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Eight to receive UW-Eau Claire alumni awards

Eight UW-Eau Claire alumni will receive Alumni Association awards Dec. 20 at an event associated with winter commencement. The awards recognize the recipients' professional and personal successes as well as their contributions to their alma mater, their communities and their professions.

Learn more about the Alumni Association honorees below. (Also read their words of advice for UW-Eau Claire's December graduates.)

Lifetime Excellence Award 

The Lifetime Excellence Award is presented to UW-Eau Claire alumni who have demonstrated longtime and successful commitment to their careers and communities. These individuals have made a positive and dramatic impact through enthusiastic dedication to service and living their lives as a testimony to UW-Eau Claire’s motto, "Excellence."

Jane Trimble Johanos '76, bachelor’s degree in nursing


Jane "JJ" Trimble Johanos

Jane "JJ" Trimble Johanos (professionally known as Jane Trimble) was the founder and president of PMS Clinic of Minneapolis, established in 1982 to specialize in the identification and treatment of premenstrual syndrome using a holistic approach known as the Trimble Model. In addition to her Blugold nursing degree, Trimble holds a master’s degree in psychiatric/mental health care nursing from the University of Minnesota and a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Iowa.

Motivated by her career observations of frequent misdiagnosis and treatment, Trimble set out to “redefine premenstrual experience for women, their families, medical professionals, society and a biased work force.” Through television, print interviews and lecture series, Trimble educated health-care professionals and women nationwide on the physical, emotional and behavioral changes experienced by most women in response to the normal menstrual cycle.

Throughout the 1980s, the clinic served more than 4,000 women from 41 states and was staffed by one psychologist, three master’s-prepared psychiatric nurse specialists, two family practice physicians and a gynecologist, all of whom helped to alter women’s  perception of the premenstrual experience from one of “victim” to one of “manager.” 

Dr. Linda Young, dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences at UW-Eau Claire, put Trimble’s work and the success of her clinic into important context within the field.

“JJ’s pioneering independent nursing practice sets her apart as a significant leader who laid the groundwork for the autonomous advanced nursing practice in our country today,” Young said.

Trimble said she accepts her UW-Eau Claire honor with gratitude, and “with humility I acknowledge the enduring spirit and pursuit of excellence in nursing standards established by the UW-Eau Claire College of Nursing and Health Sciences, and exemplified by the expectations of the faculty and curriculum.”

Timothy J. Murphy, '76, bachelor’s degree in marketing

Timothy J. Murphy

Timothy J. Murphy

On Jan. 1, 2019, Timothy J. Murphy retired from his role as president and CEO of Nortrax Inc., a John Deere construction and forestry equipment dealer with branches throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Murphy began his career with Nortrax in 2000 as vice president and general manager of the Midwest region and was named president and CEO in 2013. In this role, Murphy directed his focus and expertise to the areas of transition and change management, and successfully led the company to become one of the most successful global John Deere subsidiaries, one with 56 locations, 1,400 employees and many thousands of dedicated customers. 

Prior to his years with Nortrax, Murphy spent 23 years in the construction and forestry equipment industry, holding various sales and marketing management roles with American and Canadian corporations. His return to Wisconsin to join Nortrax offered him the opportunity to give back to UW-Eau Claire as a guest lecturer in the College of Business, where every year he presented his "Ten Leadership Lessons from the Real World" lecture twice each semester. 

Since retiring, Murphy has offered his time and expertise as a consultant for a nonprofit called Project 180. The group is devoted to successful rehabilitation of formerly incarcerated individuals, providing various means of assistance in their transitions back to society. Murphy also volunteers at a homeless day care center in Sarasota, Florida, serves within his local St. Patrick’s Parish and officiates golf events as a certified USGA expert rules official.

“My time at UW-Eau Claire didn’t guarantee a successful career, but it provided me the background and experiences to go out and create one,” Murphy said. 

President's Award

The President’s Award recognizes outstanding professional and personal achievements and service to UW-Eau Claire.

Kristie Franz '95, bachelor’s degree in geology

Kristie Franz

Kristie Franz

Kristie Franz, a native of nearby Chippewa Falls, entered UW-Eau Claire as a first-generation college student, intending to major in psychology. But after just one geology class, taken to fulfill a general education requirement, she knew geology was her true calling.

After her UW-Eau Claire graduation, Franz worked for four years as a hydrogeologist before pursuing a master’s degree in hydrology and water resources from the University of Arizona, followed by a doctorate in civil engineering from the University of California, Irvine. In 2006 she accepted a faculty position in the department of geological and atmospheric sciences at Iowa State University, where today she is a tenured associate professor. A nationally recognized research scientist, Franz has authored or co-authored 24 peer-reviewed journal articles since 2003 and presented research findings at more than 30 professional conferences and meetings over the past five years.

