University to Honor Alumni, Former Tech President at 2006 Reunion

By Marcia Goodrich | Published

Michigan Tech will honor several prominent alumni at the Annual Alumni Reunion Dinner, set for Friday, Aug. 4, in the Memorial Union Ballroom.

Tickets for the dinner, which includes a prime rib and lake trout buffet, are available by contacting Alumni Relations, 487-2400. The dinner is part of the annual Alumni Reunion, set for Aug. 3-5 at Michigan Tech.

Former Michigan Tech president Ray Smith will be coming back to the university from his home in Green Valley, Ariz., to be named an honorary alumnus. Smith started at the university in 1959 as head of the Department of Metallurgical Engineering and became president in 1965. During his 14 years at the university's helm, campus enrollment rose from 3,400 to 6,800, as the baby-boom generation entered college. In response, Smith spearheaded a major overhaul of the campus infrastructure.

"The first thing he was responsible for was the campus master plan, completed in 1966," said Bill Blumhardt, director of campus facilities planning. "His first building was the J. R. Van Pelt Library, followed by Chemical Sciences and Engineering, the Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics Building [now named in Smith's honor] and the MacInnes Student Ice Arena.

"Next was the Electrical Energy Resources Center, the Student Development Complex, the Forestry Building and, lastly, Upper Daniell Heights."

His legacy to Michigan Tech students is apparent at every class change. "He installed efficient, high-rise buildings that helped us keep a compact campus," Blumhardt said. "Our students generally have a 10-minute walk between buildings, which is much easier than at most campuses."

At Michigan Tech, he received the Clair M. Donovan Award for Outstanding Service. Among his other honors, Smith is a Fellow of the American Society of Metals, now known as ASM International, and a Fellow for the Metallurgical Society of the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical and Petroleum Engineers.

Two Outstanding Service Awards will be given, to Board of Trustees Member Mike Henricksen, of AuTrain, and Dean Woodbeck, of Hancock.

Woodbeck graduated from Michigan Tech in 1978 with a BA in Scientific and Technical Communications and went on to earn a master's degree from the University of Minnesota. He returned to the university in 1985 to become director of alumni relations and then director of alumni and advancement communications.

He made his reputation among alumni as a communicator, creating and managing numerous publications and founding the weekly email newsletter TechAlum, which connects thousands of alumni to daily happenings at Michigan Tech and in the local community. For his efforts, he received the 1997 CASE Grand Gold Medal for alumni relations--technology applications.

Woodbeck also served the university as director of news and information services and senior director of university communications before leaving to become director of publications and web development at Clarkson University. The lure of the Copper Country proved irresistable, however, and he now manages public relations and communications for Pasty.NET and Pasty Central, a local internet service provider that also markets and ships pasties worldwide.

Woodbeck also has volunteered extensively, organizing and promoting cross-country skiing and mountain biking activities and serving on the Hancock school board.

Michael C. Henricksen was appointed to the university's Board of Trustees in 2001 and served as its chair in 2005-06. He is a life member of the MTU Alumni Association and a member of the university's Second Century Society. He has also served the university as a member of the Forestry Building Expansion Steering Committee, as a member of the Advisory Committee to the Institute of Wood Research and as a Century II Campaign volunteer.

Henricksen received his BS in Forestry from Michigan Tech in 1964. He began his career as a woodlands manager with Champion International Inc. in Gaylord, then became co-owner of Lake States Wood Preserving Inc. of Wetmore until 1981, when he became co-owner of Satellite Services. In 1983 he founded Superior Hiawatha Log Homes Inc. of Munising, which he sold in 1996.

Henricksen has served on the North Country Financial Corporation Board of Directors since 1988 and has chaired the board since 1997. He is also a member of the First Northern Bank & Trust Board of Directors and is the founder and past president of the Michigan Association of Timbermen. He has also served on the Michigan State Board of Foresters, the Governor's Wood Resources Development Task Force, the Forestry Committee of the Michigan Manufacturers Association, the State Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, and the Governor's Small Business Advisory Council.

In addition, Henricksen is a Grand Island Lodge Mason and has served as an Au Train volunteer fireman and as AuTrain-Onota School Board treasurer.

William G. Jackson and John A. Benaglio will receive Distinguished Alumni Awards.

Jackson, who earned a BS in Electrical Engineering in 1958, owned and operated NWR Electronics in Marquette from 1958 to 1980, providing services to the utility and mining industries in the Upper Midwest. In 1971, Jackson established a cable television operation, CableAmerica Corp. The firm grew rapidly based on Jackson's commitment to "customer service and technical proficiency."

Headquartered in Phoenix, CableAmerica developed cable television systems in nine states. Its Arizona operations were recently acquired by Cox Communications, the largest cable provider in Arizona.

In 1998, Jackson was inducted into the Arizona Cable Telecommunications Pioneer Hall of Fame. He is a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, as well as the university's Electrical Engineering Academy and Engineering Roundtable. He received the university's Board of Trustees Silver Medal in 2000. He and his wife, Gloria, have established an endowed scholarship for undergraduate students majoring in electrical engineering, with preference to graduates of his alma mater, Calumet High School.

John A. Benaglio earned a BS in Business Administration in 1970 and is now a partner in Heitkamp & Thumann Group, which owns more than 20 companies in the metal and plastic-forming industries. He is also chair of the managing board for H&T Battery Components division, the leading global independent manufacturer of battery components, with operations on three continents.

Benaglio has worked in Hong Kong, Singapore, and now in Germany, where the firm is headquartered. He has addressed Tech students regarding his business experiences and has established an international student co-op program with H&T.

He brings a global perspective to Michigan Tech as a member of advisory groups for International Advancement and for the School of Business and Economics. He also supports Tech athletics, having played football in his college days.

Amy L. (Grisdale) Trahey and Kevin North will receive Outstanding Young Alumni Awards.

Trahey, who is not able to attend the award ceremony, began work in the Michigan Department of Transportation after earning a BS in Civil Engineering in 1994. Then, in 2000, she set out on her own, founding Great Lakes Engineering Group, in Lansing, one of only three engineering firms in the state owned by a woman. Under her leadership as chief executive officer, principal engineer, owner and founder, the business has thrived.

The firm specializes in the inspection, design, and construction oversight of bridges. In awe of bridges since her youth, Trahey is dedicated to their rehabilitation, preservation and safety.

Kevin J. North received BS and MS degrees in Computer Science from Michigan Tech in 1994 and 1997. He joined SHAFTI Inc., in Brighton, in 1994 and is now its director of software development and project execution.

While his skills are wide ranging, North specializes in software design and development for 3D robotics, which have been applied by DaimlerChrysler. His RELIABOT Vision Guided Robotics software now runs on hundreds of systems.

He has created a major website on memory improvement and is actively experimenting with both USB-based and traditional security cameras. His computing interests also run in less serious directions. He wrote the Dr. Rudy freeware game and, as a teenager, developed many small action and adventure games for the Commodore 64.

Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 60 countries. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.