In 2013, the NSU Alumni Association honored noteworthy alumni with the Distinguished Alumni Award and Kretchman Coaching Award, and inducted former Wolves athletes into the NSU Hall of Fame.
2013 Distinguished Alumni
Dr. Connie M. Westhoff, SBB, Ph.D., graduated summa cum laude from Northern in 1972 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Medical Laboratory Science. The second-oldest from a Salem, S.D. farm family of nine children, she financed her education with grants and work-study in the Northern Admissions and Records Office.
Her interest in Medical Sciences was inspired and fostered by mentors in biology and chemistry at Northern. She was a teaching assistant for the biology, microbiology, and genetics labs and fondly remembers taking breeding fruit flies for genetic experiments home at night to monitor and ensure the females remained virgins. "Northern nurtured my interest in the process of scientific discovery, and I was even given the opportunity to help write the biochemistry exam at the invitation of the professor, who was looking for another approach to reach students."
Connie worked in hospital laboratories in Aberdeen, St. Louis, and Lincoln, Neb., and received a specialist degree in blood banking and transfusion medicine. After her children reached school age, she returned to school and received a Ph.D. in molecular genetics from the University of Nebraska. Her research involved the discovery of the Rh blood group genes, well known as the Rh factor that is important in blood transfusion and pregnancy.
Dr. Westhoff did post-doctoral research in autoimmune disease, and in 1998 received a National Institutes of Health, Fellowship in Transfusion Medicine, at the University of Pennsylvania. During her research there, she was the first to demonstrate that in addition the role of Rh in blood transfusion, the biological function is to transport ammonia. She is also recognized as an expert in the genetics of blood groups. In 2006 she established the first laboratory for blood typing by DNA methods for the American Red Cross. In 2010 she assumed her present position as director of Immunohematology and Genomics at the New York Blood Center.
Dr. Westhoff's laboratory is unique in performing in-depth DNA analysis of blood types. Her expertise contributed recently to solving a high-profile, "cold" murder case in Los Angeles. Both the suspect and victim had Group O blood type, but Dr. Westhoff's laboratory was able to distinguish the rare Group O of the victim from the common Group O of the accused by using DNA blood typing. Although DNA analysis is used routinely in forensics, this case represented the first time it has been used to differentiate ABO blood types in evidence from a crime scene.
Her current research focus is on improved matching of patients with blood donors for blood transfusion, especially for minority patients with sickle cell disease. For this work she received a Doris Duke Innovations in Clinical Research Award. She also leads an initiative to develop a web-based system to provide electronic access to rare blood types for patients in need, funded by the Foundation for American Blood Centers.
Connie lectures nationally and internationally. Committees on which she has served include the Board of Directors of the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB) as chair of its Scientific Section; National Blood Foundation as chair of the Grants Review Committee; and numerous corporate scientific advisory boards. She also is a member of the American Association of Hematology and the International Society of Blood Transfusion. She maintains a faculty position at the University of Pennsylvania.
She has published more than 70 scientific papers and has authored numerous book chapters. She is an associate editor for the journal Transfusion, upcoming editor of the AABB technical manual, and a reviewer for numerous journals and abstracts for U.S. and international meetings in hematology and transfusion medicine. Her awards include National Blood Foundation Scholars award, John Elliott Memorial Award from AABB, and Katherine Beattie Award from the Michigan Association of Blood Banks.
Connie currently lives in Manhattan with her husband, Dwane Wylie, and between them they have four children and four grandchildren.
Kretchman Coaching Award
Don Meyer was born in Wayne, Neb., and was raised on a small farm. It was there that he learned the value of hard work and integrity from the example set by his parents. Both parents were very sports-minded, and family vacations consisted of going to baseball games and watching their children compete.
Don participated in basketball, baseball, and football during his high school years. He was recruited to play basketball and baseball at the University of Northern Colorado, where he is a member of their athletic Hall of Fame. He concluded his basketball career as a senior receiving NABC All-American honors. His baseball team fell short of a trip to the College World Series in 1965 after being defeated by the eventual national champion, Arizona State University. He concluded his baseball career with a 22-2 pitching record over three seasons of varsity baseball.
After receiving his undergraduate degree, Don was a graduate assistant in the baseball program at UNC while attaining a master's degree. He then taught and served as assistant basketball coach and head baseball coach at Western State College in Gunnison, Colo., for two years. Don moved on to the University of Utah, where he earned a Ph.D. degree while working as a graduate assistant in the basketball program.
In 1972, Coach Meyer joined Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn., as head basketball and head baseball coach. In his third season at Hamline, the basketball team reached the Elite 8 of the NCAA Division III men's national tournament.
