Alumni Honors | 2020 Alumni Award Winners


Steve Mariucci '77 BS, '83 MAE

Distinguished Alumni Award


Per Utnegaard '82 BS

Distinguished Alumni Award


Anita Mattson '02 BS

Alumni Achievement Award


Greg Toutant '82 BS

Alumni Service Award


Amanda Rosenburg '07 BS

Outstanding Young Alumni Award

Steve Mariucci '77 BS, '83 MAE

Distinguished Alumni Award

Steve Mariucci enrolled at Northern Michigan University with the goal of becoming a high school teacher and coach, modeling the career of the mentor who had the most influence on him: his dad. The Iron Mountain native did not achieve that objective, only because he catapulted directly to football’s collegiate and professional coaching ranks.

Mariucci’s 30-year career began as an assistant at NMU, where he had quarterbacked the 1975 Wildcats to the NCAA Division II National Championship. It ended at the pinnacle of the profession, as head coach of two NFL franchises: the San Francisco 49ers, where he began his career with 17 consecutive regular-season home wins, an NFL record he still holds; and the Detroit Lions. He successfully parlayed his sideline experience into the role of NFL Network analyst.

“Broadcasting is ideal because I still get to live and breathe football, but without the intense pressure that came with coaching,” he said. “Instead of winning or losing, I simply critique and analyze. I tend to lean toward accentuating the positive because that’s my nature. I love watching all the teams and their different strategies.”

In hindsight, it is hard to believe he had come close to quitting the sport shortly after arriving at Northern with Tom Izzo ’77 BS, his best friend and Gries Hall roommate.

“During training camp as a freshman, I just reached a point that I didn’t like football anymore,” Mariucci recalled. “So I called my dad to come pick me up and packed my bags. He drove up to Marquette and told me to bring my bags back to my room so we could talk about it. Then we went to one of the coaches, who convinced me to stay one more day, then another day and another day after that. It got better once school was in session and all the students were on campus and more activities were going on. If my dad had been soft or easy, trying to be my friend, he would have caved in and taken me home that day and I never would have played college football. But he didn’t.”

“The guy at Northern who made the most impact was Buck Nystrom. He came in my second year as offensive line coach and believed in me before I believed in myself. He sat down with me, with a cigar coming out of his mouth, and said, ‘Mariucci, you did some good things. You’re going to be all right. We’re going to use you to run the option.’ He made the whole team work like dogs, but everyone was ready and willing to do that. He wouldn’t let people feel sorry for themselves for losing 10 games the previous season.”

After NMU, Mariucci coached at California State University - Fullerton. His career also took him to USC, Cal, the University of Louisville and the Orlando Renegades of the USFL. When he shifted to the NFL, he served as an assistant under prolific coaches John Robinson with the Los Angeles Rams and Mike Holmgren with the Green Bay Packers. He later secured the head coaching jobs with the Lions, and 49ers, who advanced to the 1997 NFC Championship. Away from football, Mariucci is committed to supporting his alma mater and community causes. With his longtime best friend, he established the Izzo Mariucci Academic Center at NMU, along with the Izzo Mariucci Fitness Center and a student-athlete scholarship in their hometown.

He and his wife, Gayle, recently broke ground on the new Steve Mariucci Family Beacon House, which provides “a home away from home” for the families of U.P. patients receiving critical medical care in Marquette. He and his brothers had stayed there when their mom was in the hospital battling cancer. A Legacy of Love Campaign is underway to raise remaining funds for the new construction project.

In reflecting on the alumni award and his student-athlete experience, Mariucci said NMU may be the best-kept secret in Michigan.

“It’s an excellent university academically. The remote location near Lake Superior may not be for everyone, but for those who show up, it’s a great experience and I highly recommend it. I’m very proud to be a Northern graduate.”

Per Utnegaard '82 BS

Distinguished Alumni Award

Per Utnegaard left his hometown of Oslo, Norway, to attend NMU on a Nordic skiing scholarship. His willingness to venture beyond his comfort zone at a young age stoked his fascination with other countries and cultures, and served as a springboard to his successful career as a global transport and logistics executive. It also inspires his advice for current students: “Explore the world,” said Utnegaard, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and marketing. “Take advantage of opportunities to study, intern or work abroad because it’s the best way to broaden your horizons. It also gives you a better understanding of what people are saying and why they might act on different interests based on their cultural backgrounds. Today, more companies are looking for employees who represent different nationalities.

Utnegaard was among the Scandinavian skiers recruited by former Wildcat coach Guy Thibodeau. He accepted the opportunity because he had heard only positive reports about Marquette and Northern from his friend, Halvor Maartmann ’77 BS, an earlier ski recruit.

“Before I came to NMU, I was on a developmental team in Norway,” he said. “In Europe, athletics and education are two separate things. When you compete, you’re representing a club, not a university. The opportunity to combine higher education with athletics was very important to me.

