Meet 2019 Sioux Awards and Young Alumni Achievement honorees

During Homecoming Week, UND AA&F celebrates recent grads, bestows its highest honor on University alumni

The Sioux Awards recognize UND alumni for their professional achievements and service.

What do a long-time University of North Dakota administrator, a doctor at the forefront of treating Hepatitis C, a former Mayville State University president and an investment expert have in common?

The answer is that on Thursday, the three leaders – all of them UND alumni – will share the stage at the UND Alumni Association & Foundation’s Sioux Awards Banquet as the 2019 recipients of the Sioux Award. The award is the highest recognition bestowed by the AA&F for professional achievements and service.

In the past few years, the Sioux Awards have gone hand-in-hand with the Young Alumni Achievement Awards, which celebrate recently graduated Fighting Hawks who are already forging successful careers and strong commitments to their communities.

Read below about the four recipients of this year’s Sioux Award and the two Young Alumni Achievement honorees:

Greg Everson, ‘72

Greg Everson is a pioneer in the field of medicine, specifically the care and treatment of Hepatitis C, a chronic liver disease that has been the leading cause for liver transplants. As the Chief of Hepatology at the University of Colorado, Everson and his colleagues helped map and characterize the disease in the late ‘80s. In subsequent decades, he made major contributions to testing treatments that have led to a cure that is 98 to 99 percent effective.

Everson believes one of his most important career contributions was to co-author a book with one of his patients called “Living with Hepatitis C: A Survivor’s Guide.” The book spawned five editions; then, after the development of direct-acting antiviral or DAA therapy, Everson penned “Curing Hepatitis C.”

With his mother, older brother and older sister having attended UND, it was logical for Everson, who grew up in Grafton, N.D., to go to college in Grand Forks. From UND, Everson attended Weill Cornell Medical School in New York City and did his residency in internal medicine at Creighton University in Omaha. He did a fellowship in gastroenterology at the University of Colorado and then joined the faculty, where he became a key figure in Hepatology, Transplant Hepatology, and the march toward a cure for Hepatitis C.

When Everson retired from the University of Colorado in 2017, he started a company, HepQuant, that develops liver function testing platforms. The company is now in the rigorous process of getting FDA approval for minimally invasive blood tests that could change the way liver patients are managed.

Jennifer Neppel, ’86

Jennifer Neppel is Deputy Chief Investment Officer for CommonSpirit Health, formerly Catholic Health Initiatives, the largest Catholic health care system in the United States. With 140 hospitals in 21 states, Neppel and her investment team are responsible for the management of investment pools for operating pension, insurance and defined contribution plans with aggregate assets exceeding $30 billion.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in Business & Public Administration with an emphasis on Information Management and Finance from UND in 1986, working in a bank was the next career step for Neppel. After all, she had worked at First National Bank, now Alerus Financial, throughout her four years at UND.

In addition to serving as Deputy Chief Investment Officer for CommonSpirit Health, Neppel manages the Direct Community Investment Program and serves as Chair of the Defined Contributions Plans Investment Committee. Neppel is a Chartered Financial Analyst, which she considers one of her most meaningful professional achievements. She is also a Certified Cash Manager.

Neppel served on the UND Foundation & Alumni Association Board of Directors from 2008-17.

Gordon Henry, ’66, ’70

Gordon Henry identifies himself as an educator. During his 33 years as an influential leader at UND, he held numerous roles including Dormitory Head Resident, Assistant Dean of Men, Associate Dean for Student Development, Director of the Memorial Union, Associate Dean of Students, and during his last 14 years at UND, Vice President of Student Affairs.

Born in Westhope, N.D., Henry began his education career as a science teacher and coach in Tioga, N.D. He recalls the day in 1965 when he received a call from a UND administrator who offered to let Henry run a residence hall while doing graduate work.

In 1970, Henry finished his doctorate degree in counseling at UND and soon took on larger roles and responsibilities. In each of his positions, Henry made sure he was out and about with students.

In addition to his other roles over the years, Henry also supervised a variety of student programs on campus, held the rank of Assistant Professor of Counseling, consistently taught classes and served on both masters and doctoral committees. He was instrumental in helping develop the UND Crisis Response Program to help students, faculty and staff in emergencies.

