2024 Award Honorees

Dr. Magan Lewis

Ph.D. ’12 Plant Sciences

Each year, the NDSU Foundation recognizes the accomplishments of award honorees and recognition society donors at Evening of Distinction, presented by SEI.

Dr. Magan Lewis is the recipient of the 2024 Horizon Award, which recognizes alumni who have graduated within the past 15 years and have attained great success in their profession or have been engaged in outstanding community service.

Magan Lewis Ph.D. ’12, from Hankinson, North Dakota, traces her journey to become a global STEM leader back to her late father’s science lab. Her parents fostered her leadership spark and love of research by serving as educators and community trailblazers. 

“I focus on the next evolution of agriculture research,” Magan, the equipment and automated field sensing lead at Bayer Crop Science, said. “New technologies that we develop allow farmers to make their operation as sustainable and productive as possible, while protecting our natural resources.”   

Magan chose to pursue her Ph.D. in plant sciences at NDSU because of “the amazing scientists and leaders that inspire me to continually grow as a scientist, leader, and community champion.” 

She has gone on to do great things as a pioneer of agriculture science, winning awards such as Seed World’s 2022 Future Leader of the Seed Industry and an ambassadorship for the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2019.  

Magan has invested in the Dr. Magan Lewis Scholarship at NDSU, which was created to help young female scholars in their pursuit of academic excellence and future careers in agriculture.  

“If women are empowered to courageously unleash their creativity and innovation, then our communities and the world will change for the better,” Magan said. 

Dr. Jane Willenbring

BS ’99 Soils (Earth Science)

Each year, the NDSU Foundation recognizes the accomplishments of award honorees and recognition society donors at Evening of Distinction, presented by SEI.

Dr. Jane Willenbring is the 2024 recipient of the Henry L. Bolley Academic Achievement Award, which honors individuals who have attained noted achievements in the area of education as teachers, researchers, and/or administrators.

As a high school senior, Jane Willenbring ’99 and a group of young scholars embarked on a month-long residential program led by former NDSU geology professor Allan Ashworth. They collected beetles from the summits of the Appalachian Mountains, New York state, and Newfoundland. Jane, who grew up west of Mandan, North Dakota, says she had such an impactful experience traveling outside of the Midwest for the first time that, when she set her sights on college, she only applied to one school: NDSU. 

Now an associate professor at Stanford University, Jane is a leading global expert on the use of cosmogenic nuclides to date rocks and sediments. She earned her bachelor’s degree in geosciences from NDSU, a Master of Arts in earth sciences from Boston University, and a Ph.D. in earth sciences from Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada.  

While conducting graduate research in Antarctica in 1999, Jane experienced verbal and physical harassment from her research advisor. Concerned that reporting the situation would cost her career, Jane remained silent about her experience until 2016. She ultimately chose to report the abuse to protect future generations of women in science. Her bravery led to changes in policy within the National Science Foundation. 

“I’m proud that I have been, for others, the person I needed when I was younger,” Jane said. 

As well as a passionate advocate for women in science, Jane is the recipient of many prestigious awards, and her research has been published in leading peer-reviewed scientific journals. Jane fondly remembers her time at NDSU as a McNair Scholar, rugby player, geology club member, and oboist in the band. Today, she finds joy in research and teaching, cooking, gardening, and spending time with her daughter. 

Dan Johnson

BS ’87 Construction Engineering

Each year, the NDSU Foundation recognizes the accomplishments of award honorees and recognition society donors at Evening of Distinction, presented by SEI.

Dan Johnson is the recipient of the 2024 Alumni Achievement Award, which recognizes alumni who have attained outstanding professional accomplishments.

Dan Johnson ’87, a construction engineering graduate, started at Mortenson in 1986 and hasn’t looked back since. He held various positions in estimating, operations, and business development before being promoted to vice president in 1996, senior vice president in 1999, chief operating officer in 2008, president in 2015, and president and CEO in 2017. He currently serves as the CEO. 

Dan has helped grow Mortenson into a top 25 construction industry leader with more than $5 billion in annual revenue and 7,000 team members. He’s pioneered their renewable energy sector and expanded their development business. In his tenure as CEO, Mortenson has grown during several economically challenging times. Dan is committed to safety, leadership development, and diversity, equity, and inclusion work. 

