These awards recognize outstanding alumni for their accomplishments and contributions to the Drake community

The Drake University National Alumni Association Board of Directors announced today the 2023 recipients of its annual Alumni Awards. Recipients of this year’s awards include accomplished senior executives, an Iowa basketball legend, a community advocate and entrepreneur, a development expert, a trailblazing pharmacist, and an up-and-coming marketing professional. The Drake University National Alumni Association will host the 2023 Alumni Awards on April 27 at 5:15 p.m. in Old Main’s Sheslow Auditorium on the Drake University campus.

“One of the greatest strengths of Drake University is our distinguished alumni, who are leaders and change-makers not only in their chosen professions but also in their communities,” said Andy Verlengia, director of alumni relations at Drake. “The recipients of this year’s Alumni Awards exemplify the best of Drake. From participating on various boards and committees to serving as mentors to students and ambassadors of Drake wherever they go, these alumni are helping to advance the Drake mission and create a brighter future for the generations of students to come.”

The Drake Alumni Awards honor exceptional graduates of Drake University and recognize their significant contributions to their alma mater, their profession, and their communities. This year’s award recipients are Diane Caldbeck, John Miller, Lisa Brinkmeyer, Marianne Coppock, Dwana Bradley, Jessica Nesheim, and Tom Florian. Information on each award recipient is below.

Distinguished Alumni Award – Diane Caldbeck, ED’72

The top honor bestowed upon alumni of Drake recognizes outstanding achievement by an individual in a career or profession and exemplary service to the community and University.

Diane Caldbeck calls her relationship with Drake a love story and couldn’t have imagined all that would come from leaving her hometown of St. Louis, Missouri to take a chance on a school in Des Moines. From joining the Delta Gamma sorority and serving as rush chair to being elected to the Miss Drake Court in 1971, Caldbeck made the most of her time at Drake while earning a bachelor’s degree in secondary education. Caldbeck and her husband, Bill, have three children, daughters Kelly and Megan and son Peter, who all went on to attend Drake themselves and have children who also have attended Drake. For more than 31 years, Caldbeck worked passionately and tirelessly in pursuit of Drake’s mission as she served in various development roles with the University, including associate director of development and director and executive director of alumni and parent programs. Other roles included associate vice president for institutional advancement, campaign director for the distinctlyDrake $216 million capital campaign, and a member of the committees for President David Maxwell’s inauguration and for Drake’s 125th anniversary.

Click here to learn more about Caldbeck and her accomplished career and contributions to Drake.

Alumni Loyalty Award – John Miller, BN’82, and Lisa Brinkmeyer, JO’98

Honors alumni for their commitment and dedicated service to Drake University.

John Miller and Lisa Brinkmeyer have both been longtime champions of Drake University. Their unwavering commitment and dedicated service to Drake shines through in unique ways as they’ve helped to contribute to the growth and development of Drake.

John Miller instantly fell in love with Drake University when he transferred from Tulane University during his sophomore year. Miller was seeking a smaller, more intimate campus experience and found that and so much more at Drake. Miller earned his bachelor’s degree in accounting and corporate finance. He met his wife of 36 years, Jan, at Drake, and together the couple had two children who both went on to attend Drake: Amanda Miller Hattendorf and Blake Miller. Miller has remained a loyal Bulldog and ambassador of Drake since he graduated in 1982. Miller is the managing director and chief operating officer of fixed income at Piper Sandler. He was an active leader in the Piper Sandler (formerly Piper Jaffray) financing bond issuance for two renovation projects at Drake: The Quads renovation in 2007 and the STEM@DRAKE building project in 2016.

Click here to read more about Miller and his contributions and achievements.

During her time at Drake, Lisa Brinkmeyer played on the Drake women’s basketball team from 1993 to 1998, earning honorable mention All-Missouri Valley Conference playing honors as a junior and senior. She was instrumental in guiding the Bulldogs to the MVC regular-season title in 1997 and 1998 as well as MVC tournament championships in 1995, 1997, and 1998. She played on Bulldog teams that competed in the 1995, 1997, and 1998 NCAA Tournaments. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communication in 1998, Brinkmeyer served as an assistant women’s basketball coach at Drake from 1998 to 2000, helping the Bulldogs advance to the 2000 NCAA Tournament. Brinkmeyer has continued to stay connected with Drake women’s basketball as a color commentator for radio and television broadcasts of Drake women’s basketball games.

