Alumni Awards 2016

First presented in 1964, the NMU Alumni Awards celebrate excellence: Northern alumni who have received an associate, bachelor, masters or educational specialist degree. They have been a positive influence on their professions or on their communities and distinguished themselves through achievements, both personal and professional, which not only set them apart in their field and social circles, but define them as true leaders.


Lynnae Ruttledge ’71, Distinguished Alumni Award

Lynnae is a worldwide leader and activist promoting employment and other opportunities for people with disabilities, believing that, in our world, worthwhile employment is the best avenue to independence and personal dignity. She has devoted her career to offering advice, consulting, mentoring and coaching for people with disabilities while shaping policy and promoting employment for their benefit.  Lynnae earned her bachelor of science degree and provisional certification in elementary education from Northern.

Lynnae began her career as a K-12 teacher in Brevort Township in Mackinac County and eventually moved on to teach at the community college level. She began guest lecturing at colleges and universities as well as international symposiums and forums on disability rights.  Lynnae has worked at state, national and international levels promoting disability rights. She has held executive and leadership positions in the Oregon Department of Human Services, Office of Vocational Rehabilitation Services. From 2005 to 2009, she served as Director of the Washington Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services. In 2010, President Obama appointed her Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration with the U.S. Department of Education providing vocational rehabilitation services to one million individuals with significant disabilities each year.   Following this appointment, she served as a member of the Senate Commission on Long Term Care and then served for three years on the National Council for Disability.  In addition to these responsibilities, since 1988, Lynnae has been affiliated with Mobility International USA, was co-chair of the Global Symposium on Assistive Technology for the European Parliament and was a policy advisor to an Irish-led international institute funding postdoctoral research fellows in the field of disability and assistive technology.  Lynnae has garnered a great deal of recognition during her career, including being named the 2000 Disabled Oregonian of the Year, and, in the same year, a National Rehabilitation Association Mary Switzer Scholar. She also received the 2007 Washington Governor’s Award for Leadership in Management.


Jana Simmons ’93, Distinguished Alumni Award

Jana is Of-Counsel in the Michigan office of national law firm Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP, where she focuses her practice in American Indian Law and complex civil litigation. Over the years she has built a strong and formidable reputation as an advocate for Native Americans and indigenous peoples and recently joined the 800-attorney Am Law 200 law firm to launch its Native Nations practice.  Jana earned her bachelor of science degree in political science and pre-law.

Through her advocacy, Jana’s efforts have established case precedents on important governmental issues within Tribal Law. Her practice encompasses assisting tribal members and organizations with matters including membership disputes, tribal constitutions and regulations, economic development and federal Indian law issues as well as civil litigation on behalf of tribal governments. She litigated a case that, in 2014, ended up in front of the Supreme Court of the United States.  Jana is a member of the Board of Editors of the Michigan Lawyers Weekly and has served as a judge for the Native American Law Students (NALSA) moot court competition. She has authored numerous journal and magazine articles and has presented regionally and nationally on topics as diverse as Michigan insurance law, HIPAA and privacy issues, employment issues and tribal gaming and state relations issues.

In addition, over the course of her career, she has collected many honors, awards and recognitions including: An appointment by Governor Rick Snyder to the Michigan Board of Counseling in July 2014, a nine-member board that assists the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Office with licensing and oversight of more than 9,000 legal counselors in Michigan.  She is a recipient of the Michigan Defense Trial Counsel’s Distinguished Service Award, 2011. This award recognizes the significant contributions made by Jana while she served a six-year term as member of the Counsel’s Board of Directors.  Jana was named a “Rising Stars” award recipient in 2009 and 2010. This award is given to no more than 2.5 percent of the lawyers in a state. Recipients must be under the age of 40 and have practiced less than 10 years. She also led the effort to establish the Michigan Defense Trial Counsel’s “Golden Gavel Award” to recognize the outstanding achievements of young civil-defense lawyers in 2011.

John Gremmer ’66, ’74, Alumni Civic Leadership Award

John graduated from Northern Michigan University in 1966 with a bachelor of science in biology and a master of arts in education, leadership and public service in 1974. His distinguished career in teaching and dedication to community service continues to this day.  John taught biology and leadership at both Oshkosh High School and Oshkosh North High School. He eventually became head of the science department at North High. During his teaching career he also coached football, basketball and track, eventually becoming involved with student government and community activities.  In 1993, John was named Oshkosh Teacher of the Year and also received the prestigious Kohl Award for Educational Excellence. Working with students and other faculty members, he launched a leadership class for the Oshkosh Area School District. Through this program he helped students become involved in blood drives, community mentor programs, food drives, clothing drives for a domestic abuse shelter, cooking and serving meals at a soup kitchen for the homeless and a Salvation Army Christmas gift-giving program for needy children in the area. John also taught leadership skills to students from around the state at summer camps for the Wisconsin Association of Student Councils at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.  Outside of the classroom, John has served as president of the Central Wisconsin chapter of Trout Unlimited. During his tenure he organized monthly informational programs on cold water resources, established a fly casting clinic and organized the “all things trout” Troutfest. In addition to this, in collaboration with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the University of Wisconsin, he developed a network of teams that carried out a monthly water monitoring program for local streams.  In 2012, John was awarded one of Trout Unlimited’s highest honors, the Gold Net Award as well as the Fox Valley Sierra Group Environmental award.  John retired from public schools in 2000, but continues his teaching career at Fox Valley Technical College.

Luke Steinke ’00, ’02, Alumni Achievement Award

Luke is a tenured Associate Professor and program coordinator for the Organizational and Professional Development Bachelor of Science Degree program at Eastern Illinois University. The OPD program is one of three fully online undergraduate programs at EIU and Luke has recently developed the Master of Science in Talent Development, which will be offered completely online. Luke is well known for his exemplar teaching and leadership in curriculum design with awards and recognition from Eastern Illinois University, Southeast Missouri State University, Epsilon Pi Tau, the Association for Career and Technical Education and National Association of Industrial and Technical Teacher Education.

He has also been recognized for outstanding service and contributions to the field through research with the Dean’s Award for Service and Achievement and Contribution Award in Service at EIU, Paul T. Hiser Exemplary Publication Award from Epsilon Pi Tau and an Outstanding Dissertation Manuscript Award. Luke served on the board of directors and executive committee with the Association for Career and Technical Education. Most recently, he published his first book DACUM: The Seminal Book, with DACUM creator Robert E. Adams. DACUM, standing for Develop A Curriculum has long been the go to system for designing training programs directly connected to the workplace. Luke holds a PhD in Workforce Education and Development from Southern Illinois University Carbondale, a Master of Science in Training, Development, and Performance Improvement and a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Technology from Northern Michigan University, and an Associate Degree in Graphic Communications from Moraine Park Technical College.