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2014 Alumni Award Winners

The following individuals were recognized at Augustana’s Celebration of Alumni Dinner in April.

Finest Under Forty Achievement Award

Presented to one or more members who are 40 years of age or less, for having achieved distinction in their vocation, for having made a contribution to Augustana (either through exceptional service rendered the college or through support of the association) or for having made a contribution to society through outstanding community service. Our 2014 recipient is:

Michael Passananti

Michael Passananti ’03

Michael Passananti graduated from Augustana College in 2003, but his story of success began during his time on campus. In addition to being named Top Business Major his senior year, Passananti was a leader in the classroom and across campus. He graduated summa cum laude with a major in business administration, concentrating in finance and management. As a member of the basketball team, Passananti served as captain his senior year, being recognized for his leadership skills and his primary interest in the collective efforts of the team. Additionally, he served as president of the Student Athletic Advisory Committee and held multiple positions within the Phi Omega Phi fraternity.

Upon graduation, Passananti attended law school at DePaul University, and has been practicing law since graduating in 2006. He currently is a partner at the firm of Duggan Bertsch in Chicago, serving clients in the wealth management area. Passananti continues to be active in his profession and community, publishing articles in his field, speaking to multiple groups, holding office within a professional organization, and serving on various non-profit boards. He remains in close contact with the business administration department at Augustana, acting as a mentor to students who plan to go to law school, and assisting them in obtaining summer associate positions. He served as the keynote speaker at the 2013 Augustana Business Day breakfast and participated in several classes.

The best description of Passananti can be heard from Associate Professor of Business Administration Dr. Craig VanSandt, “In addition to his academic and professional credentials, Mike is simply enjoyable to be with, and is a great colleague and friend. I can think of no one more deserving of the Finest Under 40 award.”

Passananti and his wife, Kathleen, have a daughter, Mona, who will be turning 2 years old this month.

Augustana is proud to honor Michael Passananti with the Finest Under 40 award for his demonstrated success within his profession as well as continued support in creating successful Augustana students.

Outstanding Achievement Award

Presented to one or more members for having achieved distinction in their respective vocations. The 2014 recipient is:

john knutson

Dr. John Knutson ’64

John Knutson graduated from Augustana College in 1964 with a degree in psychology. Following graduation, he continued his education with a master’s in psychology and a Ph.D. in clinical psychology both at Washington State University. After two years at the University of Oregon Medical School as a postdoctoral fellow, Knutson began his career as assistant professor in the psychology department at the University of Iowa in 1969. This appointment was the beginning of a distinguished career as a highly respected scholar in his field, a leader within the university community and a shining example of an Augustana alumnus.

Faculty at research universities typically are expected to contribute in three areas that are vital to the institutional mission—teaching, research and service. Over his 40-year career, Knutson has made substantial contributions and distinguished himself in all three. He has taught thousands of students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. In the laboratory or in clinical settings, he has worked one-on-one with students and has supervised more than 50 students in terms of honors theses and Master of Arts theses. Additionally, he has served as the dissertation supervisor for 23 Ph.D. students, each for a period of four or more years; this represents a substantial contribution to graduate education.

One of the remarkable things is that Knutson has sustained his research program at a high level during his four decades at Iowa. This is an outstanding accomplishment that requires a number of elements: a) the identification and pursuit of important research problems, b) the recruitment of capable students and knowledgeable colleagues to one’s research team, and c) success in attracting research grand funds to support the studies.

Knutson also has exhibited leadership within the University of Iowa community by having served as both the director of the Research and Training Clinic and as coordinator of Clinical Training for the Iowa Psychology Department. These are vital positions in the clinical psychology program at Iowa, and during his tenure, the program was ranked among the top 10 within the country. Knutson also has brought his experience to bear on challenges in the local community. For example, he was a member of the Board of Directors and president of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Johnson County (Iowa City) for several years. Additionally, he has served as a senior consultant for the Psychology Service at the Iowa City V.A. Hospital.

Knutson is married to Claudia Langhorst ’64 Knutson and has two children, Amy Knutson ’92 Starck and Joel Knutson.

Augustana is proud to honor John Knutson with the Outstanding Achievement Award for his exhibited leadership within the field of psychology and continued service to the University of Iowa and surrounding community

Outstanding Service Award

Presented to those members who have rendered unusual service to Augustana or who have reflected honor on their alma mater by exceptional community service. For 2014, the recipient is:

scott petersen

Scott Petersen ‘68

Scott Petersen is a 1968 graduate of Augustana College and a 1973 graduate of the Illinois Institute of Technology–Chicago Kent College of Law. 

Petersen began his legal career as an assistant state’s attorney in Cook County, serving nearly five years in the Felony Trial Division. He prosecuted more than 70 jury and bench trials on felony cases including Illinois’ first death penalty case in 1977. Petersen currently is a partner in the Chicago office of Holland & Knight. He works in the area of counseling, licensing, protecting and litigating trademarks, copyrights and domain names in the United States and around the world.

Petersen is fluent in Spanish and has twice addressed the Mexican Corporate Bar Association in Mexico on issues relating to intellectual property. Petersen serves on three charitable boards: Ministry Mentors, an organization that provides mentors for ordained clergy in 11 states; and The Manuscript Society, which serves collectors, dealers and institutions that collect historical manuscripts and archives. He is a past president and in 2002 made a presentation in Stormont (the Parliament in Belfast, Northern Ireland), and Feed the Dream, which provides nutritional assistance for indigenous children and women of childbearing age in remote areas of Guatemala.

