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.
Peggy BilstenDistinguished Service to Humankind
Bilsten, a 1982 Northwestern graduate, was an elementary and high school teacher before she was elected to the Phoenix City Council. Three years later, she was elected the vice mayor of Phoenix. As vice mayor, she advocated for people with disabilities and fought the abuse of women, serving on the mayor’s and Arizona governor’s commissions to prevent domestic violence.
A passionate opponent of child sex slavery, Bilsten participated in rescue trips to Indonesia, China, and war-torn Central Africa. She now works with StreetLight PHX, a ministry dedicated to eradicating child rape for profit. She also serves as the executive director of the Arizona Sexual Assault Association and is part of the staff for the Global Training Network, which equips church planters, leaders and pastors around the world.
Dr. Bryan Den HartogDistinguished Professional Achievement
A 1981 graduate of Northwestern, Den Hartog is an orthopedic surgeon at the Black Hills Orthopedic & Spine Center. After earning his medical degree from the University of Iowa College of Medicine, he completed his residency in orthopedic surgery at the University of Kansas School of Medicine and received specialized training in foot and ankle surgery at the Medical College of Wisconsin.
Den Hartog serves on the faculty for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society (AOFAS). He has published peer-reviewed articles in journals such as the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery and is a journal reviewer for Foot and Ankle International. Active in missions and part of the humanitarian committee of the AOFAS, he has trained doctors and performed surgery in Haiti and Venezuela.
Harold Vander LaanDistinguished Service to Northwestern College
Vander Laan received an associate’s degree from Northwestern Junior College in 1949. He then earned a bachelor's degree at Westmar College, taught high school, and completed a master’s degree from the University of Northern Colorado before filling the role of registrar at Northwestern College for 28 years. He was also the college’s director of admissions for the first seven of those years. All three of his children are graduates of NWC.
Now retired, Vander Laan keeps busy with his hobbies and volunteering. A wood worker, he has completed several projects for Northwestern, including building a replica of Zwemer Hall for a Tulip Festival parade float.