The time has come to nominate outstanding alumni for the 2024 University of Northern Colorado (UNC) Honored Alumni award, the highest honor awarded by the Alumni Association. Presented annually to five graduates, the award recognizes their career success and service to the university.
It’s somewhat of a norm for UNC graduates to be leaders in their fields and communities, a testament to their hard work and determination. Within our far-and-wide network of alumni, this award goes to the graduates whose leadership and service inspire their fellow Bears to stay involved and invested in the university.
The scope of Honored Alumni is broad because the ways that UNC alumni give back are seemingly countless. Below is a short sampling of honored alumni from years past to help bring the Bears who have made a difference top of mind.
Past Honorees of Note:
Rico (Alfonso) Wint ’09
A professional motivational speaker, youth educator, community leader, minister and 2020 Honored Alumni award winner, Rico Wint ’09 has made his mark on the lives of many.
While attending UNC, Wint felt most connected to the Marcus Garvey Cultural Center and the Student Representative Council, becoming vice president of diverse relations before being elected student body president. Wint felt that he could use his voice to create greater representation on campus for the average student, ultimately using his platform to serve those around him.
Since graduating, Wint founded Young Men of Purpose (YMOP), an enrichment program designed to guide inner-city elementary, middle and high school boys through programming that promotes positive self-image and prosocial behaviors.
“I think that he valued mentorship, you can tell that from the beginning, and he sought it out,” reflected Stephanie Torrez, ’95, M.A. ’04, assistant vice president for Student Academic Success. “It’s interesting to me that he’s been a mentor to so many young men since he’s left UNC. It seems just perfect now that I think about it.”
Over more than a decade, YMOP has influenced upwards of 3,000 young men in the Denver-metro area, many of whom later choose to attend UNC. In 2017, the lasting impact Wint has made on the Bear community and eastern Colorado is truly aspirational.
Paula Sherlock ’71
Judge Paula Sherlock, ’71, is a 2018 Honored Alumni award winner who served as Jefferson County Circuit Court judge and chief judge of Family Court in Louisville, Kentucky, until her retirement in 2017.
Before pursuing law, Sherlock earned her bachelor’s degree in English from UNC and worked in various roles in middle schools, high school and colleges ranging from teacher, counselor and dean of students.
Throughout her incredibly impactful career, Sherlock has been a part of numerous review committees and councils supporting survivors of domestic abuse. She’s been a strong advocate for children and families, doing pro bono work and volunteering with community organizations. She has even developed innovative programs for the court and assisted other judges improving court-based resources for victims of domestic violence.
“At [the time Sherlock decided to pursue law school], Kentucky was number one in the nation as far as child fatalities and she knew that there were a lot of things that needed to change and she could see them, and she wanted to get involved in that. She knew the best way to do that would be to become a judge,” said Jim Alexander, ’69, who nominated Sherlock for the award.
Sherlock is highly respected in her community and has won several awards, including being selected as Kosair Children’s Hospital’s Child Advocate of the Year in 2013, the Louisville Bar Associations’ Judge of the Year in 2016 and many more.
Sherlock has generously provided a wide range of support for UNC for many years, including establishing the Ike and Paula Sherlock Scholarship endowment. She maintains a strong relationship with the wrestling team through her husband, Ike Sherlock, ’70, and she was the keynote speaker at UNC’s fall undergraduate commencement ceremony in 2017.
Armando Silva ’10
Artist Armando Silva, ’10, is a 2022 Honored Alumni award winner who has, literally and figuratively, left his mark across the state.
Having kicked off his education as a business major, it wasn’t until Silva’s second year on campus that he attended an art show when his passion clicked in his mind. Drawing and dancing his way through elementary, middle and high school, it was clear at that moment that he was going to become an artist.
“To know Armando is to know that he’s an animated artist,” said Becky Safarik, ’74, M.A. ’75, former assistant city manager with the City of Greeley. “He does a lot of entertainment mural creations.”
One of Silva’s murals, a large image of a Bear, can be seen in the Campus Recreation Center which was commissioned shortly after his graduation. Silva’s artistic ability as a muralist has more recently been showcased as part of the 35th anniversary of the César Chávez Cultural Center when creating a mural in the Campus Commons titled "Somos Porque Eres" (We Are Because You Are) which features the longtime center director and fellow Honored Alumni-recipient Patricia Escobar, ’07, M.A. ’11.
Giving back is important to Silva, who has partnered with numerous museums, community centers, non-profits and schools. He’s even served as an Artist-in-Residence at the Children's Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus where his piece “Corazon” is permanently displayed on the outside of the building. Having been honored with multiple awards, Silva’s impact on the community is impressive.
Kathleen Dunemn ’71
Kathleen Dunemn, ’71, Ph.D., APRN, CNM, is a 2019 Honored Alumni award winner. Having a decorated career as an Army Nurse Corps Officer, she’s worked on many assignments as a researcher, nurse midwife, educator and commander before retiring as a colonel in 2011.
Following 9/11, Dunemn was selected as the deputy director, developer and senior military analyst of the Department of Defense Theater Trauma Registry Project where she provided data and research that led to the redesign of military combat protective ware. The changes Dunemn suggested contributed to a significant difference in mortality rates and loss of limbs soldiers suffer in the field.
Dunemn also led a team that assisted the Army of the Czech Republic in developing their own nurse corps and met with faculty at Czech universities to establish the Bachelor of Science in Nursing as the entry degree into professional nursing.
Throughout her career, she has received many esteemed awards and been the governor-appointed chairperson and member for the Board of Commissioners for the Colorado State Veterans Affairs Senior Living Centers. Now, she is a UNC School of Nursing professor.
“She made it her business to be a part of the educational excellence that we have at UNC,” said Faye Hummel, who nominated Dunemn for the award. “I think it is a testament to who she is and to the generous and gracious nature that she brings every day to the School of Nursing.”
In her hands-on position with students, Dunemn’s career acts as an encouragement to the nursing students who pass through the program. The affect that Dunemn has had on the lives of countless troops and the quality education she imparts on UNC students cannot be overstated.
Timeline to Nominate and Honor
As Honored Alumni nominations open, alumni and community members are encouraged to nominate outstanding individuals making a difference around the country and right here, on campus.
Nominations will open Oct. 14 and close November 11. Award winners will be announced on January 9 and celebrated at the annual awards event March 23, 2024.
Visit the Honored Alumni homepage to learn about the nomination process and meet even more distinguished alumni.