Petersen is a member of the National Eagle Scout Association, the International Brotherhood of Magicians, and the Society of American Archivists. He has served for six years as a tutor for inner-city students through the Chicago Lights Tutoring Program. He is an active blogger who posts twice a week at

He is an avid collector of historical manuscripts and documents. He has one of three complete collections in private hands of original letters and documents signed by justices of the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1982, he acquired the entire archives of the Chicago Rock Island Railroad, which consisted of more than 1000,000 square feet of material.

In addition to his service, Petersen also has remained a generous supporter of Augustana College for many years. This support has manifested itself into the annual alumni and parents’ reception, Winter in the Windy City, which takes place every January and is hosted by Petersen at the Holland & Knight Law Offices in downtown Chicago.

Petersen and his wife, Donna, have one daughter, Lauren. Lauren is married to Trent Edwards, and they have one daughter, Eve, who is 2 years old.

Augustana is proud to honor Scott Petersen with the 2014 Outstanding Service Award for his many years of service to his community and alma mater.

Richard A. Swanson Humanitarian Award

Presented to one or more members for providing service to the Church, to Augustana College or for having been involved with social issues on a local, state or national level. For 2014, the recipient is:

bruce johnston

Rev. Dr. Bruce Johnston

The Rev. Dr. Bruce D. Johnston graduated from Augustana College in 1951 and obtained his Master of Divinity from the Augustana Theological Seminary in 1955. He obtained his Doctor of Ministry from the McCormick Theological Seminary of Chicago in 1976.

As an ordained minister of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), The Rev. Dr. Johnson has developed and led congregations in Illinois and New York since 1955. His primary focus has been in parish ministry with particular interests in worship, evangelism, stewardship and adult education. The Rev. Dr. Johnson has served a long list of appointments during his career, including Grace Lutheran Church in La Grange, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Glenview, Unity Lutheran Church and Bethel Lutheran Church in Chicago, and Ascension Lutheran Church in Deer Park, N.Y.

In addition to his calling as a pastor, The Rev. Dr. Johnson also has served in various church roles. From 1976-1979 he was assistant to the synod bishop. From 1990-1999 he served as consultant to the ELCA for the Growth in Excellence in Ministry project, in which he helped to raise consciousness and funding for continuing education for clergy. Since his retirement in 1997, The Rev. Dr. Johnson has been an interim ministry specialist in the Metropolitan Chicago Synod. He also leads pre-retirement seminars for clergy and spouses nationwide on behalf of the ELCA Division for Ministry.

The Rev. Dr. Johnson is married to Nancy Youngren Johnston, and they have four children: Stephanie Johnston ’84, Eve Kochanek, James Johnston and Noel Johnston ’91.

Augustana is proud to honor The Rev. Dr. Bruce D. Johnston with the Richard A. Swanson Humanitarian Award for his lifelong dedication and leadership with the church.

Honorary Alumni Award

Presented to friends of Augustana who have demonstrated a strong commitment to the college. Recipients are considered honorary alumni of Augustana and members of the Alumni Association. This is not an honorary degree. The 2014 recipient is:

john norton

John Norton

Unlike the other award recipients, John Norton is not a graduate of Augustana College but his connection with the college has been strong for many years. Norton was born in Moline and is the son of artist Paul Norton and Augustana 1932 graduate Lucy McClean Norton. After receiving his degree in political science at Knox College in Galesburg, Norton came back to study Swedish as the Augustana College Swedish Summer School, which was followed by a year in Sweden near Uppsala.

Norton had a 32-year active and reserve military career which allowed him to serve in important roles, such as acting escort officer for the Scandinavian military, the supreme commander of Sweden’s armed forces, and the Swedish Parliament’s defense committee. In 2010 he was recognized as “Swedish-American of the Year” by the Vasa Order of American, in consultation with the Swedish Foreign Ministry. Norton’s volunteer activities include service on the board of Scandinavian Seminar in Amherst, Mass., and the Augusta Heritage Association in Chicago. At Augustana College, he is editor of the Augustana Historical Society newsletter and the chair of the American-Scandinavian Association.

Many people are surprised to hear that Norton didn’t graduate from Augustana, as he has been a tireless ambassador and cheerleader for the college for decades. Whether it is on his numerous travels abroad encountering Swedish dignitaries or in his philanthropic work in the Quad-Cities community, Norton consistently thinks in terms of “How can this visit, person or event benefit Augustana?” While it is true that John’s undergraduate degree is from Knox, John consistently exhibits the attitude that makes it clear that his “heart belongs to Augustana.”

Norton is married to Janet Nelson Norton, a graduate of St. Olaf College. Janet is a retired registered nurse and former faculty member at Trinity College of Nursing in Moline. They have two grown children, Sarah Norton Braun and Stephen Norton, and are proud grandparents of Stephen Lee Braun, Luke Edward Braun and Erin Elizabeth Braun.

Augustana is proud to honor John Norton with the Honorary Alumnus Award for his ardent support of the college and the Quad-Cities community.