The nomination window for the 2023 Alumni Awards is closed. Any nominations submitted will be considered in 2024.
Alumni Awards are presented annually at Homecoming. They include the Distinguished Alumni Award; Alumni Achievement Award; Outstanding Young Alumni Award and Alumni Service Award.
First presented in 1964, the NMU Alumni Awards celebrate the personal and professional achievements of NMU alumni who distinguish themselves through exceptional contributions to their profession, community, and society.
Do you know someone who should be nominated? The nomination process is quick and easy. Nominations can be submitted year-round by friends, family, faculty, and staff through the online nomination process. Nominations received by December 31 are considered for recognition the following year.
Questions? Get in touch with us.
2022 NMU Alumni Award Recipients
Steve Nystrom ’82 BS, ’86 MA
Distinguished Alumni Award
Nystrom earned master of arts in defense administration from Northern Michigan University in 1986, and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant, Armor Branch, U.S. Army. For 31 years, he successfully used the knowledge, skills, and leadership abilities he had acquired from NMU to make positive contributions to national security while serving in the U.S. Army during the Cold War, as a senior analyst in the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), and later as the division chief and program manager with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA). Nystrom has earned numerous accolades during his career for his many contributions to national security. In 2014, he became the first civilian from NGA to graduate from the U.S. Army’s School of Advanced Military Studies (SAMS). Nystrom’s experience also includes two deployments to Iraq. Retired from the NGA since 2017, Nystrom remains active in community affairs. He serves on the board of directors of the YMCA of Marquette County, is a “Big” to four local children, and has assisted Northern Michigan University in providing guidance on the Upper Peninsula’s Cybersecurity Institute.
James Paquette ’74 BS
Alumni Achievement Award
A 1974 social service graduate of NMU, Paquette is a true Native son of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He is a direct descendant of the noted Anishinaabe/French Métis Riviére St. Joseph, Michilimackinac et La Baye early fur-trading families of Ouaouagoukoue et Réaume/L’Archevêque/Marcot. Proud and ever-conscious of his traditional mixed-heritage family upbringing and lifestyle, Paquette is an enrolled status member and cultural advisor of the Voyageur Metis Muskrat Community. He is a Métis Elder and regional educator. Widely recognized today as being one of the preeminent authorities on Upper Great Lakes archaeology, Paquette has been conducting a personal spirit quest—an ongoing archaeological field survey—since 1984 to locate, document, preserve, and most importantly, to “learn from” early First Nation cultural sites in the central U.P. His unrelenting quest to uncover the missing knowledge of his ancestors’ ancient past has led him to make numerous significant archaeological finds in the highlands of Marquette County. As a Certified Native Paraprofessional Archaeologist, Paquette serves his Native ancestors as an ardent Protector of their ancient sites, and as a Caretaker of the cultural artifacts—the gifts—that they left for us as messages to learn about their lives. As such, Paquette has always been an outspoken advocate for First Nation and Métis cultural resource recognition, respect, and preservation within the state of Michigan. Above all else, Paquette’s greatest passion in life is his love for his family – four daughters and eight grandchildren – within which he and his wife of 49 years, Karen, continue to maintain traditional Upper Peninsula family values and a Great Lakes Métis lifestyle.
Stephanie Lay ’10 AS, ’11 BS
Outstanding Young Alumni Award
Lay is an advocate for adolescents and teens, working class people, and queer populations. She has worked in various schools and mental health facilities providing care and skill-building to marginalized youth. In 2015 at Edgewood Center for Children and Families, she organized a union for the direct care staff to ensure better treatment for staff and clients. A 2011 sociology/liberal arts graduate from NMU, Lay also earned her master of arts in counseling psychology degree and began working inpatient adolescent psych where she advocated to change policies that negatively impacted queer patients and patients of color. Lay is a mental health therapist specializing in trans youth, suicidal ideation, and self-harm. Currently, she works at Children’s Hospital Oakland on the Behavior Emergency Response Team providing crisis care to suicidal adolescents in the Emergency Department. Lay also has a small private practice, Zombie Therapist, based in San Francisco. She is on the board of directors for Bay Area Open Minds, a professional psychotherapist organization dedicated to affirming that sexual and gender diversity are natural expressions of the human experience
Chris Mosier ’03 BFA
Alumni Service Award - Community
Mosier, who earned a bachelor of Fine Arts degree from NMU in 2003, is a trailblazing athlete who has been called "the man who changed the Olympics." In 2020 he made history by becoming the first transgender athlete to compete in the Olympic Trials in the gender with which they identify. Prior to that, in 2015 he became the first openly trans man to make a Men's US National Team, where, following the national championship race, he was instrumental in getting the International Olympic Committee policy on transgender athletes changed, and in June 2016 he became the first trans athlete to compete in a world championship race under the new rules. Mosier is a six-time member of Team USA, representing the United States in the sprint triathlon and the short course and long course duathlon, a two-time Men's National Champion, and a Men's All-American. Mosier has been inducted into the National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame, is sponsored by Nike, is the executive producer of the Emmy Nominated Hulu Original documentary, "Changing the Game," and featured in his award-winning short documentary, "The Chris Mosier Project." Mosier works to create more inclusive environments for LGBTQ+ athletes, coaches, and fans across the globe through his website transathlete.com. Chris has written and advocated for change in policies and travels the globe speaking at corporations, conferences, and schools about inclusion and his experiences in sport. He has become one of the leading grassroots organizers against the current wave of anti-trans legislation across the United States, and when not fighting the good fight, he mentors transgender and non-binary athletes around the world in hopes that he can live by his motto of "be who you needed when you were younger."