Alumni Awards

Each year the Concordia Alumni Council, on behalf of the Alumni Association, accepts nominations for seven awards:

  • Alumnus of the Year Award
    An alumnus reflecting outstanding Christian service and leadership in the community, church and world.
  • Young Alumnus of the Year Award
    An alumnus who graduated within the last 15 years and has made a significant contribution as a servant leader in the community, church and world.
  • Partners in Mission and Ministry Award
    An alumnus or alumni currently serving in or retried from a local or global mission field as partners of professional church work or related vocations of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.
  • Church Leadership Award
    An alumnus currently serving in or retired from professional church work in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod in a unique or challenging ministry which extends the reach of the Gospel.
  • Lifetime Service Award
    An alumnus or friend of Concordia who reflects outstanding Christian loyalty to support Concordia and the world through volunteer service or significant vocational achievement.
  • Honorary Alumni Award
    A friend of Concordia, who is not an alumnus, who supports Concordia through contributions of time, talents and treasures.
  • Friend(s) of Concordia
    A friend or alumnus reflecting outstanding Christian leadership as a lay worker through exemplary service to Concordia, alumni advancement, student recruitment and/or university support and promotion.

Alumni Award Nomination Form

During Homecoming & Alumni Reunion Weekend, the Concordia Alumni Association honored alumni and friends for their service and accomplishments, and other alumni were inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame. Below are those who were honored during Homecoming 2015.

Photo of Rev. Dr. Ray Mirly
Rev. Dr. Ray Mirly '66

Alumnus of the Year

Rev. Dr. Ray Mirly, a former teacher and pastor and President Emeritus of the LCMS Missouri District, has used his God-given talents in ways that demonstrate Concordia’s mission in action through service and leadership in the church and world. He has demonstrated deep and abiding faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and love for his wife, Debbie, and the church that he and Debbie have served so well. A graduate of Concordia Teachers College, as well as St. Paul’s College in Concordia, Missouri, Mirly served early in his career as a Lutheran elementary school and junior high school teacher, coach and athletic director in two schools in Minnesota and Michigan.

In 1977 he was certified to be a pastor in the LCMS and earned his Master of Arts from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1978. He served as a pastor for 29 years at two different congregations of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and as President of the Missouri District for nine years.

Mirly appreciates his Concordia experience and has used it to fuel involvement in the church. “Concordia was foundational to my life of service as teacher, pastor and district president. I was well-prepared academically and as a church man,” he says.

Using his experiences at Concordia and in the field, he expanded his roles within the LCMS to include participating on numerous boards and committees and assisting with fund raising opportunities. He is currently the LCMS Council of Presidents representative on the Concordia University System Board of Directors. He also served for nine years as an advisory member of the Board of Regents at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.

Mirly has been an advocate for Concordia University, Nebraska in various capacities throughout his career. He was honored by Concordia with the Doctor of Laws degree in 2007.

Mirly and his wife, Debbie, live in Buckeye (Phoenix), Arizona.

Photo of Dr. Michelle Quinlan
Dr. Michelle Quinlan

Young Alumna of the Year

Dr. Michelle Quinlan, a leader in the pharmaceutical industry and her church community, completed her Bachelor of Science degree in math and business at Concordia in 2005. She went on to complete a Master of Science in 2007 and a Doctor of Philosophy in 2010, both in statistics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

While Quinlan completed her education, she obtained teaching and research assistantships and became a member of the Product Quality Research Institute (PQRI) Stability Shelf Life Working Group, helping to establish new methodology for determining the shelf life of pharmaceutical products. This resulted in several journal publications and presentations at conferences across the U.S. as well as in Belgium.

Quinlan has worked at Novartis Oncology as a biostatistician in clinical pharmacy, and she currently serves as the clinical pharmacology biostats representative on the Oncology Standard Output committee at Novartis. She recently played a key role into the submission of a new cancer drug for approval by the FDA. Her team was awarded the Novartis Oncology Vision Award for their perseverance in overcoming obstacles to help get the drug approved for cancer patients.

