2011 Distinguished Alumni

In 2011, the NSU Alumni Association honored noteworthy alumni with the Distinguished Alumni & Philanthropist Award, the Gold Award, the Kretchman Coaching Award, and inducted former Wolves athletes into the NSU Hall of Fame.

Distinguished and philanthropist Alumni

Robert Beckman earned a B.S. in Mathematics and History Education from Northern State College in 1967. Following his parents' career in service to education, he then taught mathematics in South Shore, SD and Lake Benton, MN. With his limited teaching experience in secondary education, Robert realized a teaching career was not his calling, and in 1969 he accepted a payroll accounting position at West Publishing Company in St. Paul, MN. In 1978 he was named West's payroll manager, a position he held until his retirement in 1996. Robert is the recipient of this award because he has dedicated his life to philanthropic contributions to Northern and to his hometown Estelline, SD. Contributions to NSU include funds provided by Robert and his siblings that were used to purchase the Beckman Building located at 620 15th Avenue SE, which was named in honor of their parents William and Peryl Beckman.


In 1998 he established the largest ever endowment for scholarships to NSU students, which still remains one of the largest ever given by an individual. The Beckman Family Scholarship has impacted the lives of 612 students to date. In addition, this endowment provides the funds for the annual scholarship luncheon, which gives Northern's scholarship recipients the opportunity to meet the donors of those scholarships. The Beckman family also established an endowment that provides funds for Northern's president to use as will best serve the needs of the university. Beckman Field in Estelline was also constructed using funds provided by Robert and his siblings in honor of their parents. Beckman's contributions to the Estelline community were instrumental in the "Helping Hands" Award from South Dakota school administrators. The award recognizes a school district and their non-school community partner for their outstanding collaboration in implementing a successful program, project or activity that has generated significant local community involvement and positively impacted the education of children. A philanthropist at heart, Beckman splits his time between Las Vegas and Sioux Falls, SD.


Gold Award (graduate of the last decade)

Matt Daigle has loved art since he was a child. Having been born profoundly deaf, art was one of the few mediums that was accessible. When he was 12, his mother took him to a cartoon exhibit featuring Gary Larson's "The Far Side," and he knew instantly that he wanted to be a cartoonist but had no idea how to go about pursuing such a career. He decided to study Advertising Design at Northern and graduated with honors in 1999. In 2000, Matt fulfilled a lifelong dream to travel with the Tony Award-winning National Theater of the Deaf. After a year on the road, Matt was hired at Gallaudet University as an adjunct professor teaching Introduction to Graphic Design and Senior Professional Portfolio to deaf college students.


In 2002, Matt returned to South Dakota to work for Communication Services for the Deaf (CSD) as a multimedia manager. In 2003 Matt started "In Deaf Culture..." cartoons for SIGNews, a newspaper published by CSD for the signing community. While at CSD he won the Circle of Excellence Awards for his various outstanding artistic and design contributions to the corporation. In 2005, with the birth of his first child, Matt decided to start his own graphic design company, M The Graphix Guy, so that he could work from home. In 2006, Matt entered and won the International Breastfeeding Symbol contest. His design became known worldwide when a woman in Vermont was asked to disembark from a plane for breastfeeding her daughter. The incident made headlines all around the world and the icon immediately turned into a symbol of advocacy, and was featured on local news stations nationwide, including Fox News. In 2009, Matt published two humor books: "Adventures in Deaf Culture" and "Extreme Interpreting." In 2010, he started the very popular webcomic "That Deaf Guy," developed with his wife, Kay. His venture into webcomics has proven to be the perfect playground for his growing fan base and his love of cartooning. "That Deaf Guy" receives roughly 25,000 hits monthly and has been submitted to various syndications for representation. Matt currently lives in Burbank, CA, with his wife, Kay, and son, Hayden.


Kretchman Coaching Award

Robert Olson has ascended in the Northern State University athletics program and took his final step in the summer of 1999 as the former men's basketball coach took over for the retired Jim Kretchman as the school's athletic director. Like Kretchman, Bob Olson brought to the office a unique knowledge and experience of Northern athletics that can only come from being a former athlete, coach, instructor and administrator for the university. An Aberdeen native, Olson attended Northern in the mid-1970s and played collegiate basketball for legendary coach Bob Wachs. He earned a bachelor's degree in Teaching from Northern in 1977 and would return two years later to serve as a graduate assistant under Wachs while earning a master's degree in 1980.


