The University of Minnesota Crookston’s 2022 Alumni Awards Celebration was held October 7 in Bede Ballroom during Homecoming and five alumni were honored. Dave Dufault 1985 was presented the Outstanding Alumni award, Carolina Diaz-Alfonso 2008 was given The Abbey [Promise] award, and Kathy Mans Nielsen 1989, Dave Venem 1985, and Jamie Zelinsky Quenzer 2011 were inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame.
2022 Outstanding Alumni - Dave Dufault 1985
Dave Dufault retired from JR Simplot Company after a successful 30 year career. He joined the company in 1989 as a crop consultant at the East Grand Forks, Minn., location and went on to become the unit manager in 2002 and shortly thereafter, the regional manager of the Red River Valley. In 2007, Dufault was named vice president of retail for AgriBusiness and relocated to Boise, Idaho, where Simplot’s corporate office is located. As an accomplished leader for Simplot Grower Solution, Dufault was named one of the “Top 7” ag retailers in the United States and led the company to be recognized as Agricultural Retailers Associations’ Retailer of the Year in 2018.
Dufault went from retail to the wholesale side in 2018 where he became vice president of wholesale for JR Simplot Company before retiring in April 2020. His retirement didn’t last long as Dufault joined Prairieland Ag, LLC in Fargo, N.D., in June 2020 where he is currently the director of crop protection and enjoys sharing his knowledge of the industry.
Dufault was instrumental in the development of “Agriculture in the Classroom”, a program used to educate children on the importance of agriculture and giving them hands-on experience. He earned a degree in ag business management from UMN Crookston and went to North Dakota State University (NDSU) earning a bachelor’s degree in agronomy crop production. He and his wife, Terri Beth 1988, were part of the Minnesota Emerging Leadership Program and represented West Polk County in 2001. Dave and Terri Beth reside in Pelican Rapids, Minn., and have two children, Amanda (35) and Christopher (33).
2022 Abbey [Promise] - Carolina Diaz-Alfonso 2008
Carolina Diaz-Alfonso graduated from UMN Crookston in 2008 with a degree in communication and attended the University of North Dakota where she received her master of science degree in counseling. She currently works as a clinical counselor at Core Professional Services in Brainerd, Minn., a behavioral program with a treatment workbook that outlines a process of developing healthy attitudes about sexuality. Diaz-Alfonso has a strong passion to help people confidently be themselves. She is thankful to UMN Crookston for giving her opportunities and allowing her to bring her son to class with her when needed.
In her previous role as a property manager, Diaz-Alfonso received a number of awards including the Kinsley Award for tenant customer services, awards for top net operating income collections, and for net collected rent (NCR). She has held memberships in community organizations including the Chamber of Commerce, Tri-Valley Opportunity Council, Crookston Housing and Economic Development Authority (CHEDA), Alluma Housing Advocacy Program, and Victims Services. Diaz-Alfonso currently resides in Crookston with her husband, Hugo, and children Jayden Elias Diaz (19) and Kingston Avari Diaz (8).
2022 Athletic Hall of Fame
Kathryn (Mans) Nielsen 1989, volleyball
Kathy (Mans) Nielsen earned First Team All-State and First Team All-Division accolades in volleyball and held the school record for ace spikes with 374 and notched 330 kills in 1988. In addition to competing on the volleyball court, Nielsen played women’s basketball for the Trojans and had 212 rebounds during the 1987-88 season and notched 118 assists. She also competed in softball.
Nielsen studied general business at UMC and earned a bachelor’s degree from Valley City State University where she was a four-sport standout in women’s basketball, volleyball, softball, and track and field. She has been a volleyball coach for over 25 years and currently resides in Billings, Mont., with her husband Kyle where they own Grains of Montana Bakery. They have adult children Kylie Samuelson (28), Reece Nielsen (24), and Devin Nielsen (22).
Dave Venem 1985, wrestling
Dave Venem was a regional champion in wrestling during the 1983-84 season for the Trojans and went on to be named to the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) All-Region XIII Team. He earned sixth place at the NJCAA National Tournament and All-American honors. Venem was co-captain during the 1983-84 season and earned seventh place at the NJCAA Tournament, again nabbing All-American accolades. He was twice named the UMC Wrestling Most Valuable Player, had an overall record of 25-5 in the 142 pound weight class as a freshman, and was 24-6-2 as a sophomore. He was coached by Murray Tiedemann, who was instrumental in encouraging him to attend college.
Venem studied farm and ranch management and earned his bachelor of arts degree in secondary education-physical education from Adams State College in 1992. He had a 29-year career as a physical education and industrial arts teacher for the Rocky Ford School District in Rocky Ford, Colo., retiring in 2022. Venem was nominated for the National Wrestling Coaches Association Assistant Coach of the Year award in 2015 and was awarded the 30 years of service award by the Colorado High School Coaches Association. Originally from Fosston, Minn., he currently resides in Rocky Ford with his wife Patty. They have adult children Ashley (26) and Cody (23).
Jamie (Zelinsky) Quenzer 2011, women’s basketball
Jamie (Zelinsky) Quenzer is the all-time leading scorer in the history of the Golden Eagle women’s basketball program, amassing 1,724 career points. Quenzer also holds the career records for field goals (625), field goals attempted (1,449), and games started (107). She was named to the All-NSIC First Team during the 2010-11 season and was a two-time All-NSIC Second Team selection in 2008-09 and 2009-10. Quenzer was named to the All-NSIC Freshman Team during the 2007-08 slate and helped the 2010-11 team to 13 wins and a berth in the NSIC/Sanford Health Women’s Basketball Tournament.
Quenzer is director of operations for Electrical Association and resides in Lake Elmo, Minn., with her husband, Caleb, and their three children Reese (5), Shayne (3), and Riley (4 months). She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in sport and recreation management in 2011 and earned a master’s degree in business administration and management from the University of Mary in 2014.