Alumni Excellence and Distinguished Alumni Recipients


JENNIFER LENTNER, B.S. MECHANICAL ENGINEERING '96 - Distinguished Alumni recipient

Jennifer LentnerJennifer Lentner is the Senior Director of Communications for the Instruments division of Stryker Corporation. In this role, she is responsible for employee communications to manage change and drive engagement. Lentner previously held positions in marketing communications, customer care, IT, R&D, and manufacturing.

Since graduating from Western Michigan University’s College of Engineering and Applied Sciences in 1996, Lentner has maintained her connection with the university. She currently serves on the WMU Foundation Board, the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences Industrial Advisory Board, the Electrical and Computer Engineering Advisory Board, and the Theater Guild. Lentner served on the WMU Alumni Association’s Board of Directors from 2011-2018 and served two years as president.  

Lentner is passionate about helping students, especially young women, see their full potential and achieve it in both their academic and professional careers. She fulfills that desire through involvement in mentorship programs, particularly ones that serve students in STEM fields as well as through service on the Board of Directors for Greater Kalamazoo Girls on the Run.

Lentner was inducted into the Alumni Excellence Academy by the College of Engineering and Applied Science’s Department of Mechanical Engineering in 2014.


GERArD DEVITO, B.S. MECHANICAL ENGINEERING '88 - Alumni excellence recipient

Gerard DeVito served Eaton Corporation in a variety of roles beginning in 1987 until his recent retirement. DeVito, who most recently was Vice President of Technology, Vehicle Group, began his career with Eaton as a Development Engineer. Prior to his last position with the Vehicle Group, DeVito served as Executive Director, Next Generation Automated Transmission Platform Team. DeVito’s 31-year tenure at Eaton also included roles of increasing responsibility in product design engineering, application engineering, product planning, product strategy, and sales and marketing. 

DeVito was responsible for global technical development of Eaton’s vehicle group products. In addition, he focused on building organizational capability in the company’s technology and engineering functions. He holds two patents.  

Favorite Bronco memory: The snow storm of 1985, two snow days and lots of winter fun.



After graduating from Western Michigan University, Erik Pederson ran his own consulting business for five years where he worked with many different companies including Parker, Williams International, Cirrus, Kelly Aerospace, and Cessna. In 2007, Pederson joined Kelly Aerospace Thermal Systems in Cleveland, Ohio as Vice President of Engineering and General Manager. In 2012, he joined Woodward Turbine Combustion Systems in Zeeland, Michigan Engineering Manager and where he’s taken on roles of increased responsibility. Currently, Pederson serves as Vice President and General Manager for Woodward Turbine Combustion Systems. 

Pederson is married his high school sweetheart, Lisa. They have three children and return often to the WMU campus for hockey and football events. 

Favorite Bronco Memory: Hopefully I can share two. The memory I think about often is flying the Flight Test Aircraft with Art Hoadley for the Flight Test Engineering Class as well working to setup the Wind Tunnel Facility at the Kalamazoo Airport. Another fond memory (the building no longer exists) is the fun times many of us engineers had at Knollwood Tavern.




Alex Porter is the Global Director of Engineering at Intertek. He has been with the company since 1992, holding additional positions in materials testing, finite element analysis, sales and engineering development.

Starting in 1996, Alex began working with automotive, furniture, industrial and appliance manufacturers to develop accelerated test methods that could quickly identify design inherent failure modes and reduce development time. He has three patents related to accelerated testing equipment, and is the author of Accelerated Testing and Validation as well as more than 40 articles and technical papers on accelerated testing.

In his current role, Alex serves as principal architect for Intertek’s current global qualification system that tracks engineering qualifications across three continents. He also has deployed a global system for tracking non-standard and benchmark testing.  Alex has personally tested everything from robotic babies, kitchen sinks and parts of the International Space Station.  

Alex is a member of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and is a Professional Engineer in the state of Michigan.

Favorite Bronco Memory: Flying with Art Hoadley in the experimental Cessna 182 doing zero g parabolic flights to test the liquid cooling capability of a data acquisition system being developed for NASA for high angle of attack airflow study on the F/A-18.




