Meet the 2023 Augustana Alumni Achievement Award Winners

By Keeley Meier '20 | August 17, 2023
2023 Alumni Achievement Award Winners

Each year, Alumni Achievement Awards are presented to Augustana University alumni who have made outstanding contributions to their fields of endeavor, communities and/or churches. The Horizon Award recognizes young alumni who have graduated within the last 15 years and quickly demonstrated outstanding vocational achievement and provided faithful service to their community and/or church. Recipients of both awards must exemplify one of the shared core values of the university: Christian, liberal arts, excellence, community or service.

🏅 Dr. Paul W. Barnes ‘78

Dr. Paul W. Barnes ‘78 is the J.H. Mullahy Endowed Chair in Environmental Biology and a professor in the environment program and department of biological sciences at Loyola University New Orleans. The Conde, South Dakota, native attended Northern State University in

Aberdeen, South Dakota, before transferring to Augustana because of its academic reputation and emphasis on the liberal arts. Barnes was a biology major at Augustana and earned both a master’s and Ph.D. in biology/ecology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Barnes was a postdoctoral research associate at Utah State University, then held faculty positions at St. Olaf College and Texas State University. Prior to beginning at Loyola, he was a project leader at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Environmental Research Laboratory in Oregon. Barnes’ research has been published extensively on the ecological effects of global environmental change, and has been supported by the National Science Foundation, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and EPA. Barnes is also the co-chair of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Environmental Effects Assessment Panel. 

🏅 Dr. Kathleen Digre ‘72

Dr. Kathleen Digre ‘72 is a neuro-ophthalmologist at the John A. Moran Eye Center, as well as a distinguished professor of neurology and ophthalmology & visual science at the University of Utah. Digre grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and graduated from Augustana with majors in English and German. With help from the late Dr. Gerhard Schmutterer ‘50, professor emeritus of German, Digre taught in a German high school in Neuendettelsau, Germany, after graduation and later earned a master’s degree in English at the University of Arkansas. Digre then pursued medical school, a neurology residency and neuro-ophthalmology fellowship at the University of Iowa. She was recruited to the University of Utah where she established clinical and training programs in neuro-ophthalmology and headache. Digre has served as president of the North American Neuro-Ophthalmology Society (NANOS) and American Headache Society, as well as authored 250 articles, three books and presented lectures worldwide. She established the Neuro-Ophthalmology Virtual Educational Library (NOVEL) and Moran Clinical Ophthalmology Resources for Education (CORE). Digre received the University of Utah Rosenblatt Award, University of Iowa Distinguished Alumni Award, was named the first Hedi Fritz Niggli Guest Professor at the University of Zurich, from which she also received an honorary degree, and was named a member of The Opthamologist’s 2021 Power List of the Top 100 Women in Ophthalmology. Digre and her husband, Dr. Michael Varner, have two daughters.

🏅 Dr. Nancy Floros Rajanen ‘77

Dr. Nancy Floros Rajanen ‘77 is a former superintendent, educator and administrator — having served 37 years in school districts across Minnesota. The Mount Prospect, Illinois, native was a special education and elementary education double major at Augustana. After graduation, Floros Rajanen taught special education in Austin, Minnesota — the first year that special education was mandated in U.S. public schools. There, she pioneered one of the first early intervention programs in Minnesota for students ages 0-5 with disabilities. Floros Rajanen then earned a Master of Public Health in maternal & child health from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities (U of M). In Minnesota’s Anoka-Hennepin School District, she led the reintegration of students with disabilities into regular education programs. For St. Francis Public Schools in Minnesota, Floros Rajanen was named director of special education and responsible for the construction of residential treatment program facilities for students. After earning a Ph.D. in educational administration at the U of M, Floros Rajanen served in three Minneapolis schools as assistant superintendent and director of human resources. In 2008, she was named superintendent of Waconia Public Schools until she retired in 2014. Upon retirement, Floros Rajanen taught for seven years at the U of M, preparing postgraduate students for administrative roles. Throughout her educational tenure, Floros Rajanen served as president of the Minnesota Association of School Personnel Administrators & State Negotiators and held legislative leadership roles for Schools for Equity in Education and the Minnesota Association of School Administrators. Floros Rajanen and her husband, Greg, have two children and three grandchildren.