Quinlan not only serves through her leadership and teamwork at her job, but she also supports her church as the projectionist, in charge of navigating the slides during its worship service. She also helped with the church preschool dinner by talking with the preschool parents that attended to determine how the church could pray for them and minister to them. She has provided supplies for Vacation Bible School and winter clothes to be distributed to those in need.

“The Christ-centered education, small class sizes and caring professors [at Concordia] provided me both a strong academic foundation as well as a strong intellectual and spiritual foundation that has allowed me to excel as a biostatistician in the pharmaceutical industry while upholding my Christianity,” Quinlan says. Quinlan lives in Morris Plains, New Jersey.

Photo of Rev. Brad Birtell
Rev. Brad Birtell

Mission & Ministry Award

Rev. Brad Birtell demonstrates God’s love and grace in his role as pastor at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Columbus, Nebraska. He loves and cares for God’s people, has a servant heart and exhibits leadership and people skills that reflect his love for the Lord. Birtell humbly praises God for enabling him and his wife, Christine, to inspire students to attend Concordia because of how great God has been to their family.

Through the Birtells’ encouragement, dozens of students, including all three of their children, have attended Concordia. Many students from St. John’s and the Columbus area are now serving their Savior as teachers in Lutheran schools, Directors of Christian Education and pastors because of the Birtells’ influence.

“Concordia changed my life!” says Birtell. “It showed me what it means to be a servant-leader in powerful and life-changing ways.”

Birtell served as circuit counselor for the Columbus circuit. He has served on the Rural Ministry Task Force for The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. During that time, he helped put together three national convocations for rural and small town congregations.

Using his God-given gift for leading and speaking, Birtell has spoken several times to new pastors who came into the District each year. He was the guest preacher for the Founders Day celebration at Concordia in 2014. Birtell served for a year as a guest instructor for the Old Testament classes at Concordia, he has led devotions for athletic teams on many occasions and he has spoken to the Pre-Sem Club.

Birtell takes junior high students on servant trips annually, he coaches the Christ Lutheran School (Columbus, Nebraska) boys’ basketball team and he has hosted students from Concordia Seminary.

Birtell lives in Madison, Nebraska, with his wife. Their three children also attended and graduated from Concordia: Porter ’13, Britney ’14 and Sawyer ’15.

Photo of Dr. Carolyn (Stroebel) Sims
Dr. Carolyn (Stroebel) Sims

Church Leadership Award

Dr. Carolyn Sims has been a consistent and faithful force in Christian education for decades. Sims served faithfully for more than 30 years at Abiding Savior Lutheran School, first as a teacher and then as principal until her retirement in 2013. She has earned an outstanding reputation as a Lutheran teacher, school administrator and leader within The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

Along with her bachelor’s degree from Concordia Nebraska, Sims earned a Master of Arts in curriculum and instruction from Concordia University in Irvine, California, and her doctorate in educational leadership from Concordia University Chicago in River Forest, Illinois. She is well respected among her peers for her work as an educator, administrator, member of school accreditation teams and consultant. Beyond working in Lutheran schools, Sims was an adjunct professor for several years at Concordia University in Irvine, California, as well as one semester at Concordia Nebraska.

She is a certified educational leadership coach within the LCMS and received the LCMS Pacific Southwest District Early Childhood Teacher of the Year Award in 1989. She has served on the executive board of directors for the LEA Early Childhood, Administrator and Retired Education Networks and is on the board of directors for Crean Lutheran High School in Irvine, California.

To spread the love of Jesus throughout the world, Sims has traveled internationally with Lutheran Hour Ministries, and she has written for numerous publications including “Little Lambs,” “My Devotions,” “Happy Times,” “Winning Friends for Christ” and Lutheran Education Journal.

