Amy Powers ’96 and Jennifer Westendorf ’91 are the recipients of the 2022 University of Minnesota Morris Distinguished Alumni Award. The two will be recognized for their achievements at Homecoming 2022, which will be held October 7-9, 2022.
Powers graduated from UMN Morris in 1996 with a degree in instrumental music and a bachelor’s degree in K-12 music education. She went on to earn a Master of Arts in Education from Saint Mary’s University in Winona. As a student at Morris, Powers was a strong advocate for orchestral music, working hard to recruit new students to the program and serving as student orchestra director during her final year at UMN Morris. .
As the principal of groups at Henry Sibley High School in Mendota Heights, Powers rallied her community around “The Equity Project,” which was based on the idea that all students can achieve success when given the resources and the support they need. The Equity Project offered free or discounted private music lessons during orchestra lessons with professional musicians to any student who could not otherwise afford lessons. Peter Olson-Skog ’97, Sibley’s top administrator, shared that “Thanks to the dedication and commitment of Director Powers and the volunteer members of the Band Boosters, the Equity Project ensures that there is no economic barriers to group participation. It’s initiatives like the Equity Project that prove that being part of the Henry Sibley Band program isn’t just about the music, it’s about creating a supportive and caring community where students are given the tools to strive for excellence. .
As a result of his work, Powers introduced a marching band that would lift the first of Henry Sibley’s state championship trophies, placing ahead of programs more than double their size and boasting long traditions of competitive success. Its commitment to equity was even more evident in 2018, when the marching band was asked to represent the state of Minnesota in the National Independence Day Parade in Washington DC. Going to the parade was expensive and many students could not afford it. Together, the group boosters chose to raise enough money for every member to go free and raised the colossal sum of $108,000. The Henry Sibley Wind Ensemble has also been invited to perform at the prestigious and highly competitive 2020 Minnesota Music Educators Association (MMEA) Conference, delivering what many of its nominators have described as one of the best group performances in high school ever seen at the state convention.
In a male-dominated profession, Powers is recognized as a female leader and a strong voice in the group world. She has coached and mentored many Minnesota music teachers who are also UMN Morris graduates. She is awake
Westendorf earned degrees in biology and chemistry from UMN Morris in 1991 and received his Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences from Mayo Clinic Graduate School. She then completed postdoctoral training at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Vanderbilt University.
Westendorf returned to the Mayo Clinic to direct an NIH-funded research laboratory focused on the molecular and epigenetic mechanisms of bone and joint formation, degeneration, regeneration, and tumorigenesis. His research, teaching and mentoring activities have contributed to important advances in the study and treatment of bone diseases such as osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and bone cancers. She has published approximately 150 peer-reviewed manuscripts and book chapters and edited two textbooks.
Westendorf has received numerous professional awards, including the V Scholar Award from the V Foundation for Cancer Research, the Fuller Albright Award from the ASBMR, the Dean’s Recognition Award from the Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, and the Women’s Leadership Award from the ‘ORS. She has volunteered her time to train the next generation of biomedical scientists and advocate for equity, inclusion and diversity (EID). She is the EID leader at the Mayo Clinic and in 2019 led a national EID task force in her professional area of orthopedic research. She has held and continues to hold numerous volunteer roles in national and international professional societies.
Sharon Schneider ’91, in her Westendorf nomination for this award, shared that she has followed Jennifer’s career with “respect and admiration”, finding her to be “an incredibly intelligent, accomplished, ethical, humble and generous person who embodies characteristics worthy of this honour.” Dr. Westendorf’s professional accomplishments, professional service, advocacy for equity, inclusion and diversity, and support for UMN Morris speak to this assessment.
In gratitude for the UMN Morris education that laid the foundation for his career, Westendorf proudly displays his degree on his extensive resume and continues to be a strong supporter and advocate of the campus.
ABOUT THE DISTINGUISHED ALUMNI AWARD
The Distinguished Alumni Award honors alumni who have made outstanding contributions in their professional lives, in public service, or in service to the University of Minnesota Morris. Learn more.