🏅 Gerald Saetveit ‘63 

Gerald Saetveit ‘63 is a musician, performer and former educator. A New York native, Saetveit followed closely in his parents’ footsteps by majoring in music at Augustana, where he played in the concert, marching and Northlander’s Jazz Bands, brass ensemble and orchestra. Saetveit also sang in the chapel choir and formed a folk song trio, The Kinsmen. After graduation, Saetveit taught K-12 music in Ellsworth, Minnesota, and advised a church youth group. He also earned a Master of Music Education from Indiana University. In 1968, he moved to the New London-Spicer School District in Minnesota, where he served for 35 years as a music teacher, K-12 music director, junior/senior high school music director, elementary music & band director and violin teacher for adults and children. Saetveit has been engaged in each community he’s been part of — churches, festivals, orchestras, community bands, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), as well as environmental and community education centers. Saetveit and his four sons sang as Allen-a-Dale and the Singing Pages at the Minnesota and Colorado Renaissance Festivals for 18 and 10 years, respectively. Saetveit continues to play violin at the Minnesota and Arizona Renaissance Festivals, as well as perform with the fiddling group he founded, Coffee Shop Fiddlers. Saetveit’s father, Joseph ‘34, was a 1959 Augustana Alumni Achievement Award recipient and his mother, Helga (Hanson) ‘33, was the 1933 Viking Days Queen.

🏅 Deanna (Levsen) Wehrspann ‘80

Deanna (Levsen) Wehrspann ‘80 is the faculty piano accompanist/collaborator at the University of South Dakota and University of Sioux Falls, as well as the music & worship professional at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Sioux Falls. At Augustana, Wehrspann was a music major, section leader of The Augustana Choir and 4-time winner of the Concerto-Aria Competition. Following Augustana, she earned a master’s degree in New Testament studies from Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, Master of Library Science from Emporia State University in Kansas and 1-year scholarship to the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Leipzig, Germany. Wehrspann has served as the principal accompanist for the South Dakota All-State Chorus and High School Honor Choir for many years — earning the 2019 South Dakota High School Activities Association (SDHSAA) Distinguished Service Award. She also served as the production pianist for Opera South Dakota for more than 10 years. Wehrspann has composed more than 80 compositions for voice, choir, piano and orchestra. She is a founding soprano of the Grammy-nominated South Dakota Chorale. Wehrspann and her husband, Joel, have two daughters.

🏅 Dr. Peter C. Young ‘74

Dr. Peter C. Young ‘74 is a professor and the 3M Endowed Chair in International Business at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Young grew up in Spearfish, South Dakota, and followed his sister, Pamela (Young) Baum ‘71, to Augustana, where he majored in history. He credits the late Dr. Lyn Oyos, professor emeritus of history, for helping him develop an interest in a life of academia, and the late Dr. Olaf Malmin, conductor of The Augustana Choir, for teaching him the Norwegian National Anthem. Following his time at Augustana, Young earned a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Nebraska Omaha and Ph.D. in risk management from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. He joined St. Thomas’ faculty in 1994, and held the E.W. Blanch Senior Chair in Risk Management until 2011. Young is the co-creator of the University of St. Thomas Actuarial Science Program. Young has been a visiting professor at City, University of London in England, Aoyama Gakuin University in Japan, held a distinguished honorary professorship at Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland, and awarded the Otto Mønsted Visiting Professorship at Copenhagen Business School in Denmark. He has published a dozen books and numerous academic journals on the topic of risk management.

2023 Horizon Award Winners

🏅 Valerie Anderson-Boudaka ‘08

Valerie Anderson-Boudaka ‘08 is the president of Farmers State Bank in Canton, South Dakota. Raised in Canton, Anderson-Boudaka majored in business administration at Augustana where former President Rob Oliver helped her secure a job as a bank teller at Wells Fargo. After graduation, she served as an assistant manager at TCF Bank, a personal banker at U.S. Bank and, in 2011, was named vice president of Farmers State Bank before becoming president in 2019. Anderson-Boudaka is a member of the Independent Community Bankers of South Dakota (ICBSD) Board of Directors and Augustana Alumni Council, ICBSD federal delegate and president-elect of Canton Lutheran Church. She and her husband, Moe, have one son.

🏅 Vanessa Anderson-Smith ‘08

Vanessa Anderson-Smith ‘08 is a speech-language pathologist and the owner and CEO of Anderson-Smith Therapy Institute in Sioux Falls. A native of Canton, South Dakota, she began at Augustana as an English major before transitioning to communication disorders after writing a paper on language acquisition in deaf babies. After graduating from Augustana, Anderson-Smith earned a master’s degree in speech-language pathology from the University of South Dakota. She worked in skilled nursing facilities for three years before beginning her private practice — treating children out of her kitchen in Sioux Falls. Her practice, Anderson-Smith Therapy Institute, has since grown to two clinic locations with more than 20 employees and offers speech and feeding therapy, occupational therapy, reading tutoring and dyslexia testing. In 2018, Anderson-Smith began teaching for TalkTools, a continuing education organization, and, in 2019, was the first person in South Dakota to obtain a certification in orofacial myofunctional therapy. She is pursuing her Ph.D. in speech-language pathology from Northwestern University. Anderson-Smith and her husband, Ryan, have two sons.

Share this Page