Sims is a member of Abiding Savior Church in Lake Forest, California, where she has served as choir director, youth director, counselor, small group leader, Vacation Bible School leader and circuit officer for the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League, among many other volunteer roles. Sims lives in Mission Viejo, California.

Photo of Judith Duda
Judith Duda

Lifetime Service Award

Judith Duda, a humble servant who leads by example, gives generously of her time and talent to enhance the quality of life in her church and community.

Since arriving as a teacher at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Oviedo, Florida, in 1958, she has also served as organist and choir director on the board of directors and as campaign chairman for building projects for the church and school.

Currently she serves as church archivist, documenting the congregation’s 100-year history in a new book and extensive digital collection. She also founded and still serves as volunteer director of the St. Luke’s Concert Series, which has hosted Concordia’s musical ensembles several times over the past two decades.

Duda’s service extends into the larger community: She chairs the Dean’s Executive Council for the College of Arts & Humanities at the University of Central Florida and serves as a trustee of the Florida Historical Society, Lutheran Counseling Services of Central Florida and several charitable foundations. She has been a member of the President’s Council at Concordia University Chicago and served in leadership roles for the Christian Service Center, Lutheran Services Florida, National Summer Music Program and other entities.

Duda served Concordia Nebraska as a Foundation director during the On A Mission campaign and also as a member of Concordia’s Board of Regents.

Judy credits the Lord for her energy and life of service and cherishes the relationship she has maintained with Concordia, saying, “God is good! He has blessed me with amazing relationships and many joyful ways to serve Him. I thank God for having given me the privilege of becoming involved with Concordia Nebraska, of establishing lifelong friends with many of His servants there and of being privileged to offer continuing support of this excellent mission and ministry.”

Widowed in 1999, Judy and her new husband, Col. Howard (Bud) Weber, live in Oviedo, Florida, very near their beloved church.

Photo of Dr. Jerrald Pfabel
Dr. Jerrald Pfabe

Honorary Alumni Award

Dr. Jerrald Pfabe, who obtained his Ph.D. from St. Louis University, embodies the spirit of a Concordia University, Nebraska alumnus in his work as a faculty member, Concordia’s archivist and a servant in his church and community.

Pfabe taught history when he first started working at Concordia in 1967. He became the department chair of the social sciences and later began teaching Spanish courses, which he still teaches today in his retirement.

Dedicated to embracing and keeping up to date both in content and use of technology, Pfabe has been an outstanding leader for both faculty and students. He takes classes on campus and does the homework to fully learn the material. He is passionate about Concordia and ensures his students and others in the Concordia community uphold high standards.

Pfabe has been both friend and caring mentor to faculty. He genuinely cares about his students and colleagues and is committed to making learning fun and applicable. For example, his Spanish students often look forward to participating in a traditional Mexican meal at his home at the end of the semester.

A former football and basketball coach at Lutheran High Central/North in St. Louis, Missouri, Pfabe is a faithful fan of Bulldog athletics. He is also a former organist and choir director, making him very interested in Concordia’s music program, so he regularly supports music students and faculty by attending concerts and recitals.

Pfabe believes he has grown not only professionally at Concordia, but also personally, saying, “As a member of the faculty for many years, I have benefitted and grown from my associations with a gifted and committed faculty and with a wonderful group of students. Concordia has given me the opportunity to grow in understanding the relationship of my teaching areas and Christian faith and responsibility.”

Pfabe is active at St. John Lutheran Church in Seward, Nebraska, and in the community, leading Bible studies and serving on committees. Pfabe and his wife, Esther, live in Seward, Nebraska.

Photo of Norman & Joyce Riffel
Norman & Joyce Riffel

Friends of Concordia Award

Norman and Joyce Riffel are faithful servants of Jesus Christ, contributors to their community and loyal supporters of Concordia University, Nebraska.

