Education Foundation announces new 2015 Pathways to Success Distinguished Alumni

Published 9:00 am Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Education Foundation of Albert Lea and Albert Lea Area Schools announced recipients of the 2015 Distinguished Alumni Award.

The foundation will be “Celebrating 15 years of Success in 2015” with all who attend this year’s banquet.

Recipients of this year’s awards will be recognized at the Education Foundation’s Pathways to Success celebration on Sept. 10 at Wedgewood Cove Golf Club. They are Pete Veldman, class of 1951; John Morrison, class of 1955; Rebecca Barr, Ph. D., class of 1956 (posthumously); and Linda Cruz-Lares, class of 1974.

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Friends, family, community members and interested people are all encouraged to make a reservation to attend this event to share this celebration and in the foundation’s commitment to the community’s children.

Prior to the banquet, the fifth annual public forum will be from 4 to 5:45 p.m. at Wedgewood Cove. The forum has been organized by Distinguished Alumnus Dr. Manny Steil. This year’s topic will be “Creating Bridges Between Albert Lea Business, Educator and Student Communities.” Panel members leading this community discussion include the following: Steil, Sid Verdoorn, Jerry Tostrud and John Morrison, all Distinguished Alumni. Others will include Al Arends from the Education Foundation, Mike Funk, superintendent; Jeff Halvorson, ALHS assistant principal; Randy Kehr, executive director Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce; and Mark Ciota, CEO of Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and Austin. Among audience participants will be additional representatives from the high school and representatives from many Albert Lea businesses and industries, as well as doctors, lawyers, accountants, clergy and community members. No reservation is needed to attend this public forum.

The ticketed evening will begin with a social gathering and cash bar at 6 p.m. followed by dinner and program at 6:30 p.m. Reservations may be made by going to the foundation website at, filling out the response form and mailing it and a check for $40 per adult ($11 per child age 12 and younger) to the Education Foundation of Albert Lea, P.O. Box 828, Albert Lea, MN, 56007. Questions should be directed to Lilah Aas, president of the foundation board of directors, at the foundation email address

The following morning, Sept. 11, the three living 2015 Distinguished Alumni will lead a discussion with members of the senior class in an assembly at Albert Lea High School.

Distinguished Alumni awards are given annually to graduates of Albert Lea High School who achieved success in the area of business and economic achievement or humanitarian and public service achievement. In addition, awards may be given posthumously to candidates in either of the categories. Nomination forms are available on the foundation’s website.

This year’s Distinguished Alumni include the following:

Humanitarian and Public Service:

Peter Veldman (Class of 1951): Veldman enjoyed the close camaraderie of his Hollandale upbringing, but from his freshman year at ALHS forward, his focus has been sports. At the University of Minnesota, besides getting his bachelor’s degree in physical education/health/history, he helped his wrestling team win two Big Ten championships. In the midst of college he took a break to serve his country in Korea. Once he took his first teaching/coaching job at South St. Paul schools, he was dedicated to students for the rest of his career. Veldman worked as a referee and tournament manager to continue his commitment to student athletes long after retirement.

Business and Economic Achievement:

John M. Morrison (Class of 1955): Morrison was very involved in extracurricular activities in high school. At the University of Minnesota he earned his bachelor’s degree but was also very busy with activities. He attended LaSalle University to earn a degree in business law. Banking and business leadership became his career focus. He used his skills to acquire and improve upon many companies and then used his successes to give back to his community. Morrison has helped raise funds to support various endeavors, most especially for St. Thomas University.

Humanitarian and Public Service (posthumously):

Rebecca Comstock Barr, Ph.D. (Class of 1956): After growing up as a very involved ALHS student, Becky received her Bachelor of Arts from Monmouth College. She continued her education while teaching and doing research for various colleges and foundations. She earned her Ph.D. from the U of M in 1968. Barr’s life was dedicated to helping learners, through her college teaching, her research projects, her professional grants management, her professional writings and her family. She spent her professional life working in the research of how children learn to read and how to help those who had difficulties learning to read.

Humanitarian and Public Service:

Linda Cruz-Lares (Class of 1974): Cruz-Lares has always known how to help others. As the youngest of 10 children, she was busy at home. From helping at home to working with second-language families while still in high school, she used her college experiences to gain skills she could use to serve others. She has served on the state Hispanic council and become certified as a court interpreter/translator. She has worked with Albert Leans all her life, either as a community member or as a professional focusing on finding resources to help those in need. She has worked on ways to make Albert Lea a welcoming community for everyone.

Look for full biographical details of this year’s Distinguished Alumni in the Albert Lea Tribune.