Past Tom Oye Human Rights Award Recipients

The Edina Human Rights and Relations Commission annual Tom Oye Human Rights Award honors the late Tom Oye and other members of the community whose good works promote human relations and advance human rights.

2022 Tom Oye Award Winner: Sally Sudo

At 6 years old, Sally Sudo and her family were forced from their home and sent to a Japanese American incarceration camp as the U.S. was drawn into World War II. Sudo now shares her story at libraries, universities, historical societies and community groups to not only educate people but to remind them discrimination continues today. 

2021 Tom Oye Award Winner: Sayali Amarapurkar

Amarapurkar created the nonprofit AshaUSA to help end the stigma of mental illness in the South Asian community, and the organization also helps recent immigrants adapt to life in the United States. She's also launched a breast cancer awareness and fundraising event, serves as the South Asian cultural liaison for Edina Public Schools and helps parents navigate the school system.

2020 Tom Oye Award Winners: 'Seeds of Change' Organizers

Members of the Edina High School Black Student Union and community artists created artwork with messages of inclusion and racial justice that were placed in the flowerpots along West 50th Street in downtown Edina in July and August 2020. The "Seeds of Change" public art installation brought awareness to the issues, fostered discussion and created a healing space for the community.

2019 Tom Oye Award Winners: Sanford Berman and Olivia Pierce

For decades Berman has championed efforts to update language and modernize subject headings in library classifications. The work has far-reaching impacts as these terms and classifications are the basis of research and record of history. Berman’s goal is to eliminate racist, whitewashed and other pejorative terms and classifications.
Pierce is making strides toward a medical degree, with plans to use her skills to help address the disparities in care in underprivileged countries. She’s also studied race and unconscious bias, including giving a TEDx Edina talk called Power of a Portrait on the topic.

2018 Tom Oye Award Winner: Arnie Bigbee

Bigbee received the award for his continuous efforts to tackle tough issues in the community, specifically focusing on affordable housing. He helped coordinate listening sessions that were later shared with the Race & Equity Task Force in a report. His discussions helped guide plans for affordable housing plans in Edina and build bridges between more groups of people.

2017 Tom Oye Award Winner: Saumya Mangalick

Mangalick contributed significant efforts to make education and resources available to visually impaired girls in India and founding the local chapter of Girl Up, a campaign organized by the United Nations Foundation.

2016 Tom Oye Award Winner: Lauren Morse-Wendt

Lauren led a collaborative campaign to create the first apartment building for homeless young adults in the west metro. Lauren helped shed light on the issue of suburban youth homelessness and advance a conversation about Edina’s community vision.

2015 Tom Oye Award Winner: Jessi Kingston

Jessi Kingston is an equal opportunity advocate and takes every chance she can get to illustrate how. Jessi served on the Edina Human Rights and Relations Commission and is currently the Director of the City of St. Paul’s Department of Human Rights and Equal Economic Opportunity.

2014 Tom Oye Award Winner: Tom McKenzie & Kristin Aarsvold

Previous Edina Detective Tom McKenzie and Parks and Recreation Supervisor Kristin Aarsvold for their work welcoming our new Somali-American neighbors. Together they developed the first outreach program to the community in 2012, and it continues to grow because of their efforts.

2013 Tom Oye Award Winner: Alec Fischer

Alec Fischer gives a voice to those who often are unheard in our society. His interest in making documentaries is the culmination of his love for film and his passion for fighting for what he believes is right. As an Edina High School senior, Alec Fischer produced Minnesota Nice?, a 45-minute film about bullying which he has shared with schools across Minnesota and conferences across the country. After viewing it, some students shared with him that the film saved their lives.

2012 Tom Oye Award Winner: Joyce Repya

Joyce Repya, the City’s Associate Planner, has volunteered in the schools to share Edina’s early history of segregation, which included the atmosphere of exclusion against minority groups and the creation of restrictive covenants. Joyce led the efforts to revise and clarify the Historic Country Club section of the City’s website, not only with a recitation of the history and a recounting of the discriminatory practices but also by bridging the gap between misinformation/lack of information and enlightenment.

