Concordia Lutheran High School

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CLHS recognizes 3 alumni for service to community, alma mater

March 29, 2016

FORT WAYNE, Ind. — Three Concordia Lutheran High School alumni are being honored for their service to their communities as well as their alma mater.  

Jill (Brueggeman) Nichols, a retired executive for Vera Bradley, is being recognized with the Distinguished Alumnus Award for her achievements since graduation. The award is the highest honor given to a Concordia graduate. It recognizes graduates who have demonstrated an ongoing dedication to Christian principles and the church, with both lifetime and personal achievements.

Nichols, a 1979 graduate, was the executive vice president of philanthropy and community relations for Vera Bradley. Before that, she held the position of chief operating officer. She retired in August 2012 after a 23-year career with the company. She has also been the director of finance for the YWCA of Fort Wayne and the audit supervisor for Coopers & Lybrand, now PricewaterhouseCoopers.

She is extremely involved in her community as well as her church. In her church, St. Michael Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne, she is the treasurer, and she also served as the co-chairperson for the church’s capital campaign. In the community, she has served as the treasurer for the Lutheran Foundation and the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer. She chaired the Northeast Indiana Riley Children’s Foundation Regional Committee and served with the Birchwood Adult Daycare. She also co-chaired the campaign for construction of a new facility for the Alzheimer Daycare where she served as the volunteer interim director of the facility for several months.

At Concordia, she has given much of her time, talents and treasures to support the mission of the high school, including serving as the volunteer interim alumni director. During that time, she initiated the first Alumni Weekend, which is now celebrated each fall.

As the Distinguished Alumnus Award recipient, she will speak at Concordia’s commencement on May 29.

Bonnie (Kruse) Doerffler, a 1974 graduate, is being honored with the Distinguished Service Award because of her dedicated support, activity and service to the ministry of CLHS.

Doerffler has worked for Parkview Health for 38 years as the manager of the imaging department at Parkview Randallia. In the position, she oversees the diagnostic, CT, MRI, ultrasound and nuclear departments and staff.

At St. Paul’s Lutheran Church where she has been a member for 37 years, she is the Altar Guild president and has served the Altar Guild for many years. She also was involved in the interview process for one of the church’s pastors, and has served in the PTL for the school.

In the community, she is a member of PSI IOTA XI sorority, a philanthropic organization that raises money to invest back into the community. The organization supports many charities in the Fort Wayne area with the focus on art, literature, music, and speech and hearing. The sorority is also a sponsor of the Johnny Appleseed Festival.

Through the high school, she had served on the alumni board for many years and is a supporter of Concordia through her gifts.

“Serving others has been the focus of my life, and I feel I learned the lesson of ‘being a servant leader’ while a student at Concordia,” she said. “I believe my work with patient care and my involvement at St. Paul’s and the community is so rewarding, and God has blessed me richly, allowing me to continue to do these things that I love.” 

Dr. Laura (Hudson) Pollom, a 1995 graduate and a professor of communication at Concordia University Chicago, is being recognized with the Neale M. Shank Award. The Neale M. Shank Award, named in honor of an alum who died while serving in Iraq, honors those younger than 40 who have made significant contributions to their given career, community, church or the high school.

After graduating from Concordia, Pollom went on to receive her Bachelor of Arts degree in communication studies from DePauw University. In 2001, she earned her Master of Arts degree in communications studies from Ball State University, and then in 2005, she gained a Ph.D. in communication studies from the University of Missouri, Columbia. She is now a tenured full professor of communication and chair of her department at Concordia University.

As department chair, she has grown and transitioned the department to what it is today. It began in 2010 as the Department of Art, Communication and Theatre, and today, the students in the program have grown exponentially to the point that they operate as three separate departments. As chair, she is also responsible for the department’s budget, scheduling of classes, course catalog descriptions, staffing and cultivating new ideas with her department members. On top of these responsibilities, she also teaches classes in speech communication (including an advanced class), writing about the media, business communication and interpersonal communication.

During her time at Concordia-Chicago, she has written and presented many papers on various subjects and has been recognized many times over as a faculty member, including twice with the “Faculty of the Year” award.

She is also very involved outside the classroom as an adviser and task force member, and was on the STOP (Striving To Overcome Prejudice) committee that helped to plan a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration among other cultural events throughout the year.

Concordia Lutheran High School, located at 1601 St. Joe River Drive in Fort Wayne, Ind., was founded in 1935 as a private, co-educational Lutheran high school open to students of all faiths and backgrounds. With Christ at the center, Concordia continues to pursue educational excellence that equips individuals for lifelong learning and service as disciples of Jesus Christ. Learn more at