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Six to receive Alumni Association awards

RELEASED: May 10, 2010

EAU CLAIRE — An indie rock star, a high school band director, an elementary school principal, an international business consultant and two chief operating executives will receive awards from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Alumni Association May 22 at a luncheon and ceremony in conjunction with spring commencement.

"We celebrate the versatile talent, creativity and leadership skills of these individuals who represent and honor this university so well," said John Bachmeier, director of alumni relations. "The university is proud to recognize them for their personal success and for their service to others."

Randy Oostra and Roberta Schmidt will each receive the Alumni Distinguished Achievement Award, which recognizes distinguished service to the community, state or nation that brings credit upon the recipient and the university.

Randy Oostra
Randy Oostra

Oostra leads the largest health care organization serving 2 million patients per year in northwest and southeast Ohio as president and CEO of ProMedica Health System. He began working for ProMedica in 1997 and has helped the organization grow from three to 10 hospitals and from $500 million to $2 billion in revenue.

He received a bachelor's degree in biology from Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa, in 1977, a master's degree from UW-Eau Claire in 1985 and a doctorate from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, in 2005. Oostra served as a consultant for the independent Laboratory of Clinical Medicine from 1979-87 and then decided to pursue hospital administration, taking a job as administrative director/administrative resident for Health One, now Allina Health System, in Minneapolis, Minn. He was executive vice president and chief operating officer for Saint Anthony's Health System in Alton, Ill., from 1994-97 and worked at Blodgett Hospital, now part of Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids, Mich., from 1989-94, serving in a variety of positions, including president and CEO of one of its hospitals. Oostra is a fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives.

Roberta Schmidt
Roberta Schmidt

Schmidt was named the 2009 Elementary School Principal of the Year by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and the Association of Wisconsin School Administrators. She graduated from UW-Eau Claire in 1976 with a degree in elementary education and special education and currently is the principal at Richmond Elementary School in Appleton, where she has worked since 2002. After recognizing that students needed more individual attention in math at Richmond Elementary, she created the Math Achievement Partnership program, which pairs community volunteers with students. The program has been so successful that it's been replicated in five other schools in her district. Under Schmidt's direction, Richmond Elementary also has earned the Governor's School Health Award twice in recent years and was named one of the top five healthiest schools in the nation by Health magazine.

Bruce Hering and Kevin Steiner will receive the President's Award, which recognizes outstanding professional and personal achievements and service to UW-Eau Claire.

Bruce Hering
Bruce Hering

Hering became the band instructor at Eau Claire Memorial High School in 1990 and has developed an award-winning band program. In 2009 he led Memorial's Jazz Ensemble I to a top-three finish at the prestigious Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition and Festival in New York City, during which the band was named one of America's best jazz bands. Hering's bands have been top-15 national finalists seven times; only five schools in the United States have been honored more times.

Hering received a bachelor's degree in music education in 1980 and a master of education-professional development in 1994 from UW-Eau Claire. He has received the Kohl Education Fellowship award, Warner Brother's Jazz Educator Award and Eau Claire Chamber of Commerce Excellence in Education awards as well as a nomination for the 2006 Wisconsin Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Kevin Steiner
Kevin Steiner

Steiner received a master of business administration degree from UW-Eau Claire in 1982. Following graduation, he started his professional career working for Sentry Insurance. Today he is the president and CEO of the 78th largest property/casualty insurer in the United States: West Bend Mutual Insurance Co.

During Steiner's 16 years with West Bend, the company has quadrupled its business. He became president and CEO in 2009. Steiner and his wife, Linda, also a UW-Eau Claire graduate, annually fund a scholarship for an incoming freshman.

Evelyn Zabo
Evelyn Zabo

Evelyn Zabo will receive the Honorary Alumnus Award, presented to non-alumni who have demonstrated great love of and service to UW-Eau Claire.

Zabo is a recognized leader within the systems integration business. Early in her career she worked for Electronic Data Systems, where she brought business value to customers in her technical and business development roles. Zabo has worked in a variety of industries, including manufacturing, government and financial services. She was an early leader in providing telecommunications services for emerging wireless companies around the world. Zabo went on to work for Accenture, bringing management consulting experience as a partner in its global communications practice. She currently works for Siemens as the global Microsoft alliance leader.

Zabo was the Accenture Seattle diversity lead and women's mentoring executive sponsor from 1999-2007. She is an active supporter of higher education and was a founding member and chair of the Seattle University Information Systems/eCommerce Advisory Board. She has also done extensive work with the UW-Eau Claire Foundation. In addition, she served on the United Way Elder Care Council from 2006-09 and currently serves on the American Red Cross of King County board. Zabo has a strong interest in the arts and has served on the Pacific Northwest Ballet board and will serve as the president of PONCHO, an arts funding organization. She will begin a three-year term on the Association of Junior Leagues International board and a board term with the Seattle Opera in June.

Justin Vernon
Justin Vernon

Justin Vernon will receive the Outstanding Recent Alumnus Award, which acknowledges special achievements and great promise of alumni who are within 15 years of their graduation from UW-Eau Claire.

Vernon graduated from UW-Eau Claire in 2004 with a bachelor's degree in comparative studies in religion. He got his start as a musician while in high school playing guitar for the Eau Claire Memorial High School Jazz Ensemble I and outside of school, performing in and co-founding the popular local band, Mount Vernon. Later, while attending UW-Eau Claire, Vernon formed the band DeYarmon Edison with former Mount Vernon members. Upon graduation, Vernon and his band-mates in DeYarmond Edison moved to Raleigh, N.C., to try their music elsewhere. Vernon slowly began to feel limited and discouraged by the band's direction and further from his own musical path. In 2006 he returned to Eau Claire and decided to regroup by staying the winter in his father's hunting cabin. During that time, he recorded a nine-song album, "For Emma, Forever Ago." He released the album independently under the moniker Bon Iver. Once released, the album was well-received and started gaining the attention of record labels. "For Emma, Forever Ago" was later re-released on Jagjaguwar Records in February 2008. Bon Iver went on to perform throughout the United States, Europe and Australia in support of "For Emma, Forever Ago."

Bon Inver's four-track EP, "Blood Bank," was released in January 2009, entering the Billboard 200 at No. 16 and selling 23,000 copies in its first week. It also made the iTunes top 10 seller's list in its first week and eventually climbed to the No. 2 spot.

-30-

KH/AH/DW

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