2018 Distinguished Alumni

Every year, the NSU Alumni Association honors noteworthy alumni with the Distinguished Alumni Award and Kretchman Coaching Award, and inducts former Wolves athletes into the NSU Hall of Fame.

Distinguished Alumni

Bryan DeBatesBryan DeBates serves as vice president-education for the Space Foundation at its world headquarters and Discovery Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He oversees the Foundation’s global education programs as well as the Discovery Center which features unique education labs such as the Northrop Grumman Science Center featuring Science On a Sphereâ, the Battelle Underwater Drone Lab, and the Lockheed Martin Education Activity Center which houses the AGI Space Missions Simulation Lab and the Mars Robotics Lab.

DeBates graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education from Northern in 1993. While at Northern, DeBates played football earning First Team All-Conference honors as a free safety, was named an NAIA Division II All-America Scholar-Athlete and played on two conference championship teams in 1990 and 1992. He was also on the track team, served as president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and was a homecoming royalty finalist. He earned a master’s degree with honors in Space Science Education Leadership from Regis University, Denver in 2006. DeBates taught four years in Ipswich, SD and nine years in San Antonio, TX before going to work for the Space Foundation in 2006.

During his 12 years at the Space Foundation, its STEM education programs have impacted and inspired over 1 million students around the world. DeBates has been honored for his achievements in education through numerous awards, including being named the 2014 recipient of the prestigious Frank J. Malina Astronautics Medal, the highest international award given for aerospace education; Time Warner Cable’s National Crystal Apple Award; Texas A&M’s Educators Shape the Future Award; the Air Force Association’s Colorado Medal of Merit; and a citation in the National Congressional record for his contributions to education.

He resides in Colorado Springs with his wife Jennifer, a 1990 graduate of Aberdeen Central, and his three-year-old daughter, Teagan.

“I am deeply honored and grateful to be receiving this award and to join the long line of distinguished alumni from NSU who have helped shape its rich history,” DeBates said. “I hope my story inspires others at Northern to believe that an education here can propel them to change lives around the world.”

Carolyn ThompsonCarolyn Thompson, a 1991 NSU graduate with degrees in accounting and management, is a public speaker and author of the book “Cutting to the Core: Finding What Matters Most Through the Eyes of a Survivor in Life & Business.” She is the founding attorney of Thompson Law P.C., a firm in Sioux Falls that is solely dedicated to estate planning and business succession.

Thompson earned her Juris Doctorate from the University of South Dakota in 1995 and became a partner at Boyce Murphy Law Firm, then opened Thompson Law, P.C. in 2003.  Located in Sioux Falls, Thompson Law holds the sole membership for South Dakota, and parts of Iowa and Minnesota in the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, a national organization focused on serving the needs of estate-planning attorneys and helping them deliver the highest possible service to their clients.

Thompson’s firm strives to positively impact families for generations to come. Carolyn doesn’t just talk about estate plans, she practices what she preaches – before she was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia and given just weeks to live, she had already done as much planning as she could by finishing her annual estate plan review. After that, she put the rest of the planning into her “perfect Papa’s hands.”



Thompson, who now travels speaking about her journey through life and business, will also deliver NSU’s spring commencement address on May 5 at the Barnett Center.

“I can still recall when Admissions Counselor Barry Samsula adorned our high school to talk about Northern State University. How I remember his name, I’m not sure, perhaps because his talk changed my college trajectory and clearly made an impact on me. When I made the college visit, I knew I was home,” Thompson said. “The security I felt at NSU would do me well as I was leaving my cozy hometown of Parkston, S.D. I was blessed to have several key professors who took an interest in my future. It was with their guidance that my interest in law school was sparked. Fortunately they also advised me to take (and pass) the CPA exam. That served me well, but over the years, I discovered that the truth of who I am is that I am an entrepreneur with the heart of a teacher who happens to practice law, serving people around the region to design their estate plans. I have been blessed to meet thousands of people who have shared with me and my fellow attorneys their dynamic stories and countless life lessons. So thank you, Northern State University, for this great honor and for allowing me to be me, and then fostering an environment where that ‘me’ could keep evolving into a better me, hopefully leading a life of positive impact just so many, many people have positively impacted my life.”

Thompson is founding board member of the Museum of Visual Materials in Sioux Falls, a founding board member of the Stockyard Ag Plaza, a board member on Avera Foundation & Avera precision Oncology, a board member of New Haven Ministries, and has attended and supports missions work in Guatemala for St. Angelina orphanage.

Thompson lives in Brandon, SD with her three children.

Dr. Rochelle NolteDr. Rochelle Noltea 1992 NSU graduate with degrees in Biology and Environmental Science, has spent several years working as a physician with the U.S. Public Health Service.  Her awards have included being recognized by the United States military with the PHS Commendation Medal, Special Assignment Award, Presidential Unit Citation, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Crisis Response Service Award, and the Army Achievement Medal.