Jim Castellano graduated with a B.S. in Automotive Engineering in 1987. He joined Ford Motor Company in 1983, working his way through school, and has spent his entire professional career there, holding a variety of engineering and management positions.

Early in his career Jim took an International Engineering Assignment in England to work on World Car, developing a common platform for vehicles across countries as an engineering liaison. In 1999, Jim was selected as one of the first people to develop a hybrid electrical vehicle. After his time working on hybrids, Jim assumed the role of Global Brake and Applications Systems manager, leading the global development of the next generation of vacuum-less and bi-wire braking systems. Jim currently works as a manager for North America Steering Applications and Systems. He has received two patents for his work on high voltage battery systems.

Jim has been married to Christina for 25 years. They have three children, Jimmy, Sarah and Mark. Jim enjoys spending time with his family, cooking Italian cuisine, being a Boy Scout leader, and serving on Western’s Engineering Board of Visitors.



Roger Veldman received his M.S.E. in Mechanical Engineering at WMU in 1995 while working full-time for the automotive component supplier Donnelly Corporation (now Magna) in Holland, MI. In 1998 he joined the faculty at Hope College as an assistant professor of engineering. Roger continued his studies at Western and completed a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering in 2001.

Roger currently is a professor of engineering at Hope College, serving as the chair of the Engineering Department. He teaches a variety of mechanical engineering courses, including a senior capstone design course.

Roger is also active in research involving both numerical predictions and experimental trials to determine the effects of explosive detonations on structures. He has received continuous research funding from various agencies since 2001. Roger is a named inventor on 48 United States patents.

In his free time he enjoys traveling and spending time with his wife and three children.




Following a distinguished 30-year career at Stryker, Jim Evans announced his retirement in March 2016. For three decades, Jim has been the inventor behind many significant industry leading technologies for both the MedSurg and Neurotechnology and Orthopaedics Groups. Jim’s career is defined by the positive impact he has had on Stryker, the industry, and customers and patients around the world. 

During his first 18 years with Stryker Instruments, Jim led the Instruments R&D team while launching a number of its flagship products that have since become the industry leaders in market share, product performance and value creation. Jim moved to New Jersey in 2002 to run R&D for the Orthopaedics business. During his eight years with Stryker Ortho, a few of his many notable contributions include leading an R&D team at Recon that introduced Triathlon, Triathlon Revision, Particle Sintered Foam (Tritanium), Restoration Modular Revision System, X3 poly, just to name a few of the block buster products. 

In 2015 Jim moved back to Kalamazoo into a new corporate role and has successfully lead company-wide efforts around consistent, compliant and effective design controls. 

When asked what motivated Jim to always want to stay ahead of the competition and invent the very best products his response was simple, yet powerful. He said, “I never wanted a sales rep to ever look me in the eye and say… I’d rather have the competitor’s bag of products.”



In 1998, Jim founded a company that is now known as Keystone Solutions Group. Within Keystone Solutions Group, there are two business unit: Keystone Product Development and Keystone Manufacturing. Keystone Product Development is a turnkey product development firm offering design, analysis, testing, and other services tailored toward turning ideas into real products. Keystone Manufacturing provides contract manufacturing services, primarily in the medical device market. 

Keystone has employed many WMU graduates over the years and has assisted in the development and launch of hundreds of products. In automotive, Jim and his team have assisted with the development of numerous on-highway transmission and vehicle mobility systems. Aerospace contributions include design, analysis, and testing of a wide variety of commercial airline systems on platforms such as the Joint Strike Fighter, Airbus A380, and the Boeing 787. In the medical device market, contributions include the development and launch of a number of patient surfaces that assist in reducing and eliminating pressure ulcers, providing patient warming during surgery, and ease of patient transfer throughout medical facilities. 

Through his career, Jim has attained 7 U.S. and world patents and assisted many others in attaining intellectual property to protect their ideas. Jim also serves as an industry advisor for the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences External Advisory committee. Jim is a Kalamazoo native and lives in a nearby rural area with his wife and two children. Jim and his family enjoy traveling and spending time on their property which includes grape vineyards.