BISMARCK, N.D. — The University of Mary recognized four outstanding alumni and six of its former athletes at its annual Alumni Recognition and Hall of Fame Induction Celebration over the weekend. These alumni were welcomed home to the newly built Lumen Vitae University Center where inside the Hall of Fame and Founders Hall are located and the site for the awards ceremony.

 

Brooke Erstad ’03, ’06

Bell Banner Award to Brooke Erstad, ‘03, ‘06

This award is in recognition of the ideals of the University’s sponsors, the Benedictine Sisters of Annunciation Monastery, the Bell Banner Award honors alumni for modeling the values of respect, hospitality, moderation, service, community, and prayer.

Brooke Erstad is a physical therapist and graduate of the first University of Mary Doctor of Physical Therapy class in 2006. After working in private practice in Breckenridge, MN, for two years after college, she and fellow University of Mary Alumni, Kameron Ihry-Hodem, opened Apex Physical Therapy in West Fargo. Today, their practice has expanded to two additional locations in Jamestown and LaMoure and 21 employees. Brooke is recognized as one of the first American Board of Physical Therapist Specialists in Women’s Health in North Dakota.

Brooke is active in the Women’s Leadership Group of the United Way in Fargo and was among young leaders honored in the annual United Way of Cass Clay ‘35 Under 35’ list. She belongs to numerous professional organizations and offers her time and expertise to educate future physical therapists by taking students for full-time internships and teaching in our program. Apex PT and Wellness Center also hosts a Christian-based running program for girls ages 7-12, combining athletics with teaching life skills and healthy choices.

In her free time, Brooke enjoys spending time with her husband Bryan and three children Blake, Brogan, and Bradie.

 

Dr. Mike Bitz
’88, ’94

Harold Schafer Alumni Leadership Award to Dr. Mike Bitz, ‘88, ‘94

This award recognizes graduates who have attained distinction as leaders in their professions while exemplifying the values cherished by the University of Mary.

Mike Bitz, a native of Napoleon, began his educational career as a third-grade teacher in Burlington. He then moved into school administration in principal and superintendent posts at Emerado, Milnor, Gwinner, North Sargent and Hillsboro school districts. Mike was named the Northeast North Dakota Superintendent of the Year in 2007-08 and the Southeast North Dakota Superintendent of the Year in 2014-15. In his current role as superintendent of the Mandan Public School District, he has been appointed by two North Dakota governors to prestigious professional educational groups.

Among other professional achievements, Mike is past president of the North Dakota Council of Educational Leaders and past board member of the North Dakota Association of School Administrators. He also volunteers his time with Mandan Kiwanis and HIT, Inc.

He and his wife, Kristi, an assistant professor in the Liffrig Family School of Education and Behavioral Sciences, have three children.

 

Mark A. ‘Tony” Wood
’07, ’09

Harold Schafer Alumni Leadership Award to Mark A. ‘Tony’ Wood, ‘07, ‘09

This award recognizes graduates who have attained distinction as leaders in their professions while exemplifying the values cherished by the University of Mary.

Tony Wood owns and operates Mountain Plains LLC, which provides electrical consulting, land surveying, and utility locating services in the Bakken region. He began the company in 2009 as a one-person operation and from that has built a large-scale company, growing an astounding 2,283 percent in revenue. Tony grew up in Idaho in the power line industry, with his father as a lineman and power line designer.

Mountain Plains currently has offices in Bismarck, Watford City and Missoula, Montana. As president and founder, Tony continues to be a key component of power line design and distribution.

Tony’s involvement in his community includes serving as a board member for the McKenzie County Hockey Club, hockey coach for the Watford City Oilers, and as a church youth leader. He was also instrumental in the founding of the IDEA Center, a local Bismarck-Mandan business incubator.

His family includes his wife, Kylie daughter, Jeanine, and son, Bradley.

 

Kurt Snyder
’99, ’06

Presidential Leadership Award to Kurt Snyder, ‘99, ‘06

This award is conferred on individual alumni for distinguished achievements as servant leaders regionally, nationally, or internationally.

Kurt Snyder has been the executive director of the Heartview Foundation Treatment Center since 2005, a place that offers healing and treatment to those who struggle with addiction. Prior to that, Kurt worked for West Central Human Service Center, before joining Heartview Foundation in 2002.

Born in Minot, Kurt graduated from the University of Mary with a major in social work/addiction counseling in 1998 and earned a master’s in management from the university in 2005. He is a licensed social worker, a licensed addiction counselor, and a registered clinical supervisor. Kurt is currently starting an opiate treatment center adjacent to Heartview in Bismarck and has also started a treatment program in Cando, North Dakota.

Kurt is active in many local community initiatives related to drug and alcohol issues. He also works with state and national organizations related to addiction treatment, bringing cutting-edge knowledge to the Heartview staff. His family includes his wife, Lisa Kozel, and sons Eric, Jack and William.