The couple are members of Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church in La Vista, Nebraska, and Risen Savior Lutheran Church in Sun Lakes, Arizona, where both Norm and Joyce humbly serve as Christians who demonstrate their desire to help others through their actions. Norm served two years as a member and the chairman of both the Board of Social Ministry and the Board of Elders. He is committed to taking care of others and using his talents, treasures and business acumen to support institutions that nurture Christian education and values.

As the former owner and president of Metro Moving Services, Inc., an agent for Atlas Van Lines in Omaha, Nebraska, Norm has demonstrated high character, superior ethics and excellent leadership qualities and practices in his business and personal relationships.

Norm also served in the Navy from 1956 to 1959. He provided outstanding leadership as state chairman of the Nebraska Republican Party from 1987–1991. From 1989–1991, Norm also served as secretary, vice-chairman and chairman of the Nebraska Trucking Association.

Joyce was a summer school and Sunday school teacher who served in various ways for church and within her community. She was on the Building Committee Board of Beautiful Savior Lutheran School and president of the Salina Jaycee Jaynes. Joyce and Norm were also among 30 elected Nebraska delegates as representatives to the National Republican Conventions in 1988, 1992 and 1996.

Norm and Joyce are snowbirds and reside on a lake near Springfield, Nebraska, and a golf course in Sun Lakes, Arizona. They are the proud parents of their son, Todd, of Springfield, Nebraska, and their daughter, Jennifer, of Chandler, Arizona. They are dedicated to providing support for Todd’s three daughters to attend a Christian school in Omaha and Jennifer’s son’s Christian school education in Chandler, Arizona. They demonstrate their Christian love for their children and grandchildren through gifts provided by God each and every day of their lives.

Athletic Hall of Fame Inductees

Photo of Gordon Bredow
Gordon Bredow CHS ’60 CO ’64

Baseball / Basketball

A standout on the basketball court, Gordon Bredow collected all-conference honors as a sophomore, junior and senior. He averaged a double-double (points and rebounds) during his junior and senior seasons. The MVP of the 1964 Concordia Invitational Tournament, Bredow led the Bulldogs to their first-ever CIT championship. He also powered the 1962-63 squad to an 11-3 conference mark. He remains the program record holder for the most rebounds in a single game with 30. On the baseball field, Bredow went a full season without making an error and batted .273 in 17 games his senior year.

Also a graduate of Concordia High School, Bredow earned his degree in geography from Concordia Teachers College in 1964. He went on to receive his Master of Education (physical education and secondary education) from the University of Nebraska in 1967. Bredow has taught and coached at seven Lutheran high schools and two Lutheran grade schools during his professional career. He also served as an athletic director at four different schools and has held roles as head cross country coach, assistant basketball coach and assistant baseball coach at the high school level. In total, he spent 38 years as a head basketball coach and 17 as an athletic director.

Bredow is a member of Zion Lutheran Church in Harvester, Missouri. He and his wife Susan Katherine Bredow have two adult children, Austin and Ryan ’03.

Photo of Dick Everts
Dick Everts ’68

Baseball

Named Most Valuable Player of the 1967 Bulldog baseball team, Dick Everts shined at the plate during his sterling career. During his MVP junior season, Everts turned in a program single-season batting average record of .474 (37-for-78) to go along with three home runs, nine doubles, four triples, 28 RBIs and five stolen bases while posting a slugging percentage of .795. His nine doubles were the most among all NAIA players that season. The following season, Everts hit .385 (35-for-90) with a home run, four doubles, three triples and 20 RBIs. He also played two years of basketball (1965-66) as a Bulldog.

Everts, a Geneva High School alum, earned a degree in physical science with a minor in math from Concordia Teachers College. He received a master’s degree from the University of Missouri in 1968. Everts has spent his professional career as a teacher, working at Shelton High School, Nebraska Lutheran High School, St. Croix Lutheran High School and Millard North High School. Everts is a member of coaches associations in Minnesota and Nebraska, the National Education Association and the Nebraska State Education Association. Everts is a member of Rejoice Lutheran Church in Omaha, Nebraska. Everts and his wife Betty Ann Everts have three grown children: Lori Blume, Melissa Everts and Nicole Payne.