2011 Tom Oye Award Winner: Dan Johnson

During Dan Johnson’s 27 years of ministry, he has been a tireless advocate for human rights. His leadership has resulted in his church becoming a “reconciling” church that openly welcomes and affirms the GLBT population. In addition, Dan has reached beyond the walls of his church for advocacy meetings with legislators and has served as an advisor to other churches. He has shown exceptional leadership in advocating equal access to acceptance, affirming and blessing relationships without regard to the gender of the partner, and advancing civil rights regardless of sexual orientation.

2010 Tom Oye Award Winner: Karen Hazel

Karen Hazel founded the Child Advocacy Coalition (CAC), a children’s rights organization that seeks to expand and protect children’s legal rights. Today, she continues to press for reform where Minnesota’s criminal statutes fall short in punishing and preventing child abuse. She has created training manuals for practitioners on the plight of abused children and is now in the process of establishing the CAC’s non-profit status. Along with this effort, Karen is a journalist, attending law school and raising two school-aged children.

2010 Tom Oye Award Winner: Kelly Fitzgerald

Kelly Fitzgerald, employed at Dow Water & Process Solutions, organized and implemented diversity employee networks at the work site: GLAAD (Gays, Lesbians and Allies at Dow), WIN (Women Innovation Network), African American Network, Asian Diversity Network, Disability Employee Network, Hispanic/Latin Network and Middle East Intercultural Network. Kelly’s efforts have helped her colleagues advance their careers with Dow, and all members of the work population have been able to learn more about one another. She has also been involved with FilmTec community outreach efforts in volunteering for every Habitat for Humanity and United Way project.

2010 Tom Oye Award Winner: Rachael Pream Grenier

Rachael Pream Grenier, the School District’s Youth Development Supervisor, serves as the Youth Serving Youth (YSY) Advisor. She is in charge of overseeing and supporting dozens of youth groups and makes it easier for youth wanting to make a difference in the world attain their dreams. Rachael’s cozy YSY room is a lunch spot hang-out for all sorts of students and for those who need guidance. She provides a back room for Muslim students to pray during the day. Rachael has greatly impacted the community in the support of youth who advocate for human rights.

2010 Tom Oye Award Winner: Sandy Schley

Sandy Schley is committed to “service above self” in all she does. Currently overseeing 67 Rotary clubs in southwestern Minnesota as the District Governor, she was instrumental in the development of sanitation and clean-water projects in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Sierra Leone in order to reduce child mortality and disease and improve the quality of life for thousands. Through her leadership, significant funds have been generated from the Rotary clubs to be used for the final stages of polio eradication in Africa and India. As President of the Southdale YMCA Board, Sandy led the support of after-school and summer programs to enhance African and Latino youth education and well-being.

2010 Tom Oye Award Winner: Shara Mohtadi & Emma Weisberg

Shara Mohtadi and Emma Weisberg, high school seniors, teamed up for several years to further the cause of human rights at Edina High School and in the local and broader community. In 2009, they organized a gathering for the community to meet an international physician, Dr. Ashis Brahma, the sole doctor in a refugee camp of more than 25,000 men, women and children in Darfur. In 2010, Shara and Emma helped to sponsor a presentation called “STAND Up for Congo” at the High School for the purpose of raising awareness of the violence in the Congo. The student anti-genocide coalition called STAND is their gift to the High School. It is dedicated to raising awareness, funds and advocacy to combat genocide in crisis-stricken areas around the world.

2008 Tom Oye Award Winner: Debby McNeil

Debby McNeil was the lead organizer at her congregation for the educational and advocacy work on the crisis in Darfur. She also took on the role of chair of the Social Action/Social Justice Committee and focused on immigration issues. Debby brought speakers from the Liberian and Somali communities to speak on the challenges faced by the immigrant communities in Minnesota.

2007 Tom Oye Award Winner: Ellen Kennedy

Ellen Kennedy teaches sociology at the University of St. Thomas and Carleton College. Her compassion, love and quest for human rights are evident both here in Edina and across the world in Darfur, Sudan. Ellen started a local chapter of GI.Net (Genocide Intervention Network) which has now grown to be the official chapter for the State of Minnesota.

2006 Tom Oye Award Winner: Mary Ellingen

Mary Ellingen is a volunteer lawyer with Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights. She has participated in fact-finding missions regarding women’s human rights in Poland, Tajikistan and locally. She prepared recommendations for bringing laws into conformity with international human rights standards.