Franz, whose research focuses on improving the understanding and prediction of watershed behavior, has obtained more than $2 million in grant funding for her studies, many of which are aimed at improving flood and water supply forecasts across the country. Her work includes mentoring both graduate students and undergraduates, and she views their successes as her biggest impact on the science of hydrology. Franz said UW-Eau Claire geology faculty have remained a source of support and guidance as she has advanced in her career.

“One of the most important opportunities I received at UW-Eau Claire was engaging in undergraduate research projects under the guidance of professors,” Franz said. “These experiences were invaluable for gaining insight into how research is done, learning about my scientific strengths and weaknesses, and defining my interests and goals.”

Andrew Neesley '03, bachelor’s degree in music

Andrew Neesley

Andrew Neesley

Andrew Neesley is an award-winning and inventive trumpeter, violinist, singer, composer and producer. Born in Milwaukee and based in New York, Neesley has made his mark nationally performing with contemporary music greats — among them National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master Candido Camero, the Roots, James Taylor, Chris Botti, Lady Gaga and many others.
Neesley has performed, composed and arranged with the Bobby Sanabria Big Band on three Grammy-nominated albums and a Latin Grammy-nominated album. His gospel rock band Jesus On The Mainline features 15 talented young New York musicians and recently released “The Morning Bell,” its debut full-length album. Other collaborations have included working with fellow UW-Eau Claire alumnus David Whitman on the Independent Music Award-winning album “Oh, Clara!” in 2017 and an upcoming 2020 album. Neesley also serves as music director for mmm...bands, a boutique private event company.

Neesley, who received a master’s degree from the Manhattan School of Music after graduating from UW-Eau Claire, is a past recipient of the ASCAP Young Jazz Composer’s Award, winner of the National Trumpet Competition, finalist in the International Trumpet Guild Jazz Improvisation Competition and recipient of a DownBeat Student Music Award for Best Engineered Studio Album. He continues to teach brass and jazz improvisation to a new generation of musicians, maintaining a private lesson studio in New York.

Neesley said the teaching of UW-Eau Claire professor of music and jazz studies director Robert Baca has been central in his career and life.

“I really grew into the musician and adult I am today during my time studying under his tutelage,” Neesley said. “To this day I can call on so many life lessons learned in his second-floor office. And they are lessons I pass on to new generations of my own students.”

Johnny Washington '81, bachelor’s degree in business administration

Johnny Washington

Johnny Washington

Johnny Washington was a member of the Blugold men’s basketball team throughout his time at UW-Eau Claire, serving as co-captain during the 1979-80 season when the team placed fourth in the NAIA national tournament in Kansas City, Missouri. He was again with the team when they returned to the national tournament in 1981, that time finishing third.

Ken Anderson, head Blugold men’s basketball coach from 1968-95, said he was impressed with Washington as a leader on the team.

“Johnny was an outstanding player, and his great personality and leadership skills were a key factor in the team’s success, which included three conference championships as well as three trips to the national tournament during the time he was a player,” Anderson said. “Coupled with his academic pursuits in UW-Eau Claire’s business program, it was very evident Johnny Washington was going to be successful after UW-Eau Claire.”

After his UW-Eau Claire graduation, Washington first accepted a position with J.I. Case Co. in his hometown of Racine and later joined Dean Industries in the Los Angeles, California, area. He then launched what would be a 30-year career in the insurance industry with CNA Continental Casualty Co. before his retirement in 2012.

In recent years Washington has faced health problems, including a cancer battle. A year ago he was honored by his high school alma mater, Case High School in Racine, where he was a basketball standout before he played with the Blugolds. In a comment to the Racine Journal Times following the event, his drive and determination that were evident on the basketball court still shined through.

“I’ve had a great life,” Washington told the Journal Times. “God has been so good to me. I’ve experienced things that a lot of people haven’t experienced. My mom taught me to never give up, and I won’t give up.”

David Whitman ’05, bachelor’s degree in music

David Whitman

David Whitman

David Whitman didn’t have to travel far from his hometown of Menomonie to UW-Eau Claire, where his undergraduate experience would launch a success-filled career that would take him great distances.

Whitman went on to earn full-tuition scholarships that helped him attain a master’s degree and doctorate in percussion performance and pedagogy from Kansas State University and the University of Southern Mississippi, respectively. Today he is an award-winning jazz and orchestral percussionist and professional music educator. As a top-call percussionist in southern California, he has been the principal player in large-scale productions at most major symphonic venues in the region. He also has performed with a long list of Broadway tours, the San Diego Symphony and many big-name artists. In addition, Whitman is an educator and mentor to aspiring professional players, working as a lecturer and percussion studio faculty member at San Diego State University and as a lead teacher at a K-12 charter school in the San Diego area.

