Doane holds Alumni Awards Banquet to end Homecoming Week
Doane University hosted its annual Alumni Awards Banquet on Sunday, October 13 to recognize nine alumni award winners. The event put a bow on the 2019 Together as Tigers Homecoming week at Doane, which saw hundreds of alumni return to campus throughout the week.
Below are a list of the 2019 Alumni Award winner recipients:
Platt Music Award -- Joann Snitily Couton ’74
Joann Snitily Couton ’74 has built quite the legacy in Wahoo, Nebraska.
Born and raised in Wahoo, Couton graduated from Bishop Neumann High School in 1970. Couton had an interest in pursuing a degree in music education in college, and her band director suggested she visit Doane College in Crete.
“The college band director at the time, James Mabry, drove to Wahoo one evening and visited with my parents and I at the high school, answering many of our questions,” Couton said. “I felt like Doane wanted me to come to Crete. It was that feeling that drew me there.”
Couton studied Music Education at Doane, graduating with her bachelor’s degree in 1974. She met the love of her life, Bob Couton ’87L, while the two were attending Doane. Bob entered the workforce after three years at Doane and then returned to Doane a decade later to finish his bachelor’s degree at Doane’s Lincoln campus. Joann and Bob went on to have three children, two of which also attended Doane -- Dr. Julie Couton Garai ’11 and Krista Couton ’15.
Joann says she remembers postcards and phone calls from Dr. Jay Gilbert and Dr. Kurt Runestad in Doane’s Music Department inviting her children to visit campus, sit in on a rehearsal, and be a part of activities such as the Honor Band and Honor Choir Festivals.
“For Julie and Krista it was the feeling of Doane inviting them to be a part of the family that drew them to attend Doane,” she says.
After graduating from Doane, Joann saw her dreams become a reality. She taught music at Exeter High School in Exeter, NE for two years, taught at Raymond Central High School in Raymond, NE for three years, and finished her career teaching at Bishop Neumann High School, where she taught for 33 years.
“You never stop learning,” Couton says. “You sometimes learn as much from your students as they learn from you.”
While teaching at Bishop Neumann HS, Couton led the Bishop Neumann Elementary/Junior High Music Contest for 25 years, directed the Bishop Neumann National Anthem Singers in a performance at the College World Series in Omaha in 2006 (as well as multiple State Championship games), and directed bands that consistently received excellent and superior ratings at state, district, and local competitions.
Couton has received a number of accolades for her work, including receiving the Nebraska State Bandmasters Donald A. Lentz Award in 2014, the Nebraska State Bandmasters Association (NSBA) Academic Excellence Award for 14 consecutive years, and the Howard Hansen Award from Wahoo Chamber of Commerce in 2005.
Couton was also a staff member for the 2005 and 2009 Nebraska Ambassadors of Music European Tours and served on the Executive Board of the Nebraska State Bandmasters for 15 years.
Couton enjoys traveling and spending time with family and friends during her retirement. Her oldest son Robert is a project manager in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, her daughter Julie is a statistics professor at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, and her youngest daughter, Krista, is an elementary music teacher at Huntington Elementary in Lincoln. Bob, her husband of 34 years, passed away in 2010.
The Platt Music Award is presented to a Doane graduate for outstanding achievement in music, selected by Doane’s Music Department. For Couton’s numerous contributions to music in Nebraska, she is very deserving of this award.
“It’s an honor to receive the Platt Music Award from a place that has played such an important role in my life,” Couton says. “My family and I will continue to hold Doane University in a very special corner of our hearts.”
Educator of the Year Award -- Erin Kraus Meyers ’96
Erin Meyers '96 describes a conversation with Doane University's Professor Daniels as the point where she found her belief and understanding of cognitive dissonance in education.
"The conversation Professor Daniels had with me, became a pivotal point in my development as a lifelong learner and forced my philosophy of education,” Erin says. “It was not until that day in Professor Daniels' class that I truly began to embark on my own self-directed learning path."
As an educator, Erin knows there are factors she cannot control. However, she sees her job as dedicated to the WHOLE child and their academic, physical, social, and emotional needs. Her dedication to creating relationships with colleagues, students, and their families is what sets her apart as a teacher.
