Northwestern professor awarded prestigious Educator of the Year honor

Liala Helal | May 12, 2015

Dr. Renée M. DeVries was named 2015 Educator of the Year by the Minnesota Chiropractic Association


Dr. Renée DeVries and Northwestern go way back.

From learning to swim in the campus pool at age five, to the latest accomplishment: 2015 Minnesota Chiropractic Association Educator of the Year, Dr. DeVries’ love for Northwestern and her dedication to student success has never faltered.

“I love this place, I love this institution,” Dr. DeVries said. “It’s kind of weird I keep landing in this same geographical place and haven’t left the block, but I love this school. People here are smart and committed to what they do. It’s a great place to be.”

The award, presented at the 2015 MCA Annual Convention (held April 24-25), highlights her dedication to students, faculty and the profession. She also received the 2015 MCA 25 Years of Distinguished Service award and 25 Years of Membership award. These three awards follow her big achievement of receiving the Educator of the Year award from the American Chiropractic Association (ACA) last year.

“It’s humbling because so many people I work with are so incredibly deserving of those recognitions, and it means a lot coming from peers,” Dr. DeVries said of nominations.

DeVries literally grew up in what is now a part of Northwestern — the house across the street that is the Northwestern’s Alumni House. She attended junior high in the Northwestern building before the college occupied the location, and taught swimming lessons at the pool through her high school and college career.

Drawn to chiropractic for its focus on natural therapies and its attention to prevention and wellness, she received her bachelor of science and doctor of chiropractic degrees from Northwestern in 1989, and went to practice in Black River Falls, Wisc.

Little did she know her time away from Northwestern was temporary.

She returned for a radiology residency— a love she developed during college that did not subside during her years of practice. And during that residency at Northwestern, she realized her passion for teaching. Dr. DeVries spent 17 years teaching radiology and practicing in Northwestern’s Radiologic Consultation services, later served as Dean of the College of Chiropractic, and stepped down to return to her love of teaching in 2013 and focus on her PhD studies.

She not only teaches, but mentors students and is known for always making herself available when students need a pat on the back or encouragement.

“I feel honored that students consider me someone they can turn to for a pep talk,” Dr. DeVries said. “I have a heart for people who just need a boost. I think they have such intense, busy schedules and they can get so tired, and if I can give them any kind of boost, I feel so honored to support them.”

She took the same interest and care with her patients when she practiced, she loved serving them and getting to know each and every individual.

“My students are the ones I take care of now," she said. “You exponentially increase the number of patients you’re impacting in the future if you can have an effect on how your student treats a patient. If I can impact the way my students treat patients, I am ultimately affecting many more lives through my students.”

Beau Foshee, a Northwestern chiropractic student, is one of many students who deeply respects Dr. DeVries and could list hundreds of examples of how she has positively impacted his educational experience, especially as a newcomer to Minnesota.

“Dr. DeVries immediately offered her support to me in a direct way,” Foshee said. “Over the past two years, she has counseled me on career options, agreed to serve as the advisor to the Student Minnesota Chiropractic Association and endorsed me in the application process for outside scholarships. Her role as an educator certainly exceeds the limits of classroom lecturing, and she has profoundly impacted my university experience.”

Foshee attended the awards ceremony to witness Dr. DeVries receive the prestigious honor.

“Her approachable manner, kindness, and absolute devotion to the education of chiropractic physicians are some of my favorites of her characteristics,” Foshee said. “I am grateful for her mentorship, and I was delighted to be present at the awards banquet to see her honored with such a meaningful award."

Dr. DeVries’ life path can be explained through her love of serving people.

“I’m happiest when I’m helping others,” she said. “And now I’m helping my students help others.”

She has dedicated her life to the profession and her students and will always go the extra mile to support someone’s success.

“I love the students, and knowing I can help in the training of my future colleagues is such an honor,” she added. “We have fantastic students and I have such a heart for just really getting to know them.”

Dr. Chuck Sawyer, Vice President of Innovation at Northwestern, has known Dr. DeVries since she was a student in chiropractic college.

“As a member of the faculty, she has made substantial contributions to the chiropractic program at Northwestern,” Dr. Sawyer said. “She is an outstanding educator. I admire her dedication to the success of her students, she works very effectively with her colleagues, and she’s very deserving of this award.”

She’s intelligent and is a gifted teacher because of more than her knowledge of the profession, Sawyer explained.

“It’s her human attributes,” he said. “The personal, caring compassion ― she’s the real deal. She’s authentic. She just cares a lot about people.”

The Northwestern community is stronger because of her.

“She’s deeply invested and students know she’s by their side saying, ‘I’m pulling for you, I know it’s hard, but I’m here to help you succeed in your academic journey and I want you to stay connected after you graduate,’” Dr. Sawyer said.

Dr. Joseph Sweere, founder and advisor to the H.C. Sweere Center for Clinical Biomechanics and Applied Ergonomics at Northwestern, and former professor at the College of Chiropractic, describes Dr. DeVries as highly respected by her peers as well as her students.

“She has contributed years of dedication, focused attention to detail and a willingness to step up in administrative roles in having served as dean and in the variety of positions where she was elected by her peers, such as president of Faculty Senate,” Dr. Sweere said. “She’s always approachable, and has extraordinary respect for students and faculty. She’s very visionary toward the needs of the institution as well as the needs of the students and the profession.”

In addition to her teaching responsibilities, Dr. DeVries is pursuing a PhD in Organizational Leadership and Policy Development from the University of Minnesota with a focus on higher education. Her dissertation focuses on the impact of interpersonal and inter-organizational trust on the success of collaborations between universities.

Dr. DeVries has high hopes for Northwestern’s future.

“This is a really great place, and I’m excited about what lies ahead for this institution,” Dr. DeVries said.

Back to Top