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2023 Augustana College Alumni Awards

Alumni award winners 2023

Alumni Association Award winners were celebrated at a reception during Homecoming Weekend: clockwise, Dr. Alan Bridges '79 - The Outstanding Achievement Award; Colleen Leonardo '10 - The Finest Under Forty Outstanding Alumna Award; Dr. Wendy Hilton-Morrow '94 - The Viking Vocation Award; and Rev. Wayne Miller '72 - The Richard A. Swanson Humanitarian Award.

The Augustana Alumni Association recognizes the achievements, contributions and service of alumni and friends of the college each year.

The association solicits nominations and recommends candidates to receive Alumni Association awards. Each award may be presented to one or more alumni.

Here are the 2023 winners:

Finest Under Forty Outstanding Alumnus Award: Colleen Leonardo '10

Colleen majored in business administration (marketing) and was active on the Observer staff, speech and debate, and ADs (Advertising Developers) during her time at Augustana. She completed an internship in the Augustana in Australia program, doing international editorial writing for BBM Magazine in Sydney.

Colleen has been a storyteller and content creator long before she came to Augustana. It is no surprise that she rose to the challenge of creating stories to help children understand lifestyle transitions.

She created the I HAVE Series in 2014 when she could not find a children's book to help her own family situation. Colleen found that there are many resources for adults experiencing changes in their lives, but very little content for children. She created and launched a first-of-its-kind children's book series to help children understand and value modern family life. Her mission is to "provide a nurturing, and neutral, explanation for the topic at hand."

Topics covered in The I HAVE Series, include divorce, stepparents, same-sex parents, death of a loved one and special needs. This book series serves as a tool for both parents and children, and has received recognition around the world. The books are now both in print and in e-book format in five languages. The books are endorsed by professionals and parents alike, having filled an unmet need for families of all kinds.

Colleen provides a very valuable service to parents and children navigating life changes. In addition to writing books, she was formerly the stepparenting expert for stepparenting blog; she now runs her own blog on her website:

Q & A with Colleen Leonardo

How do you stay connected to the college? 

I stay up-to-date on campus news via social media, and I look forward to the Augie magazine in the mail!

Fondest memory of Augustana: 

The study abroad program — hands down the BEST experience of my life.

Most memorable faculty member: 

Karen Petersen

How a liberal arts education impacted your career/life? 

My college education and experience taught me to think outside the box, and to create your own solution when you can't find one. That is the entire reason why my children’s book series exists, and I think Augie helped give me the knowledge and the mindset to achieve my dream of becoming a published author.

Outstanding Achievement Award: Dr. Alan Bridges '79

Alan graduated from Augustana in 1979 in a class of pre-medicine students that was unique for its time, in that every pre-med graduate in his class obtained admission to more than one medical school.

Following graduation, Alan entered the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Peoria, Ill., earning his M.D. in 1983. He interned at St. Francis Hospital Medical Center in Peoria from 1983-1984, and completed his residency in internal medicine at the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics in Madison in 1986. Alan was appointed as chief medical resident from 1986-1987, and was accepted as a rheumatology resident at the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics, completing his training in 1989.

Alan’s medical career began as a clinician teacher and evolved to clinical leader. He received teaching awards at three medical schools and the Professionalism Award from the Department of Medicine (DOM) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison twice.

In 1996 Alan was appointed chief, medical services at the Dean’s Committee affiliated with the William S. Middleton Memorial VA Hospital in Madison, Wis. (Dr. Middleton was dean of the University of Wisconsin Medical School for 20 years and was the chief medical officer of the growing Veterans Health Administration after World War II.)

In 1998 Alan became associate chair of the Department of Medicine in addition to his role at the VA. In 2004, he was asked to serve as interim chair of the Department of Medicine. In 2005, Alan became the eighth chief of staff in the history of the Madison VA. He remained vice-chair of the DOM. Alan also served on the UWMF Board (2004-2008) and the UWMF Finance Committee (2002-current).