Everts says that Concordia afforded him a Christian education that provided a foundation for his career as a high school teacher. His special memories as a student-athlete included bus rides to games, attending chapel and spending time with teammates, coaches and classmates.

Photo of Quinton Furr
Quinton Furr ’01

Track & Field

A 2001 NAIA indoor national champion in the long jump, Quinton Furr put together an impressive resume as a star track and field athlete for head coach Kregg Einspahr. Named the 2001 Concordia Senior Male Athlete of the Year, Furr earned NAIA All-America honors a total of six times. Furr’s long jump of 24’ 5 3/4” at the 2001 GPAC championships remains a conference meet record. Furr also maintains three Concordia track and field records with program standards in the indoor long jump (25’ 3 1/2”), outdoor long jump (25’ 3/4”) and the outdoor 100 meter dash (10.60). Furr’s national title jump of 25’ 3 1/2” outdistanced future Gold and Silver Olympic medalist Bryan Clay. Furr also turned in a national runner-up performance in the outdoor long jump in 2001. He led the Bulldogs to a team NAIA indoor national runner-up finish in 2000.

Furr graduated from Concordia in 2001 with his Bachelor of Arts in behavioral science. He earned his law enforcement certificate from Inver Hill Community College. After working for three years in juvenile probation, Furr has since spent six years as a member of the Dallas Police Department. He is a member of the Dallas Police Association and the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement. He attends Tangible Grace Lutheran Church in Allen, Texas. Furr and his wife Jennifer Anderson Furr have two children, Addy and Josie.

Among his fond memories of his time at Concordia, Furr lists meeting his wife and lifelong friends as highlights. His most memorable athletic highlight was defeating Clay for the 2001 indoor long jump national title. Says Furr, “Coach (Gene) Brooks and Coach (Kregg) Einspahr were influential in helping me to grow in servant leadership and Christian family values. Both were great role models to me as a young man.”

Photo of Sarah Harrison Krueger
Sarah Harrison Krueger ’05

Basketball

A four-time all-conference selection, Sarah Harrison Krueger ranks near the top of several categories on the Concordia women’s basketball record book. Krueger finished her career as the program’s all-time leading scorer with 1,800 points. At the time of induction, she ranks No. 1 in blocks (203), second in scoring and fourth in career rebounds (945). During her first team All-America season in 2002-03, Krueger averaged 13.7 points and 7.1 rebounds while shooting 53.4 percent from the floor. That season she led the Bulldogs to a record of 36-2 (school record for wins), a GPAC regular-season title and a spot in the NAIA national tournament semifinals.

During her four-year career from 2001-05, Concordia went a combined 123-21 with one GPAC regular-season title and one GPAC tournament championship. Over that same period, Krueger and the Bulldogs posted the highest collective team GPA among all NAIA women’s basketball programs all four years, as recognized by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association. Krueger played one season for head coach Micah Parker and three for head coach Todd Voss.

Krueger earned her Bachelor of Arts in behavioral science from Concordia in 2005. The wife of Josh Krueger, Sarah is a stay at home mom to three children: Jack, Harrison and Cael. Sarah volunteers her time at Wahoo Public Schools and serves as a Wednesday night youth leader. She is a member of North Point Community Church.

Said Sarah of her time at Concordia, “As a student-athlete playing at Concordia during the 2001-05 basketball seasons, my team got to experience unprecedented support by the student body. I was never sure who was having more fun at the games, the fans or the players.”