In 1975, Coach Meyer was named the head basketball coach at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee. In his 24-year career at Lipscomb, his teams compiled a 665-179 record. Lipscomb teams attended 13 NAIA National Tournaments, winning the national title in 1986. They were involved in three Final Fours and two Elite Eight appearances. Two of the Lipscomb teams ended their seasons ranked #1, and the 1989-90 Bisons set a national record by winning 41 games. The two leading career scorers in college basketball both played at Lipscomb under Coach Meyer.
In August of 1999, Coach Meyer accepted the position of head basketball coach at Northern. During his 11-year tenure, the Wolves won 221 games. They enjoyed seven consecutive 20 or more win seasons. They led the nation in attendance four times, setting a school record for attendance of 71,024 for 15 games during the 2008-09 season. The Wolves competed in five NCAA men's basketball national tournaments.
On January 10, 2009, NSU's victory over the University of Mary provided Coach Meyer with his 903rd win and the top spot on the NCAA men's basketball career victories chart.
Due to health reasons, Coach Meyer retired at the end of the 2009-10 season with a record of 923 wins and 324 losses. In his 38 years as a head basketball coach, only one player who completed his eligibility in the program did not graduate.
Coach Meyer has taught at basketball clinics in almost every state in the USA and has done several clinics overseas. For 19 years, the Don Meyer Coaching Academy was one of the most popular opportunities for coaches to learn how to teach young people the game of basketball and life. Hall of Famers such as John Wooden, Pat Summitt, and Morgan Wootten were guest lecturers at the academy, along with many other nationally prominent coaches.
Coach Meyer produced a 30-DVD series entitled "Building a Championship Program." It is the highest-selling series of its kind for basketball coaches at every level. He also is the author of several books to help coaches and players in teaching and playing the game. Coach Meyer credits all of his players for their ability to demonstrate the fundamentals of the game properly and quickly for the success of the academy, DVDs, and books.
One of Coach Meyer's favorite times was conducting summer basketball camps for young boys and girls. His players learned to teach the game in camp, deal with the problems and the need for discipline that young people face, and serve as role models. It was a great learning experience for all the campers, parents, and coaches who were involved in the camps. While at Lipscomb University, the basketball camps were the largest in the country, and at NSU they were the largest in the upper central region.
In the fall of 2008, Coach Meyer was involved in a life-threatening car accident which resulted in the amputation of one leg and the subsequent diagnosis of inoperable cancer. He coached for two more years before his health would not permit him to coach any longer.
Among other similar recognition, Coach Meyer has been inducted into the South Dakota Hall of Fame and South Dakota Athletic Hall of Fame. The basketball courts at Northern and at Lipscomb University were named in his honor. He has received many national awards, including the Jimmy V. Perseverance Award at the 2009 ESPY Awards, the John Wooden Award at the 2010 Final Four, the John Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2010 Hall of Fame Inductions, and the 2012 James Naismith Outstanding Contribution to Men's Basketball Award. Coach Meyer is the subject of "How Lucky You Can Be," a book by Buster Olney of ESPN. Production is beginning for a movie about Coach Meyer's life.
Coach Meyer is presently a Regents Distinguished Professor at Northern and serves as an assistant to NSU President James Smith. He is in great demand as a motivational speaker and specializes in teaching his philosophy of servant leadership to schools, athletic teams, church groups, and businesses.
Don and Carmen Meyer are proud to have parented three children, Jerry, Brooke, and Brittney. They, in turn, have given Don and Carmen eight grandchildren to enjoy.
2013 HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES
Frank Birch earned a B.S. in Chemistry and Environmental Science from NSU in 1997. A standout with the football team from 1993-96, Frank earned Second Team All-NSIC honors in 1993 and 1994 as a defensive tackle. He was also a First Team All-NSIC selection in 1995 as a defensive tackle and in 1996 as an offensive tackle.
Off the gridiron, Frank was a national qualifier for the wrestling team in 1995 and won the NSIC heavyweight title that year. He is the only undefeated wrestler in the history of Northern State University, 3 and 0. Frank finished his career by becoming the first NSU football player to be selected to and play in the Snow Bowl, a Division II All-Star game held in Fargo in January, 1997.
Frank and his wife, Suzanne (Landreth), live in Byron, Minn., with their three children: Wesley, Lucas, and Francesca. He is a quality engineer for Crenlo in Rochester, Minn., and is the Troop Committee chair for Boy Scouts of America Troop 42.
A 4-year member of the Wolves' basketball team, Shari Kvistero ended her career as a member of NSU's elite 1,000-Point Club. With 1,180 points, she ranks 22nd on the all-time scoring list and is 14th on the rebounding list (647). Shari also holds NSU's single-season field goal percentage at 71 percent after going 73-for-105 during the 1993-94 season.