"The secret to success in the classroom is building relationships and living an authentic life,” she says. “I want to enjoy a world where people continually learn, celebrate diversity, and work with pride and dedication."
After graduation, Erin Meyers worked as a general and special education teacher for Kindergarten through First Grade, for almost two decades. In 2015, she was appointed Team Leader for Fairmont Elementary's 4th Grade Professional Learning Community (PLC). During her first year in this role, she brought significant change, and student literacy went up for the first time after a 15-year decline.
Dr. Jodie Owens-Kristenson, Fairmont Area's Literacy Coordinator, attributes this progression to Erin's leadership and encouragement.
"Overcoming 15 years of negative growth is a strong indication of Erin's capacity to build collective efficacy in her colleagues, resulting in real student achievement," Owens-Kristenson says.
With humor and wisdom guiding her, she has brought about effective teaching strategies and creates an inviting atmosphere for students that focuses on growing and learning.
Consistently making her individual students' needs a priority, Erin adopts whatever practice would best help each student succeed. A parent of a former student reveals how her son had been struggling in school, no longer wanting to attend and coming home with frustrated tears. That changed when he was placed in Erin's classroom.
"Mrs. Meyers would take the time to talk to my son and find out what was really going on,” the parent said. “In his words, Mrs. Meyers' understands me' and 'just gets me.'"
Both parents and teachers have gushed about Erin's passion, drive, and determination to not only teach her students but develop them as individual learners and thinkers. She consistently strives to be the best she can be and passes that energy along to both students and colleagues. She includes parents on their child's learning and development, holding everyone accountable in a non-judgemental and strategic way.
Pam Brolsma, a first-grade educator of the Fairmont Area Schools, was on the interview board for Erin.
"As we interviewed her, she seemed too good to be true,” Pam said. “But she proved quickly that she is the real deal!"
Due to her efforts as a teacher, mentor, and leader, in special and general education; Erin Meyers embodies the spirit of Minnesota's Teacher of the Year Award and is a Doane Alum worthy of celebration and distinction.
Young Alumni Award -- Dr. Paulvince Otieno Obuon ’08, ’11E, ’19DE
Honor D Award -- Douglas Estrada ’89
Doug Estrada ’89 might not have envisioned a career in supply chain management after graduating from Doane University 30 years ago, but his first job after college with ABF Freight System in Chicago has opened many doors for him since, giving him a long, successful career in the industry.
Estrada joined ABF Freight Systems in 1990 and was promoted to various positions with ABF around the country in the 90s. He was named District Manager in El Paso, Texas in 1999, where he supported cross border operations.
In January 2002 Estrada joined the Walmart Stores supply chain group as a Regional Transportation Manager overseeing transportation operations for Walmart in Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Estrada had a brief international deployment in Central America for Walmart in 2006, when he set up transportation operations in Costa Rica, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala.
Upon his return from Central America, Estrada was promoted to Director of Grocery Transportation. In this role, Estrada oversaw grocery transportation operations, negotiating and managing third party carrier contracts from the Walmart Distribution Centers to stores.
In 2014, Estrada received another promotion, this time being named Senior Director II Regional Transportation. In this role he oversees all outbound and inbound transportation operations, maintenance, and safety for 12 grocery and general merchandise distribution centers in the Great Lakes area of the country. This includes overseeing 1200 Walmart private fleet drivers, 400 third party carrier drivers, and seven full truck maintenance facilities.
In addition to his career as an accomplished senior executive in the retail, logistics, and supply chain industries, Estrada also serves as a board member on the Washington D.C. Police Foundation, is a private sector advisor for the National Motor Freight Carriers Association (NMFCA), and is a member of the Penn State University Military Appreciation Board.
At Penn State University, Estrada helps organize the military appreciation tailgate at a Penn State football game each year. This is the largest military appreciation event in the Big Ten Conference as over 10,000 veterans and their families are fed before the game. Over 500 volunteers help cook and serve food at the tailgate.
Estrada passion for giving back to the community is also seen in his efforts with the Washington D.C. Police Foundation and his involvement as a volunteer Director of Coaching for Bentonville Prodigy Football Club, a youth soccer organization.
