The Alumni of Merit Award is the highest honor the Alumni Association bestows on an alumna/us of Whitman College. This award is given to alumni who have achieved distinction in their chosen field, or rendered outstanding service to their community, or rendered outstanding service to, and demonstrated loyal interest in, Whitman College. Members of the Board of Trustees, the Board of Overseers, and the Board of Directors of the Alumni Association are eligible three years after their last term has been served.

Recipients for 2017 are John ’66 and Carol Minnick Santa ’66

2017 Alumni of Merit Award Recipients are John '66 and Carol Minnick Santa '66John ’66 and Carol Minnick Santa ’66 met and married while at Whitman, eloping during their junior year. “It was scandalous. We ran away and got married by the justice of the peace in Idaho,” Carol said.

Carol grew up in Walla Walla so family kept the couple coming back after graduation, but the couple has always made Whitman a part of their lives. Both are longtime volunteers for the annual fund and admissions program and John has served on the Board of Overseers since 2013.

The former psychology majors who have both had numerous career transformations – from professors to practicing psychologists, to high school teachers, to entrepreneurs – now run Montana Academy, a therapeutic boarding school for troubled teenagers in Marion, Montana.

The impetus to seek out a new way to educate troubled teenagers came about after their own son began drifting. They enrolled him in an alternative school, which resulted in a positive outcome for him, but John and Carol felt that with their backgrounds in education and psychology, they could do better by creating a therapeutic school that provided not only counseling, but also top-notch academics.

The academy they created in 1997 started with students camping out in tents on a 500-acre ranch. It has now transformed into a boarding school with 70 kids who come from as far away as Paris and Singapore. John and Carol have mentored 17 of their graduates who went on to enroll at Whitman College.

John says, “I think my most interesting service to Whitman has been mentoring a series of students from Montana Academy to seek a liberal arts education with a number of them ultimately choosing to attend Whitman…It has been such a pleasure to watch these talented young people continue to expand and mature into successful and accomplished young adults.”