NIACC Pathways to Success Honored 56 Student Leaders

North Iowa Area Community College (NIACC) recognized 56 student leaders at the 33rd annual Pathways to Success event held April 28, 2023 in the North Iowa Community Auditorium.  Honorees were nominated by NIACC faculty and staff for their academic achievement, positive attitude, character, teamwork, and ability to inspire others.  The event also featured a keynote address by 2023 Outstanding Alumnus and Mason City native, James T. “Jim” Johnson, class of 1962. In addition to Johnson, longtime NIACC employee, Mary Steiger Wendt, class of 1976 was awarded the 2023 Distinguished Alumna award.

Johnson, a native of Mason City, graduated with the Mason City Junior College (NIACC’s predecessor) class of 1962.  After completing his Associates of Arts degree, he earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Aerospace Engineering from Iowa State University. He also obtained his Master’s Degree in Business Administration from MIT as an Alfred Sloan Fellow.

Johnson spent 28 years with the Boeing Company in Everett, Washington. While at Boeing, he rose to the position of Vice President of Engineering, Research, and Development. Johnson’s next promotion was serving as Vice President and General Manager of the Renton Division where the 737 and 757 are built and then to the Everett Divisions, where the Boeing 747, 767, and 777 are produced. His career includes presidency of three aerospace companies; retiring from Gulfstream Aerospace in 1999.

Johnson became the Chairman of the Board of the Museum of Flight, Seattle, Washington in 2000. He is a Fellow of the AIAA and of the Royal Aeronautical Society.

Johnson shared his own life experience with the student leaders, including his pathway to success. He noted he had learned over the years to not take himself too seriously. Johnson felt his opportunity for this event was to share some of the simple ideas that have made his life such a marvel. Johnson stated, “If I can convince just one of you to take this advice, it will be worth it.” Johnson noted, the first successful step each of the student leaders have taken was to enroll in this institution. He stated, “The opportunity for success at NIACC is due to smaller class sizes, access to instructors, the ease to ask questions, and affordability.” Johnson recalled his first day at Mason City Junior College, (NIACC’s predecessor). He shared how curious he was and how his instructor, Mr. Romig helped nurture his curiosity right away. Johnson shared the importance of staying curious, paying attention to details, and respecting people. Johnson left the audience with a last bit of advice, he said, “Talk to people, ask about their experiences, stick your head into classrooms that you might not otherwise, and explore areas different than the field you are interested in.” He continued, “You have an unlimited career in front of you, it doesn’t make a difference what path you’ve chosen, if you practice the art of walking around, find someone you respect and ask them to mentor you, and if you use your midwestern work ethic, you will have an advantage.”

Also honored, was Mary Steiger Wendt ‘76, a native of Bolan. Wendt received the 2023 NIACC Distinguished Alumna award for providing exemplary service to NIACC and to the community with her time and talent. Wendt resides in Mason City but is still actively involved in the work of the town of Bolan. Wendt recently retired after 46 years at the College, 45 of which she spent coordinating the NIACC graduation ceremonies.

Students honored at the event included:


Bryce Malchow


Jackie Pippett


Caleb Rasch


Daniel Bock

Yanileth Guzman


Cole Kelly

Brampton, Ontario, Canada

Chiara Decena Barbieri

Caledonia, Minnesota

Austin Klug

Charles City

Makenna Jensen

Joshua Laue


Kyla Moore


Coady Olson

Clear Lake

Kaley Meyer


Laken Lienhard

Kaylee Ollendieck

Derby, England

Jaya Soor

Dinslaken, Germany

Sven Suesselbeck

Forest City

Ethan Sesker


Alexandra Meuer

Lake Mills

Kayler Jensen

Oscar Madong


Rachel Fehr


Jessica Jordal

Mason City

Alyssa Alert

Tiegan Barkema

Johnathan Barrett

Tina Creal

Katelyn Goll

Sophie Lunning

Cassandra McBride

Molly McGuire

Caden Schinagel

Shaye Theobald

Sarah Zehr


Benjamin Blumer

New Hampton

Dwight Schwickerath


James Chisholm

Prior Lake, Minnesota

Jacob Larson


Lauren Hemann

Paige Lubbert

Richmond, Utah

Katyrra Peck


Ashley Dorn

Trevor Johnson

Justice Jones


Jayce Prymer

Saint Ansgar

Kirsten Boerjan

Braden Powers

Saint Joseph, Missouri

Ryley Wetlaufer

Saint Paul, Minnesota

Audrey Martinez-Stewart


Cannon Craighton

Hope Hartman


Mikenzie Roberts

Waseca, Minnesota

Matthew Seberson


John Doty


Chase Carpenter


Matthew Mitchell

NIACC’s 33rd annual Pathways to Success event was sponsored by the Cerro Gordo County Board of Supervisors, Tony and Sue Coloff, and the NIACC Student Government.

The NIACC Alumni Association was formed in 1991 and is structured under the NIACC Foundation. The NIACC Alumni Association’s mission is cultivating relationships with alumni to support, advance, and ensure the mission of the college. If you are a MCJC / NIACC Alumni visit to join the no-cost alumni association.


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