St. Olaf announces 2018 Alumni Award winners

The 2018 Alumni Award winners are (from left) Craig Hella Johnson ’84, Wendy Helgemo ’91, and Jon Hallberg ’88.

St. Olaf College recently announced its 2018 Alumni Award winners: Distinguished Alumni Award recipient Wendy Helgemo ’91, Alumni Achievement Award recipient Craig Hella Johnson ’84, and Outstanding Service Award recipient Jon Hallberg ’88.

Every year, the St. Olaf Board of Regents and the St. Olaf Alumni Association, in recognition of outstanding achievements, bestow the St. Olaf Alumni Awards on those alumni whose accomplishments have brought honor to self and to the college; whose service and leadership have exemplified its ideals; and whose concern for St. Olaf has supported and strengthened its program.

Receiving the Alumni Award is a tremendous honor, and it’s an opportunity for St. Olaf to recognize alumni whose actions, work ethic, and motivation bring the St. Olaf mission to life. Award recipients demonstrate the best of what you can do with a St. Olaf education.

Read more and watch a video of each of this year’s recipients below.

Wendy Helgemo ’91
Wendy Helgemo ’91 has spent her entire career as an advocate for Native Americans, particularly in the areas of public health, education, housing, and economic security. She has more than 20 years of experience in Indigenous law and policy and currently is the director of the AT&T Center for Indigenous Politics and Policy at George Washington University. Helgemo is an enrolled member of the Ho-Chunk Nation, formerly known as the Wisconsin Winnebagos.

Among her many roles, she has been in-house counsel to the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Indians in Minnesota and the Ho-Chunk Nation in Wisconsin, as well as a staff attorney for the National Indian Gaming Commission in Washington, D.C. As senior advisor on Indian Affairs to former U.S. Senator Harry Reid, Helgemo helped enact several points of key legislation — including conveying more than 71,000 acres of much needed land to six Indian tribes in Nevada.

“St. Olaf strengthened my commitment to giving back to my community,” Helgemo says. “It fostered my understanding of the need for justice and equality for all people.”

Craig Hella Johnson ’84
Craig Hella Johnson ’84 is a renowned choral conductor, composer, and educator. He is the founder and artistic director of Conspirare, a world-class professional vocal ensemble based in Austin, Texas. The group has a reputation for expanding the boundaries of choral performance and has been nominated for eight Grammy Awards, including for its 2014 album, The Sacred Spirit of Russia, which won for Best Choral Performance.

Johnson is known for crafting musical journeys that create deep connections between performers and listeners. “I’m devoted to bringing out authentic and vibrant performances that reveal the essence of a work,” he says. “It’s really about supporting others in their own human awakening through music — remembering the indwelling freedom of their soul and heart.”

Johnson continues to stay connected to St. Olaf as a guest conductor of St. Olaf ensembles, including serving as interim conductor of the St. Olaf Choir in 2007 and the St. Olaf Orchestra in 2010.

Jon Hallberg ’88
Jon Hallberg ’88 is the medical director of the University of Minnesota Physicians Mill City Clinic and associate professor of family medicine and community health. He recently ended a 21-year tenure as medical director of the Minnesota Twins Employee Assistance Program and has been the regular medical commentator on Minnesota Public Radio’s regional “All Things Considered” since 2003.

In addition to his award-winning medical accomplishments, Hallberg is well known in the Twin Cities and beyond for his work illuminating the connection between the arts and medicine. For example, he is the creator and host of Hippocrates Cafe, a live show that uses professional actors and musicians to explore healthcare topics through story and song.

“I’ve been able to combine medicine and the arts in ways that likely never would have happened had I not gone to St. Olaf,” he says. “The college instilled in me a love of learning broadly and deeply across the sciences, the humanities, and the arts.”

Do you know an Ole that would be an excellent candidate for an Alumni Award? Submit an Alumni Award nomination for next year today!