"I could go on and on about my experiences with Northern's Biology and Chemistry departments and the wonderful faculty that launched me out into the world. Where else could a shy undergrad student have professors like Lynn Hodgson, Sam Gingrich, and Susan Landon-Arnold as mentors and advisors who knew me by name starting as a freshman? In the upper level classes, we frequently had small groups taught by full professors in a setting that most students would not get to experience until graduate school.

The faculty cared about what all of us wanted to do after graduation and helped ensure that all of us were well prepared for what we were about to do next (medicine, physical therapy, optometry, microbiology, chemistry, ornithology, research position at NIH---as a class we had varied goals). When I was applying to medical school, I had personal letters of recommendations from the faculty, including the department head, who could honestly say she had known me well for 4 years. Students from larger universities had standardized form letters, sometimes signed by people they had never met or had as an instructor.

“I think Northern's roots as a teacher's college ensured that all of us received a well-rounded education. I don't know that I would have had the wisdom to take as many courses in the arts, literature, history and physical education or realize the importance of studying these topics when I was 18 years old. That is not something I appreciated until I was older.

Even within the biology department, we were encouraged to take a wide variety of courses ---- I never would have taken botany without encouragement, nor would I have signed up for a course in public health on my own, which was taught by CAPT Jim Lawson of the US Public Health Service. I had never heard of the PHS before, but CAPT Lawson taught me about it and I joined right after I graduated from Northern. It has been the most incredible career that I still enjoy today. Northern opened a door to a career that I had no idea existed and has amazing beyond my wildest dreams." -Rochelle Nolte, MD, Class of '92

Rochelle lives in San Diego, CA with her husband Matthew and two children.

Christopher MaunuChristopher Maunua 2003 graduate of Northern State University, has been Director of Choral Activities at Arvada West High School in Colorado since 2006.  Prior to that, he served as the Head Choral Director at two schools, as well as a professor at Doane College and Peru State College.  He received his Master of Music in Vocal Performance 2005 from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Maunu has grown the school’s choral program into a large, robust and high-achieving musical destination, resulting in nationwide recognition of his choral program. Most recently, Arvada West Choir was named one of nine semi-finalists for the 2017-2018 AMERICAN PRIZE in Choral Performance. Also, they were invited to perform at the 2017 American Choral Director’s Association National Conference, which is the most prestigious honor for a choir of any level in the United States. In fact, Manu’s choir was one of only three high-school level choirs selected to perform alongside choirs from Europe, Asia, and South America. Also, his program is only the third high school in Colorado history to be invited to perform for the ACDA.

Choirs under Mr. Maunu's direction are in demand all over the United States and internationally. He and his ensembles have performed in Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, Orchestra Hall in both Chicago and Minneapolis, as well as High Mass at St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican in Rome and High Mass at St. Mark's Basilica in Venice. In Colorado, his ensembles have been invited to perform with the Colorado Symphony, Colorado Ballet, and many other professional organizations.

In 2012 Maunu was awarded the Jefferson County Public Schools Exemplary Performance Award and in recognition of his magnificent efforts and successes as an educator, Mannu was selected as a finalist for the 2018 Music Educator Award at the 60th GRAMMY Awards out of thousands of educators across the United States. This prestigious honor is presented by the Recording Academy and Grammy Museum to recognize current educators who have made a significant and lasting contribution to the field of music education.

Maunu is a published author and has presented numerous workshops and clinics at conferences with both associations on the topics of men's choir recruitment, music program building, and repertoire. Nearly 200 Arvada West students have been accepted into All State Choir under Maunu's tutelage, including 34 in each of the last two years - the most of any school in Colorado.

Chris recently hosted the Northern State University Chamber Singers on their recent tour to Colorado. They presented a joint concert, as well as hosted a residency at Arvada West HS with the NSU students and Dr. Timothy Woods.

"Singing is one of the most vulnerable activities that exists. We create sound from within our bodies and share it, opening ourselves up to judgment and criticism. My goal as a choir director is to help my students to develop courage through singing and becoming vulnerable, authentic human beings.

Northern was a terrific place for me to grow in this respect. When I arrived at NSU, I didn’t have a great deal of confidence as a performer, much less as a future teacher. The faculty welcomed me, gave me opportunities to perform, and helped me gain the confidence necessary to be successful in the music field. I am forever grateful." --Chris Maunu, Class of 2003

Chris currently lives in Arvada, CO with his wife Aleisha and children.