When Coach Wachs retired, Olson was selected as Northern's 19th men's basketball coach in 1985. For the next 14 years, Olson led NSU teams to national prominence at the NAIA and NCAA II levels, compiling a 305-129 career record and coaching 27 all-conference players, five NAIA All-Americans, one NCAA II First-Team All-American and eight Academic All-Americans. NSU made five NAIA National Tournament appearances, making championship runner-up campaigns in 1994 and 1995. The program's success was seamless as Northern made the move up from the NAIA ranks to NCAA Division II for the 1995-96 season. The Wolves earned national post-season berths in their first four seasons under the new umbrella, highlighted by a North Central Region Championship and Elite Eight berth in 1997-98. Bob and his wife, Cheri, are the parents of daughter Stephie. Stephie and her husband, Tim Hanigan, have one son, Colton.


2011 Hall of Fame Inductees

Jennifer Seesz-Jones earned a B.S. in speech pathology and special education in 1995 and received her master's degree in special education from Western Oregon State University. A standout with the women's basketball team from 1991-95, Jennifer earned All-Conference honors in 1993-94 and 1994-95 and was on the All-Conference All-Academic team in 1995. She racked up an impressive 1,269 points and 576 rebounds during her collegiate career and served as co-captain in 1994-95. Her team was the NAIA national champion in both 1992 and 1994 and runner-up in 1993, earning a 64-1 Wachs Arena home court record and a national record for the most consecutive wins at 45. In Jennifer's four years at Northern, the basketball team's overall record was 119-15. She and her teammates were inducted into the NSIC Conference Hall of Fame in 2009.


Jennifer taught early intervention (EI ECSE), special education and speech therapy in the Scio School District, Philomath School District and the Corvallis School District. Jennifer is married to Shannon Jones and lives in Corvallis, OR with their three children: Carrson (10), Morgan (6), and Beau (3). Now a stay-at-home parent, she volunteers with the Boys and Girls Club, at Hoover Elementary School, and the Timberhill Athletic Club as a basketball coach. She is a coordinator of a new youth basketball academy in Corvallis and is a private speech and special education tutor.


Nichole (Hall) Wenz earned a B.S. degree in business administration and office systems in 2001. As a member of the track and field team from 1997-2001, Nichole was NSIC Conference outdoor MVP, Outstanding Freshman 1997-98, the team MVP in 2000-01 and is the current NSU record holder for discus at 154'4". She held the NSIC Conference record at 152'6" until 2009. A conference champion for discus and both indoor and outdoor shot put numerous times, Nichole was the recipient of the Hilde Wolfe award in 2000-01, and was an NCAA All-American in 1999 and 2000. Currently Nichole lives in Huron, SD, with her husband, Tim, and their children, Trace and Tryan. She works for the City of Huron Parks and Recreation Department.


Jay Kusler earned his B.S. in accounting from NSU in 1993, and became a certified public accountant in 1994. As a member of the men's basketball and baseball teams from 1989-1993, he was an All-American Scholar Athlete in 1992-93, received the NAIA district 12 Emil S. Liston Award in '92 and the NSIC Britton Award in '93, was NSU Male Athlete of the Year in '93 and was All Conference in baseball in '92. He and his teammates earned the NSIC championship in basketball and baseball in 1993 and the NAIA division II runner up in the '93 national tournament. The basketball team also made three national tournament appearances in 1990, 1991 and 1993 and held a 34-2 record in 1993. Jay is the business manager at Climate Control Inc. in Aberdeen, SD. He and his wife, Connie, have four children: Brianna, Brandon, Brooklyn and Braxton.


Brent Sheehan earned his B.S. in Education in 1999 and his M.S. in 2001 from NSU.  As part of the Northern football team Brent held records in receptions, yards received, kickoff and punt returns. He and his teammates were the conference champs in 1990 and 1992. Brent was named to the All-Conference team in 1992 and received All-American Honorable Mention that same year. Also a standout on the track and field team from 1989-93, Brent earned All-Conference honors seven times and was an All-American in 1992. He held records in the 100-meter dash and several relays for the indoor and outdoor seasons. Brent and his wife, Aimee, have three children and he lives in Austin, MN, where he is an educational specialist in the Austin school system.