Distinguished Alumni Awards

  • The MSUM Alumni Foundation seeks to recognize and honor accomplished alumni. We are proud of your success, and in turn, proud of the role MSUM has played in your lives. While many are deserving of recognition, only a select few are chosen each year. Each recipient exemplifies the high standards we have come to expect from graduates of Minnesota State University Moorhead and each has made significant contributions to the communities where they reside and work.

    Nominations may be submitted throughout the year, with review and selection occurring in the early spring. Nomination deadline for Distinguished Alumni 2020 is 12/31/2019. Recipients are honored at the Distinguished Alumni Awards ceremony, an integral part of Homecoming festivities.

    Nominations are accepted for the following categories of recognition:

    • Distinguished Alumni Award - recipients are typically at the peak of their professional careers. More than one alumnus may be selected.
    • Outstanding Young Alumni – recipients are graduates of the past decade with notable career or community impact.
    • Outstanding Service Award - recipients have given a significant contribution of time and talent to MSUM.

    To nominate an MSUM alumnus for a Distinguished Alumni Award, please complete the online form. For more information feel free to contact us.

    Alumni Award Nomination Form Past Alumni Awards

    David Foss

    David Foss '85 (computer science) is the president and CEO of Jack Henry & Associates. The S&P 500 public company is one of the three largest providers of FinTech solutions to financial institutions in the United States and is known for outstanding technology, a full suite of SaaS (software as a service) solutions, industry leading customer service, a very strong corporate culture and high levels of employee engagement and satisfaction. He also serves as a member of the company's board of directors and as a partner and director for Bold Ventures, LLC, a private venture capital firm focused in the technology space. For David, the phrase he says best describes his approach to leadership is, "Do the right thing, do whatever it takes, and have fun." David tries to live those words, first coined by Jack Henry, every day. Since joining the company 20 years ago, he realized it perfectly reflected the way he tries to live his life. As a father, community member and the leader of nearly 6,500 employees, those guiding principles make it easy for others to understand what David views as important and how he makes decisions.

    Cheryl Hughes

    Cheryl Hughes '82 (management) launched her impressive journey in the field of human resources upon graduating from MSUM. Through an MSUM internship, Cheryl began her career at Sanford Medical Center in Fargo. From there, she earned leadership positions at Hyundai Motor America, Apria Healthcare and Providence Health System. Now as chief human resources officer for Toyota North America, Cheryl leads her team to transform the company's talent and team member experience to help empower Toyota's vision of Mobility for All. She and her team encourage and empower Toyota's more than 40,000 team members to dream big and take action. Leading by example, eight years ago, she spearheaded Toyota's North American Women's Conference as part of her commitment to empowering women in the workplace. Last year, over 350 Toyota women from around the world participated, sparking similar conferences in Australia and now expanding to Europe. Cheryl also led the consolidation and relocation of Toyota's U.S. affiliate operations, one of the largest corporate transformations in American history. Cheryl also serves on the executive committee for the North Texas Food Bank Board of Directors where she helps lead citywide campaigns to help fight hunger.

    Nicole Kivisto

    Nicole Kivisto '95 (accounting) has been the chief executive officer and president of Montana-Dakota Utilities, Intermountain Gas and Cascade Natural Gas since January of 2015. Since 1995, Nicole has worked for MDU Resources, thriving in every position she's held. Prior to her current role, Nicole was the vice president of operations for Montana Dakota. She also served as the vice president, controller and chief accounting officer for MDU Resources Group Inc. Nicole provides overall executive management and leadership for the three utilities and, along with 1,600 employees, serves 1.1 million customers across eight states. Throughout the years, Nicole has participated in several MDU Resources leadership programs, including the People Building People Mentoring Program, the Women's Advisory Board and the Chairman's Conference. In 2002, she was one of the MDU Resource's Summit Award winners. She was also recognized in the region's top 40 under 40 in 2007 and as one of the region's top 25 women in business in 2017.

    Jeff Smedsrud

    Jeff Smedsrud '81 (mass communications and American studies) has been a serial entrepreneur for more than 35 years. He has built and grown health insurance marketing and business companies and served as a health care reform advocate. He has provided expert testimony on health care issues before national and state legislative committees and is frequently quoted in the media on topics related to health reform. He was also the founder of the National Association of State Comprehensive Health Insurance Plans (NASCHIP), which helped sponsor high-risk pool programs in his home state of Minnesota and beyond, assisting those denied health insurance for medical reasons. Jeff's career has taken him from writing news releases about health insurance to forming marketing agencies that sell insurance, to launching technology enabled insurance carriers, all the while retaining focus on improving health insurance access for self-employed individuals and those without coverage. When starting a new business, he is usually operating and selling an existing company in tandem. In addition to continued involvement in his many ventures, Jeff is a consultant to a Fortune 500 financial service company, an early stage investor in several InsureTech companies, and is a senior advisor to several emerging companies in Guatemala that seek to enrich and empower the lives of its poorest citizens. He is also the founder of HealthCare.com, a search and comparison model for health insurance options.

    Outstanding Service Award

    Scott Nelson

    Scott Nelson '74 (accounting); has continued to serve MSUM students through his roles at the MSUM Foundation and support of the university. Scott has served many years on the Foundation Board and eagerly took on responsibility as board president from 2014 to 2016. During his time serving, the board stepped up fundraising responsibilities and undertook a comprehensive, strategic planning process. Scott has recruited and sought out support and involvement from other alumni, especially in Arizona where his wife Barbara and he reside. Apart from his contributions to MSUM, Scott was the founding shareholder in Laney's Inc., based in Fargo, and the CEO of E+C2 Holdings in Tempe, Arizona. Over the years, Scott has pledged significant time, talent and resources in support of MSUM and its students through scholarships, building projects, hosted events and more.

    Outstanding Young Alumni Award

    Robert Haas

    Robert Haas '09 (economics), a quantitative development manager at US Bancorp Corporation in Minneapolis, manages a group of quantitative analysts. He helps them in building a variety of econometric models for forecasting asset and liability cash flows for total bank interest rate risk, risk weighted assets and market value of portfolio equity analysis. These models are heavily utilized in the Comprehensive Capital Analysis and Review stress test submitted annually to the Federal Reserve Bank. Robert frequently meets with officials of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve Bank to present and defend US Bancorp's models and financial stability. His work is of paramount importance to US Bancorp.

    Alumni Award Nomination Form Past Alumni Awards