Kretchman Coaching award

Dale McElhanyDale McElhany graduated from NSC with a Bachelor of Science in education in 1962. He was a football and wrestling student-athlete for the Wolves from 1959 to 1962. McElhany taught high school math and coached football, wrestling, and track and field in South Dakota and Wyoming over the course of his career. He is the president of the Watertown Education Association and was inducted into the S.D. Hickory Stick organization as an outstanding educator. McElhany is a member of the S.D. Wrestling Coaches Hall of Fame, winning the state championship in 1968. He founded and directed SDAAU wrestling from 1968 to 1972, nurturing the program to over 7,200 participants. As the head football coach at Watertown, McElhany won five ESD Championships and was twice named the South Dakota Football Coach of the Year and South Dakota Sportswriters Coach of the Year. He also added three conference championships and one state championship as an assistant coach in both wrestling and football. He resides in Watertown with his wife, Donna, who is a 1960 graduate of NSC, and has three children and nine grandchildren.

Hall of fame inductees

Melissa (Gamble) HagginsMelissa (Gamble) Haggins graduated from NSU with her Bachelor of Science in physical education in 2007. She was a member of the Wolves soccer team from 2003 to 2006, leading the team in multiple categories each season. Haggins was a four-time NSIC All-Conference first team selection, the 2003 NSIC Newcomer of the Year and a 2004 NSIC All-Tournament team performer. She holds the single season school record for shots on goal, and career records for points, goals and shots on goal. In addition, Haggins sits top-10 in assists, goals per game and shots attempted. In regards to the NSIC record books, she is second all-time in goals per game and third all-time in scoring. She resides in Calgary, Alberta, with her husband, Ward, and their son, Nixon.

Eric LonghenryEric Longhenry graduated from NSU in 2003 with a Bachelor of Arts in criminal justice and sociology. He was a member of the track and field and football teams at Northern State. Longhenry is arguably the most notable multi-event athlete in track and field history, as the record holder in the indoor pentathlon (3,819), indoor heptathlon (5,141) and outdoor decathlon (6,880). He was a 14-time NSIC All-Conference performer and two-time NSIC MVP. He was also a 12-time NSIC conference champion in the  indoor high jump (2000, 2001), pentathlon (2000, 2001) and  55m  hurdles (2002); and the outdoor decathlon (2000, 2002, 2003), 11Om hurdles (2002), 400m hurdles (2002, 2003), and the  4x400m relay  (2003). Longhenry earned All-American status in the decathlon at the 2003 NCAA Div II National Outdoor Championships finishing 8th, after placing tenth at the USATF National Indoor Championships earlier that year. He was named the South Dakota Sportswriters Men's Collegiate Athlete of the Year in 2003. He resides in Castle Rock, Colo., with his wife, Stephania, and their two children.

Noelle (Hall) BerganNoelle (Hall) Bergan graduated from NSU in 2008 with a Bachelor of Science in finance. She was a member of the Wolves women's basketball team from 2004 to 2008. Bergan is third all-time on the career scoring list with 1,691 total points, and fourth in career rebounds with 937. She sits top-10 all-time in single season points scored, field goals made, field goals attempted, rebounds, rebounds per game, and blocked shots. In addition, she sits top-S on the career lists for scoring average, rebounding average, field goals made, field goal percentage, and blocked shots average. Bergan was a four-time NSIC All-Conference center for the Wolves. She resides in Westport with her husband, Eric, and their three children: Rinlee, Emmett and Maddux.

Baron BlanchardBaron Blanchard graduated from NSU with a Bachelor of Science in elementary education in 2004. He was a member of the Wolves wrestling team, competing at 285 pounds. Blanchard finished his career as a two-time NCAA All-American and four-time national qualifier. He was an NWCA Scholar Athlete as well as a four-time NSIC Conference Champion and four-time NSIC All-Conference first team selection. Blanchard was named the NSU team MVP in both 2003 and 2004, where he finished third at the national tournament in his final season. Northern won the NSIC Conference Championship in his sophomore campaign, their first in over 15 years. Blanchard was awarded the NSU Clark Swisher Award and NSIC Britton Scholar Athlete Award in 2004. He is a member of the Wolves wrestling 30-win season and 100-win career clubs. Off the mat, Blanchard was an NSU student-athlete mentor (2000-04), new student orientation leader (2002-05), NSU Student Association President (2002-03), and a charter member of the "Baseline Bandits." He resides in Bismarck, N.D., with his wife, Kylie, and their children: Bayne, Bria and Brek.

The 1969 football team won Northern's 24th conference championship in the sport, going 9-0 in their first season under the direction of Jim Kretchman. The Wolves finished the season ranked No. 12 in the NAIA national poll, while Kretchman earned District 12 Coach of the Year honors. The team is just one of four in Northern State history to go undefeated. Northern tallied wins over Valley City State, Eastern Montana, Black Hills State, Dakota State, Southern State, South Dakota Tech, Dakota Wesleyan, Huron College and Kearney State. The 64-19 victory over Black Hills State held the single game school record for points scored for 43 years. Gordon Groos earned All-American honors that season as a defensive tackle, defensive end and tight end.

1969 Football Team