Contact: Katryn Conlin, Communications Director
MSC Southeast announces 2021 Red Wing and Winona Outstanding Alumni Award Winners
Red Wing and Winona, MN (May 13, 2021) -- Minnesota State College Southeast is proud to announce this year’s Outstanding Alumni Award Winners – one from the Red Wing campus and one from the Winona campus. Every year the college celebrates the accomplishments of its alumni with these awards, which are given to individuals who earned a diploma or degree from Minnesota State College Southeast at least 5 years ago and have demonstrated exceptional accomplishments in their careers, in service to others, and in service to the college.
Mark Rathbun, Red Wing '84, Solar Energy Technology and Thomas Brandt, Winona '78, Auto Body Collision Technology, were honored with Outstanding Alumni Awards. The awards were announced online during the MSC Southeast 2021 Commencement Ceremony, which premiered on YouTube on Thursday, May 13.
In accepting the award, Mark Rathbun said, "I can testify that the college's mission, in part 'preparing students for a lifetime of learning,' provided me with the foundation I needed to have a successful and rewarding career at Great River Energy. Always remember you can't build anything sustainable without a strong foundation."
Tom Brandt offered these words to the class of 2021: "Graduates, Southeast is the start of something for each of you. With hard work and quality efforts, opportunities will present, and if you listen to your heart you're likely to find success." He added, “I will accept this award not just for myself, but in recognition of all the instructors at Southeast that put students first, and teach with a passion.”
Winona: Thomas Brandt
The Outstanding Alumni Award winner for Winona is Thomas Brandt. In 1978, Tom graduated from MSC Southeast – then called the Winona Area Vocational Technical Institute – with a certificate in Auto Body. He worked in the field until 1986, when he returned to Southeast as an instructor. In 2021, Tom was honored with an employee service award for 35 years at the college.
Tom is a lifelong learner. He continued his own education at Winona State University and has continuously taken industry courses and seminars covering all aspects of collision repair, safety practices, new product usage, teaching techniques, and student evaluation.
He is also a lifelong teacher. Besides teaching the college, he has served as an instructor and curriculum writer for I-CAR — the Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Repair. He has presented at state, national, and international conferences as far away as New Zealand. In 2014, Tom visited Quzhou, China, for two and a half weeks to provide input, recommendations and direction on the emerging automotive program at Quzhou College of Technology.
At Minnesota State College Southeast, Tom has served as the SkillsUSA student advisor and is a long-time donor to Minnesota State College Southeast Foundation. In the wider community, he has been involved in coaching and leadership roles in youth and high school sports, including soccer, Nordic skiing, and Cross Country. He has also been a Sunday school teacher and superintendent at Redeemer Lutheran Church.
Red Wing: Mark Rathbun
The Outstanding Alumni Award winner for Red Wing is Mark Rathbun, class of 1984, who graduated with an associate degree in Solar Energy Technology. For the past 29 years he has been employed at Great River Energy, a not-for-profit wholesale electric power cooperative which serves 700,000 member families, farms and businesses. In 2019, he was promoted to Manager, Renewable Resources.
In this role Mark has advocated for solar projects, wind energy, and energy efficiency with Great River Energy’s member-cooperatives across the state, helping electric co-op members see the economic and environmental benefits of renewable energy. He is a recognized expert who works in many areas, including policy and regulatory issues, tracking wind and solar energy technical and economic advancements, and leading power purchase contract negotiations.
Mark serves as a member of the Elk River Parks and Recreation commission and is a volunteer groomer for Elk River Ski Trails. An avid cross country skier, he recently placed first in his age group at the world-famous Birkebeiner cross country ski race. He is also active in bicycling and is sharing the word about Minnesota State College Southeast’s Bicycle Design and Fabrication program among bike riding groups in the state.
About Minnesota State College Southeast
Located in the historic river towns of Red Wing and Winona, Minnesota State College Southeast is a two-year technical and community college that prepares students for a lifetime of learning by providing education for employment, skill enhancement, retraining, and transfer. The Winona campus opened its doors in 1949; the Red Wing campus opened in 1973, merging with Winona in 1992. The two campuses now have distinctive characteristics but are one college in structure, policies, procedures, and mission. Both offer small class sizes, state-of-the-art facilities, and an environment that is friendly and supportive. In addition, more than 30 majors are available online. Minnesota State College Southeast is a member of Minnesota State. For more information, visit www.southeastmn.edu.