As a board member with the Washington D.C. Police Foundation, Estrada supports the enrichment and development of inner city youth in the area. Some examples of his charitable efforts include helping build an outdoor classroom for inner city schools, help organize backpack drives, develop a Christmas “Shop with a Cop” event with Walmart and the Washington D.C. Police Department, and delivering 300 Thanksgiving dinners to inner city youth who otherwise would not have a meal.
Estada first got involved with youth soccer as a coach for his daughter’s team, the Northwest Arkansas Lightning 95. The girls won seven consecutive Arkansas state titles and 12 of the players from that team went on to play soccer collegiately. In 2017, Estrada was asked to join Prodigy FC as the director of coaching and coach of the 03 Prodigy boys. In just two years, Estrada has grown the program from one team of 18 players to seven teams with 130 players in total.
The Honor D award is presented to a former Doane athlete who has distinguished themselves by outstanding service in their life’s work. Please join us in congratulating Mr. Estrada for receiving this award for his numerous contributions to his community.
Exceptional Service Award -- William Kerber ’76
Bill Kerber has always been an athlete. Long focused on health and performance, it was Doane’s strong athletic tradition that originally attracted Bill to Crete.
“As I was looking at schools & talking it over with coaches, Doane seemed to fit me and my needs Athletically,” Bill says. But he understood the importance of seeking a well-rounded education. No one lives by athletics alone.
“In further talking with Doane Administrators, especially Al Papik, I also realized that Doane was highly regarded academically which, I felt, made it more attractive for me to attend.”
Bill, like so many other Tigers over the 147 years of Doane’s existence, found something special on the Crete campus. He found a small, close, tightly-knit community of peers and professors focused on his development and success. And despite only knowing them all for a short time, they made a huge impact on the rest of Bill’s life.
“After coming to Doane, I knew that I had made the right decision and after only being there a short time, it gave me insight as to what I wanted to do and accomplish after leaving Doane,” Bill says. “The faculty, alumni, teammates, and classmates were influential in helping me to make my decision.”
Upon leaving Doane, Bill worked in the construction industry for many years. Along with his professional pursuits he tried multiple avenues to continue with athletics. Ultimately he found his place and purpose as a coach, trainer, and mentor to young people, helping them to become better athletes and develop lifelong values.
“During the time leading up to my retirement, I volunteered with numerous community activities which included coaching, mentoring, and running youth camps,” Bill says. That led me to getting hired at a local high school as a coach and a strength and conditioning trainer.”
Bill did the work of building young athletes at the high school level while still working in the construction industry. He retired from this career early to care for his elderly mother, but continues to work with high school athletes
“I love working with all of the young student athletes and helping them move on to the next level,” he says.
His work has not been without challenges. Bill has struggled with prostate cancer late in life, but is happy to say it is in remission. He feels indebted to the support of his family during his ordeal.
“I feel very thankful and grateful for my wife, Cheryl, my two sons, my grandchildren, and also my two sisters and brother for all their encouragement.”
Bill Kerber has led a lifetime of service to young athletes. He embodies the community spirit of Doane and the ruggedness of its athletic programs, and is a worthy recipient of Doane’s Exceptional Service award.
Exceptional Service Award -- Todd Ehrke ‘07
Todd Ehrke learned at a young age that serving others should be a priority in life. The willingness to help others was an integral part of growing up in a small town, and that same feeling was a big part of what brought Todd to Doane. His brother, Nic, was already a Tiger when he invited Todd for a visit. Once he arrived on campus, it was evident that the culture at Doane was special because of the close-knit community.
Campus felt like a second home. Todd at once noticed and appreciated how caring and helpful the Doane faculty and staff were. He remembers that great people like Nurse Kelly Jirovec, Dallas Underwood, and Pat Bohling were always there to help add a sense of security and comfort.
While at Doane, Todd double-majored in Information Systems & Technology and Business with a minor in Graphic Design. Along with his studies he was an orientation leader, a member of Phi Beta Lambda honor society, Martin Investment Club, the Doane Tech Help Desk, and Homecoming royalty.
Through Doane’s internship program during his sophomore year, Todd worked for Lincoln company ITI. He says this opportunity helped him learn about the corporate world and the value of a great company culture. He remembers professors like Deryl Merritt, Mark Meysenburg, Alec Engebretson, JL Vertin, and Patrick Stone, all of whom encouraged him to think unconventionally and be proactive in the business world. He says a valuable lesson was that failure isn’t always bad as long as you learned from the experience and made adjustments to strive for success going forward.