Shari was a First Team All-NSIC pick in 1997, her senior campaign. As a freshman, Shari was a member of NSU's NAIA national championship team in 1994, which marked the Wolves' third straight trip to the national title game. She also helped NSU to a 45-game win streak, including 32 straight, to end the 1993-94 season.
Shari and her husband, Aaron, reside with their twin boys in Sioux Falls, where she is a teacher. She is involved in church groups.
A native of Mitchell, S.D., Ryan Miller attended NSU from 1994-98, during which he was a two-time Northern Sun All-Conference and All-Academic selection. He currently ranks 10th on Northern State's all-time scoring list after leading his teams to four straight conference championships and the 1998 regional title. He was named a Div. II All-American and an All-Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Academic selection as a senior in 1997-98.
In the 1998 North Central Region Championship, Miller scored 45 points, making nine 3-pointers, leading Northern State to an 88-82 victory over in-state rival South Dakota State to advance to their first Elite 8 in Louisville, Ky. Miller was drafted into the CBA in 1999 and played professionally for the Fargo-Moorhead Beez of International Basketball Association that season.
Miller is an associate head coach on Coach Tony Barbee's staff at Auburn University and is in his fourth year coaching with Barbee. Miller, who spent two months at Missouri prior to coming to Auburn, coached the previous five years from 2007-12 as an assistant coach at New Mexico under head coach Steve Alford. He was a part of the most successful five-year period in New Mexico basketball history, helping the Lobos to a 126-46 record, five consecutive postseason appearances and a pair of NCAA Tournament berths. New Mexico won two regular season Mountain West Conference Championships and one MWC Tournament Championship during his coaching stint.
Considered one of the top recruiters in the country, Miller has contacts throughout the United States and foreign countries including Australia, where he played competitively.
He was a basketball operations assistant at Memphis under head coach John Calipari from 2004-06. During Miller's three years at Memphis, the Tigers went 78-28 and made three postseason tournament appearances, including two NCAA Tournament berths. Miller spent one year as an assistant coach at Pepperdine before joining the New Mexico staff prior to the 2007-08 season.
Miller graduated from Mitchell Senior High where he was a two-time all-state selection, leading Mitchell to the 1994 state championship. His brother, Mike, is a 12-year NBA veteran who won the 2012 NBA Championship with the Miami Heat.
Jami Jo Fiechtner earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Northern in 1997. At NSU, Jami participated in cross country, indoor track, and outdoor track. She is a nine-time All-NSIC performer, earning five certificates on the track and four in cross country, becoming the first NSU female athlete to earn four straight all-conference honors in cross country. Jami paced NSU's 4x880-yard relay team to a seventh-place finish at the NAIA national championships in 1995, and finished her career as a four-time NSIC individual champion.
Jami earned All-Midwest Region honors in cross country in 1994, and was NSU's Hildred Wolf Outstanding Athlete (Senior Female Athlete of the Year) award winner as a senior in 1996. Through the course of her career, Jami led the Wolves to two Midwest Region championships and a berth in the national championships field. She was also a member of two NSIC champion track and field teams and two runner-up finishes. NSU was ranked as high as 10th in the nation in track and field during that run. Jami also helped pace the Wolves to a trio of runner-up finishes on the cross country course.
Off the field, Jami was named an NSU Honor Athlete twice and earned NAIA Scholar All-America honors in 1995. A nine-time NSIC All-Academic selection, Jami was voted as the MVP of the cross country squad in 1992 and co-MVP in 1994 and 1995. Additionally, she was included in Leader of the Pack and Who's Who Among College and Universities nominees.
Jami is a lieutenant commander in the United States Navy and works as an internal medicine physician at Naval Hospital Jacksonville, where she also is the department Head of Internal Medicine.
Jami has been a 14-year member of the American Legion Post #11 and contributed a year of volunteer service to Open Door Free Clinic. She has been a member of the Minnesota Academy Physician Assistants; volunteer preceptor for physician assistant students; and guest lecturer on a multitude of topics in primary care.
A veteran of Operation: Iraqi Freedom, Jami held the rank 1st Lieutenant in the U.S. Army, and has an Army commendation medal and an Army Achievement Medal. She was also recognized during her service in the army for excellence in physical fitness. In 2008, she graduated from Medical School at Des Moines University on a United States Navy Scholarship. She did her residency training in Internal Medicine at Naval Medical Center San Diego in San Diego. In her first post-graduate year of medical trainging, she recieved the "Towering Interno Award" for the intern whose performance best demonstrates humanism in patient care, academic accomplishments and commitment to Navy core values. She served as the internal medicine chief of residents for the 2011-2012 academic year and received the Captain John Mitas Achievement Award for her contributions to the Naval Medical Center Internal Medicine Residency Program and received a Navy Achievment Medal.
She lives in Jacksonville, Fla., with her spouse, Kelley, who is a major in the United States Army Reserves.