Alumni Award Recipients: 2024

Columbia College alumni excel not only as supporters of their alma mater, but also as professionals in their careers and as citizens of their communities. Each year, a select few of these inspiring representatives are recognized for their accomplishments.


Professional Achievement Award

For attaining outstanding success in one’s career within the past 10 years

CharltonBrigadier General Gary Charlton II ’95

A graduate of Columbia College’s former Hancock Field, New York, location, Brigadier General Gary Charlton II ’95 has exhibited a commitment to excellence and top-flight leadership throughout his decorated 34-year career in the Air National Guard, for which he now serves as director of operations. In this role, he is responsible for managing resources to support the operations of the Air National Guard’s 90 wings across the country. Prior to his current position, he most recently served as the commander of the 105th Airlift Wing, based at Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, New York. As a combat veteran, Brig. Gen. Charlton served on seven different deployments – three while enlisted – including Operations Desert Shield and Storm, and Northern Watch. Brig. Gen. Charlton earned his bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Columbia College while serving in the New York Air National Guard. He later graduated from the Air Command & Staff College and the Air War College.

Honorary Alumni Award

For contributing greatly to Columbia College of their time, talent or treasure

FromanThe Froman Fans Hon. ’24

For decades, there has been a dedicated group of fans of the late Christian College alumna and world-renowned performer Jane Froman Smith ’26. This group has worked tirelessly to continue her legacy by supporting the Columbia College Archives and students in the Columbia College Music Program. They have also supported multiple historical societies that have celebrated Jane Froman’s impact. Timeless beauty and talent made Froman a star of the radio, stage and screen from the 1930s through the 1950s. She showed courage and fortitude in the face of debilitating injuries suffered in a 1943 plane crash en route to a USO tour to entertain troops. She bravely continued her career and achieved even more success, inspiring countless people along the way. The Froman Fans are a devoted group of hard-working, passionate people committed to honoring Jane Froman’s memory and achievements, which continue to inspire others today.

Jane Froman Courage Award

For demonstrating perseverance to overcome personal obstacles while continuing to better oneself personally or professionally, and displaying a spirit of courage in daily life

NicholsSandra Nichols, MD ’80

A graduate of the Day Program, Dr. Sandra Nichols ’80 recently retired as Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer at UnitedHealth Group. She founded and serves as CEO of the Samaritan Health Project. Dr. Nichols has shown courage by pressing on in the face of significant health challenges – truly epitomizing resilience, grace and advocacy, while gaining an appreciation for and setting an example of work-life balance. On April 18, 2019, Dr. Nichols suffered a heart attack, and in that incident, she also incurred a severe burn. Less than two weeks later, she underwent a successful heart transplant and, within a year, returned to her executive leadership career. She is now an advocate for the American Heart Association. Dr. Nichols and her husband, Ronnie, are members of the Founder’s Circle of the President’s Society. She has demonstrated strong leadership to CC through her service as a trustee from 2006 to 2012 and through her generosity in memory of her mother, Ether L. Bruce, for whom the college’s math tutoring center is named. Dr. Nichols earned an Associate of Arts degree and a Bachelor of Science degree from Columbia College. She received the CCAA Young Alumni Award in 1990 and the CCAA Distinguished Alumni Award in 2006.

Columbia College Service Award

For demonstrating outstanding leadership and service to the citizens of one’s community

WinklerCarol Winkler ’93

A graduate of the Evening Program, Carol Winkler ’93 served for 25 years as a member of the Columbia College Alumni Association Advisory Council and was a member of the Columbia College Board of Trustees for 17 years. Winkler’s expertise has had a profound impact on the college, as she served on many Board of Trustees committees and also as Board treasurer. She and her husband, Darrell, have been generous with their time and resources. They are members of the Trustee’s Circle of the President’s Society and the St. Clair Society. The Winklers are also longtime members of the Cougar Club, and they can often be seen in the stands cheering on our Cougars. Winkler earned her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Columbia College. She retired from MFA Incorporated after serving as the Retirement Plan Administrator for many years.

Photo Gallery: View pictures from the Alumni Awards Banquet.