Dr. Katherine A. Tunheim, the Board of Trustees Endowed Chair in Leadership and Management at Gustavus Adolphus College, was recently inducted into the Pi Kappa Delta Order of Attainment, the honor society’s most prestigious alumni recognition award.
In just six short years at Gustavus, Tunheim has become a valued teacher and mentor to hundreds of Gustavus students due to her skills as an educator and her vast experience in business and leadership. She founded the Gustavus Women in Leadership Conference and has been instrumental in the success of the Economics and Management Department’s Alumni Mentoring Program. She is currently a member of the Campaign Gustavus 150 Major Gifts Committee, faculty director of the Women in Business Leadership Club, and serves as the facilitator of the Economics and Management Department’s National Advisory Board.
Prior to joining the Gustavus faculty, Tunheim founded the Tunheim Leadership Group – a consulting firm that developed individual leadership as well as team and organizational development skills. Her experience in the corporate sector included stints with some of the most prestigious companies in Minnesota including Northwest Airlines, Carlson Companies, and American Express Financial Advisors.
Tunheim is a 1982 graduate of Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn., where she earned her undergraduate degree in speech-communication, theatre arts, and Spanish, and was a standout on the college’s speech team. Tunheim and her classmate Jill Strickler were instrumental in building the college’s speech team from the ground up beginning in the fall of 1979. Tunheim was named the Minnesota Interstate Oratory champion during her junior year and also advanced to the National Individual Events Tournament (NIET) in Towson, Maryland, where she made it to the quarterfinals.
During her senior year at Concordia, Tunheim was elected Pi Kappa Delta President and once again advanced to the NIET. She competed in three events, advanced to the semifinals in Oratory, and along with Strickler, placed fourth in the nation in the Dramatic Duo category.
“It was a privilege to be a part of Pi Kappa Delta at Concordia,” Tunheim said. “The administration, faculty, and coaches all supported my team’s desire to compete and improve as public speakers. Forensics taught me that research, preparation, and practice make a difference in whatever you do in life. I am grateful and honored by this recognition.”
A native of Walker, Minn., Tunheim won two individual state championships while at Walker High School, including one in Discussion in 1976 and one in Significant Speeches in 1978. She was also a member of the Walker debate team, which advanced to the state tournament in 1977.
Along with her undergraduate degree from Concordia, Tunheim holds a master’s degree in communication from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Ph.D. in work and human resource education from the University of Minnesota. She lives in Orono, Minn., with her husband Bob, and has three children, Rob, Amie and Kristie.
Tunheim is not the only individual with connections to Gustavus to be honored by Pi Kappa Delta this year. Edgar M. Carlson ’30, the College’s eighth president who served in the role from 1944 to 1968, was also inducted into the Order of Attainment posthumously. In addition, James McPherson ’58, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author and civil war historian, was inducted into the Order in 2009. Both Tunheim and Carlson were nominated this year by Gustavus Associate Professor of Communication Studies Phil Voight.
The Order of Attainment was established by the National Council in 2007 to honor the societal contributions of Pi Kappa Delta alumni. Unlike the organization’s Hall of Fame, the achievements and contributions recognized by the Order of Attainment need not be directly related to speech or debate activities, and may be global, national or local in scope. Ideally, they will reflect the recipient’s commitment to the art of persuasion, beautiful and just, and the role of forensics and Pi Kappa Delta in building life-long citizens dedicated to lives of leadership and service.
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