Alumni Honored at Annual NWU Legends & Legacies Event

Six Nebraska Wesleyan University alumni were honored recently for their impact on the world and on their alma mater.

The honorees were recognized during the University’s annual Legends and Legacies Alumni Association Award Dinner, held September 23.

Award recipients were selected by the Alumni Association’s Recognition Committee.

This year’s honorees are:

Alumni Loyalty Award — Vonn Roberts (’74)

Since graduating from NWU in 1974 with a Bachelor of Science in biology, Vonn has shown his willingness to help his alma mater with his time, energy and money. He has supported the Archway Fund, UMC Religious Life, the library, Olin Retrofit, the general endowed scholarship, the Fire Relief Fund, the Booster Club, football program, track program, the track renovation projects (both in 1988 and the most recent renovation) and the botany lab renovation. He and his wife, Deb, have also included NWU in their estate plans.

With the botany lab renovation, Roberts’ involvement went beyond simply writing a check. He was helpful in finding others who would also be willing to help make this project successful. Roberts also was a valuable member of the track fundraising committee where he was successful in securing many gifts for the project. He contacted former track athletes and even people he didn’t know to ensure the track renovation met its goals. Over the years he has also enjoyed attending athletic and alumni events and encourages other alumni to do the same.

Three years after graduating from Nebraska Wesleyan, Roberts attended the University of Nebraska Medical Center where he received his medical degree in medical/health sciences. Roberts has shared his career with past and current students by allowing them to shadow him in his work as an anesthesiologist at Bryan LGH in Lincoln.

Young Alumni Loyalty Award — Kristi (Hoffman) Oltman (’99)

Kristi (Hoffman) Oltman came to Nebraska Wesleyan from central Iowa ready for an adventure and a lesson in independence. However, she was no stranger to NWU. Both of her parents attended Nebraska Wesleyan, and her younger sister, Erin, would also attend. While working toward her degree, Oltman became involved with student government and business club, intramural sports and volunteering in the community. She also became active in the Greek system. Through Delta Zeta, she donated her time and support to many fundraisers like the spaghetti feed and Turtle Tug, gaining valuable leadership experience. She served on Delta Zeta’s executive board for three years where she was assistant recruitment chair and vice president of internal finance.

After graduating with a Bachelor of Science in business, Oltman didn’t stop lending her time to Nebraska Wesleyan. She maintained involvement with Delta Zeta by serving as their co-recruitment advisor, coaching current members on recruitment. She also does her part as an alumna, sharing her experiences with Delta Zeta members. She speaks with student organizations, networks and devotes time to Career Week panels and “Backpack to Briefcase” events. In 2009 she assisted the Alumni Association, hosting a round table on career networking for the Career Tune Up Event. She also conducted business communication interviews for Professor James Perry’s classes.

Oltman is the manager of talent acquisition at the National Research Corporation. In 2010 National Research Corporation sponsored the Business Etiquette Dining workshop at Nebraska Wesleyan. She has also served as an account executive at Experian.

Young Alumni Achievement Award — Cortney Ohs (’92)

For Cortney Ohs, a childhood passion for fisheries and wildlife has evolved into a 19-year career studying and educating others about aquaculture—the cultivation of aquatic animals and plants.

As a child, Ohs was an avid fisherman and hunter and spent most of his time at a lake just down the street from his house. During his teen years he kept many aquaria, which heightened his interest in marine fish and invertebrates. In 1992, he graduated from Nebraska Wesleyan University with a Bachelor of Science in biology with minors in chemistry, physics, and English composition.

He later became interested in breeding ornamental fish, which led him to graduate study in aquaculture. Attending Mississippi State University Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, he earned a Master of Science and a doctorate in wildlife and fisheries science/aquaculture in 2003.

Ohs works with farmers on a daily basis to help them more efficiently produce their fish and shrimp crops. He has also developed a curriculum for middle and high school teachers to implement aquaculture and aquatic sciences into their classrooms.

Ohs has a long list of publications, including over 30 scientific journal articles and two book chapters. He is an associate professor at the University of Florida in the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences.

Alumni Achievement Award — Vernon Ward (’48)

For three years at Nebraska Wesleyan, Vernon Ward had the opportunity to work with Dr. Claude Shirk, chairman of Biology. He was an assistant in the laboratory and his love for teaching has lasted throughout his career.

