University Relations and Communications

2015 Outstanding Alumni to be honored March 20

March 10, 2015



Sarah Brockel, Alumni Relations, 247-5780
Carmen Price, University Relations, 657-2243


MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — Montana State University Billings Alumni Association will honor six of its leading graduates during the 33rd annual Outstanding Alumni Awards.


The alumni awards event is set for Friday, March 20, and will recognize the accomplishments of alumni who have used their education to excel professionally, provide inspirational leadership to others and provide service for the benefit of MSUB and the community.

Outstanding alumni are recognized in three categories:

  1. Distinguished Alumna: Honors an alumnus/a who has distinguished himself or herself through personal, professional and civic contributions, while bringing a sense of honor, pride and recognition to the University community.
  2. Alumni Merit Medallion: Honors an alumnus who is dedicated to the advancement of education, exemplified by his or her commitment of professional expertise and/or volunteer service to Montana State University Billings.
  3. Recognition for Exceptional Achievement: Honors two alumni who have distinguished themselves in fields ranging from business, professional, education, volunteer service to a community, public or civil service, or arts and sciences having impacted those fields while bringing a sense of pride and recognition to the University community.

Past recipients of these awards have included persons who have exhibited unusual courage, creativity, perseverance, originality of competency in their chosen field; raised the quality of life for others; contributed to and promoted the advancement of higher education; or distinguished themselves as leaders in their profession or area of interest. 


This year’s recipients are:


""Donna Smith, Distinguished Alumna. Smith graduated from MSU Billings (then Eastern Montana College) in 1976 with a Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education. Upon graduation, she taught at Taft & Garfield Elementary Schools from 1976-1979. During this time she was involved in the Teacher Corps program. Smith has served her community in several different facets including serving on the Board of Directors for Rimrock School PTA, the Board of Directors for the Growing Stage Players at Billings Studio Theatre, Board of Directors for Billings Weavers Guild and the Board of Directors of National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI).  Through the NAMI she has taught for providers, families, and teachers on supporting, advocating for, and educating the mentally ill. Smith also served on the very first steering committee for the Wine & Food Festival, which is the premier fundraiser for the MSU Billings Foundation. This fundraiser is still continuing today after more than 30 years. Donna and her husband, Tony, have also donated photography packages for the auction as well volunteered their photography services for the event since its first year. Donna currently serves as an independent consultant for Rodan & Fields and is a Premier Level V Leader with a team of over 200 people. She is also the studio manager at Tony Smith Photography.


""Deborah Hedrick, Merit Medallion Award. Hedrick graduated from MSU Billings (then Eastern Montana College) in  1978 with Bachelor of Science in rehabilitation and related services and in 2002 with a master’s degree in health administration. Hedrick began her career at RiverStone Health in an entry-level position as an administrative assistant. She continued to develop her career over 20 years. In 2008, Deborah was named the Vice President of Public Health at RiverStone where she was instrumental in facilitating its accreditation in public health. Hedrick often serves as a guest in classes at MSU Billings speaking on HIV and Hepatitis C testing as well as on community leader panels for students. She has also mentored many MSU Billings students in their community health work.

""Troy Kane, Recognition for Exceptional Achievement. Kane graduated from MSU Billings in 1995 with a bachelor’s degree in sociology. He is a senior sales executive for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana and has been awarded the honor of “Blue Elite,” which is awarded to the top sales people for Health Care Service Corporation. Kane has served his community as president of the Saint Agnes Parish Council, corporate chairman for Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, a coach for youth basketball, D.A.R.E., and the Special Olympics of Montana.

""Russell Nemetz, Recognition for Exceptional Achievement. Nemetz graduated from MSU Billings with a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies in 1999. He is currently the Ag Director for Northern Ag Network. Russell serves on the Metrapark Advisory Board, volunteers for 4-H and FFA, and has been a guest speaker for Billings Chamber of Commerce events. He has also been active in the Billings Exchange Club. Nemetz has won numerous awards and can be heard on every weekday on nearly 70 stations in 4 states on Northern Ag Network.

""Jeffrey Jorgenson, Exceptional Achievement. Jorgenson graduated from MSU Billings with a bachelor’s degree in business administration with an accounting option in 2004. Jorgenson is currently in a senior management position with King Ranch Inc. and serves his industry as a member of the Santa Gertrudis Breeders International Performance Review committee member, past committee chair for NE Cattleman Feedlot Council, Texas Cattle Feeders board member and committee leader, NCBA member, and Kleberg County Agricultural Appraisal Advisory Board.  He and his wife Danelle (’93) have been married 20 years and have 3 children: Reece, Haley, and Emma.

""Greg Allard, Ronald P. Sexton Award for Professional Commitment to the University. Allard graduated from MSU Billings (then Eastern Montana College) with a bachelor’s degree in art education in 1970 and his master’s degree in special education in 1976. Greg is currently teaching future teachers in his role as a university lecturer for special education at MSU Billings. Allard has served on the board for Yellowstone AIDS Project, S.T.E.P., and the Foster Grandparents Program. He is also an active member of the National Education Association as well as the Council for Exceptional Children. Allard has previously been honored with campus awards through MSU Billings including the Outstanding Faculty Award in 2006 and the Outstanding Student Organization Advisor Award in 2005.

For those interested in attending the event, tickets can be purchased for $30 per seat or $300 for a table of 10.


For more information about the awards and the Alumni Association visit or contact Sarah Brockel, Director of Alumni Relations, at 247-5780.