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.

Paul ColenbranderDistinguished Service to Northwestern College

Colenbrander is recognized for building the foundation of success and influence that has thrived in Northwestern’s athletic department in the decades since he left the college. As the football and basketball coach in the 1950s, his teams were known as tough competitors at the junior college level, and he led the transition to four-year competition in the early 1960s. In 12 years of coaching basketball, his squads won more than 200 games, captured three state championships and advanced to the semifinals of the state tournament nearly every season. His 11 years as football coach were highlighted by a 15-game winning streak from 1953 to 1954. He later graduated from Western Theological Seminary and served 14 years as pastor of Maplewood Reformed Church in Holland, Michigan. Since retiring, he has been active in construction and pulpit supply. He served 10 years on Northwestern’s Board of Trustees.

Beverly (Gaalswyk) '68 & Merlyn De Vries '66Distinguished Professional Achievement

Beverly De Vries believes teachers can make a difference. She was a schoolteacher in Iowa, Michigan and Oklahoma from 1968 to 1989. She earned a master’s in education from Western Michigan University in 1980 and a doctorate in education from Oklahoma State University in 1992. Today she prepares the next generation of teachers as a professor of education at Southern Nazarene University in Bethany, Oklahoma. Bev has written several college education textbooks on children’s literature, early reading literacy and language arts. She also serves as a reviewer for the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.

After attending Northwestern, Merlyn earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and accounting at the University of South Dakota. He was a C.P.A. in Kalamazoo, Michigan, before becoming vice president of finance for the Fife Corporation in Oklahoma City in 1981. In 1989, he was named chief financial officer at Fife’s parent company, Maxcess International. He continues as CFO and senior vice president of finance at Maxcess, where he is responsible for the corporation’s financial, tax and accounting matters worldwide.

Ellen (Bunger) ErringtonDistinguished Service to Humankind

After 34 years with Wycliffe Bible Translators, Errington continues to dedicate her life to connecting people with God’s word in their primary language. Now serving as a consultant for Wycliffe’s field partner, she most recently taught linguistics at the Canada Institute of Linguistics at Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia. Errington and her husband joined Wycliffe the year after she graduated from Northwestern. From 1976 to 1997, they served as field researchers, translators and community development workers for the Cotabato Manobo language group in the southern Philippines. During the 1990s, she also coordinated SIL’s literacy and literature use department in the Philippines. Errington holds a master’s degree in adult education from the University of Toronto. As a multilingual education specialist for SIL, she frequently travels to Asia to conduct literacy and linguistics training programs.
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