Alumni Honorees 2021 | University of Northwestern, St. Paul
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Alumni Honorees 2021


All of our alumni are important but these honorees stand out in their leadership and contributions to the UNW community. Northwestern alumni honorees are recognized for making significant contributions to Northwestern and helping fulfill Northwestern's mission of giving God-honoring leadership in the home, church, community, and world.

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Distinguished Alumni Award:

Wilda Nybeck '49

Wilda Nybeck graduated from Northwestern in 1949. Both she and her sister went to Northwestern. Wilda grew up in a Christian home, but it was at Northwestern that she really made her faith her own. After college, she married a Christian man, and they had three kids together. The Lord eventually called Wilda to create a ministry to speak to different women’s groups about the power of God’s love in the midst of hardship. She was on the speaking circuit for many years.

When Wilda was in her late 50’s she got involved with missions work to Jamaica. For the next 30 years, she traveled to Jamaica with a mission’s team every year, ministering to the same community in Jamaica.

Wilda believes it is important to give back to Northwestern students, so they can continue on with the training that Northwestern provides them in equipping them to do God's work.

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Buckles-Hanna Service Award:

John Easterling, D.Miss., D.Min. '57

Professor of Intercultural Studies (1988–2020)

Dr. John Easterling served as Professor of Intercultural Studies at University of Northwestern – St. Paul for the past thirty-three years. Prior to his time at Northwestern, he served as a pastor, and missionary church planter for ten years with World Venture in France. 

During his time at Northwestern, Dr. Easterling led more than two dozen overseas Intercultural Studies trips with over 375 students serving with him in places including France, Israel, China, India, Japan, and Thailand. As a professor, advisor, and trip leader, Dr. Easterling has a reputation for detailed preparation and engaging his students in transformative experiences. Dr. Easterling exemplified the University of Northwestern – St. Paul mission to serve the Lord with all of his heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Education
D.Miss., Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
Diplomè, University of Paris IV (Sorbonne)
Diploma, Toronto Institute of Linguistics
D.Min., Fuller Theological Seminary
M.Div., Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary
B.A., Baylor University

Portrait of Jeremy Kolwinska

Music & Theatre Hall of Recognition:

Jeremy Kolwinska, D.M.A.

On Friday, March 13, 2020, University of Northwestern – St. Paul received the sad news that Dr. Jeremy Kolwinska, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dean of the College of Arts & Humanities, and former Chair of the Department of Music, passed away unexpectedly of cardiac complications. "Dr. Kolwinska was a man of deep faith, extraordinary talent, and incredible interpersonal skills,” remarked UNW President Dr. Alan Cureton; "His leadership was extensive.” UNW Provost Dr. Janet Sommers added, "Jeremy served as my right-hand administrator, ready and able to accomplish any task asked of him. But frequently, he didn’t need to be asked. He had the intuitive ability to identify and act on items that needed to be addressed even before I was aware of them. He made things better.”

That recognition echoed across campus. Students remembered his mentorship and genuine interest in them: “Dr. K made you feel important in the moments you shared together.” Staff and faculty praised his collaborative and caring spirit: “He cared about our flourishing.”

Jeremy’s service to others extended beyond Northwestern. He served his professional community through performing on trombone with the likes of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and Minnesota Orchestra. He served as a visiting evaluator for the National Association of Schools of Music. He served his church in the role of orchestra director. And, his FBI Citizens Academy graduation certificate held special meaning.

The Northwestern community remains keenly aware of the absence of this man of God. Jeremy left a legacy of helping equip others to lead well. Dr. Kolwinska is survived by his wife Joan and their two children, Owen and Erin.

