WMU News

Arts and Sciences bestows Alumni Achievement Awards

Nov. 5, 2001

KALAMAZOO -- Eleven alumni of Western Michigan University's College of Arts and Sciences (see list below) were honored Oct. 12 with an Alumni Achievement Award.

Alumni Achievement Awards are given to WMU College of Arts and Sciences' alumni who have demonstrated outstanding personal and professional achievements since graduating from WMU. Award winners are nominated by the departments from which they received their degrees.

This year's recipients were honored at a reception held during the University's homecoming festivities Oct. 7-13. This is the third year College of Arts and Sciences has presented the Alumni Achievement Awards.

"We are very proud of our alumni. This is an extraordinary group of people," says Dr. Elise Jorgens, dean of the WMU College of Arts and Sciences. "They represent the best of what our University can produce."

2001 Alumni Achievement Award recipients

Dr. James Bohland of Roanoke, Va., is the Alumni Achievement Award recipient for the Department of Geography. Bohland graduated from WMU in 1963 with bachelor's degrees in geography and history. He completed both his master's and doctoral degrees in geography at the University of Georgia. He has been the director of the School of Public and International Affairs at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University since 1980 and served as the interim provost of Virginia Tech in 2000-01. Bohland is a senior fellow for health, biomedical engineering and biomedical projects, with particular responsibility for developing and implementing research and graduate degree programs in these fields and for establishing collaborative agreements with selected medical schools. He has more than 60 publications to his credit and has been the principal investigator of more than 30 grants. He also has provided professional service to the National Science Foundation and the United States Agency for International Development as well as numerous professional societies. He has taught a substantial number of courses over the years with a heavy concentration in quantitative/statistical analysis in geography and in geographic information systems. In 1996, he was honored with Virginia Tech's Outstanding Teaching Award.

Dr. Velma Laws Clay of Battle Creek, Mich., is the Alumni Achievement Award recipient for the School of Public Affairs and Administration. Clay graduated from WMU in 1987 with a bachelor's degree in business administration. She returned to WMU to receive master's and doctoral degrees in public administration in 1991 and 1998, respectively. She currently serves as director of the Equal Employment Opportunity Office in the Battle Creek Federal Center. An active volunteer, she serves on seven boards and committees for organizations in the Battle Creek area. Clay was the chairperson of the yearlong Sojourner Truth 200th Birthday Anniversary Celebration in 1997 and chairperson of the Sojourner Truth Monument Project. In 1996, Clay was honored as the recipient of the Sojourner Truth Award sponsored by the Battle Creek Chapter of the Negro Business and Professional Women's Club. A year later, she was awarded the Battle Creek Chamber of Commerce's ATHENA Award as the outstanding business and professional woman of the year. She also received the 1999 Battle Creek Enquirer George Award for performing continuous and significant service to the community.

Della DiPietro of Ann Arbor, Mich., is the Alumni Achievement Award recipient for the Department of Communication. DiPietro, who received a master's degree in communication in 1982 from WMU, has had distinguished careers in both public relations and broadcast journalism. DiPietro is the communications manager for manufacturing quality and purchasing operations for Ford Motor Co. and has held numerous management positions in public relations with Ford during the past 12 years. Before joining Ford, DiPietro was an award-winning broadcast journalist, working for many years at WWMT-TV in Kalamazoo. Her reporting and documentary production garnered various awards from organizations such as the Radio-TV News Directors Association and United Press International. An accredited member of the Public Relations Society of America, she has lent her communication skills to a variety of nonprofit groups. DiPietro's longtime involvement in social, charitable and local government activities include her election in 1996 and 2000 to the governing body of Ann Arbor Township, where she and her husband reside.

Dr. Charles D. Harrington of Los Alamos, N.M., is the Alumni Achievement Award recipient for the Department of Geosciences. Harrington, a native of East Jordan, Mich., completed his bachelor's degree in geology from WMU in 1966 and earned his master's and doctoral degrees at Indiana University. Harrington is project leader for science and program management for the Yucca Mountain Project at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Earth and Environmental Sciences Division. Yucca Mountain is the site in Nevada where high-level radioactive waste from all commercial nuclear reactors in the United States is taken for permanent disposal. Harrington has been at Los Alamos since 1983. Prior to that, he was a consultant for various agencies and held academic positions at North Carolina State and Murray State universities. He is an adjunct professor at the University of New Mexico and a fellow of the Geological Society of America.

Dr. Mark Joseph Lynott of Lincoln, Neb., is the Alumni Achievement Award recipient for the Department of Anthropology. Lynott graduated magna cum laude from WMU in 1973 with a double major in anthropology and history. Following graduate studies in anthropology at Southern Methodist University, he joined the National Park Service's Midwest Archaeological Center in Lincoln, Neb. Lynott has served at that center for more than 23 years and is currently its manager. The center conducts archaeological research and provides resource management support for National Park units in the 13-state Midwest Region. The center also provides technical assistance to other government agencies, working mainly in the area between Ohio and the Rocky Mountains. Lynott is the author of numerous articles and books and has held elected offices in the Society of Professional Archaeologists and the Society of American Archaeology.