 

2017 University of Mary Hall of Fame Induction

Brian Biel
Wrestling 1999-2002

Brian Biel

Outstanding Athlete

Wrestling 1999-2002

A national champion and a three-time All-American, Brian Samipour-Biel is one of the most decorated wrestlers in University of Mary history, leading the Marauders to two of their best team finishes in school history.

Raised on a small farm near Dodge, ND, Biel went to high school in Golden Valley and wrestled for Beulah, where he was a three-time state champion for the Miners. He quickly made an impact on the Marauders program. In his second season at Mary, Biel advanced to the 2000 NAIA national championships, finishing second in the country at 133 pounds. The following season Biel reached a pinnacle when he became just the eighth University of Mary grappler to win the ultimate goal, claiming the 2001 NAIA 133-pound national championship. He would add his third All-American citation in 2002 when he placed fourth in the country. A two-time team captain, Biel helped the Marauders finish third nationally in both 2000 and 2001 before claiming seventh in 2002. Biel finished with a career record of 116-46 and helped coach the Marauders for a pair of seasons.

A small business owner and a member of the Ellet High School wrestling team coaching staff in the Akron (OH) Public School District, Brian is the son of Susan and Dale Moline and Chad and Anita Biel. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Mary in 2004 and currently is pursuing a master’s degree in English Education from George Mason University in Fairfax, VA. Elected to the North Dakota Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2005, Brian is married to Sabina. The couple lives in Akron, OH.

 

Kodi (Kooiman) Goracke

Outstanding Athlete

Softball 1999-2002

Kodi (Kooiman) Goracke
Softball 1999-2002

A keystone player during an impressive run by the University of Mary softball team, Kodi (Kooiman) Goracke helped the Marauders earn four NAIA World Series berths, win four regional titles and capture four conference crowns.

A Minnesota native who moved as a child to Ripon, CA, Goracke is a graduate of Ripon Christian High School. Goracke left California and immediately started to thrive in her return to the Upper Midwest. Named Mary softball’s Freshman of the Year, she helped the Marauders win conference and regional titles in 1999 and earn the program’s first NAIA World Series berth in six seasons. As a sophomore, she claimed All-North Dakota College Athletic Conference honors as the team again won league and regional honors and made their way to the World Series. The conference, regional and World Series runs continued the next two seasons for the Marauders with Goracke at the forefront, earning All-Dakota Athletic Conference designation at shortstop as a junior and senior. The 2002 DAC-10 Senior of the Year and team’s Most Valuable Player, Goracke led the Marauders to three wins at the World Series in her final season, the first time Mary posted multiple wins on the national stage.

A two-time NAIA Scholar All-American and a DAC-10 Outstanding Academic Achievement award recipient (2001, ’02), Kodi is the daughter of Wayne and Mari Kooiman. A two-time graduate from the University of Mary with bachelor’s degrees in special education and physical education in 2002 and a master’s degree in education in 2006, she is a PK-4 Elementary School Principal for ACGC Public Schools in Atwater, MN, which was named a National Blue Ribbon School by the United States Department of Education in 2014. Married to former Marauders basketball player Nathan Goracke, the couple lives in Spicer, MN, with their children, Blaine and Kennedy.

 

Nicci (Landdeck) Spears
Women’s Basketball
2006-08

Nicci (Landdeck) Spears

Outstanding Athlete

Women’s Basketball 2006-08

In a time of transition to a new conference for the University of Mary, Nicci Landdeck made an immediate impact on Marauders women’s basketball and led the Marauders to their first Northern Sun playoff win in program history and twice earned all-conference honors.

A transfer from Bellevue (WA) Community College, Landdeck immediately slid into the starting lineup at forward for the Marauders 2006-07 team that finished 14-13 overall and 10-8 in the program’s first year competing in NCAA Division II and the Northern Sun. Landdeck finished fourth in the league in scoring at 14.9 points per game and sixth in rebounding with 6.0/game. She was the first University of Mary player to earn NSIC player of the week honors and claimed third-team All-NSIC recognition. As a senior in 2007-08, Mary improved to 17-11 overall and 11-7 in league play to finish third. Landdeck earned All-NSIC first team honors after averaging 15.8 points per game and 7.4 rebounds per game to place third in the league in scoring and sixth in rebounding. A finisher at the basket, she hit 53.4 percent of her shots and converted 80.5 percent of her free throws, both marks among conference leaders. An NSIC Player of the Week selection for a second straight year, she led the Marauders to their first NSIC tournament victory. Landdeck scored 26 points and added 10 rebounds to lead the Marauders past visiting Bemidji State 80-78 and into the NSIC semifinals.

An NSIC Scholar-Athlete, Landdeck is 25th all-time in Marauders history in points (845) and 30th in rebounding (392).

