Alumni were honored during the 2019 Alumni Awards Celebration at the University of Minnesota Crookston. Honorees included Abbey Award recipient Justin McMechan 2009; Outstanding Alumni Victoria Ramirez 2002, Perry Schermerhorn 1979 and 2017, and Paul Carrier 1987 and 1997; and Athletic Hall of Fame inductees Jessica Forsline 2002, Tom Andrades 2000, Christie Chappell Kopietz 2006, and Gary Warren, coach and assistant athletic director.
The Abbey Award (Young Alumni) recognizes alumni that have distinguished themselves in their professional field and/or volunteer activities. The award highlights the tremendous talents and contributions that young alumni make to their profession, to their community, and to the University.
The Outstanding Alumni Award is the highest honor bestowed on UMN Crookston alumni by the alumni association. This award recognizes alumni who have displayed exemplary commitment and service to community, education, family or in their occupational field.
Abbey Award (Young Alumni)
The 2019 Abbey Award recipient is Justin McMechan (BS 2009), agronomy graduate from the University of Minnesota Crookston. After graduating from UMN Crookston, McMechan continued his education to obtain a masters degree in entomology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He later became a Doctor of Plant Health with a Ph.D. in entomology from Nebraska-Lincoln, studying the oversummering ecology of the wheat curl mite.
Currently, McMechan is an assistant professor for crop protection and cropping systems at the University of Nebraska-Eastern Nebraska Research and Extension Center. Previously, he worked as a graduate research assistant in his field.
In 2016 McMechan received the John Henry Comstock Award from the Entomology Society of America’s North Central Branch. He has authored and co-authored a number of publications in the field of entomology, an area of interest he has held since he was a student at UMN Crookston.
Paul Carrier (BS 1987 and 1997) is a 40-year member of the restaurant institutional food service industry. Throughout his culinary career he has held multiple industry positions such as; dishwasher, prep cook, line cook, chef, and more. Currently, Carrier works at the Milwaukee Area Technical College where he is a faculty member/coordinator in the college’s School of Pre-College Education Division in the area of Culinary Arts Career Pathways Program. Carrier teaches, manages, and coordinates a “state of the art” culinary lab.
Carrier fondly recalls his time at UMN Crookston. “UMN Crookston has provided an opportunity for not only an excellent and quality educational experience, but acted as a backbone for life skills and work processes for developing personal and professional relationships that last a life-time,” Carrier says. Furthermore, he spoke highly of mentors he had at UMN Crookston including: Ken Myers, Sharon Stewart, Keith Ramberg, Lynn Mullins, and Gary Willhite; all of whom provided him with guidance throughout his years at UMN Crookston. Carrier was recognized with the UMC Hospitality Association award.
As part of his culinary career, Carrier enjoys being involved in community service projects such as Milwaukee Empty Bowls and Guest House of Milwaukee Sandwich Project.
Perry Schermerhorn (BS 1979 and 2017), a graduate of the University of Minnesota Crookston, found his passion in agricultural aviation and communication during his time as a student. Schermerhorn works with an air tanker crew at M+M Air Services in Beaumont, Texas and is responsible for delivering fire retardant in support of wildland firefighters. Prior to his current position, Schermerhorn retired from his thirty year position as a B-737 captain for Alaska Airlines.
Before becoming an airline pilot, Schermerhorn worked in agricultural aviation and continued to do so while he was an airline pilot.
He celebrated graduating for a second time with his son Calvin in 2017. The two (from Gig Harbor, Wash.) shared graduation day, but they didn't share majors. Perry, who studied online, is an applied studies graduate and Calvin majored in aviation.
Victoria Ramirez (BS 2002), a business management graduate of the University of Minnesota Crookston, uses her voice in the community to advocate for others.
She recalls experiencing a feeling of comfort and belonging at the university. “The University of Minnesota Crookston saved me,” Ramirez says. She explains the comfort of seeing a diverse population of students, feeling at ease in the welcoming environment, and the support that she felt from all of the faculty and staff.
Ramirez had previously experienced a cultural shock and direct racism when she moved to the area in 1993, but the Crookston campus felt like a safe haven to her. Not only did Ramirez feel safe, she also mentioned that the university gave her the tools she needed to reach her goals.
Currently, Ramirez is a social services supervisor for Polk County Social Services where she has been supervising the disability programs for the past sixteen years. She was the recipient of the 2018 Spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Award. This award recognizes a Red River Valley native or resident who has actively impacted their community by promoting diversity, multiculturalism, equality, and human rights through demonstrated leadership, service, and advocacy on behalf of underrepresented populations and diverse individuals.