and Health Administration, and she was recognized as a Mackay Young Alumna of the Year in 2012.
Melissa enjoys teaching young people about mining and all it has to offer, and she points them in the direction of the Mackay School to complete their degree. She met her husband, Andy, while attending Nevada and has been married to him ever since. They have two children, Drew and Anna, who they hope will carry on the Wolf Pack tradition.
Orvis School of Nursing, Derek Drake '09 (nursing), '14 MSN (nursing) , '16 DNP (nursing practice)
Derek completed all three of his nursing degrees at Nevada and is currently pursuing his Master of Business Administration from Western Governors University. With over 15 years in health care, the majority of Derek’s nursing career has been devoted to leadership in critical care, emergency, and trauma nursing.
Derek began his nursing career at Renown Health in Reno and progressed through various leadership roles, most notably serving as director of emergency and trauma services. While at Renown, Derek led his intensive care unit team to achieve the American Association of Critical Care Nurses Beacon Award for Excellence. Derek has since served as chief nursing officer and vice president of patient care services at St. Francis Medical Center and currently serves as vice president and chief operating officer at Orange County Global Medical Center. In his current role, Derek oversees clinical and non-clinical operations at one of southern California’s busiest trauma centers. He holds appointments as adjunct faculty for Nevada’s Orvis School of Nursing, University of San Francisco School of Nursing and Health Professions, and Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science’s Mervyn M. Dymally School of Nursing.
Derek is an active member of the American Organization for Nursing Leadership, Association of California Nurse Leaders, Sigma Theta Tau International, and the American College of Healthcare Executives. He is recognized as a certified nurse manager and leader, clinical nurse leader, and board-certified nurse executive. Derek was a finalist for the 2014 Future of Nursing Campaign for Action’s Breakthrough Leaders in Nursing Award and in he was recognized as a “Twenty under 40” award winner for the Reno Tahoe Young Professionals Network.
Outside of work, Derek enjoys spectating auto racing events, attending Los Angeles Dodgers games, and visiting Disneyland.
Reynolds School of Journalism, Kristen Go '98 (journalism)
Kristen grew up in Stockton, California and spent her freshman year of college at Indiana University, but quickly realized it was too big and too far from home. After touring Nevada and talking with Paul Mitchell ’96 M.A., ’10 Ph.D., Kristen decided to transfer to Nevada because she liked the idea of having small classes instead of being a face in a crowded lecture hall. This decision allowed her to take classes with every single faculty member at the Reynolds School of Journalism and build relationships with professors outside of her specific medium of study. The one-on-one attention that the RSJ faculty provided was something she didn't find anywhere else, not to mention Paul Mitchell's willingness to take students to job fairs and go over the basics: be prepared for your interview, be impeccably dressed, and send thank you notes. It's advice that has served well not just as a job seeker, but throughout life.
The Denver Post was Kristen's first reporting stop after graduating, where she was a member of the Pulitzer Prize-winning team for its coverage of the shooting at Columbine High School. She went on to work at The Arizona Republic and later the San Francisco Chronicle, where she served as the managing editor of digital and helped lead the digital transformation of the newsroom. Kristen now serves as managing editor of news at USA Today, where she oversees breaking news and enterprise stories across the nation.
Kristen has been honored for her work as part of Diablo Magazine's “40 under 40," received the President’s Award from Exceptional Women in Publishing, and is one of Legal Momentum's Women of Achievement winners for 2020. When she’s not working, she’s spending time with her husband, Mike, and their two children, Madilyn and Zachary.
School of Community Health Science, Julia Peek '04 (health ecology)
Julia is a native Nevadan, born and raised in Carson Valley. She graduated from Douglas High School, then went on to the University of Nevada, Reno to earn her bachelor's degree in health ecology with a minor in human development & family studies and a certificate in gerontology. Julia moved to Seattle in pursuit of her master's degree in health services administration with a focus on rural and underserved communities at the University of Washington. Additionally, she is a graduate of the Great Basin Public Health Leadership Institute and the state of Nevada’s Certified Public Manager program.
Julia has been with the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services since 2006, beginning her career as a health resource analyst and was later promoted as manager of the Office of Public Health Informatics and Epidemiology. She has held various leadership roles including deputy director of the Department of Health and Human Services, and she currently serves as deputy administrator of Community Health Services in the Division of Public and Behavioral Health.
During her public health career thus far, Julia has received several awards for her work, including the Dr. John E. Worden Award for excellence in public health from the University of Nevada, Reno and the Public Health Leader of the Year and Public Health Advocate of the Year from the Nevada Public Health Association. She lives with her husband and three children in Reno.
School of Social Work, Frank Cervantes '94 (social work)
As a fourth-generation Nevadan, the University of Nevada, Reno was a natural choice for Frank, and he earned his bachelor’s degree in social work with a minor in criminal justice. The School of Social Work’s curriculum coupled with his education in criminal justice laid the foundation of Frank’s professional philosophies, which he practices with youth and families.