“I made all the right choices by going to Northern and I enjoyed every second of it. Because it’s relatively small, you get to know the other students and your professors better than at a larger university. The formality of class presentations—when we were expected to dress and act like a real scholar of the discipline—prepared me quite well for working life. Northern is a real treasure.”

Utnegaard also completed several prestigious executive leadership programs over the course of his career—at Harvard Business School, London Business School and INSEAD in Fontainebleau, France.

After more than three decades as an executive and chief executive officer/ president, Utnegaard recently transitioned to the role of board member and investor.

“It was time to step down, but I felt it would be a good idea to continue to serve on the boards of international companies. One is in Paris and manages 12 manufacturing facilities worldwide. Another operates 3,000 restaurants at railway stations and airports worldwide. Another runs 17 airports in Saudi Arabia. In my spare time, I also serve on the Swiss University Foundation, which fosters top sports in Switzerland. So I’m still involved with different countries, continents and cultures, but from the perspective of a board member and without having to be an executive.”

Through his business and personal philanthropy, Utnegaard has sponsored soccer teams in Ghana and improved the water supply in Tanzania.

Utnegaard has remained active in international competitive skiing and is an avid biker.

He splits his time between Switzerland, Italy and Norway, and is fluent in six languages.

Anita Mattson '02 BS

Alumni Achievement Award

As a biochemist working to develop new molecular methods for synthesizing treatments for drug-resistant cancers, Anita Mattson is combining the skill sets she developed at NMU and in graduate school. Like her Northern professors, the Marquette native is also committed to involving undergraduate students in research. She leads the Mattson Group laboratory at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

Drug resistance is a common problem in chemotherapy. Cancers that at first respond well to commonly used treatments such as cisplatin suddenly begin to grow again.

Mattson is focusing on a group of naturally occurring molecules known as dimeric chromanones. Derived from various strains of fungi, chromanones have high biological activity, which makes them attractive targets for drug discovery. The challenge is that they are extremely difficult to synthesize.

Mattson believes the solution might lie in silanediols, organic compounds commonly used to create polymers for health and beauty products. In 2017, she received a $1.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support her related research.

“Our group was the first to demonstrate the utility of silanediols as catalysts,” Mattson said. “They can form hydrogen bonds with negatively charged regions of the target molecule. Their ability to access and control the molecular structure of a number of difficult to-synthesize compounds such as chromanones could lead to the development of a wide range of new pharmaceuticals and agrochemicals.

“Sometimes natural products are not good for drugs that humans would take. Maybe they’re not soluble in water or they’re toxic. The key is to adjust their structure and make natural product analogs more suitable for drug discovery.”   

Her undergraduate experience at NMU helped to lead Mattson down her current research pathway. The 2002 graduate had worked with Chemistry Professor Frankie McCormick to develop a new methodology to get silane chemical compounds to serve as replacements for tin compounds.

“Tin was toxic, so we were trying to develop methods that were an improvement over what was currently available. We discovered a new method that took advantage of polarity reversal catalysis in the context of radical reactions, with silanes as replacements for tin.

“I started NMU planning to be a pre-med major. When I took a general chemistry class with Thomas Getman, I loved it. He was a fabulous teacher. So I pursued chem as a major, still planning on premed. Then I had professor Donald Marquardt and did the research with Frankie. That was it. After all those experiences, I was sold on chemistry research as a career. My professors definitely influenced me and prepared me with the initial skill set. When I got to grad school at Northwestern University, I was surprised how hands-off the professors were by comparison.”

Mattson completed her doctorate and became an NIH postdoctoral fellow at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. She joined the faculty of The Ohio State University in 2009. In 2016 she moved to Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where she is a full professor.

Both of Mattson’s parents are also NMU alumni: father, Miles ’71 BS, and mother, Nancy ’68 BS, still reside in Marquette.

Greg Toutant '82 BS

Alumni Service Award

Under Greg Toutant’s leadership as CEO, Great Lakes Recovery Centers (GLRC) has expanded its scope and reach. In addition to its longtime role in addressing substance use, GLRC now provides a wide range of behavioral health treatment and prevention services throughout the Upper Peninsula.

“Everything I’ve been able to accomplish can be attributed to the team of compassionate people I’m fortunate to be surrounded by,” he said of his GLRC colleagues. “Our mission is to help people in their journey to recovery, whether that’s related to addiction, mental health issues or life stressors. It is a privilege to create programs and services that allow people to improve their health and wellness. It’s just a great way to wake up every day, knowing you’re helping others through challenging times.

“Moving the adolescent residential treatment program from Marquette to Negaunee and working with Bell Hospital to develop that was highly rewarding. It’s an excellent facility, located on 26 acres. There are very few addiction treatment centers left for kids in the state of Michigan. We’re not just housing kids, but addressing the full facets of life, including trauma they may have experienced.”