Education
D.M.A., University of Minnesota
M.M., University of Nebraska
B.M., Bob Jones University

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Athletic Hall of Fame:

Matt Whittaker '02 – Men's Golf

  • 2, 3, 5, 6 individual lowest single round score (68, 69, 71, 72)
  • Career leader in Individual lowest average for 1 year (75) set in 2001
  • Second individual lowest career average (78)
  • 3rd most individual matches played in one season (12)
  • 9th most individual matches played in a career (35)

Matt Whittaker put together an impressive career on the UNW men’s golf team. He holds the individual lowest season average (75) set in 2001 and ranks 2nd in Individual lowest career average (78). He was just recently surpassed by Nick Mahowald and Michael Vowels, who hold a 77 career average. Whittaker was a four-year starter who made an impact each season, leading the Eagles to a 2002 UMAC Championship as a senior. He’s inked throughout the record book for individual lowest single rounds – holding the 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 6th lowest scores in UNW history.

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Athletic Hall of Fame:

David Knight '13 – Men's Tennis

Single Season bests

  • 75% singles winning percentage with an 18-6 record in 2013
  • 75% (18-6) & 72% (18-7) doubles winning percentage (2012, 2013)

Career Numbers

  • 44 singles wins in a career
  • 48 doubles wins in a career
  • 92 Career wins ranked him #2 all time (in just 3 seasons)

In just three seasons played with the Eagles due to graduating early and earning a full scholarship to the University of Iowa’s Dental School, David helped lead Northwestern to its first UMAC Tournament championship in 2011 in an exciting flighted event that came down to the wire! At the time of his early graduation his name was marked near the top in most every category in the Men’s Tennis record book. Knight was named All-UMAC First Team all three of his seasons and was the 2011 and 2013 UMAC Player of the Year. In 2019 David was also named to the 6-player UMAC All-Decade Team.

David Graduated Summa Cum Laude with a 3.99 GPA, was in the Northwestern Eagles Honors Program and was an NCCAA Scholar Athlete.

Together David and Megan have 2 children, Keona and Nadia, and live in Woodbury, MN where in 2019 David started an already successful dental practice, Knight Pediatric Dentistry. The impact by both Megan and David continues to ripple throughout the Men’s and Women’s Tennis programs here even all these years later. They are All-Americans in every sense of the word!

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Athletic Hall of Fame:

Megan (Johnson) Knight '15 – Women's Tennis

Single Season bests

  • 75% (21-7) & 74% (20-7) singles winning percentage (2015, 2014)
  • 80% (24-6) & 76% (16-5) doubles winning percentage (2015, 2013)

Career Numbers (All #1 all time at the time of her graduation)

  • 69 singles wins in a career
  • 71 doubles wins in a career
  • 140 combined wins in a career

Megan’s high character, leadership and work ethic set the tone for Northwestern's recent success in Women's Tennis when she led her squad to back-to-back regular season and tournament championships in 2014 and 2015. These two championships earned the team trips to the NCCAA National Tournaments in Mobile, AL after each season as well. During her four years, Megan was selected All-UMAC First Team each year and was the three-time UMAC Player of the Year (2013-15). Upon completion of her stellar career Megan was at the top of virtually every single season and career statistic in the record books. In 2019

Megan was named to the 6-player UMAC All-Decade Team 2019. She graduated Magna Cum Laude, was in the Eagle Honors Program and was both an NCCAA and ITA Scholar Athlete. Her senior year she was Northwestern’s Eagle Award Winner and the school’s nomination for the NCAA Woman of the Year.

Together David and Megan have 2 children, Keona and Nadia, and live in Woodbury, MN where in 2019 David started an already successful dental practice, Knight Pediatric Dentistry. The impact by both Megan and David continues to ripple throughout the Men’s and Women’s Tennis programs here even all these years later. They are All-Americans in every sense of the word!

Northwestern alumni honorees are recognized for making significant contributions to Northwestern and helping fulfill Northwestern's mission of giving God-honoring leadership in the home, church, community, and world. View award descriptions and nomination criteria.

Do you know someone who should be recognized for their service to Northwestern and fulfillment of Northwestern's mission? Nominate them!

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