In 2022, Brinkmeyer learned that she had a rare form of brain cancer. Since her diagnosis, the Drake community has rallied around Brinkmeyer and her family. Multiple fundraisers have been held in Brinkmeyer’s honor including at the 2022 Drake vs. Iowa basketball game where shirts with the saying “Brink’s Bench” were sold and worn by both coaching staffs. Proceeds from the sales of the shirts supported Brinkmeyer and her family’s expenses. Brinkmeyer continues to take on her battle with cancer with the positive spirit and fierce strength she is known for on and off the court.

Click here to learn more about Brinkmeyer and her historic accomplishments.

Alumni Achievement Award – Marianne Coppock, JO’01

Honors alumni for outstanding achievement in their career or profession.

Since graduating from Drake University in 2001, Marianne Coppock has established herself as a marketing, promotions, and sales leader in the Des Moines Metro. With more than 25 years of experience, she has led many multidisciplinary, cross-functional teams across a wide range of industries and has honed her skills in sales, budget management, strategic planning, training, and employee engagement. After leadership and executive roles in two Des Moines agencies, Coppock joined the Stelter Company as the chief executive officer, where she is leading a team serving over 1,300 nonprofits across the country in integrated marketing strategies. Coppock is a graduate of the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute and was honored as one of Des Moines’ Forty Under 40 in 2006. Coppock is also an active volunteer in her community. She currently serves on the board of directors for Easterseals Iowa, a nonprofit organization that provides exceptional services to ensure that all people with disabilities or special needs and their families have equal opportunities to live, learn, work, and play in their communities.

Click here to learn more about Coppock and her outstanding professional achievements.

Community Service Award – Dwana Bradley, GR’08, ’11, ’14

Recognizes the significant accomplishments of alumni who have engaged in outstanding and meaningful community service.

Dwana Bradley lives out Drake’s vision of transforming lives and strengthening communities. She is actively involved in local community service organizations and embodies what it means to be a service leader. As a member of the Des Moines School Board, Bradley has taken an extraordinary interest in the wellbeing of students and is known to regularly visit classrooms. Bradley has earned three degrees from Drake: an M.S.T. in elementary teacher education, an Ed.S. in educational leadership, and an M.S.E. in literacy education. She is currently pursuing her Doctor of Education in leadership at Drake. Bradley serves as executive director of Des Moines Urban Experience and is the owner of Iowa Urban Media, a community-focused publishing company. Previously, Bradley spent nearly seven years as a reading interventionist with the Des Moines Public Schools and served as the general chairperson for the Iowa Juneteenth Observance. Along with serving the Greater Des Moines community, Bradley is also heavily involved at Drake as a senior ambassador for Bright College and chair of Drake’s Community Engagement Advisory Council. Through her work as a senior ambassador for Bright College, Bradley has been instrumental in advocating for higher education opportunities for communities of color.

Click here to learn more about Bradley and her dedication to community service.

Young Alumni Achievement Award – Jessica Nesheim, PH’09

Honors alumni age 40 or younger for outstanding achievement in their career or profession.

After receiving her degree from the Drake University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in 2009, Jessica Nesheim completed a PGY-1 pharmacy residency at MercyOne Des Moines Medical Center. Nesheim was instrumental in the establishment of a pilot emergency medicine pharmacy program within the health system. Her advocacy led to the approval of two Emergency Medicine Pharmacist positions—a job she eventually held in her first role with MercyOne. Today, Nesheim is the Emergency Medicine Clinical Pharmacy Specialist at MercyOne. She is also program director for the PGY-2 Emergency Medicine Pharmacy Residency Program, which she helped implement in 2016. Knowing she wanted to give back to her alma mater, Nesheim completed a teaching certificate at Drake and has served as an adjunct assistant professor in the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences since 2011.

Click here to learn more about Nesheim and her remarkable professional career.

Young Alumni Loyalty Award – Tom Florian, BN’14, GR’16

Honors alumni, age 40 or younger, for commitment and dedicated service to Drake.

If you were to look in Tom Florian’s closet, one thing you would certainly find is Drake University blue. Florian has been a devoted champion and ambassador of Drake. After earning a bachelor of science in business administration in 2014, Florian went on to earn his MBA in 2016. During his time at Drake, Florian was actively involved with the Drake Athletic Department, the Delta Sigma Pi fraternity, and American Marketing Association – Iowa Chapter. For seven seasons, Florian served as the certified hype-man for the Drake basketball teams in his role as game emcee, where he could be found on the Knapp Center floor rocking his signature blue blazer. Professionally, he now serves as the senior director of membership & strategic marketing with the West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce and has welcomed more than 120 new members to the Chamber since starting there. Florian’s continual involvement in supporting Drake since his undergraduate graduation in 2014 epitomizes what it means to be a loyal Drake alumnu.

Click here to learn more about Florian and his ongoing contributions to the Drake community.