After graduation, Frank accepted a part-time position at the Washoe County Department of Juvenile Services and then enrolled in the Northern Nevada Law Enforcement Academy. He graduated from the Academy in 1996 and began a new role as a probation officer for the department. Throughout his 26-year career at the Department of Juvenile Services, Frank progressed into leadership positions and he now serves as director of the department.
Over the years, Frank’s education has never lost its relevancy, particularly regarding the need for collaborative engagement of our community’s stakeholders. He has sought to develop partnerships that promote a unified approach to reduce and resolve the complex community-based issues that contribute to delinquent behavior. This has promoted Frank’s regular presence at the Nevada Legislature and his participation in concerted lobbying efforts to advance legislation to help reform the state’s juvenile justice practices. In addition, Frank participates in numerous task forces, has assumed advisory roles, served on various boards and commissions related to advancing the well-being of at-risk youth and works as an instructor at local and state law enforcement agencies.
Outside of work, Frank enjoys attending music and sporting events (GO PACK!), playing golf, and playing his guitar. He is also a dedicated father and husband.
The College of Business, Tom Burns '85 (finance)
As a Las Vegas resident since 1970, Tom ventured up north to Reno and completed his bachelor’s degree in accounting at Nevada. After graduation, Tom remained involved with the University and served a term as president of the Nevada Alumni Council as well as the Southern Nevada Alumni Chapter.
Tom started his career by attaining his certified public accountant designation with Deloitte and was hired as assistant corporate controller at United Gaming, the predecessor of Bally Gaming Technologies. Tom began working at Cragin & Pike, Inc. in 1991, became a shareholder in 1998, and was promoted as president of the company in 2010. Cragin & Pike is Nevada’s oldest independent insurance agency.
Tom’s professional involvement is extensive and he is proud to serve his local community. He has served as president and national director of the Nevada Independent Insurance Agents (NIIA) and was named NIIA’s Person of the Year in 2008. He is a previous board member of the Nevada Society of CPAs, Associated Builders and Contractors, Nevada Contractors Association, and Nevada State Emergency Response Commission. Tom was appointed and served on the Integrated Resource Planning Advisory Committee for the Southern Nevada Water Authority and currently serves on the Government Affairs Committee for the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce and the Nevada Subcontractor Association. He also serves as board chairman for the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce. Tom’s charitable endeavors include serving on the board of Make a Wish Southern Nevada and he formerly served as a board member of Habitat for Humanity. He is a member of Faith Lutheran High School’s Business Advisory Council.
Outside of work, Tom enjoys golfing, fishing, and spending time at his home in Incline Village. He has been married to his wife, Shelly, for 34 years and they have two children, JT and Megan.
University Libraries, Joseph Guild '69 (history)
Since he was a small boy, Joseph loved attending the University of Nevada sporting events with his father and always knew he would attend the University as a student. He graduated in 1969 with a bachelor’s degree in history, as well as an ROTC commission to serve in the Army. He served a tour in Vietnam from 1970-71 and shortly after returned home and began working in the cattle industry. Joseph also decided to keep with his family tradition of practicing law and became a third-generation lawyer in 1982 while still working on and off throughout his career. He still practices law and also holds another job as a ranch manager and these dual careers have brought him great professional and personal satisfaction.
Joseph has been honored to serve various leadership roles in cattle industry organizations, including a former president and “Cattleman of the Year” for the Nevada Cattlemen’s Association. He currently serves as treasurer of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. Outside of the cattle industry, Joseph has been a board member of the Nevada State Museum, the Desert Research Institute Foundation, and University Libraries. He also served as president of the Nevada Agricultural Foundation and is currently a member of the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology & Natural Resources Advisory Committee.
Outside of work, Joseph loves to ski, train his horses, travel, and spend time with his wife, Catherine, their five children, and six grandchildren. He is the proud author of a book on Nevada poetry and essays, and he has been a columnist for the Progressive Rancher magazine for over 20 years.
School of Medicine, Dr. Joseph Hollen '74 (premed), '76 M.D. (medicine)
After moving across the country several times with his family and eventually settling in Reno, Joseph decided to establish roots and completed both his bachelor’s and medical degrees at the University. He was very pleased with his Nevada education and it was a perfect option that allowed him to realize his career dreams in a cost-effective manner. Joseph is proud to have achieved his goal of staying in Reno for his education, building relationships, and returning after his residency to practice medicine and support the University.
Joseph’s career had an atypical evolution which led him to become a wealth advisor. After graduation and completing his residency, he worked as an emergency room physician for 23 years and served as president of the Northern Nevada Emergency Physicians at Renown Health. With a developing interest in the financial and business side of medicine as well as his own desire to learn more about personal finance, Joseph decided to leave his medical practice and became a certified financial planner in 2003. He sought to establish a client-centered, independent financial resource that previously hadn’t existed in Reno. In 2004, Joseph founded Open Window Financial Solutions, Ltd., a full-service financial planning firm, and he currently works as an investment advisor for the company. He also serves as investment advisor for the Washoe County Medical Society and the Nevada State Medical Association.
Joseph is passionate about excellent financial health because it contributes to overall health and well-being. He enjoys seeing the positive impacts his work has made on his clients and their families. Outside of work, Joseph enjoys spending time with his family, reading, and learning.