In 1984, when Henry was named Vice President of Student Affairs, he oversaw many student service programs on campus including Multicultural Programs, Student Health, the Dean of Students Office, the Memorial Union, Native American programs, Career Services, the Counseling Center, the TRIO program and Financial Aid. As Vice President, Henry continued to teach classes in leadership and educational philosophy and at the graduate level.

Henry left UND in 1998 to fulfill a goal of becoming a motivational speaker. He continued this career until 2010, when he retired.

Gary Hagen, ’74, ’77, ’86

Gary Hagen wasn’t sure about taking a teaching job at the small college in Mayville, N.D., as he was finishing up his master’s degree at UND in Business and Vocational Education. But that was in 1977; 42 years later, Hagen retired after spending a very successful career at Mayville State University, the last 12 years as president.

Hagen taught for 21 years before becoming an administrator for an additional 21 years. Each time he moved into a new leadership position at the school, it seemed to be in reaction to a crisis. Hagen’s first administrative job was as Chief Information Officer in the mid-90s; that’s when he was charged with getting the campus wired for computers in only eight weeks. Later, he became Vice President for Academic Affairs just in time to help the school retain its accreditation.

But Hagen’s biggest challenge came when he was named president of the university in 2006. The school was grappling with low enrollment, significant accumulated debt, and more deferred maintenance needs than any other campus in the North Dakota University System.

With Hagen at the helm, Mayville State went from having the lowest faculty-, staff- and student-satisfaction survey results in the North Dakota University System to the top in all categories. Enrollment success followed with seven consecutive years of all-time record high enrollments. Fundraising flourished, and deferred maintenance fell by 75 percent.

Young Alumni Achievement Award

Andrea Hanson, 02

Andrea Hanson works at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, where her expertise is in determining the best ways for astronauts to stay fit in space and to optimize performance of mission critical tasks. Up until a recent promotion, Hansen spent most of her time at NASA as part of the team implementing the exercise program for astronauts on the International Space Station. In her new position as Manager for the Central Nervous System/Behavioral Medicine/Sensory Motor Portfolio, Hanson is especially involved in the planning for a manned Mars mission.

Hanson grew up in Lake Park, Minn., and studied chemical engineering at UND. She was a member of Alpha Chi Omega, the Society of Women Engineers and the Student Alumni Association. Hanson also worked as a counselor at Space Camp in Alabama during the summers, which influenced her decision to pursue a Master’s degree and Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering with an emphasis in Bioastronautics and Microgravity Sciences at the University of Colorado. After post-doc work at the University of Washington, Hanson landed her dream job with NASA.

Christina Sambor, 05

Since 2015, attorney Christina Sambor has been on the front lines of fighting human trafficking in North Dakota. She worked for Youthworks, a nonprofit serving homeless, runaway, trafficked and struggling youth across North Dakota, helping the organization develop and promote its human trafficking training and technical assistance program. She also works with Call to Freedom, a direct service agency in Sioux Falls, S.D., and is assisting in the development and launch of the East River Human Trafficking Task Force in South Dakota.

A 2005 UND graduate, Sambor first began advocating for human trafficking victims in 2007 during her time at Pepperdine University School of Law. She traveled to Thailand to work as a legal intern at Garden of Hope, an organization aimed at creating opportunities for women. Upon returning to the United States and graduating from law school, Sambor worked for a Washington-based organization fighting to eradicate modern-day slavery.

Then after working for a private law firm, Sambor realized she did not feel the same passion that she did while working in human rights and trafficking.

She was awarded a prestigious Bush Fellowship in 2014, and used it to gain experience and training to become a more effective leader in the fight against human trafficking. Sambor has worked with the Attorney General and U.S. senators on anti-trafficking policy. She also co-chaired the Attorney General’s Human Trafficking Commission, successfully lobbied for “Safe Harbor” legislation and was critical in securing more than $4 million from private, state and federal funders for direct services, law enforcement and public outreach. She also co-founded a women’s leadership group in Bismarck to help young women be their best selves.

Sambor now leads her own law and consulting practice, where she focuses on nonprofits and on family and youth law.