In 2018, Whitman’s album “Oh, Clara!” — an ode to both his daughter and to Eau Claire — was awarded the Best Album award in the jazz instrumental category during the 16th annual Independent Music Awards event at Lincoln Center in New York City. Collaborators on the album included fellow UW-Eau Claire alumnus Andrew Neesley, also a December recipient of the Alumni Association’s President’s  Award.

Whitman credits UW-Eau Claire with giving him the foundation for his success.

“The experience of working hard to earn a spot in such a reputable band as Jazz Ensemble I at UW-Eau Claire shaped my identity and guided my achievements, encouraging grit and determination,” Whitman said. “In that band, as well as in the orchestra and other ensembles, I developed a model for excellence and professionalism. Ron Keezer. Robert Baca. Jeffery Crowell. Nobuyoshi Yasuda. These people connected with me in the most meaningful ways on a deep musical level.”

Outstanding Recent Alumnus Award

The Outstanding Recent Alumnus Award acknowledges the special achievements and great promise of alumni who are within 15 years of their graduation from UW-Eau Claire.

Bridget Osborn '08, bachelor's degree in geology

Bridget Osborn

Bridget Osborn

Bridget Osborn was the first Blugold to complete UW-Eau Claire’s geology dual-degree in engineering in partnership with the University of Minnesota, through which she earned a bachelor’s degree in geology from UW-Eau Claire and a bachelor’s degree in geological engineering from the U of M. She also enjoyed a successful track and field career as a Blugold, becoming an All American in the heptathlon her senior year.

A water resource project engineer with HR Green in St. Paul, Minnesota, since 2010, Osborn creates innovative solutions for managing storm water and other runoff. For example, she played a key role in designing two water-reuse irrigation systems along a narrow roadway reconstruction corridor in Woodbury, Minnesota. The green infrastructure technology helped reduce downstream pollutants and reduce strain on a depleting aquifer.

For her outstanding work in the field, Osborn has earned multiple awards and professional recognitions, including the 2014 Emerging Leader Award from the American Council of Engineering Companies of Minnesota, one of five national ACEC Young Professional of the Year Awards for 2016, and the DiscoverE New Face of Engineering Award in 2016. 

Ajay Jain, water resources practice leader at HR Green, said Osborn’s dedication and talent make her highly deserving of recent accolades.

“Bridget brings lots of energy and dedication to finding practical, cost-effective solutions for her clients while improving the environment and quality of life for the communities she serves,” Jain said.

In addition to her work with HR Green, Obsorn is a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, her local watershed district and environmental conservation nonprofit Great River Greening. She also gives talks to students about engineering, especially for girls considering the STEM fields.

In a recent interview, Osborn spoke about her talks with youth: “I love seeing the kids’ faces, that ‘ah ha’ moment when they learn how engineering plays such an important role in their everyday lives.” 

The Outstanding Recent Alumnus Award acknowledges the special achievements and great promise of alumni who are within 15 years of their graduation from UW-Eau Claire.

Abigail Zimmer '07, bachelor’s degree in English-creative writing

Abigail Zimmer

Abigail Zimmer

Since graduating from UW-Eau Claire in 2007, Abigail Zimmer has earned a master of fine arts degree in creative writing from Columbia College Chicago and built an acclaimed and prolific career as a poet and poetry editor, publishing two chapbooks and one full-length collection of her own poetry, and working as an editor for the small Chicago publishing company she co-founded, the Lettered Streets Press. To date, the press, which champions emerging voices, voices of color and LGBTQ voices, has published 12 books of poetry from 16 authors, many of whom were publishing their first collections.

“It’s so exciting to be able to provide a platform for emerging voices and contribute toward a genre of literature that has in many ways become my lifeline,” Zimmer said.

Joshua Young, with whom Zimmer founded the Lettered Streets Press, said, “Abigail looks at a work from the inside, allowing room for a poet or writer to publish work that is inherently theirs.”

Zimmer also maintains a full-time position as an editorial and production coordinator at the Society of American Archivists, where she edits and manages content for a biweekly newsletter, a bimonthly magazine, a biannual journal and three book publications per year.

Zimmer’s poetry has garnered several awards, including the Chicago Review of Books 2016 Poetry Award, the 2014 Lannan Prize from the Academy of American Poets and the 2014 Lya Dym Rosenblum Award from Columbia College Chicago. Her works have appeared in numerous publications and anthologies, including NightBlock, Jellyfish, The New Megaphone and Fairy Tale Review, among others.