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2020 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients

Each year, NAU awards the Distinguished Service Alumni Award. It is with great pleasure that I introduce this year’s recipients of our Distinguished Alumni Award. These recipients are being recognized for their educational and professional accomplishments and for actively serving others in the workforce and community. Additionally, both of our distinguished alumni for 2020 have some inspiring words for the 2020 graduates, so please watch the 2020 National American University Commencement video.


Dr. Charise Breeden-Balaam


Dr. Charise Breeden-Balaam has a long career in social work and higher education administration. She is also a professor at several local colleges and universities, focusing on the social sciences. With this experience, she has worked with various clients in mental health services and corrections departments as well as public and private partnerships.


Most recently, Charise has worked as an administrator for the Equal Opportunity Program at Passaic County Community College and as a Director for Special Education Services for several institutions in Newark, NJ. Charise has been recognized by administrators and peers for creating policies and procedures to ensure that each special education scholar receives appropriate accommodations and modifications.


Charise is the Founder and CEO of Balaam and Associates, which works with faith-based organizations in the areas of quality assurance, grant writing, and program planning. Charise provides professional development trainings and workshops to special education personnel throughout New Jersey.


Charise earned an EdD in Community College Leadership from National American University.


Steve Allender - Mayor of Rapid City


Steve Allender is a native South Dakotan and was raised in a military family. After his father retired from the Air Force, his family moved to Belle Fourche, where Steve attended grade school through high school.

Steve began his career in law enforcement in 1983 working for the Belle Fourche Police Department. In 1985 he joined the Rapid City Police Department and spent the next 29 years serving as a patrol officer, detective, sergeant, crime lab director, lieutenant, captain and eventually chief of police. He retired from the RCPD in May 2014.


In June 2015 Steve was elected Mayor of Rapid City. Steve holds a bachelor’s degree in management from NAU and has attended the FBI National Academy in Quantico, VA.




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