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Category Archives: Focus on Alumni
On May 14, 2013, Congressman Sean P. Duffy of Wisconsin delivered a short talk before the U.S. House of Representatives to recognize alum Robert Cervenka (BSME ’58). Cervenka co-founded Phillips Plastics in 1964 and was its chairman and CEO until he and his wife, Debbie (the company executive vice president and a member of the board of directors), sold it in 2010.
Bob Cervenka recently earned a lifetime achievement award from the Price County (Wisconsin) Economic Development Association.
Following is a transcript of Duffy’s U.S. House speech:
“Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize the business accomplishments of Robert F. Cervenka of Phillips, Wisconsin, who has been presented the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Price County Economic Development Association.
Bob Cervenka was born and raised in the small town of Phillips, Wisconsin. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After his graduation in 1958, Bob returned to the community that he loved to pursue his new business venture–the Phillips Plastics Corporation.
Phillips Plastics began operations on October 20, 1964, occupying an old creamery building in Phillips. In 1967, the company broke ground on a new 12,000 square foot custom plastic facility where they employed 30 skilled workers dedicated to crafting innovative control knobs for automobiles, dishwashers, fans, dehumidifiers, and dryers. In 1973, Phillips Plastics opened Precision Decorating in Medford, Wisconsin.
Shortly thereafter, the facility became known as Phillips Automotive, a full service design, manufacture, decoration, and assembly plant for high volume injection molded components. As industries from the Midwest moved to the south and offshore, Bob recognized that Wisconsin’s rural, small community workforce offered a unique competitive advantage. He developed additional plants in Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire, Menomonie, New Richmond, Hudson, and Prescott among others.
Capitalizing on the company’s success, Mr. Cervenka and co-founder Louie Vokurka established the independent philanthropic Ann Marie Foundation in 1974. Named after their mothers, the foundation worked to improve the quality of life within local communities that are home to Phillips Plastics facilities. Since its inception, the foundation has given over $8 million to schools and non-profit organizations.
Thanks to the business contributions of outstanding citizens like Robert F. Cervenka, Wisconsin’s economic future looks bright. I ask that my colleagues join me today to express our appreciation for Bob’s entrepreneurial spirit and our congratulations to him on receiving this well-deserved award.”
It’s been nearly two years since that fateful evening in May 2011 when Craig Schuff (then 25), a former competitive swimmer, dove into Lake Monona in Wisconsin and severely damaged his spinal cord.
Craig, now a quadriplegic, spent an entire year hospitalized at the University of Wisconsin hospital, but that did not impede his educational pursuits. Last November, Craig passed the oral exam for his master’s degree in nuclear engineering. He now is trying to finish experimental work for his Ph.D. and raise funds to complete an invention that can detect explosives.
To contribute to the fund, visit: http://www.gofundme.com/1f7jlk
Mechanical engineering alumnus Scott Johanek (BSME, ’12) won the Tong Prototype Prize in 2012 for his luggage system designed with pivoting wheels. The wheels kept the bag from falling over while in travel. The idea place second in the Schoofs’ Prize for Creativity.
Now, he is pursing a new venture; messenger bags with removable flaps that hold customized messages. He hopes to build his business and create jobs in Shawano County. Read more…
Senior materials researcher and Corporate Fellow Steven Zinkle of the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory has been named a 2013 Fellow of the Materials Research Society (MRS).
Zinkle was awarded the UW-Madison College of Engineering Distinguished Achievement Award in 2010. He earned his BS, MS and PhD in nuclear engineering from UW-Madison in 1980, ’82 and ’85.
Acknowledged for his “pioneering contributions to the understanding of radiation effects in materials and for advancing the scientific basis of performance limits for structural materials in advanced nuclear energy systems,” Zinkle will be formally recognized during the spring MRS meeting in April. Read more…
Jake Rohrig (BSEMA, ’12) has long dreamed of being an astronaut. He knew it was a tough job to get so he studied hard, earned a degree and took a job as a mechanical engineer with UTC Aerospace Systems in Rockford, Illinois. His work designing generators for aircraft keeps him close to all things aerospace and connected to his dream.
Ironically, UTC won’t be sending Rohrig to space anytime soon, but AXE Apollo deodorant body spray just might.
In mid February, AXE launched a contest whereby the two people who collect the most votes by midnight, April 27 will win a trip to AXE Space Camp in Orlando, Florida. The winner will be trained and sent to an altitude of 103 km on a premier flight by Space Expedition Corporation. It’s a chance of a lifetime and a trip easily worth $100,000.
Currently, an Internet celebrity who pulls pranks on his girlfriend is in the lead with more than 50,000 votes. Frankly, this breaks Rohrig’s heart.
“Everyone in this contest, in the top five, are all pretty much Internet celebrities. So for me to be competitive with them at all is kind of amazing to begin with,” Rohrig says. “But I hope to show, that through hard work, dedication and the network of a great alma mater, pretty much anything is possible.”
This, hopefully, is where readers of this blog and friends of Badgers everywhere come in. Supporters of Rohrig can vote here
Already, through a friend of a friend, Rohrig connected with fellow Badger Logan Cascia, a videographer who created the viral video titled “Teach Me How to Bucky.” The two produced the following promotional video, titled “Badasstronaut.”
So now, it is up to you. Will this hard working Badger engineer get his few minutes in space, or will the prize go to someone who famously tricked his girlfriend into eating a spoonful of cinnamon?
There are 196 countries in the world. Donald Baldovin has been to nearly 120 of them.
Baldovin joined the Standard Oil Company (later named Amoco Corporation) as an assistant chemical engineer in 1957 and retired from its worldwide exploration business group as vice president of finance and business support in 1998. (more…)
These are challenging times to be in charge of 11 nuclear reactors at six stations in the State of Illinois. One might think all times would be challenging given that responsibility and Exelon Nuclear Senior Vice President of Midwest Operations Bryan Hanson (BSNEEP, ’88) would not disagree.
“It’s a great career but not for the faint of heart, certainly,” Hanson says. “These reactors obviously run 24/7. My weekends and holidays are most often disrupted but it’s a fascinating job.” (more…)
With greenhouse gas emissions trending downward in Minnesota, Xcel Energy finds itself “ahead of the curve” in its proactive efforts to lower emissions from power plants around the state, according to Xcel Regional Vice-President Laura McCarten (BSEP, ’79).
Thursday McCarten, who has a degree in nuclear engineering from the University of Wisconsin, said that Xcel had taken significant steps in reducing emissions in the state, including converting two older coal-burning plants to natural gas (Riverside and High Bridge), and retrofitting the King plant with modern emission control technology to burn low-sulfur Wyoming coal. The conversions resulted in a significant drop in C02 levels and a 90% reduction in sulfur emissions, and were cost effective due to the current low price of natural gas. Read more…
There have always been social and political considerations influencing engineering decisions, but if there is one thing Roger Cooley (BSCEE, ’76) could convey to today’s graduates, it’s that those considerations are now a much bigger part of the engineering profession. (more…)