June 24, 2014

Every spring when commencement happens at Northeastern Junior College, faculty anxiously await the announcement of the recipients of the annual Joel E. Mack Award. The recipients are selected by the students and it is a prestigious honor to receive as it speaks volumes about how well the winning faculty have connected with students in the classroom and on the campus. Recipients of this prestigious award in 2014 were NJC faculty members Cole Briggs, Dr. Scott Thompson, and Nate Kelley.

The Joel E. Mack Award honors the memory of Joel Evan Mack, a student at Northeastern Junior College in 1982. Mack, who was originally from Lyons, Colorado, was returning back to Sterling after a weekend away from campus. He stopped on I-76 to help two young men who appeared to be having car trouble. They murdered him in what can only be described as a senseless act of violence. Because Joel had often spoke highly of his instructors at NJC, his family began this annual award to recognize these outstanding teachers on campus. The Associated Student Government continues to sponsor this award each year.  Because the recipients are selected through a student voting process, faculty members consider it a huge honor to be selected.

Cole Briggs, the director of the college’s equine management program and a professor in the agriculture department since 2007 is the first recipient. He is a coach for the Ranch Horse Versatility Team  and is a sponsor of the Equine Club which puts on the annual NJC Showdown Horse Show. He is responsible for teaching classes that include horse training, equine reproduction, equine health and equine science. He provides great professional internship opportunities for all his students and is always available for advising. Students love Brigg’s positive attitude and the great sense of humor he incorporates into his teaching. He is often seen at student activities and events of all kinds. He has reached out to many segments of campus as a volunteer and observer.

Recipient Dr. Scott Thompson, the department chair for the liberal arts division on campus, is also a professor teaching psychology courses including general psychology, human growth and development and abnormal psychology. Under his leadership, the psychology program at Northeastern has grown to be one of the largest academic programs on campus. Student and colleagues alike describe Thompson as being kind, funny, supportive, persuasive and incredibly intelligent. He has proven over the years to be a tremendous advocate for students. He is a go to person for struggling students where they find a listening ear and someone who usually offers excellent advice and encouragement. Thompson came to Northeastern in 2002.  He has tied into much of the private counseling network in northeastern Colorado and has worked to find ways to encourage more area students to pursue psychology degrees through scholarship development and the like.

Recipient Nate Kelly has been serving two groups of students on campus since 2008, serves two groups of students on campus. As a professor who teaches athletic training and sports medicine classes, he also is the athletic trainer taking care of student athletes on campus prior to, between and during games. Students love his ability to make his classes enthusiastic, relevant and hands-on. He has managed to maintain excellent quality of services to over 100 student athletes while providing invaluable experience and teaching to students who are on campus studying athletic training. He often works in excess of 14 hours directly with students on game days.

Those who win this award are only eligible to win it once every three years. This was the first time for any of these three to have this honor bestowed upon them. These three honored teachers are but a sampling of the excellence Northeastern has to offer students who choose to attend and invest in their future by being on campus and in the classrooms at NJC.