2022 Award Honorees
B.S. 1997 Biotechnology
Ph.D. 1997 Pharmaceutical Sciences
In 1997, Michael Chambers (B.S. Biotechnology) and John Ballantyne (Ph.D. Pharmaceutical Sciences) graduated from NDSU; in 1998, the two built upon research forged in NDSU labs and founded Aldevron, a company that has become a leader in advancing biological sciences, headquartered in Fargo, North Dakota.
The company grew organically. John and Michael built a commercial infrastructure and focused on keeping costs down while providing exceptional products that would lead to scientific breakthroughs such as mRNA vaccines and personalized medicine. Today, Aldevron produces high-quality plasmid DNA, mRNA, proteins, enzymes, antibodies, and other biologicals to scientists around the world; all of the DNA that goes into the creation of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is made at Aldevron.
By providing large quantities of highly pure nucleic acids used universally in the advancement of gene therapy, Aldevron greatly accelerated scientific progress. Aldevron’s success captured the attention of global science and technology innovator, Danaher, and in June 2021, Danaher Corporation purchased Aldevron for approximately $9.6 billion.
When John and Michael look to the future, they’re excited about how NDSU and Aldevron will advance genomic medicine and how NDSU’s land-grant mission can bolster the industry by inspiring innovation. They’re looking to the horizon for the next “Aldevrons” that will create new technologies necessary to advance medicine, keep costs down, and treat diseases. John and Michael hope this award will inspire future NDSU graduates who have the drive, desire, and understanding to act on their ideas, and they believe Fargo is the perfect place to foster innovation.
Kenton R. Kaufman
Ph.D. 1988 Biomechanical Engineering
Kenton R. Kaufman, Ph.D., P.E. ’88 helps a vast continuum of individuals — from Olympic athletes to severely wounded service members to children with cerebral palsy — improve their mobility. He serves as the W. Hall Wendel Jr. Musculoskeletal Research Professor, Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Professor of Orthopedics, Director of the Motion Analysis Laboratory, and a Consultant in the Departments of Orthopedic Surgery, Physiology, and Biomedical Engineering at Mayo Clinic.
Kenton grew up in Marion, South Dakota, and earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees in agricultural engineering from South Dakota State University. He planned to design tractors but discovered he preferred to apply engineering principals of design and analysis to humans. After serving as a faculty member at NDSU for 10 years, he decided to pursue his Ph.D. in biomechanical engineering at NDSU.
With a team of engineers, physical therapists, physiologists, and doctors, Kenton works to help diagnose patients with musculoskeletal conditions; treat people with limb loss or mobility impairments; optimize athletic performance; and conduct research and develop new technologies to help individuals achieve a better quality of life.
Among numerous other accomplishments, Kenton designed the combat boots used by the U.S. Marine Corps and advocated for medical reimbursement that changed the national policy for a microprocessor-controlled prosthesis used by people who have had an above-knee amputation. He is currently leading a national effort to develop a Limb Loss and Preservation Registry to improve prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation efforts. His career reflects the importance of continued research, innovation, and compassion for people.
Clara Presser (Osowski)
B.M. 2008 Vocal Performance
Classical musician and mezzo-soprano Clara Presser (Osowski) ’08 grew up on a farm in Turtle Lake, North Dakota, with a musical mother who encouraged her to pursue her talents as a vocalist and saxophonist. In high school, Clara saw her first opera at NDSU’s Festival Concert Hall and began to feel pulled toward Fargo.
At NDSU, Clara honed her musical skills and work ethic in a student-focused environment. She was also greatly inspired by Prakash Mathew, former Vice President of Student Affairs, and his commitment to servant leadership. Following in his example, Clara co-founded Source Song Festival in 2013 to help foster a nurturing educational and creative environment for musicians and audiences in the Twin Cities.
Clara sings in professional ensembles, including Seraphic Fire, and has participated in numerous music institutes overseas to enhance her craft. She was the first American prizewinner in the Das Lied International Song Competition in Heidelberg, Germany — one of the most prestigious voice competitions worldwide — and, in October 2021, she performed her debut recital at Wigmore Hall, a world-renowned chamber music hall in London, England.
Her approach interpreting music — whether she’s performing a solo recital or singing with incarcerated women as part of a music residency at the Minnesota Correctional Facility — is informed by equity and the importance of empathetic communication.