Dr. Mark L. Sundberg of Battle Creek, Mich., is the Alumni Achievement Award recipient for the Department of Psychology. Sundberg received three degrees in psychology from WMU, earning a bachelor's degree in 1975, a master's degree in 1976 and a doctorate in 1980. A licensed psychologist and certified behavior analyst, Sundberg is employed at Behavior Analysts Inc., which operates a school for autistic and disabled children. He also operates Sundberg and Associates, a consulting firm offering services and workshops for developmentally disabled, deaf and brain-injured patients. He has served as an instructor at several colleges and universities and is the author or co-author of numerous publications. He was instrumental in establishing the Northern California Association for Behavior Analysis which now has more than 500 members and offers a variety of professional activities for behavior analysts. Sundberg also is the founder, editor and manager of the journal The Analysis of Verbal Behavior.

Dr. Kenneth J. Sytsma of Madison, Wis., is the Alumni Achievement Award recipient for the Department of Biological Sciences. Sytsma received his master's degree in botany and ecology from WMU in 1979 and later received his doctorate from Washington University in St. Louis in systematics and evolutionary biology. An internationally recognized plant evolutionary biologist, Sytsma was an early leader in the movement to use DNA as a tool to study plant evolution and has made significant contributions to this field. In 1985, he joined the Department of Botany at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and has served as chairperson of the department since 1998. Over the course of his career Sytsma has received more than $1 million in federal grant support, has published more than 80 publications and trained many of the new innovators working in the field of plant systematics.

Anthony J. Tan of Atlanta is the Alumni Achievement Award recipient for the Department of Economics. Tan received a master's degree in economics from WMU in 1989 and an MBA in marketing and finance from the University of Chicago. A licensed financial planner, Tan has served as chairman and chief executive officer of ZCorum Inc. Since the company's inception in May 1997, Tan has steered ZCorum through a period of strong growth in its employee base, revenues and profitability. ZCorum has successfully launched several Internet facilities in Georgia, creating high-tech jobs targeted to rural Georgians. Prior to his tenure with Zcorum, he served as the president and CEO of America.net, an Internet service provider headquartered in Atlanta. Tan has extensive experience in financial management, marketing, human resources and business management. His career has included a position as director in the structure finance group at First Chicago-NBD Corp., one of the 10 largest banks in the United States. He is frequent speaker on topics relating to economic development, social change, the Internet and technology.

Dr. Ronald J. Troyer of Des Moines, Iowa, is the Alumni Achievement Award recipient for the Department of Sociology. Troyer, a native of LaGrange, Ind., graduated from WMU in 1980 with a doctorate in sociology after completing his undergraduate education at Huntington College and receiving a master's degree at Ball State University. Since July 2000, he has served as Provost of Drake University, where he oversees 252 faculty in six different schools and colleges. From June 1994 to June 2000, Troyer was that university's dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and director of the School of Fine Arts. Throughout his career at Drake, Troyer has held leadership roles on numerous boards and committees. He has served as Drake's representative to the Associate New American Colleges Faculty Work Project and headed that University's Faculty Senate Task Force on Learning Research. Troyer has contributed to many publications and is the co-author of two books.

Dr. Thomas Vidmar of Kalamazoo is the Alumni Achievement Award recipient for the Department of Statistics. Vidmar completed both his undergraduate and graduate education at WMU, obtaining his bachelor's degree in mathematics in 1976 and a doctorate in 1986. The director of research in biostatistics at the Pharmacia Corp, Vidmar previously held the position of senior biostatistical scientist in the biomathematics group for the pharmaceutical firm. Throughout his career, he has been active in biostatistics research and micro array analysis of gene data. He has assisted the Department of Statistics by securing and supervising internships for WMU students. Active in the Great Lakes Symposia on Applied Statistics, he was one of the organizers for the first symposium and helped secure support from the former Upjohn Co. for it. Recently, he has instrumental in obtaining support from Pharmacia for the Department of Statistics statistical computation lab, which has allowed many graduate students at WMU to be active in biostatistical research.

The Honorable William Wagner of Ann Arbor, Mich., is the Alumni Achievement Award recipient for the Department of Political Science. Wagner, a native of Ann Arbor who now lives in Gainesville, Fla., received a bachelor's degree in political science from WMU in 1982 and a juris doctor degree from the St. Louis University School of Law in 1986. A sitting federal judge, Wagner also served as the chief American diplomat for the Department of Justice at the American Embassy in Liberia, West Africa, where he led a diplomatic mission charged with establishing and strengthening democracy and the rule of law. While there, he and his family helped rebuild an orphanage and school for the child victims of Liberia's civil war. During his career in public service, he has provided international assistance to the justice sector institutions of numerous countries on four continents and served as a United States prosecutor, litigating hundreds of federal cases throughout the nation. In addition, Wagner served as legal counsel in the United States Senate and as chief counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee of the Michigan Legislature. Wagner has published a number of books and articles related to public policy and ethics, and has been an adjunct faculty member at Michigan State University and the University of Florida. He currently teaches a course on professional responsibility and ethics at the University of Florida College of Law and is actively involved in several professional and charitable organizations. Wagner maintains close ties with the Department of Political Science, previously supervising internships and counseling students on their career interests.

Media contact: Marie Lee, 616 387-8400, marie.lee@wmich.edu

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