In March 2020, Alan was called to serve as COVID-19 medical incident commander of the VA Great Lakes Region that includes the states of Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan and Indiana. In this role, Alan led eight hospitals and 25 regional clinics in the planning, preparation, bed management, inpatient care, outpatient care (including telehealth), COVID-19 testing and policy making. 

At the height of the pandemic Alan triaged critically ill non-veterans to be admitted to VA hospitals in the region as part of the VA’s Fourth Mission (Emergency/Disaster Response Mission).

As the first wave of the pandemic softened, Alan wrote a Moving Forward plan (reopening of hospitals for face-to-face care) for the regional hospitals. This plan became the template for the national VA hospitals’ plan.

Q & A with Dr. Alan Bridges

How do you stay connected to the college? 

Email, Augustana Magazine, classmates and faculty members.

Fondest memory of Augustana: 

Meeting friends at the Union.

Most memorable faculty member: 

There are many. Drs. Tallitsch and Turnquist influenced my problem-solving interests. Mr. Ekblad was a cherished friend. Drs. Wartman and DeWit helped me understand the importance of research to advance knowledge.

How a liberal arts education impacted your career/life: 

My education at Augustana was outstanding preparation for medical school and how to care for patients from varied backgrounds.

The Richard A. Swanson Humanitarian Award: Rev. Wayne Miller '72

Wayne is a 1972 graduate who was ordained into the ministry of the LCA, later ELCA, and retired as bishop of the Metropolitan Chicago Synod of the ELCA. In that role, he navigated difficult issues related to sexuality while bringing together a broad spectrum of communities in one of the most diverse synods of the ELCA.

After 23 years of congregational ministry, Wayne served for 12 years as bishop of the Metropolitan Chicago Synod (2007-2019). Throughout his tenure, he maintained a special focus on immigration reform, and for 10 years chaired the Conference of Bishops’ Committee on Ministry Among People in Poverty.

In addition to his parish leadership, in the years prior to his election as bishop, Wayne served as pastor at the Augustana Center for Developmentally Disabled Children at Immanuel Lutheran, Chicago.

In addition, Wayne has been an adjunct instructor of Christian Thought at Aurora University, a founding board member of Suicide Prevention Services of the Fox Valley, and a member and presenter for a special judicial commission on Domestic Violence in the Faith Community. 

From 2016-2018 he served as president of the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago, where he continues to serve on the Executive Committee.

Q & A with Rev. Wayne Miller

How do you stay connected to the college?

Newsletters, college friends, donor information.

Fondest memory of Augustana: 


Most memorable faculty member: 

Too many to name… Roald Tweet perhaps

How a liberal arts education impacted your career/life: 

Taught me to integrate thought, work and core values. I believe that the enduring institutional legacy of the ELCA will be social services and our liberal arts colleges. We need to fight for them, celebrate them and cherish them, not for our own sake, but for the sake of the world.

The Award for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: Latinos Unidos

In the academic year of 1992-1993, a small group of students founded Latinos Unidos (LU) as part of an effort to create a space where Latinx and Latin American students could feel comfortable on an overwhelmingly white campus. 

In the years since, LU has pushed Augustana to develop a more inclusive curriculum, expand its connections to Quad-Cities communities, and fundamentally transform its identity as a white institution to which students of color must adapt. 

On its 30th anniversary, LU continues to embody the college’s struggles over diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.

(Submitted by Chris Strunk)

Q & A with Anna Navarro '95 Castro

Why was it important to found Latinos Unidos?

I am proud that it is still a strong group and continuing. It was a big part of my life at that time, and it makes me happy that students are finding a place of their own at Augustana. At that time, there was not a big population of Latino students. We wanted a group where we could be at home with and celebrate our culture.

Favorite Latinos Unidos memory? 

Receiving Casa Latina. We had a local artist paint a mural, and we had a party for the students and their families.

The Award for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: Dr. Natasha Flowers '95

Natasha "Tasha" has been an outspoken advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion from at least the time she was a student at Augustana in the early 1990s. 

