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James (Jim) Van de Ven, Ph.D., Orono High School Class of 1997, joined the ranks of the Distinguished Alumni, and Erin Shaughnessy Murray, OHS Class of 2000, was named as this year’s Promising Alumni by the Orono Foundation for Education and its alumni association.
Van de Ven, married to Deb Van de Ven and father of incoming Orono kindergartener, Ben, is an accomplished professor in mechanical engineering at the University of Minnesota. He has published many articles, been named Mechanical Engineering Teacher of the Year at Worchester Polytechnic Institute in 2011 and was recently awarded the McKnight Land-Grant Professorship at the U of M from 2014-2016, a prestigious honor only given to six professors at the U of M.
“Dr. Van de Ven is a distinguished example of the excellence of Orono schools,” said Dr. Karen Orcutt, superintendent of schools. “He is distinguished by his character, his service to others and his brilliance. His teaching and service to others, complemented by his accomplishments in engineering, are the perfect combination of qualities we try to instill in all of our students.”
When asked what he is most proud of since graduating, Van de Ven answered, “Professionally, I am proud and thankful for being a professor at the University of Minnesota where I am able to shape the lives of young adults who are the future of our society. It is incredibly rewarding not only in the present to be a guide and mentor, but also to keep in contact with former students and see the amazing things they do and extraordinary people they become.”
Erin Shaunessey Murray is married to Patrick Murray and is a mother of three young children: Keelin, Peter and Kiara. She has shown outstanding achievements within her chosen field, a special education teacher in Orono Schools since 2006, and as head coach of OHS varsity women’s soccer since 2005. Her teams have won two state titles and one second-place finish in recent years. Additionally, she is current president-elect of the Minnesota State High School Soccer Coaches Association, the first woman ever to be awarded the position, and was named National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Minnesota small school Coach of the Year in 2014.
When asked what she is most proud of since graduating, Shaunessey Murray replied, “Returning to Orono and having this amazing opportunity to give back to the school and community that had such a positive impact on me. I am proud to be a teacher at Orono High School and proud to be a coach. I love seeing my high school athletes be role models for the next group.”
Likewise, Dr. Orcutt adds, “Erin Shaunessey Murray exemplifies what Orono Schools strives for in teaching and coaching. She is bright and knowledgeable beyond her years, as well as always positive and always hopeful. Erin believes in every student and works hard to develop their strongest potential, and is admired by all who know her.”
“The Orono Foundation for Education is thrilled to recognize these important alumni,” said Kari Groth Swan, Orono Foundation executive director. “Not only have they excelled in their chosen fields, but they have contributed greatly to their communities through service, leadership and with a spirit of generosity. We are proud to call them ‘Spartan Alumni’ and celebrate their achievements.”
The pair was selected by a panel of alumni. The foundation for and its alumni association plan to honor Van de Ven and Shaunessey Murray during this fall’s Homecoming festivities.