Toutant has more than 27 years’ experience working in the field of addiction and behavioral health treatment services. He is certified as both an advanced alcohol and drug counselor and a clinical supervisor. His two decades with GLRC include the past 13 years as CEO. The organization has been recognized numerous times for its community impact on children and adolescents, adults, veterans and, most recently, incarcerated individuals.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in history with a minor in sociology from NMU, Toutant completed a master’s degree in clinical counseling at the University of Wisconsin - River Falls. His career started with direct client care as a therapist in Wisconsin.

He recently completed a fellowship at the University of Michigan, Center for Health Policy and Research Transformation. For the past 17 years, he has also served as a behavioral health program surveyor for the international accreditation body, the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF).

Toutant’s service to community extends well beyond his role at GLRC. He has been an active member in the Provider Alliance (Community Mental Health Association of Michigan), and in the creation of Recovery Centers of Michigan LLC.

He has also served on several boards and organizations over the past 20 years, including the North Star Academy Board, Marquette County Community Corrections Advisory Board; Negaunee Public Schools Board of Education; Negaunee Area Community Fund; Mitchell United Methodist Church; NMU Athletic Advisory Council; Upper Peninsula Mental Health Advisory Committee; and the Upper Peninsula Steering Team for the Michigan Department of Corrections Offender Success Program.

“Having a voice in helping a variety of community resources stay intact and improve is a wonderful experience. Being a lifelong learner, community involvement enriches my ability to continue to grow. NMU built the ability to gain hands-on experience as a collegiate student doing different community outreach activities with my fraternity, Catholic Campus Ministries and others. That really set the stage for a better university experience.

“You don’t have to be isolated and just be a student. There are all these other opportunities. If you take advantage of them, you build a great skill set going forward in terms of your life. NMU had excellent academics and professors. It is a gem of a university that provides access to a highquality education.”

Toutant’s wife, Heather (Veale), is also an NMU graduate, earning degrees in 1995 and 2007. The couple lives in Negaunee with their children, Faith and Preston.

Amanda Rosenburg '07 BS

Outstanding Young Alumni Award

Many college students change academic majors when they realize their first choice is not a good fit. Iron Mountain native Amanda Rosenburg took a handful of electives at Northern Michigan University to explore her Plan B options. It was a child development class offered by the psychology department that ignited her passion. Now Rosenburg works with Google to pioneer new ways to educate children in the digital age.

Rosenburg resides in New York City. She serves as senior researcher on the Google Education team, and product lead for Google Classroom, Google Assignments and Originality Reports. Her work ensuring that these platforms are well conceived and integrate seamlessly into the classroom to enhance the teaching and learning experience impacts more than 200 million students and educators worldwide.

“In three years, I’ve helped to launch three separate products from scratch,” Rosenburg said. “It’s very rare in technology that you have the opportunity to create something from nothing; you’re usually building upon it or refining it. My role is to analyze how people think, make decisions, navigate a complex world and interact with their environments. When you ask the right questions, you get the right insights that provide direction for the development of products and changes made to them.

“I wouldn’t be where I am today without my time at Northern. It helped to make me a critical thinker about the human thought process. I worked with former professor Maya Sen in the cognition lab, looking at babies’ and toddlers’ understanding of gender and gender identity. For that time, it was kind of groundbreaking. We presented our work at multiple conferences. I fell in love with research and that became my career.”

Her first professional jobs were in children’s television programming. With the Emmy-nominated Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood on PBS, Rosenburg took the first script for each episode to schools to test it with students during storytime. She asked questions to determine if learning objectives were being met, then presented her findings to the show’s writers so they could revise the script as needed. She worked in a similar capacity for Peter Rabbit on Nick Jr.

Rosenburg transitioned to a marketing research firm that assisted influential companies with product lines geared toward adolescents. Clients included Amazon, Crayola, DreamWorks, Hasbro and Nickelodeon. She said the most exciting project was with KABOOM!, a national nonprofit that works with communities to build kid-designed playspaces.

“They wanted us to explore how kids play and what equipment they need. We would observe how children were utilizing equipment on the playground and then interview them on their goals and experiences during that playtime. Separately, we held focus groups where we gave kids tons of art supplies and asked them to create the playground of their dreams. KABOOM! took the findings and redefined the mission and campaign to reflect the needs of kids today—the ability to play anywhere.”

Rosenburg is passionate about mentoring women in the industry, early career researchers and students interested in user-experience research. She has also taken multiple advisory roles at innovative startups focused on changing the technology landscape through innovation.

Rosenburg was active in the NMU chapter of Psi Chi, the international honor society in psychology. She was named the department’s outstanding graduating senior before setting off for graduate school. In addition to her master’s degree in developmental psychology, she also pursued doctoral work in communication, media and learning technologies at the New York City university.