Seven alumni honored as Legends and Legacies

  • Legends and Legacies
  • Legends and Legacies

Each homecoming celebration, NWU pays special tribute to outstanding alumni for life and career accomplishments. The tribute takes place at the annual Legends and Legacies banquet. The 2022 honorees include:

Alumni Loyalty Award - Greg Bergt ‘71

Since graduating from NWU, Greg has been a leader among his fellow alumni. Not only is he a generous donor, but he also freely gives of his time and experience. Greg never fails to show up, encourage and cheer the success of his alma mater. I can think of no one more deserving of this honor than him. -Mary Hawk, NWU director of development 

Bergt headshot

Bergt is founder and president of Bergt Consulting Inc. where he works with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the pharmaceutical industry to achieve drug approvals and compliance with FDA regulations.

Bergt's colleagues often speak of his love for Nebraska Wesleyan and the role it has played in the development of his family and in his professional life.

His loyalty is apparent through his generous involvement in the advancement of the university. He has served on the President’s Board of Advisors and on the Science Campaign Cabinet. Bergt leads by example through his service and as an annual matching gift sponsor on Giving Day.

Young Alumni Humanitarian Award - Tyler Richard ‘06

For as long as I have known Tyler, he has embodied the traits this award serves to celebrate. His tireless advocacy for the LGBT+ community and for civil liberties for all have made an impact not only in Nebraska, but on a national level. His continued work to improve all areas of the human experience will undoubtedly be profound. -Kari Fisk ‘06

Richard headshot

Richard is the associate director for nationwide strategic communications at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). His passion for social justice led him to high profile work including spearheading a communications campaign for the Supreme Court cases which changed the landscape for LGBTQ+ rights nationwide. Richard is also the co-founder of OutNebraska, which aims to empower, celebrate and grow LGBTQ+ communities in Nebraska. 

Richard continues to be a leader on campus through his advocacy for making the NWU experience safe and welcoming for students of all identities and in his role on the Alumni Executive Council.




Alumni Humanitarian Award - Kathy Whitmore ‘72

I have known Kathy for over 30 years. During that time, her dedication and commitment to social justice, not only in words but also in action, has served as a beacon of hope and promise when both can be difficult to maintain at times. Kathy’s ongoing work to build community and forge that community into a safe environment which welcomes and applauds diversity and encourages acceptance marginalized highlights the reason she is the ideal recipient of this award. -Patricia Goldstein

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After a 38-year career as a teacher, teacher coach, and district administrator for Atlantic City Public Schools, Whitmore co-founded The Leadership Studio. As executive director, Whitmore guides the organization’s nonprofit yoga studio, youth mentoring programs, scholarships and certification courses that use the philosophy of holistic practices to generate leadership skills and community involvement—all in the heart of Atlantic City.

Whitmore credits her time at NWU as helping her to explore new ways of thinking, specifically about justice. While Nebraska Wesleyan solidified Whitmore’s life of curiosity, learning and service, her experience with the Cooperative Urban Teacher Education (CUTE) program laid the groundwork for a lifetime of listening for what children and families need to make appropriate educational decisions. In addition to her accomplished career of professional service to the people of Atlantic City, she has offered her skills, leadership and care through numerous community organizations.

Young Alumni Achievement Award - Phil Bakken ‘13/’16M

He is a person who richly embodies what NWU is all about. He loves being involved, he loves making a positive difference, and he loves connecting with others in a transformative way. His ongoing commitment to scholarship, community and growth further prove that there is no one more worthy of this honor than Phil. -James Perry, NWU associate professor of professional studies

Bakken headshot

In 2018, Bakken was appointed chief of staff to the president of the University of Nebraska System. This made him the youngest individual to serve a major university system in this role. Bakken drafted a statewide economic development strategy white paper, which led to the launch of the Blueprint Nebraska initiative and recently led the development of the University of Nebraska’s five-year strategy. He also serves on the board of directors for Invest Nebraska Corporation, Nebraska Defense Research Corporation and the Nebraska Workforce Development Board.

Bakken points back to his term as a student governor for the NWU Board of Governors as the root of his interest in seeing leadership vision and as an early opportunity to observe good governance. He continues to serve his alma mater as the voice of NWU Track & Cross Country at home competitions.

Alumni Achievement Award - Chuck Lang ‘60

While I can’t provide you with a list all of Chuck’s awards, I do know that he was considered one of the top high school physics teachers in the nation. Chuck was a mentor to many other science teachers and always provided stimulating content. He was truly a role model to others, not just as a teacher, but also as a human being. -Garry Duncan

Lang headshot

Lang is a retired educator known for his commitment to education and in developing comprehensive physics curriculum. The Nebraska Academy of Science recognized his teacher workshops with the Friend of Science Award, and he received the Presidential Award for teaching high school physics. Lang has also been recognized as a Rotary International Paul Harris Fellow for his volunteer work in West Omaha.

Former student, colleague and Nebraska Department of Education director of science, Jim Woodland, stated, “Throughout his career, Chuck has demonstrated the highest level of competence in science education. In addition to being an outstanding teacher, he was active in professional science education organizations and facilitated the advancement of effective science education in professional development activities.”



John Rosentrater Act of Valor Award - Shelly (Gatzemeyer) Schwedhelm ‘07M

Shelly is one of the unsung heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic. Her efforts as a leader in pandemic response saved many, many lives in Nebraska and ensured that healthcare workers and critical infrastructure workers were able to work safely across the country. I am proud to be a colleague and friend of Shelly, and I am grateful to NWU for recognizing her work during COVID and her lifetime of work serving our state and nation. -Dr. James Lawler

Schwedhelm headshot

Schwedhelm serves as the executive director for emergency management & biopreparedness at Nebraska Medicine and as executive director of the global center for health security at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC). Throughout her nursing career, Schwedhelm has been on the frontlines of healthcare crises providing emergency care to patients and finding solutions that impact our state, region and nation.

Schwedhelm led activation of the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit and the safe care of Americans affected by Ebola in 2014-15. In late 2019, she also led the activation of the National Quarantine Unit and Nebraska Biocontainment Unit for numerous Americans coming from Wuhan, China and the Diamond Princess Cruise Ship. As an author of the COVID-19 Back to School Playbook, Schwedhelm played a critical role in helping Nebraska students - including Nebraska Wesleyan students - return to school in the fall of 2020. 

Alumni Medal of Honor - Brad Hurrell ‘73 and Peg (Kugler) Hurrell ‘75

As a couple, Brad and Peg have been supportive of NWU in many ways – both financially and voluntarily giving of their time. They have the utmost interest of NWU and issues that may affect the institution, faculty, and students. I cannot think of any couple who are more worthy. -John Kugler ‘71

Hurrell(s) headshot

Peg Hurrell comes from a long line of NWU alumni, following her grandmother, parents, siblings and 10 cousins in attending Nebraska Wesleyan. Brad Hurrell was a first-generation college student, he is the beginning of his family’s line of NWU alumni. One of their sons and a daughter-in-law have joined them as alumni.

The Hurrells value the lifelong friendships they created as students and the ways that relationships with fellow alumni, donors, staff and friends of Nebraska Wesleyan have enriched their lives.

Through their financial support, volunteerism and leadership roles, the Hurrells have remained involved members of the NWU community for nearly five decades. In addition to their presence at NWU functions and work on special initiatives, Brad served on the President’s Board of Advisors and Board of Governors, and Peg has been a reunion representative. Brad’s leadership on the board included time serving on the executive, board affairs, and facilities & enviromental committees, and chaired the finance & audit and investment committees. Brad currently serves as chair of the advancement committee.