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 2024 recipients of its annual Alumni Awards. Recipients of this year’s awards include accomplished Drake staff and faculty members, a career educator, a dedicated public servant, an up-and-coming CEO, and an entrepreneur and advocate for diversity and inclusion. The Drake University National Alumni Association will host the 2024 Alumni Awards on Thursday, April 25, at 5:15 p.m. at Sheslow Auditorium in Old Main.

“Our alumni play an integral role in the ongoing success and growth of Drake, leading the charge in their respective fields and communities,” said Andy Verlengia, director of Alumni Relations. “This year’s Alumni Award winners showcase the very best of Drake. They serve on boards, provide ongoing support and engagement opportunities for students, and proudly represent Drake wherever they go—helping to shape our future and ensure our mission endures for generations 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 Deneen Dygert, Monica Nance, Daniel Wolter, Renae Chesnut, Danielle White, and Alexis Davis. Information on each award recipient is below.

Alumni Loyalty Award – Deneen Dygert, AS’87, GR’96
Honors alumni for their commitment and dedicated service to Drake University.

When one thinks of a loyal Drake alumna, Deneen Dygert immediately comes to mind for many in the Bulldog community. Dygert serves as an Associate Director of Admission and Student Ambassador Advisor at Drake, overseeing all visitation and campus engagement activities and programs. Dygert has had an illustrious career at the University, where she has worked for more than 35 years. Her passion for Drake and commitment to fostering a positive student experience has impacted many prospective and current students. Dygert calls her long-term relationship with Drake a “40-year love affair,” during which she earned an undergraduate degree in Rhetoric, a master’s degree in Higher Education, and built a career.

Read more about Dygert and her contributions and achievements.

Alumni Achievement Award – Monica Nance, ED’83
Honors alumni for outstanding achievement in their career or profession.

Monica Nance is an accomplished career educator with 40 years of classroom, administrative, and collegiate experience. She began her educational journey at Drake, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and teaching in 1983. After graduating from Drake, Nance began her career as an elementary school teacher. She went on to pursue her love for teaching by serving as an instructional coach and a curriculum coordinator in various areas throughout her years of working in the Kansas City Public Schools. The majority of her career has been spent serving students and teachers in the greater Kansas City area in both public and charter schools. A deep commitment to ensuring that all students receive the education they deserve has always been the driving force in her work. She previously served as an adjunct professor in the College of Education at Webster University (Kansas City campus) and is currently serving as an adjunct professor at in the College of Education of Loyola University of Baltimore Maryland.

Read more about Nance and her outstanding professional achievements.

Community Service Award – Daniel Wolter, AS’94
Recognizes the significant accomplishments of alumni who have engaged in outstanding and meaningful community service.

Daniel Wolter is a dedicated public servant with a wealth of experience. Wolter’s journey into public service began at Drake, where he earned a degree in political science in 1993. During his time at Drake, Wolter was active with the Drake College Republicans and volunteered on several political campaigns. He honed his skills through internships with former Iowa Governor Terry Branstad before joining Branstad’s re-election campaign in 1994. This experience led him to roles in the governor’s office, where he served as speechwriter and policy liaison. In 2000, Wolter moved to the Twin Cities, where he served as Governor Tim Pawlenty’s first communications director, was head of public relations for the University of Minnesota system, and served on the Metropolitan Council. He currently is Hy-Vee’s head lobbyist in its northern states and serves on the Lakeville City Council. Along with giving back to the communities he serves in, Wolter has also supported his alma mater by endowing a scholarship in his name to support students from Iowa and Minnesota in attending Drake.

Read more about Wolter and his dedication to community service.

Distinguished Alumni Award – Renae Chesnut, PH’85, GR’85, ‘96, ‘98
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.

Renae Chesnut boasts a distinguished career marked by academic excellence and visionary leadership. Her academic journey began at Drake, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in pharmacy and an MBA. During her time at Drake, Chesnut was an active student, involved with several organizations. After graduating from Drake, she went on to serve as a pharmaceutical marketing representative for Eli Lilly & Co. before joining the Drake faculty as director for student services for Drake’s College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences (CPHS) in 1993. Chesnut continued her educational journey at Drake by earning her education specialist and educational leadership doctorate degrees. Chesnut’s ascent within the CPHS faculty ranks was swift as she assumed roles of increasing responsibility, including assistant dean for student affairs and associate dean of academic and student affairs. In 2016, she was named dean, a role she held until January 31, 2024, leaving an indelible mark on the institution’s academic landscape. She has also served as the University’s Faculty Athletics Representative to the NCAA and held leadership roles in the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, the Iowa Pharmacy Association, and serves on several local and national boards. Chesnut’s unwavering commitment to advancing pharmacy education and fostering innovation has left an enduring legacy, shaping the future of the profession for generations to come.

Read more about Chesnut and her accomplished career and contributions to Drake.

Young Alumni Achievement Award – Danielle White, BN’11
Honors alumni age 40 or younger for outstanding achievement in their career or profession.

Danielle White embodies the spirit of leadership, service, and professional excellence. White’s journey to professional success began at Drake, where she earned her Bachelor of Business Administration with a focus in marketing and advertising in 2011. Throughout her tenure at the University, White was deeply involved in various clubs and organizations, leaving a lasting mark on campus life. Her affiliations included Student United Way of Central Iowa, Alternative Spring Break, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Alpha Phi, American Marketing Association, Panhellenic Council, and Student Activities Board; and she was an active participant in intramural sports and the Advertising Club affiliated with AAF. White attributes her success to her education at Drake, which equipped her with the skills and determination to forge a unique career path. White’s journey from a dedicated student leader at Drake to a prominent figure in the business world exemplifies the values of excellence, service, and leadership.

Read more about White and her remarkable professional career.

Young Alumni Loyalty Award – Alexis Davis, JO’13, MA’17
Honors alumni age 40 or younger for commitment and dedicated service to Drake.

Alexis Davis has had a significant impact on the Drake community, driving positive change and inclusivity through her continued engagement and leadership. Davis earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications from Drake in 2013 and a master’s in communications leadership in 2017. She is a first-generation college graduate. Davis was an active member of the campus community and belonged to a number of organizations, including the Coalition of Black Students, Alpha Phi Omega Fraternity, and Unity Roundtables. She was also a host on the Young Legendz radio show on 94.1 The Dog. Davis has worked in several fields, from finance to the nonprofit sector, where her love for community engagement and bringing arts back into education was fueled and supported. Her unwavering dedication, visionary leadership, and advocacy for diversity and inclusion have left a lasting mark on the Drake community, inspiring generations to embrace their potential as agents of positive change.

Read more about Davis and her ongoing contributions to the Drake community.