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UW to Honor Distinguished Alumni During Homecoming

September 8, 2016
Jim Nielson, Sandy Postel, Theo Ratliff, and Dave Bonner

Four University of Wyoming alumni will be honored for their professional achievements during this year’s UW Homecoming Oct. 1-8.

Jim Nielson, Sandy Postel and Theo Ratliff have been selected for the 2016 Distinguished Alumni Award, and Dave Bonner is this year’s Medallion Service Award recipient.

The Distinguished Alumni Award, presented by the UW Alumni Association, recognizes alumni who have achieved excellence in their professions, who appreciate the impact of their UW education and who are persons of integrity, stature and demonstrated ability. To date, 188 alumni have received this recognition.

The Medallion Service Award recognizes outstanding service to the university and goes to people of exceptional integrity and stature who have unselfishly given of their time, talent and support. To date, 36 individuals have received this award.

“The Distinguished Alumni and Medallion Service Award program is a great inspiration to alumni and students who witness all of the great accomplishments past graduates have earned,” says UW Alumni Association Executive Director Keener Fry. “Recognizing these alumni brings honor and distinction to the name of the University of Wyoming.”

Entrepreneur Jim Nielson earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1954 and served three years in the U.S. Navy as a commissioned officer before joining Husky Oil, a company founded by his father. At Husky Oil, Nielson served as executive vice president of exploration and production, president and CEO. In 1992, Nielson founded Nielson & Associates Inc., an oil and gas company based in Cody.

Nielson has served as a board member for the Wyoming Pipeline Authority and is a former director of the Denver branch of the Kansas City Federal Reserve. He also has served as president of the Rocky Mountain Oil and Gas Association in Denver and has been on many other boards in Wyoming, Texas and Australia. He has been a remarkable supporter of UW throughout his career.

Sandy Postel, Boeing vice president of manufacturing and production system strategy, earned a Master of Natural Science degree at UW in 1976. She was one of the first women to climb the ranks at Boeing in research, development and manufacturing, as well as product responsibility centers and lean production systems.

Postel led the research and development support of the Boeing 777, and her other accomplishments at Boeing include introducing new technology into the manufacturing shops; improving the fireworthiness of airplane interiors; introducing the Japanese concept of lean manufacturing to 800 engineers and the quality management division; writing technical papers; and teaching seminars. Postel also has made many contributions to promote women and minorities in engineering and science.

Theo Ratliff, Cowboy basketball’s leading shot-blocker, played at UW from 1992-95. He had a Hall of Fame career for the Cowboys as a four-year basketball letterman, was selected as a member of UW’s All-Century team and earned All-WAC first-team honors for two years. 

Ratliff’s athleticism launched his 16-year career in the National Basketball Association, where he became a league all-star and competed in numerous postseason playoff games. In 1995, Ratliff was drafted by the Detroit Pistons, and he also played for the Philadelphia 76ers, Atlanta Hawks, Portland Trail Blazers, Boston Celtics, San Antonio Spurs, Charlotte Bobcats and the Los Angeles Lakers, before retiring in 2011. He also partnered with Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, on some successful business ventures. He has generously supported UW and is the founder of the Theo Ratliff Activity Center in his hometown of Demopolis, Ala., which serves over 6,000 individuals of all ages per month.

Newspaperman Dave Bonner earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1962. At UW, he worked for the Branding Iron student newspaper, first as a sports reporter and then as editor. Upon graduation, he worked for a year at the Riverton Ranger before returning to the Powell Tribune, where he served as journalist, editor and publisher, eventually becoming the owner in 1968. 

Over the years, Bonner has been an active supporter of the university. He served on the UW Board of Trustees from 1989-2001 and was named president of the trustees from 1995-96. He served on the UW Foundation Board from 2004-2013, on the UW Alumni Association Board from 1971-76, as director of the Cowboy Joe Club and as director of the Wyoming Sports Hall of Fame. He also has been a tireless leader for other philanthropic organizations throughout Wyoming.

The UW Alumni Association will celebrate these honorees during Homecoming activities, including the President’s Homecoming Recognition Dinner Oct. 6 and an announcement at the football game Oct. 8.

For more information about this year’s recipients or awards, contact the UW Alumni Association at (307) 766-4166 or visit

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