The Alec Award

The Alec Award

The Alec Award, given in memory of Evan Alexander Johnson ’97, honors a senior member of Eta Sigma Phi, the national Classics honor society, who has a gentle and humble heart and is dedicated to serving others in a kind, compassionate, and Christ-like way.

Alec Johnson (1974-2014), a Wisconsin native, took Greek at St. Olaf and graduated summa cum laude in 1997 with a Mathematics major. After a few years spent as a high-school teacher and software developer, he went on to graduate school at UW-Madison, earning a Ph.D. in Mathematics in 2011. At the time of his death he was doing research in astrophysics at the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium, using computer modeling to predict the timing of solar flares and their effect on the power grid, computers, and satellites. A dedicated servant of the poor, he gave away most of his income; he had a special interest in Uganda, where he funded scholarships for needy children, established school gardens and tree nurseries, and promoted sustainable farming.

Jeremiah J. Harrelson, Alec’s brother-in-law, is the donor of this annual award. He graduated from St. Olaf in 1999 with distinction in Classics; he earned his M.A. at Denver Seminary, his Master of Studies at the University of Oxford, and his J.D. at the University of St. Thomas. He practices law in Wisconsin.

In 2019 the Alec Award went to Devin P. Ames (Huntington, WV) and Mary Landis Gaston (Nashville, TN). Both are officers of Delta Chi and helped run the national Eta Sigma Phi convention at St. Olaf in March. Devin is president of the Student Congregation; Mary Landis is co-president of Blue Key. Devin, a double major in Classics and Religion and instructor of the Greek Lab, plans to attend Luther Seminary; Mary Landis, a Classics major, plans to attend Duke Divinity School before going to medical school. Devin played a prophetic chef in Plautus’ Curculio and a rustic youth in Menander’s Dyskolos; Mary Landis played a singing nurse in Curculio and a singing cook in Dyskolos. Both Devin and Mary Landis took Classical Studies in Italy; Devin took Classical Studies in Greece, too. Mary Landis did summer research as a Svoboda Legal Scholar.

Whoever wins the Alec Award receives a certificate and a check for $100. Jeremiah Harrelson and his family were able to come to campus to present the two awards at the Classics Conversation Table on April 1, 2019.

Previous Winners of the Alec Award

2018: Dylan K. Walker ’18 (Classics major, concentrations in Film Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies), Mountain Grove, MO

2017: Katherine (Kate) A. Bello ’17 (Latin, Medieval Studies, and English major), Mission Hills, KS

2016: Leif D. McLellan ’16 (Classics and Ancient Studies major), Shoreview, MN