A native of North Bend, WA, Landdeck graduated from Mount Si High School in 2003 and earned an associate’s degree from Bellevue. The daughter of Allan and Joanne Landdeck, Nicci graduated from the University of Mary in 2008 with a degree in business administration. Married this past summer to Justin Spears, the couple lives in North Bend. Nicci is an accountant for Motion Water Sports in Snoqualmie, WA.

 

Nikia Parson

Outstanding Athlete

Football 1999-2001

Nikia Parson
Football 1999-2001

An All-American and a three-time All-Conference selection, Nikia Parson was a dominant defensive force on three playoff and two conference championship University of Mary football teams, including the 1999 national semifinalist squad.

Parson, who grew up in Gary, IN, and graduated from William Wirt High School, transferred to the University of Mary from Mendocino Community College and quickly stepped into the lineup on the defensive line in 1999. The sophomore posted six sacks and recovered a pair of fumbles to earn All-North Dakota College Athletic Conference second team honors and help lead the Marauders to a record of 11-2 and a North Dakota College Athletic Conference title while advancing to the NAIA semifinals. Parson wreaked havoc in opposing backfields his junior season in 2000, posting 13 sacks, the third-highest single season total in school history. He earned Don Hansen honorable mention All-American honors and Dakota Athletic Conference all-league first team recognition as Mary once again made the national playoffs. Parson closed his career on a high note, earning NAIA first team and Don Hansen honorable mention All-American honors. He was a team captain and a repeat DAC-10 first team selection his senior year in 2001 as Mary finished the regular season undefeated (9-0), won the school’s first DAC-10 title, and advanced to the NAIA playoffs once again. Parson currently ranks sixth all-time at Mary in sacks (20) and seventh in tackles for loss (27).

The son of Samuel Custard and Lisa Parson, Nikia graduated from the University of Mary in 2002 with a degree in social and behavioral science and currently is the store manager for Encore Shoe Department in Bismarck, ND. Married to Lacey, the couple lives in Bismarck with their children, Kashmere and Maijor.

 

Machelle (Bummer) Pochant
Volleyball 1994-97

Machelle (Bummer) Pochant

Outstanding Athlete

Volleyball 1994-97

A two-time all-conference volleyball player who earned top accolades as a senior, Machelle (Bummer) Pochant shone on and off the court at the University of Mary.

A two-sport athlete when she arrived at the University of Mary after graduating from Medicine Lake (MT) High School, Pochant played both volleyball and basketball as a freshman in the fall of 1994, helped the Marauders volleyball team reach the NAIA regional tournament and earned North Dakota College Athletic Conference championships in both sports. Choosing to concentrate on volleyball her sophomore year, Pochant took command of the Marauders as a junior in 1996 and led Mary to 24 wins and earned All-North Dakota College Athletic Conference honors for the first time. The Marauders again won 24 games the following season as Mary advanced to the NDCAC tournament championship game. Pochant received NDCAC Senior of the Year and first team all-league accolades. A commanding presence in the middle of the net, she also was named the team’s most valuable player, earned all-region recognition and finished among the nation’s leaders in blocks in 1997.

A two-time NAIA Scholar-Athlete (1996, 1997), Machelle is the daughter of Allen and Marlene Bummer. She graduated from the University of Mary magna cum laude in 1998 with a degree in accounting and is currently the controller at Bakken Transload, LLC. Machelle and her husband, Mike, live in Bismarck, ND, with their children, Machaela, Bristol and Berkley.

 

Rob Renschler

Outstanding Athlete

Men’s Track & Field 1998-2000

Rob Renschler
Men’s Track and Field
1998-2000

One of only three University of Mary men’s track & field national champions, Rob Renschler is a five-time All-American who left an indelible mark on his hometown college.

Following his graduation from Bismarck (ND) High School and a semester at North Dakota State University, Renschler returned to his home town and had an immediate impact on the Marauders track & field team. As a freshman in the spring of 1998, he won the North Dakota College Athletic Conference indoor triple jump championship and qualified for the NAIA national championships. That spring he captured his first All-American citation with a sixth place finish at the NAIA outdoor championships. A team captain in 1999 as a sophomore, Renschler earned conference titles indoors in the pentathlon and triple jump. He captured All-American citations in the triple jump after placing fourth nationally indoors and third outdoors. Renschler wrapped up his career in 2000 by winning indoor and outdoor conference titles in the triple jump and leading Mary to its lone NDCAC indoor championships. He finished his Marauders career with an exclamation mark, winning the NAIA outdoor national championship in the triple jump.

A two-sport athlete at Mary, Renschler was a two-year starter at defensive back for the Marauders, playing on a pair of NDCAC championship teams that twice qualified for the NAIA tournament. In the 1999 quarterfinal win over Rocky Mountain he intercepted two passes.

The son of Alan and Sharon Renschler, Rob graduated from NDSU with a bachelor of science degree in human performance & fitness before earning a doctorate of pediatric medicine from Des Moines University. Employed by Essentia Health in Fargo, ND, Rob and his wife, Rachael, are the parents of Paige and Luke.