NMU Alumni Award Winners Announced

The Northern Michigan University Alumni Association will honor four award winners over Homecoming weekend Sept. 23-24. The recipients and their awards are: Lynnae Ruttledge of Salem, Ore., and Jana Simmons of Ferndale, Distinguished Alumni; John Gremmer of Winneconne, Wis., Alumni Civic Leadership; and Luke Steinke of Champaign, Ill., Alumni Achievement.

Ruttledge has devoted her career to promoting disability rights and the importance of worthwhile employment as the best avenue to independence and personal dignity for people with disabilities. In 2010, President Barack Obama appointed her commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration with the U.S. Department of Education. Ruttledge later served as a member of the Senate Commission on Long Term Care and on the National Council for Disability. She 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 adviser to an Irish-led international institute funding postdoctoral research fellows in the field of disability and assistive technology. 

At the state level, Ruttledge has held executive and leadership positions with vocational rehabilitation services divisions in Oregon and Washington. She was named the 2000 Disabled Oregonian of the Year and a National Rehabilitation Association Mary Switzer Scholar. She also received the 2007 Washington Governor’s Award for Leadership in Management. Ruttledge graduated from NMU in 1971 with a degree in elementary education. Early in her career, she was a K-12 teacher and community college instructor.

Simmons graduated from NMU in 1993 with a bachelor’s degree in political science and pre-law. She serves as Of Counsel in the Michigan office of national law firm Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP, where she focuses on American Indian law and complex civil litigation. Her practice includes 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 is on the board of editors of Michigan Lawyers Weekly and has served as a judge for the Native American Law Students (NALSA) moot court competition.

Simmons’ honors include a 2014 appointment by Gov. Rick Snyder to the Michigan Board of Counseling, which assists with licensing and oversight of more than 9,000 legal counselors in Michigan.  She also received the 2011 Michigan Defense Trial Counsel’s Distinguished Service Award for her contributions during a six-year term as member of the counsel’s Board of Directors. Simmons is a two-time recipient of the “Rising Stars” award, presented to no more than 2.5 percent of Michigan lawyers under age 40 who have practiced less than a decade. 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.

Gremmer holds two degrees from NMU: a bachelor’s in biology earned in 1996; and a master’s in education, leadership and public service completed in 1974. He went on to a distinguished teaching career at Oshkosh High School and Oshkosh North High School, earning the city’s Teacher of the Year Award in 1993 and the Kohl Award for Educational Excellence. Gremmer coached football, basketball and track. He also launched a leadership class for the school district that motivated student involvement in several community service activities. He retired from the public schools in 2000, but continues teaching at Fox Valley Technical College.

Beyond his professional contributions, Gremmer has served as president of the Central Wisconsin chapter of Trout Unlimited. He organized monthly informational programs on cold water resources, established a fly-casting clinic and organized the “all things trout” Troutfest. In collaboration with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the University of Wisconsin, he also developed a network of teams that carried out a monthly water-monitoring program for local streams. Gremmer was awarded one of Trout Unlimited’s highest honors, the Gold Net Award, as well as the Fox Valley Sierra Group Environmental award. 

Steinke is a tenured associate professor at Eastern Illinois University. He also serves as program coordinator for the organizational and professional development bachelor’s degree program, one of three fully online undergraduate programs at EIU. Steinke recently developed a master’s program in talent development, which will also be offered completely online. He has been recognized for exemplary teaching and for leadership in curriculum design with awards from EIU, Southeast Missouri State University, Epsilon Pi Tau, the Association for Career and Technical Education, and the National Association of Industrial and Technical Teacher Education.

Steinke served on the board of directors and executive committee with the Association for Career and Technical Education. He recently published DACUM: The Seminal Book, with DACUM creator Robert E. Adams. DACUM, short for Develop A Curriculum, has been the “go-to system” for designing training programs directly connected to the workplace. Steinke earned his bachelor’s degree in industrial technology from NMU in 2000 and also completed a master’s in science, training, development and improvement. He also holds an associate degree in graphic communications from Moraine Park Technical College and a doctorate in workforce education and development from Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Prepared By
Kristi Evans
News Director