He has had a wonderful, happy, and successful career practicing Internal Medicine.

Ward was an instructor and Research Fellow in Anatomy at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City.

He then received his medical degree from the University of Nebraska Medical Center, graduating cum laude in 1954. Ward completed an internship and residency at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he was named Chief Resident Physician.

Next was a tour of active duty in the Navy in San Francisco.

In 1961, he became an Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He returned to Nebraska when a close friend convinced him to join his practice of internal medicine in Kearney, Nebraska.

In 1967, he joined the faculty of the University of Nebraska college of Medicine and became an Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine. For 36 years, he had a private practice and taught many medical students, interns, and residents.

Dr. Ward’s career achievements have earned many honors including the 2000 Community-Based Teaching Award by the American College of Physicians and the American Society of Internal Medicine.

In spite of his busy practice, he found time for community service. This included active participation in the Arthritis Foundation, beginning in 1963. He also is a member of the Lions Club for many years. His interest in Nebraska Wesleyan has continued; serving on the 50th Class Reunion Committee in 1998 and staying up to date with his fraternity, Phi Kappa Tau.

Alumni Humanitarian Award — Charles “Chuck” Erickson (’59)

Chuck Erickson will go to great lengths for a cause. So when he was asked to develop a Rotary District International Project in Zambia, he jumped at the opportunity.

Five trips later, with over $100,000 raised, he and other Rotary District 5650 members have improved the lives of rural Zambians. Erickson helped develop a medical clinic at the Sons of Thunder Mission, treated children at three orphanages, installed water wells in several villages and taught orphanage and neighborhood health workers.

He’s received a Yale Scholarship in International Child Health in 2003, the 2006 Rotary Foundation District Service Award, the 2008 Rotary Foundation Citation for Meritorious Service and two Volunteer Service Grants for his work in Zambia.

As an undergraduate at Nebraska Wesleyan, he was a member of Phi Kappa Tau Fraternity.

Locally, Erickson helped establish the first intensive care unit for newborns at St. Elizabeth Hospital. He helped create a psychology program associated with the Lincoln Pediatric Group. And he managed a grant that teaches physicians to counsel adolescents on high-risk behavior through the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Erickson graduated from NWU with a Bachelor of Science in chemistry and biology. He received his medical degree from the University of Nebraska College Of Medicine in 1963. Erickson is the appointed clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of Nebraska.

Medal of Honor — Larry Snyder (’61)

What do Nebraska Wesleyan athletics and the agriculture industry have in common? Snyder is very passionate about both. He is always willing to help others and is consistently thinking about ways to make things better. His desire for others to succeed also sets him apart from the crowd. Snyder truly does embody Nebraska Wesleyan ideals.

Larry Snyder wasn’t always a Plainsman. After one year at UNL, he decided the small classes, down-to-earth instructors, and athletic prominence at NWU were best for him. The 1961 graduate of Nebraska Wesleyan earned his Bachelor of Arts in business administration.

Larry Snyder isn’t afraid to put his creative abilities to the test. One of his greatest inventions is the fiberglass tanks, which he developed and patented in the 1960s. He is also the founder and former owner of Snyder Industries, Inc. He sold the company in 1991 and it continues to be a national supplier of plastic containers for agricultural and industrial uses. In 1985, his business was the first award winner of the Cornerstone Award. From 1982 to 2004, he also owned The Steak House restaurant in Lincoln.

Throughout his many business achievements, Snyder hasn’t forgotten where he came from. His philanthropic support for Nebraska Wesleyan can be seen on campus today. He has donated funds to help build Snyder Arena in the Weary Center and to completely refinish the arena floor to include our current school colors and logo. He also annually supports the Snyder Classic- Thanksgiving Basketball Tournament and the ‘W’ Club Golf Tournament.

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Vonn Roberts (second from left) was honored with the 2011 Alumni Loyalty Award.
Kristi (Hoffman) Oltman (second from right) was recognized with the Young Alumni Loyalty Award.
Courtney Ohs (center) was presented the Young Alumni Achievement Award.
Vernon Ward (center) was honored with the Alumni Achievement Award.
Chuck Erickson (second from right) was presented the Alumni Humanitarian Award.
Larry Snyder (second from left) received the Medal of Honor.