‘Blue Pride’ exhibited at Alumni and Awards Luncheon

Upper Iowa University honored five alumni as part of the Alumni and Awards Luncheon held Saturday during the University’s “Blue Pride Worldwide” 100thHomecoming celebration. Special recognition was also provided to the UIU Class of 1966 as its alumni members returned to Fayette Campus for their 50th reunion.

President William R. Duffy II presented the 2016 alumni awards to the following honorees for their accomplishments either professionally, as an emerging alumni or through service to the University, community or country.


Wacinque Amistad Kaizen BeMende – Class of 1996

Wacinque Amistad Kaizen BeMende began his military career with the U.S. Marines. Over his 40-year military career, he also served in the Marine bemendeCorps Reserves, Air Force and Air Force Reserves, Wyoming Air National and Army National Guard, active Army and Army Reserves, and Coast Guard Auxiliary.

BeMende initially served as a medic and licensed practical nurse for over 20 years. Achieving senior NCO rank in both the Air Force as a master sergeant and in the Army as sergeant first class, he also earned the Aircrew Member and Master Medical badges. He last served as an adjutant general human resource senior NCO.

A recipient of the Meritorious Mast Award, Combat AirCrew Award, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Award and Armed Forces expeditionary Award, BeMende was also named an honorary member of the U.S. Coast Guard in 2005.

BeMende has completed nearly 25,000 hours of volunteer service over the past four decades. He was recently sworn in as a Texas Guardian ad Litem for the Court Appointed Special Advocate Program in El Paso. He is also preparing to be a New Mexico Guardian ad Litem for the Las Cruces Court Appointed Special Advocate Program.

The 2016 Service to Country Award recipient earned a bachelor’s degree in human services from UIU.


Dr. Jeremy Johnson – Class of 2008

Dr. Jeremy Johnson was a nontraditional student at UIU and later attended Iowa State University’s (ISU) College of Veterinary Medicine, successfully balancing his studies, work, and caring for his family, wife Allison and two children, while in pursuit of his career goals as a veterinarian.jeremy-bridge

An Eagle Scout and 2001 graduate of East Buchanan High School in Winthrop, Iowa, Johnson earned a bachelor’s degree in biology at Upper Iowa. While attending UIU he became the only non-ISU student and undergraduate to complete the ISU Dairy Production Immersive Knowledge Experience internship at the Northeast Iowa Community College Dairy Center in Calmar, Iowa.

A member of the Iowa Veterinary Medicine Association, American Association of Swine Veterinarians, and American Swine Management, Johnson has volunteered in various capacities at the Buchanan and Great Jones county fairs in Iowa. In addition to being part owner of Winthrop Veterinary Clinic, he has also served with Jones County Dairy Council, Eastern Iowa Vet Advisory group, IGNITE (a Jones County young professionals organization), Monticello Schools Advisory Committee, Independence Parent Advisory Committee, and the Mustang Booster Club.

While regularly supporting elementary school programming, Johnson enjoys visiting schools to discuss scientific concepts. He also coaches AAU basketball and assists with the Brandon Girl’s Softball League.


Freddie Northern – Class of 1976/2012

Freddie Northern was a four-year Peacock letter winner and starter for the football team, Northern was named to the All-Conference Defensive Line Second Team in 1974 and 1975, and was an All-Conference First Team defensive tackle. Inducted into the UIU Athletic Hall of Fame in 1997, Northern was also a two-year letterman in wrestling.freddie-bridge

After graduating from UIU with a bachelor’s degree in health, physical education and recreation, Northern attended two National Football League tryout camps and played semi-professional football with the Cedar Rapids Falcons of the Northern State Football Association League where he was a three-time selection to the All-Pro Team. He also played one year with the Mohawks, a Quad Cities semipro team.

Off the field, Northern has dedicated his time to youth and community projects and organizations in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and the surrounding area. For 32 years he has been actively involved with the Metro Youth Football Association. In addition, he has served with Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Cryovac Recreation, Babe Ruth Baseball League, Jane Boyd, and the NAACP for two or more decades. He has also been involved with United Way, Junior Achievement, and American Enterprise.

Currently a para professional for the Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Community School District, Northern also serves on the Cedar Rapids Jefferson sophomore football coaching staff. For his service to the Cedar Rapids community, he and his wife, Francis, were awarded Jefferson High School honorary diplomas in 2015.

Northern earned his Master of Higher Education degree at UIU in 2012 and for the past decade has continued to support the University during the annual Peacock Golf Classic.


Veryl Sell – Class of 1960

Veryl Sell served two years in the U.S. Army before attending UIU. A 1951 Sumner (Iowa) High School graduate, he was a four-year letter winner on the Peacock football team and earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education at UIU.veryl-bridge

An Illinois high school teacher and football coach from 1961-1994, Sell has served as a collegiate athletic official for approximately 45 years. In addition to serving as a longtime Big Ten Athletic Conference official and technical advisor, he has worked in the Missouri Valley, Metro, Mid-American, Mid-Western Cities, Mid-Continent and former Big Eight conferences.

Sell has officiated numerous college bowl games including the Orange Bowl and Holiday bowls on three occasions, two Fiesta bowls, and a Rose Bowl. His special assignments have also included officiating the 1978 Division III Basketball National Championship and the 1981 NIT National Basketball Championship.

Sell was a member of the Big Ten Conference Committee that developed instant replay procedures for NCAA Division I football. In 2004, he served as the first replay official to work a college football game.

Off the fields and courts, he has served as a keynote speaker for various athletic banquets, civic organizations, and official’s camps. In addition to being inducted into the 1996 UIU Athletic Hall of Fame, Sell has been named to the Central Officials Association of Chicago Hall of Fame and Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.


Becky Wadian  – Class of 1972

Becky Wadian was recognized for her exemplary service to UIU faculty, staff and students for over 41 years. Prior to her retirement in 2016 as the University’s director of library services, Wadian nurtured the growth of Henderson-Wilder Library to the benefit of students, faculty, staff, and community.becky-wadian-bridge

Among her many milestones was implementing the acquisition, configuration and training for the library’s first automation project, which was completed ahead of the Iowa Private Academic Libraries (IPAL) program. Wadian also organized and established the federal depository library of government documents. The inventory and storage she conducted over the years of UIU archival materials was a major contributor to the successful establishment of the University Archives, now located in Henderson-Wilder Library. She also provided collaborative support and leadership in developing UIU’s Tutor Center and computer labs.

Becky and her husband, retired UIU faculty member Jerry Wadian, continue to reside in Fayette. The couple has three adult children.


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