Doane gave Todd the opportunity to become involved with Sigma Phi Theta fraternity, an affiliation he has maintained ever since. He says that through Sigma Phi Theta and Greek life in general, he developed great friendships that still hold strong today.
These binding ties proved strong for Todd, and he continues to Earn His Shield to this day as a Sigma Phi Theta Board Trustee. This board is a very active alumni scholarship association, continually building their endowment to allow them to award substantial scholarships on an annual basis. Their organization has consistently awarded thousands of dollars to deserving recipients over its lifetime, and Todd is a key person in the association.
He coordinates regular “Thank-a-thons” so students can call alumni to thank them for participating in the organization. These interactions also keep students apprised of what’s going on with alumni in the “real world,” and keep alumni up-to-date on what’s going on on-campus.
In 2015 Todd was asked by Doane President Jacque Carter to be part of the new Inter-Greek Alumni Association. The IGAA exists as an umbrella organization for Doane’s Greek system to help link together Doane students, the Student Affairs Office, and alumni. Together with other IGAA members, Todd spent countless hours putting together a constitution for the group, helping focus the goals for the organization and sharing that with the Greek system at Doane.
Clearly, and with a spirit of Exceptional Service, Todd has poured his heart and soul into his own Greek organization, and has worked for the betterment of the entire Greek system at Doane. He has a passion for making Doane’s Greek community stronger.
“Serving alongside representatives from all Doane Greek organizations has been a great experience,” he says. “It has provided an overall understanding of the health of the Greek system today and what alumni can do to help it thrive in the future. The Greek community of Doane is unique and special.”
Since graduation Todd worked nearly 10 years with employee engagement company Kenexa (now an IBM affiliate through acquisition), and currently works at the Lincoln office of Glint, where he manages the Glint Site Reliability Engineering team. He is thankful to have the privilege to work with such a talented group of people.
Todd is married to fellow Doane alumnus Megan (née Lesoing, ‘06). They have two daughters: Amelia, 8; and Eva, 4.
Exceptional Service Award -- Erica Heiden ’07
Erica Heiden ’07 joins Todd Ehrke ’07 as a recipient of the Exceptional Service Award, which recognizes alumni who have provided extraordinary service to forward the cause of Doane University through his or her volunteer efforts.
After graduating from Doane in 2007, Heiden has stayed actively involved with the university, most prominently through her work with the Inter-Greek Alumni Association. The IGAA was formed by Doane President Dr. Jacque Carter as an umbrella organization to help build strong connections between Greek students, Doane staff, and Greek alumni. Heiden and Ehrke were among the earliest group of volunteers tapped by Dr. Carter to represent their respective sorority and fraternity on the IGAA.
The IGAA was established to provide strategic leadership, oversight to operations, and support for the Greek system's success. The IGAA is composed of senior alumni representing each of its nine organizations. The IGAA is working with active Greek organizations and Doane staff to help assure that the Greek system will continue to improve and provide an excellent experience for generations to come. Heiden represents her sorority, Chi Delta, on the IGAA.
Heiden notes that while she was involved in a number of extra-curricular activities as a student at Doane, including Tiger Pep Band, Collegiate Chorale, Doane Forensics, Chi Delta sorority, Campus SERTOMA, and Cardinal Key, it was her experience with Chi Delta that has kept her connected to Doane as an alumna. Before serving on the IGAA, Heiden was a founding member of the Chi Delta Alumnae Association.
“I’m grateful to have my efforts with the Greeks recognized,” Heiden says. “When I think about my Greek experience, the sorority was just one of the many campus organizations I was involved in. But when I graduated, I quickly realized that I had come to love Doane and the only organization that really had a place for me as an alum was the my sorority. I’m grateful I joined Chi Delta because it’s what has kept me as connected to Doane after graduation.”
Heiden earned her bachelor’s degree in Speech Communication from Doane in 2007 and a master’s degree in Marketing, Communication Studies, and Advertising from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2011. She has held full-time positions at Bailey Lauerman and Mutual of Omaha since graduation, in addition to serving as the Head Coach of the Speech Team at the College of St. Mary.
