Each year at Homecoming, WSU and the Alumni Society recognize individuals for their outstanding commitment to the University, its mission and to improving our world.
Submit a nomination for a Distinguished Alumni Award.
Alumni Achievement Award
Recipients are graduates who have achieved prominence in their chosen field of endeavor and who have made significant contributions to the university, bringing honor to themselves and to their alma mater.
Graduate of the Last Decade (G.O.L.D) Award
This award recognizes graduates who have graduated 10 years or less and have distinguished themselves in their work or in their community. Volunteer service and contributions to the university are also considered.
This award is recognizes an employee, retiree, alumni, or friend of the university who has left an indelible impression in support of WSU and its students, faculty and staff.
Purple Pride Award
This award recognizes WSU faculty or staff who have elevated the esteem and prestige of the university through their commitment to the university and all of its constituent groups.
The Warrior Way Award
Recipients are WSU graduates or non-graduates who have voluntarily rendered significant contributions of time and talent to WSU.
Alumni Achievement: Eric Kerska '78
Eric graduated from WSU in 1987 with degrees in History and Political Science. Eric then went on to receive his masters degree in Strategic Studies at the US Army War College.
He served his country in the United States Army and Army National Guard for 32 years, rising to the rank of Colonel. He is now retired from the US Army. He served three combat deployments totaling over 40 months as an Armor Officer. He commanded an Armor Brigade Combat team for Operation New Dawn.
Eric culminated his Army career as the 34th Infantry Division Chief of Staff within the Minnesota Army National Guard where he was responsible for training and preparation of over 500 officers and enlisted soldiers.
He has since risen through the ranks of the Rochester Fire Department to become a Battalion Fire Chief, and most recently, Fire Chief for the City of Rochester. Eric continues to volunteer his time and talents serving others in his local community.
Alumni Achievement: Tyrre Burks '10
Tyrre graduated from WSU in 2010 with a degree in Professional Studies. Just 5 years out of college, Tyrre started a company called Players Health. The mission of Players Health is to “create the safest environment possible for an athlete to play the sports that they love.”
Today, Players Health supports over 50,000 sports organizations, over 11 million athletes and 1.9 million coaches. They provide commercial insurance to sports organizations and provide them access to free athlete safety services.
Players Health is considered the fastest growing sports insurance company in the world. Tyrre has earned the Entrepreneur of the Year award and was named one 2022’s Most Admired CEO’s by the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal.
Tyrre also volunteers on local boards and is the Founder of the Players Health Foundation. Already in 2022, the Foundation has donated over $100,000 to youth sport programs and single mothers to support their kids in sports. He runs a number of free tournaments and camps on Chicago’s south side and also in the country of Belize.
Tyrre is an engaged WSU football alumnus. He mentors current players and regularly serves as a guest speaker for the team.
Heritage Award: Joe Reed
Joe has been a champion for Winona State and our students for the past 30 years.
Joe was a staple serving as the Director of Student Union & Activities and retired from this position in 2019 after an illustrious career. Reed was instrumental in transforming Kryzsko Commons to meet the ever-changing needs of our students.
His significant renovations have included the expansion of Baldwin Study Lounge and the WSU Bookstore, the addition of the solarium, modernization of the dining facilities and a transformation of the former bowling ally/game room into the current Student Activity Center.
In addition to transforming the facilities on campus for our students, he also enhanced the student experience by bringing in world-class speakers and musicians to perform for our students such as:
- Maya Angelou
- Elie Wiesel
- Adam Sandler
- Cheap Trick
- Counting Crows
- The Band Perry
Joe’s passion has always been student focused. He employed hundreds of students during his time on campus and continues to maintain a strong bond with former and current Warriors. He has touched the entire Winona campus community with his generosity and fun-loving spirit.
Joe will also serve as the Grand Marshal in the 2022 homecoming parade.
Purple Pride: Paula (Aussem) Scheevel '80
Paula graduated from WSU in 1980 with a degree in Sociology and Social Work. Paula spent almost her entire career at Winona State working in housing and residence life, retiring on Aug. 2, 2022.
She held many positions in her tenure, such as:
- Security Coordinator
- Assistant Dean of Students
- Residence Hall Director
- Director of Housing and Residence Life
She successfully navigated her team and all the housing students through a global pandemic in a wise, safe, and effective manner. Paula found herself immersed in the day-to-day operations of the Student Life and Development. She also supported the mission of the university by sitting on committees, searches, and boards.
In addition, Paula volunteers extensively in the Winona community.
Paula initiated the student security program and pioneered new living and learning communities during her time at WSU. Paula recently received the 2022 Minnesota State Colleges and University Outstanding Service Faculty Award.
Warrior Way: Jay Horner '06
Jay graduated from Winona State University in 2006 with a degree in Marketing. Throughout his successful 15-year career at Federated Insurance as the Senior District Marketing Manager, Jay has made his mark with frequent engagement opportunities with current WSU students. Jay has been a constant presence in the College of Business for many years, giving back his time, expertise and support in a variety of ways. He serves on the Strauss Center for Sales Excellence Advisory Board since 2017 and has donated to the Sales Center and the College of Business through both his personal and corporate sponsorships. Each semester, Jay is a frequent contributor to Marketing classes, including Market Analysis, Advanced Professional Selling and Sales Management by acting as a guest instructor, benefiting the students by sharing his business experiences and relating concepts to actual work in the field. Jay has hired several of our graduates, offering them excellent positions and opportunities with Federated Insurance. Jay and his wife are contributors to the WSU Foundation, United Way, Big Brothers Big Sisters, the ALS Foundation, and WSU Baseball (he played all 4 years at WSU).