Distinguished Alumni Awards
Northwestern’s alumni office seeks nominations for future Distinguished Alumni Award candidates. Nominees should be graduates of the academy, junior college or college, or have attended the junior college for one year or the college for three semesters. Candidates must be at least five years beyond their graduation year and not currently an officer of the Alumni Association or a member of the award selection committee.
Three awards are presented during the college's annual Legacy Celebration Banquet:
- Distinguished Professional Achievement: The alum chosen for this award demonstrates leadership, competence, dedication to continuing education and integrity in his/her chosen profession.
- Distinguished Service to Humankind: The alum chosen for this award demonstrates leadership abilities in service to the community and/or society at large through notable Christian contributions.
- Distinguished Service to Northwestern College: The alum chosen for this award demonstrates loyalty to the mission of Northwestern College, continued interest and support of the goals of NWC, and reflects honor on the college by his/her Christian lifestyle.
To nominate someone for a Distinguished Alumni Award who meets the above requirements, email the alumni office.
Frank HeemstraDistinguished Professional Achievement
After graduating from Northwestern Classical Academy in 1941 and Northwestern Junior College in 1943, Frank Heemstra, now deceased, served three years in the Asiatic Pacific Theater with the Navy. He completed his bachelor’s degree at Hope College and earned a master’s degree in physics at Iowa State University before joining the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., as a research physicist. In his more than 31 years with the Naval Research Lab, Heemstra was involved in the development of long-range sonar systems, the study of sound propagation paths in the ocean and deep-ocean search techniques. He designed, built and operated a magnetometer system that was instrumental in the successful searches for the Navy’s lost nuclear-powered submarines, Thresher and Scorpion, and the French submarine, Euridice. As a sea-going scientist, Heemstra participated in many ocean-bottom search and surveillance missions and visited numerous countries and foreign ports.
Fannie MenningDistinguished Service to Humankind
A graduate of both Northwestern Junior College and Northwestern College, Fannie Menning, Rock Valley, Iowa, served as a teacher and as a senior care center’s assistant activities director. She now helps disabled clients learn life skills at the Hope Haven Residential Training Center in Orange City. Menning was chosen to represent the Reformed Church in America on a pilot fact-finding mission trip to Russia in 1984. Trained as a leader during another trip, she returned the following year as the head of an interdenominational travel seminar. Three other seminars to RCA Middle East mission fields followed. She serves as one of her denomination’s mission advocates and is an RCA speaker for mission festivals across North America. A former member of Northwestern’s National Alumni Board, Menning also has taught Sunday school and vacation Bible school, led women’s Bible studies, written Words of Hope devotionals and helped plan Bible League retreats. With her husband, she conducts chapel services in senior care centers.
Virgil MuilenburgDistinguished Service to Northwestern College
Virgil Muilenburg graduated from Northwestern Classical Academy in 1958 with valedictorian honors and then attended Northwestern Junior College, graduating salutatorian in 1960. In 1962, he was a member of the second graduating class of the new four-year Northwestern College, graduating magna cum laude and with faculty honors. After earning a master’s degree in natural science from the University of South Dakota, Muilenburg returned to Northwestern in 1963 to teach biology. Answering to the name “Prof,” Muilenburg taught at Northwestern College for 37 years. In addition to the numerous students he impacted in classes and labs, he also has served over 6,000 pizzas to almost 700 students throughout 40 years of bi-weekly late-night pizza parties at his house. When he retired in 2000, Muilenburg said, “There never was a day I couldn’t wait to get to campus. The students are my family.”