B.S. 1973 Agricultural Economics
M.S. 1976 Agricultural Economics
Neal Fisher ’73, ’76 grew up on a fourth-generation grain and cattle ranch near Tappen, North Dakota. His father was an NDSU (then NDAC) graduate, and both of his parents imparted the value of education, curiosity, and a strong work ethic.
Following in their father’s footsteps, Neal and his two brothers earned degrees from NDSU that helped open doors to rewarding career opportunities. Neal has traveled extensively as an international market development specialist and trade policy expert for more than four decades, and he has served as administrator of the North Dakota Wheat Commission since 1998.
As an active proponent for North Dakota’s agricultural economy, Neal advocates and helps raise funds for agricultural research, which he sees as a critically important feature of the state’s $10 billion (and growing) agriculture industry. He is proud of the reputation the North Dakota wheat “brand” has achieved over the years, rising to the absolute pinnacle of quality and value in the global market — and he credits NDSU wheat quality and performance research programs for much of this success story.
Neal has been an NDSU Foundation Trustee since 2010, serves on the compensation and nominating and governance committees, and is currently vice chair of the Executive Governing Board (EGB). Throughout his career, he has maintained active roles with NDSU, state and national policymakers, and the dedicated producers of North Dakota’s farming and ranching communities. He and his wife, Deborah ’76, have three grown children who earned NDSU degrees and three grandchildren — they all wear Bison gear.
B.S. 1971 Speech Education
When former NDSU professor E. James Ubbelohde introduced Mike Krueger ’71 to competitive speaking, it changed the trajectory of his NDSU experience. Mike initially planned to become an engineer, but speech classes captured his attention. As a member of the NDSU Forensics team, Mike won eight first-place awards in tournaments from New York City to Wyoming.
After graduating from NDSU with his degree in speech education, Mike reported to active duty in the Air Force. Following three years of service that included stops in upstate New York, Mississippi, and Guam, Mike and his wife, Susan (Wall) ’71, returned to the Midwest where he worked for Cargill, Inc. from 1974-1982.
Mike went on to co-found Agri-Mark, a grain marketing consulting company that worked with grain elevators and farmers and eventually added commodity brokerage services for their clients. In 2002, he also founded The Money Farm, an agricultural marketing and risk management company, which he sold in 2016.
Mike has served NDSU in a variety of roles, including as a member of the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences’ advisory board; as president of the board of directors of the Alumni Association; and as an NDSU Foundation Trustee and chair of the Executive Governing Board (EGB).
His time as chair aligned with the 2019 public launch of In Our Hands: The Campaign for North Dakota State University. As a volunteer fundraiser, Mike urged other benefactors to invest in the campaign by sharing his own stories of philanthropy. He continues to be an involved Trustee by serving on the investment and nominating and governance committees.
In 1902, German immigrant Friedrich A. Scheele used $300 from his first potato harvest as a down payment on a hardware and general merchandise store in Sabin, Minnesota. Over the next seven decades, the Scheels corporation continued to expand, opening general merchandise stores across the upper Midwest. Then, in 1980, Steve D. Scheel, current Board Chair and former CEO, began to sense a cultural shift — sporting goods were becoming a lifestyle rather than a luxury — and he made the decision to convert the Sioux Falls, South Dakota, store to sell only sporting goods.
His gamble paid off. Within a year of the change, the Sioux Falls store was having steady gains of 20-25% while the company overall, still a mix of sporting goods, hardware, housewares, and lawn and garden, was experiencing 4-5% gains. Soon, other Scheels locations followed suit and sold sporting goods exclusively; today, Scheels has 30 locations across 13 states.
The Scheels company has a strong legacy of philanthropy that’s embedded into its mission statement, “We do good in our communities.” Employees in every store are encouraged to give back, and Scheels leads by example. In the 1960s, Steve’s dad, Fred B. Scheel, served as chairman in the fundraising efforts for NDSU’s Askanase Hall, and over the years, Steve and his wife, Eileen, have supported NDSU Performing Arts, the College of Business, and Athletics. Scheels has been Steve’s career and passion for more than 50 years, and he is proud that the success of the business allows him opportunities to invest in NDSU both personally and as a business leader.