Erica’s professional experience and focus is in using research and strategy to build brands. As a Market Researcher at Mutual of Omaha, Erica conducts qualitative and quantitative research to uncover consumer insights. As she puts it, “It’s my job to uncover consumer insights and share them in engaging ways that inspire colleagues to make business decisions centered around the three million customers Mutual of Omaha serves.”
Outside of work, Erica has been an active member of the Doane Alumni Omaha chapter, wanting to stay connected to the university that means so much to her.
“Doane has had a large impact on me,” she says. “I had a wonderful experience there because Doane offered an environment where I could be involved across campus. I was able to excel academically while participating in multiple music ensembles and leading several community service projects. It was my experience with the forensics team that really formed me into I am today in terms of finding my voice, articulating clear points of view in front of an audience, and understanding today’s social issues.”
She hopes other alumni can find the community she did after graduation.
“I encourage all alumni to seek out the alumni chapter nearest to them and consider how they can support Doane from near and far,” she says. “To me, it is clear that the whole university benefits when our Greek community works together.”
Paul Kersenbrock Humanitarian Award -- Karen Hochstetter Lamb ’83
Doane Builder Award -- Dr. Bruce ’69 and Margaret Sheffield
Dr. Bruce G. Sheffield, Omaha, ‘69, and wife Margaret Sheffield are longtime contributors to the success of Doane students. As sponsors of an endowed scholarship, they work to stay very close to their student recipients. Dr. Sheffield, whose graduating class is celebrating their 50th anniversary this year, has long shone in the Doane history books.
Dr. Sheffield grew up in Omaha where he attended North High School, graduating in 1965. While at Omaha North he ran on the cross country and track teams, and was on the swim team. While competing for the track team he visited Doane for the high school Doane Track Invitational twice. A recruiting trip later with coaches Fred Beile and Al Papik finally made a Tiger out of Bruce.
“It was the small college atmosphere,” Dr. Sheffield says. “I would have been lost at UNL.”
Dr. Sheffield was a star runner. He was named “outstanding runner” by Doane three years in a row. According to a Tiger yearbook entry from his time at Doane, “he was one of the finest runners ever to run for the orange and black.” As captain of the cross country team Bruce was the top performer for the Tigers, placing 21st nationally in 1965, 41st in ‘66, and 32nd in ‘67. During the track season he was a miler and half-miler.
While attending Doane, Dr. Sheffield majored in Biology. He was a member of Sigma Phi Theta fraternity, Honor D Athletic Club, Templars, and he wrote for The Owl. Doane’s small size and personal feel contributed immensely to Dr. Sheffield’s academic success. He was able to create close relationships between himself and his peers and professors, and that helped him later in life. He, like all doctors of medicine, went on to further study after Doane, and found himself thankful for the academic rigor the then-College and its faculty was able to provide.
“With my Biology major, in a class size of six in Embryology with Dr. Katie Buell, you had better be prepared or transfer to somewhere far away!” Dr. Sheffield recalls of his studies. “My intense study with Dr. Buell prepared me for the rigors of medical school at UNMC.”
Dr. Sheffield completed his medical studies at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in 1973. It was while enrolled at UNMC that he met Margaret, to whom he has been married for more than 40 years. Margaret is a graduate of the UNMC College of Pharmacy.
After graduating, Dr. Sheffield accepted a three-year residency in pediatrics, a field he would work in for the rest of his career. He practiced general pediatrics for nearly eight years in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho before moving his practice to Hastings, where he worked at the Children & Adolescent Clinic for just shy of 25 years.
An active member and contributor to the medical field, Dr. Sheffield has taught classes at UNMC. He and Margaret have also made major contributions to efforts to reconstruct Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte Memorial Hospital in Walthill, Nebraska. The memorial hospital is a major landmark for the history of medicine, the Omaha Tribe, and Nebraska as a whole.
Bruce’s hobbies over the years have included swimming, canoeing, and reading, and he is a previous assistant scoutmaster for Troop #200 in Hastings.
Dr. Sheffield retired in 2008 and now lives in Lincoln with Margaret. They have two children, Scott and Becky, and five grandchildren.