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 Hudson, Wisconsin and is currently the Assistant State Public Defender.
The 2020 Alec Award winner is Ella A. Gruel, a senior from Carbondale, CO. She has a double major in Classics and Psychology with a Linguistic Studies concentration. She did collaborative summer research in 2019 to develop a vowel-based accent measure. Besides being an active member of Eta Sigma Phi, Ella is Vice President of St. Olaf’s Speech and Hearing Association, has been the student vestry representative at All Saints Episcopal Church in Northfield, and sings in and serves as chaplain for the St. Olaf Gospel Choir. She will be pursuing an M.S. in Speech-Language Pathology, with a specialization in deafness, at Nazareth College in Rochester, NY.
Whoever wins the Alec Award receives a certificate and a check for $100.
Previous Winners of the Alec Award
2016: Leif D. McLellan ’16 (Classics and Ancient Studies major), Shoreview, MN
2017: Katherine (Kate) A. Bello ’17 (Latin, Medieval Studies, and English major), Mission Hills, KS
2018: Dylan K. Walker ’18 (Classics major, concentrations in Film Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies), Mountain Grove, MO
2019: Devin P. Ames ’19 (Classics and Religion major, Huntington, WV) and Mary Landis Gaston ’19 (Classics major, Nashville, TN)