On Thursday, March 25, the 2021 UNC Honored Alumni were celebrated during a virtual ceremony. This year's honorees serve as a reminder of the impact that our alumni have on their communities and university. The personal and professional achievements of the 2021 honorees inspire us, and this year's virtual ceremony provided the opportunity to join together in celebration of their outstanding contributions as fellow UNC Bears. The virtual ceremony was filmed within public health guidelines, including some interviews through internet video calls with honorees and nominators around the United States.
Steven Maurice '72
The spirit of generosity that lives in Steven Maurice is just one of the things that draws people to him. In a career path that took him from a bank teller to a full-time musician, Maurice has always stopped in his busy schedule to lend a helping hand whenever someone needed it.
After obtaining his degree in Business Finance from the University of Northern Colorado, he already had a job lined up as a bank teller at a small bank in Paris, Iowa. Within a span of 8 short years, he climbed the ladder and left that bank with the title of Assistant Vice President. Maurice played in a band on the side until being awarded an Iowa Arts Council Grant for Performers that allowed him to switch as a professional musician full time.
Maurice learned the art of generosity by watching his parents always step in and take care of community members and donate to important local causes. This led him and his family to establish the Maurice Foundation of Iowa. Inspired by the field work the staff and students are doing in the Department of Geography, GIS, and Sustainability at the University of Northern Colorado, he has been an impactful and dedicated donor allowing students the opportunity to understand how our realities are shaped by geographic locations.
Larry Miller '61
An exceptional career in the chemistry field has elevated Dr. Larry Miller to give back to the alma mater that shaped his experience and encouraged him to break barriers.
After obtaining his undergraduate degree in Chemistry from then Colorado State College, Dr. Miller went on to receive a PhD from the University of Illinois. He quickly gained recognition for his innovative approach in research regarding organic chemistry, electrochemistry, and materials chemistry and won multiple awards including the Horace R. Morse award and the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship.
Following an impressive career, Dr. Miller continues to shape the status quo. In 2020 he established the Larry L. Miller Chemistry Scholarship that motivates undergraduate seniors to continue pursuing chemistry in a graduate program. The scholarship provides tremendous financial support and has significantly impacted the students in the undergraduate program who are still navigating life during the pandemic.
Before retiring, Dr. Miller served as Chairman of the Chemistry Department at the University of Minnesota and was named an Institute of Technology Distinguished Professor. Throughout his career he has mentored PhD and post-doctoral students and has published over 200 research papers.
Bj Stone '72, '80, '02
Dr. Bettie (Bj) Stone has touched the lives of many individuals who have crossed paths with her during her time working in the education profession. After graduating from the University of Northern Colorado with a degree in Biology and Chemistry, she spent 34 years using her expertise and compassion transforming the lives of students and educators alike.
Her influence has spanned across 30 districts throughout the United States and Canada. Dr. Stone has worked for the Ministry of Education in the Bahamas, the Department of Education in Guam, and The Commonwealth of the Northern Marianna Islands. In all of these places, she was instrumental in developing prosperous programs that enhanced student development. Dr. Stone is also a co-author on a book that is noted as one of the most referenced books in the field of education. It has been translated to 17 languages.
For many of the students who look back and admire teachers who have elevated their potential, Dr. Stone is definitely one of them. Dr. Stone continues to be a passionate supporter of the university and enjoys attending many sporting events.
Brandon Torrez '99, '02
Brandon Torrez encapsulates the spirit of what it means to be a Bear. Throughout his career, he has found passion in mentoring students to go beyond their potential. As a Greeley native and a proud UNC and Greeley West High School alumnus, Torrez has brought the spirit of togetherness to every space he occupies.
After obtaining his degrees, Torrez is proud of his loyalty to the places that shaped
him into the person he is today. He continues to support the university by helping
students in the education program have real classroom experience and attending basketball
games to watch some
of his former players play for his alma mater.
Torrez has been honored with many awards, including the Boettcher Teacher Award, and was named Greeley West Teacher of the Year for the 2012-2013 school year. He even has his own Brandon Torrez Spartan Award, which highlights significant achievement of basketball players on and off the court.
Nancy Wendirad '05
Nancy Wendirad fulfills her life purpose by dedicating herself to serving others. Her expansive involvement in the community and at the University of Northern Colorado are the umbrella that holds all the work she has done to improve the lives of those around her.
Graduating with degrees in Spanish and Communications, Wendirad has used her expertise to develop curriculum that met the individual needs of each student she has taught. She spearheaded many programs at different schools that increased student and parent engagement. She makes it a point to involve herself with events that benefit local schools and the community.
Wendirad has been actively engaged in the Alumni Association after she graduated from UNC. She served on the Alumni Association Board as President and Vice President.
In addition to her extensive track record she has been recognized for her work in every endeavor, including the Cumbres Scholar of the Year Award and the Education Award - Hispanic Women of Weld County. Her outstanding leadership cannot be captured on paper, but rather in the stories of the many people’s lives who she has touched throughout her journey.
Do you know someone deserving of an Honored Alumni award? To nominate alumni and friends for future selection, please visit the Honored Alumni page or contact the Alumni Association. Nominations open each fall.