Olivet Nazarene University is pleased to honor alumni who exhibit the characteristics and ideals of their alma mater.
Since 1957, the Olivet Alumni Association has recognized outstanding alumni through the presentation of the "O" Awards at the annual fall Homecoming Celebration. One ministerial and one lay person have been chosen from nominations submitted to the Alumni Board. Qualified individuals represent the ideals of the University and have distinguished themselves in their professional fields.
Teresa Woodruff Ph.D. '85
“I formulated my intellectual and spiritual values at Olivet,” Dr. Woodruff says. “My education provided these fundamental building blocks that have made me who I am today, and I am eternally grateful.”
Teresa K. Woodruff, Ph.D., is the Thomas J. Watkins Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology; Vice Chair of Research (OB/GYN); Chief of the Division of Reproductive Science in Medicine, Feinberg School of Medicine; and Professor of Molecular Biosciences at the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern University.
Dr. Woodruff graduated magna cum laude from Olivet and received the Maggie Sloan Crawford Award as the outstanding female graduate. She is the daughter of the late William J. Woodruff, Ph.D., professor of religion and biblical literature, and Wanda L. Woodruff. Her brothers, Bruce and Dr. Neal Woodruff, are also Olivet graduates. Dr. Neal Woodruff is a professor in the Olivet School of Music.
Dr. Woodruff earned her doctorate at Northwestern University and was recruited to the faculty in 1995. An internationally recognized expert in ovarian biology, she coined the term “oncofertility” in 2006 to describe an emerging field of research and medicine intended to preserve the fertility of cancer survivors. She has edited five books on the subject, covering every aspect of this new field of study — including religious viewpoints and ethical questions about these emerging technologies.
In 2007, Dr. Woodruff founded the Women’s Health Science Program, encouraging high school girls to envision themselves on a professional trajectory for their careers. For this work, she received the highest award for science mentorship, accepting the award from President Barack Obama in an Oval Office ceremony.
In 2013, Dr. Woodruff was named to Time Magazine’s Most Influential Persons list. She is an elected member of the Economic Club of Chicago and an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She served on the board of the Chicago-based Young Women’s Leadership Charter School and as president of the Endocrine Society.
Rev. Larry Leckrone '72
“I am humbled and honored to receive this award,” says Rev. Leckrone. “God’s call on my life to itinerant ministry was clarified and strengthened through my Olivet education experience. I’m very pleased to see so many new areas of educational opportunities available to students today. I’ve always been proud to represent Christ and the Olivet family.”
An ordained elder, a commissioned song-evangelist, and one of about two dozen tenured evangelists in the Church of the Nazarene, Rev. Larry Leckrone devotes his life to itinerant ministry in the field of evangelism.
He travels full time, conducting revivals, camp meetings, concerts, family life festivals and Kids’ Krusades. He is a gifted preacher, singer and trumpet player. His wife, Tamla, ministers with him, playing keyboards and singing. The couple has attended the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., and ministered across the United States and Canada, Africa, and England. One of their great joys is personalizing the gospel to many cultures and customs.
In his service for the Lord, Rev. Leckrone has attended the Lausanne II World Congress on Evangelism in Manila with world church leaders from 191 nations. He has served on a General Commission to study the role of the evangelist in the overall mission of the Church today. He is a member of the Evangelists’ Committee, a steering committee and liaison that works with the Revivalism Coordinator for the General Church of the Nazarene.
The Leckrones have a daughter, Myndi, who is married to Chris Ziemann; and a grandson, Maddyx.
Young Alumni Award
In 2011, the Young Alumni Award was established, honoring two alumni — one male and one female — to be presented at the annual fall Homecoming Celebration. Recipients are chosen by vote of the Alumni Board, and must have graduated from Olivet within the last 10 years. This award is made possible through a generous gift from Mel '73 and Judi (Tucker) '71 Sayes.
Dr. Robert Hegna '07
“Olivet prepared me well for all aspects of my career in addition to helping me mature in my faith,” Dr. Hegna says. “As such, the University has an exceptionally special place in my heart.”
Robert HegnaDr. Hegna is an assistant professor of biology at Palm Beach Atlantic University in Florida. He specializes in behavioral ecology and studies how prey avoid being attacked by predators.
Dr. Hegna’s research has taken him to the Alps, Austria, Finland, Canada and Alaska, plus natural history museums in Russia and Utah, and across Scandinavia. He has presented his work at conferences of the Animal Behavior Society in London, the International Society for Behavioral Ecology, Ecological Society of America and the European Meeting of Ph.D. Students in Evolutionary Biology.
After earning Olivet bachelor’s degrees in zoology and environmental science, Dr. Hegna completed a master’s degree in marine biology at Florida International University, Miami. His doctorate is from the University of Jyväskylä, Finland. For his dissertation, he studied warning coloration, environmental adaptations and population genetics of the wood tiger moth on a global scale.
Stephanie Suprenant, M.D. '06
Her grandmother’s battle with a brain tumor and a desire to help restore what was lost led Dr. Suprenant to a career in medicine. Dr. Suprenant recalls “amazing mentorship” from Olivet faculty and fellow students while she earned her bachelor’s degree in biology.
Dr. Suprenant completed a master’s degree in public health at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University before earning her Doctor of Medicine from the Southern Illinois University (SIU) School of Medicine. At SIU, she helped to complete the largest retrospective chart review on radial tunnel decompressions up to 2011, serving as research assistant to Dr. Michael Neumeister, professor and current chair of the medical school’s Department of Surgery.
Today, Dr. Suprenant is in post-grad year 5 as a resident in integrated plastic and reconstructive surgery at the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics in Madison. In 2013, she received two awards from the University of Wisconsin: Graduate Medical Education Quality Improvement Award and Emergency Department Consulting Resident of the Year Award.
Suzanne (Suprenant) VanderWaal, M.D. '06
Reflecting on her Olivet experience, Dr. VanderWaal says, “My friendship with Tara Beth (Moore) Leach ’05, now a Nazarene pastor, and her family — plus my work with Youth for Christ — set me on the faith journey I continue to travel today.”
Dr. VanderWaal is a neonatologist, research fellow and co-investigator for quality improvement with the Division of Neonatology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. Her primary work is the medical care of newborn infants. Her research focus is clinical epidemiology, examining social determinants of health, specifically racial factors influencing birth rates among African-Americans.
A board-certified pediatrician, Dr. VanderWaal recently co-authored “Respiratory Distress in the Newborn: An Approach for the Emergency Care Provider” in the journal, Clinical Pediatric Emergency Medicine.
She graduated from Olivet with a bachelor’s degree in biology and earned her Doctor of Medicine at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine.
Dr. VanderWaal and her husband, Dr. Adam VanderWaal, are the parents of a daughter, Wynn, born in 2016.