Photo of Ross Wurdeman
Ross Wurdeman ’02

Baseball / Football

Named to the NAIA All-Decade team of the 2000s, Ross Wurdeman holds Concordia career receiving records for receptions (168), yards (2,458) and touchdowns (24). Honorary captain of the Omaha World-Herald’s 2001 NAIA All-Nebraska team, Wurdeman twice garnered NAIA first team All-America (2000 and 2001) and first team all-GPAC (2000 and 2001) recognition. As a senior, Wurdeman snagged 48 passes for 647 yards and seven touchdowns in leading head coach Courtney Meyer’s squad to a 10-2 record (school record for wins), co-GPAC title and berth in the NAIA playoffs. During Wurdman’s four-year career, Concordia posted a combined record of 26-15.

On the baseball diamond, Wurdeman flashed tremendous power. His 22 career home runs rank as the second most in program history. Over four years playing for head coaches Gene Faszholz (one year) and Jeremy Geidel (three years), Wurdeman batted .254 (103-for-405). He enjoyed his best season as a sophomore when he hit .343 (42-for-119) with nine home runs and 29 RBIs while slugging .655. He was named honorable mention all-conference.

Ross earned his Bachelor of Arts in business administration with minors in accounting and math from Concordia in 2001. He currently works at Cornerstone Bank in Columbus, Nebraska. He attends Immanuel Lutheran Church. He has served his church as part of the finance committee and mission team and as a youth group leader and on the trustee committee. Ross and his wife Jill Ekart Wurdeman have four children: Libby, Abby, Lauren and Nora.

When describing his relationship with Concordia, Ross wrote, “Concordia has impacted me greatly. While at Concordia I was able to make friendships that will last a lifetime. The influence of my coaches—Coach (Bill) McAllister, Coach Meyer and Coach Geidel—has impacted me greatly since my time at Concordia. Concordia gave me the foundation to become a better man.”

Photo of 1977-78  & 1978-79 Teams
1977-78
& 1978-79
Teams

Men's / Women's Swimming

The late 1970s represented a golden age for Concordia swimming. The 1977-78 team, coached by Jim Landon, went 15-2 overall. The following year the “Bullfrogs” posted a mark of 14-2 under head coach John Seevers. Both seasons produced men’s conference championships. During the impressive run of success, Concordia defeated teams such as Creighton, Drake, Northwest Missouri State and Wayne State. Also during this period, several program records were broken. Doug Martin, a Concordia Hall of Famer, and member of the 1978-79 team, owns seven different program standards. Other men’s standouts during this time were record-holders Dean Aurich, Dave Knock, Kel Einspahr and Tom Zelt. On the women’s side Deb Aurich sparkled as a diver. She holds all major women’s program diving records.

Terry Wetzel and Tom Zelt served as team captains.

Team Members
  • Dean Aurich
  • Glenn Boettger
  • Jeffrey Bolzman
  • Alfred Born
  • Lorena (Vaughn) Bradley
  • Bridget (Letteer) Cullen
  • Douglas Daenzer
  • Sue (Schranz) Davis
  • Barb Dunham
  • Karen (Klein) Einspahr
  • Kelvin Einspahr
  • George Evensen
  • Brosh “Ed” Ewbank
  • Judith Fechner
  • Kristina Gross
  • Gary Greder
  • Cheri Hans
  • Gregory Hasseldahl
  • Dwayne “Pat” Heine
  • Melinda (Smith) Heine
  • William Heine
  • Robin (Robison) Jones
  • Lon Jungemann
  • David Knock
  • James Landon (Coach)
  • Dale Langefeld
  • Melissa Mahlberg
  • Douglas Martin
  • Joanna Myhr-Arrison
  • Deborah (Aurich) Schmidt
  • Andrew Schwan
  • John Seevers (Coach)
  • Ruth Speerbrecker
  • Gary Van Dyke
  • Colleen (Mashek) Vreeland
  • Terry Wetzel (Team Captain)
  • Lynda (Folkening) Wheeler
  • Dennise (Luckenbill) Wolfe
  • Tom Zelt (Team Captain)