He credits his education at NDSU as his “ticket to the dance.” He is a passionate alumnus who gives back as a board member for the NDSU College of Engineering Advisory and Advancement Board and who was integral in securing a leadership gift from Mortenson for NDSU’s upcoming Richard Offerdahl ’65 Engineering Complex. 

Dan serves on the executive committees and is chair for Construction Inclusion Week and Construction Safety Week. He is also on the board of directors for the ACE Mentor Program, Fastenal, the Greater MSP, and the Construction Industry Roundtable and is a member of the National Academy of Construction. 

He is “most proud of the people and careers [he’s] been able to help along the way.” 

Each year, the NDSU Foundation recognizes the accomplishments of award honorees and recognition society donors at Evening of Distinction, presented by SEI.

AgCountry Farm Credit Services is the recipient of the 2024 Partner in Excellence Award, which recognizes a corporation, foundation, or organization that has given significant support as well as demonstrated inspirational philanthropic giving in the University.

AgCountry Farm Credit Services is a farmer-owned cooperative that provides competitive access to credit and financial services for farmers, ranchers, and agribusinesses. Through customer education, community outreach, volunteerism, and philanthropy, AgCountry delivers on its mission to support agriculture and rural America.  

During a long and dedicated partnership, AgCountry and NDSU have worked together to bridge the gap between education and employment in the agricultural sector, ensuring a pipeline of skilled and knowledgeable professionals who will contribute to the continued growth and prosperity of the agriculture industry. 

Together, AgCountry and NDSU collaborate to provide workforce and rural economic solutions. AgCountry actively participates in NDSU’s career fairs, offers hands-on internship experiences, works with faculty and staff to tailor curriculum to industry demands, and partners with the Career and Advising Center to connect qualified graduates with open positions within the company and broader agribusiness sector. 

AgCountry has also made significant philanthropic investments in NDSU scholarships, programs, and facilities. Its most significant philanthropic commitment to NDSU is the AgCountry Endowed Chair in Agribusiness, which was established in the fall of 2023. Designed to tackle key challenges in agribusiness finance and risk analysis, the AgCountry Endowed Chair in Agribusiness will be housed within the NDSU Center for Trading and Risk and will leverage the state-of-the-art Commodity Trading Room. 

“Partnerships such as AgCountry and NDSU offer a mutually beneficial exchange of resources, expertise, and talent that fosters innovation, economic growth, and community development,” Howard Olson, senior vice president of government and public affairs for AgCountry, said. 

John Erickson

BS ’80 Agricultural Economics

Each year, the NDSU Foundation recognizes the accomplishments of award honorees and recognition society donors at Evening of Distinction, presented by SEI.

John Erickson is the recipient of the 2024 Distinguished Service Award, which recognizes individuals who have provided outstanding volunteer service for the benefit of the University or played vital roles as volunteer fundraisers on behalf of the NDSU Foundation.

John Erickson ’80 grew up on a small farm 10 miles north of Moorhead. When he left home to play college baseball and earn a degree in agricultural economics, he didn’t have to go far. 

“My dad was a professor and researcher in animal science at NDSU,” John said. “Our family has always been Bison fans.” John said this family legacy is what led him to attend NDSU. After graduation, John found his professional home with Otter Tail Corporation. While wearing multiple hats for Otter Tail, including president and CEO, John has remained deeply dedicated to NDSU and his community. 

“Rare can one find an individual who is so humble, unassuming, yet so committed to advancing the ideals of our alma mater,” Steve Swiontek ’78, Gate City Bank board chair and former chair of the NDSU Foundation Executive Governing Board, said. 

John served as a member of the Alumni Association Board of Directors and then as chair while this organization merged with the Development Foundation Trustees to form the NDSU Foundation. John served on the Executive Governing Board as vice chair and treasurer during the In Our Hands campaign, which raised $586.7 million to support NDSU students, faculty, programs, and facilities. 

In honor of the significance of NDSU, agriculture, agribusiness, and athletics in the Erickson family history, John and his wife, Kim, have invested in the John and Kim Erickson Agribusiness Scholarship Endowment, the Duane and Joan Erickson Scholarship Endowment, and the Erickson Family Athletics Scholarship Endowment, among other impactful initiatives.