Her classmate and friend Dr. Wendy Hilton-Morrow ’94 remembers the deep conversations they had about the experiences of students of color on campus when the campus was significantly less diverse than it is now. Her friendship and willingness to talk openly about race during a formative time in Wendy’s life likely helped shape Wendy’s current perspective on the importance of creating an inclusive campus for all.

After graduating from Augustana, Tasha earned a master’s in literature and eventually a doctorate in curriculum and instruction, with specialization in adult English education. Her focus on DEI in her graduate education is made clear by her dissertation, which examined how the beliefs and practices of African-American faculty members impacted the multicultural components of their courses. 

After earning her Ph.D., Tasha moved on to a 20-year career at Indiana University–Purdue University, where she served as the director of the Office for Multicultural Professional Development and then as a clinical associate professor in urban education. In this role, Tasha contributed regularly to community, campus and broader academic conversations about race. 

For instance, she participated on an Indianapolis United Way panel, “Understanding the Roots of Racism.” She also served on the Center for Urban and Multicultural Education’s advisory board, conducted faculty development on bias mitigation, and published a commentary in an international journal that grappled with whether teacher education can serve as a vehicle for social change. 

In July 2021, Tasha became the assistant dean for anti-racism, equity and inclusion at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville School of Education, Health and Human Behavior. She is a nationally respected voice on education and inclusion, as exemplified by her November 2022 appearance on "Real Talk: Diversity in Higher Ed Podcast."

Viking Vocation Award : Dr. Wendy Hilton-Morrow '94

Wendy graduated from Augustana in 1994 with a degree in speech communication. She began her career at WQAD News 8 as a producer and then a reporter where she quickly moved up to become the morning anchor, all while pursuing her master's. 

In 1998 she left WQAD to pursue her doctorate at the University of Iowa. She began teaching part-time at Augustana in 2005 in the communication department (with a little convincing from her former Augustana advisor, David Snowball) where she quickly became a leader and mentor to her students and fellow faculty. She became an associate professor in 2010, but never one to settle, Wendy became department chair in 2012. 

In 2013, along with colleagues Joy Hayes and Kathleen Battles, Wendy wrote and published her first book titled "War of the Worlds to Social Media" (New York, NY: Peter Lang. 2013).

She continued her department chair duties until 2014 when she became associate dean of the college and the Title IX deputy coordinator. In between all of this Wendy, along with Kathleen Battles, wrote and published a book titled "Sexual identities and the Media: An introduction" in 2015. 

In 2018, Wendy became the vice president of Academic Affairs, provost, and dean of the college.

Wendy has also chaired and co-chaired many committees at Augustana. She has had countless articles published and given numerous conference presentations. She accomplished all of this before the age of 50 and while raising a family of her own.

Q & A with Dr. Wendy Hilton-Morrow

How do you stay connected to the college? 

It’s easy to stay connected to Augustana when I get to come to work here every day. The roles I’ve held at the college have allowed me to celebrate the great ways in which Augustana has changed and adapted since I was a student here.

Fondest memory of Augustana: 

There are too many great memories to identify just one. I was most impacted, though, by the relationships I had with people from very different backgrounds than my own.

Most memorable faculty member:

Dr. David Snowball. How blessed I’ve been that my major advisor eventually became my colleague, mentor and dear friend.

How a liberal arts education impacted your career/life: 

My liberal arts education pushes me to think about the larger world and what I want my role in it to be. To borrow from language from Frederick Buechner, I regularly reflect on "where [my] greatest joy meets the world’s greatest need." My Augustana education has led me to ask those deeper questions about my life and my calling.

When I talk about what makes Augustana so special, I often say, "When I was a student, my faculty and staff members believed 
in me more than I ever believed in myself." As a first-generation college student, that support is what allowed me to achieve goals I never would have thought possible. That is the gift I now try to pass on to my students.

If you have news, send it to! We love hearing about the achievements of our alumni, students and faculty.