Alumni Honored at Awards Ceremony

By Sarah Williams | Published

Giving back. Serving others. Helping to create the future.

Eight individuals were recognized by the Michigan Technological University Alumni Board of Directors at its annual Alumni Dinner and Awards Ceremony Friday evening. The event was the centerpiece of the Alumni Reunion, which took place August 3-5.

President Glenn Mroz presented the Michigan Technological University Board of Control Silver Medal to John L. Drake and Norbert J. Verville Sr. The medal is presented to persons who, through personal and professional achievement, are outstanding examples to Michigan Tech’s more recent graduates.

Drake earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1964 and a master’s in business administration in 1969. He and his wife, Cathi, founded Drake Manufacturing Services in Warren, Ohio, in 1972 and sold it to their management team in 2007. The company develops and builds computerized grinding machines and sells them across the world.

The Drakes have supported the University by creating the John and Cathi Drake Professorship in Mechanical Engineering, which they later elevated to a Chair position. They also have made gifts in honor of their children: the Dr. Lisa Drake Invasive Species Lab at the Great Lakes Research Center and the Karen Richardson Scholarship in the School of Business and Economics.

Drake is a registered professional engineer in Ohio and Michigan. He was inducted into the Michigan Tech Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics Academy in 2001. His service to the University has included membership on the President’s Advancement Council and as a director and life trustee of the Michigan Tech Fund. 

At the award ceremony, he said he was honored to receive the award and thanked his wife and family for their support and Michigan Tech for providing a foundation for his career.

Norbert J Verville Sr. received a bachelor of science in business administration in 1960. Verville worked for 35 years for Bucyrus-Erie Co., a mining and construction machinery manufacturing company with a world-wide market. He started as a staff accountant and retired as company director, vice president for finance and treasurer. During his career with the company, he lived in Wisconsin, Illinois, Canada and England. Verville's career included positions in financial and general management, as well as CEO responsibilities. 

He said Michigan Tech students and young alumni are receiving a good education. He encouraged them to have confidence in themselves, perform better than expected and have patience. “I realized the quality of my education from Tech and that I wanted to give back to Tech.” Norville accepted the award and thanked his wife, Helen, for her support.

Outstanding Young Alumni

Kevin C. Baker received the Outstanding Young Alumni Award, which honors alumni under the age of 35 who have distinguished themselves in their careers and recognizes the achievement of one so recently graduated. 

Baker received a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering in 2004 and earned a master’s in materials science and engineering in 2005. He earned his doctorate in biomedical engineering in 2011 from Wayne State University.

He is director of orthopedic research in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan. He also is an associate professor of orthopedic surgery at Oakland University-William Beaumont School of Medicine. Along with a team of research engineers, he focuses on approaches to stimulate the regeneration of bone, cartilage and the tendon-bone interface.

“I am tremendously honored and very humbled to receive this award,” he says. “The people at Michigan Tech have become family.”

Honorary Alumni

John C. Dau is the recipient of the Honorary Alumni Award, which honors individuals who have provided service and support to the University. The Alumni Board of Directors reserves this award to recognize the strongest non-alumni supporters of Michigan Tech.

Dau earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan in 1982 and 1985. For the past 35 years, Dau has worked at DTE Energy (formerly Detroit Edison), most recently as plant manager of the Belle River Power Plant and manager of engineering for the fossil generation department.

His involvement with Michigan Tech began as the DTE Energy corporate representative in 2005 and has led to Enterprise and Senior Design sponsorship and hosting an annual alumni event at DTE’s Detroit headquarters. He thanked Michigan Tech for the award and for providing “crazy smart students and top-level talent to work with.”

Outstanding Service

The Outstanding Service Award went to Paul H. Mikkola. The award is presented to alumni and friends making significant contributions to the success of the Alumni Board of Directors and/or the University.

Mikkola earned a bachelor’s in metallurgical engineering and an honorary doctorate. He worked at General Motors for 35 years. He was the GM-Michigan Tech relations coordinator and director of advanced manufacturing engineering, hiring more than 500 engineering graduates. He later became the president and CEO of Metal Casting Technology, Inc. (a GM/Hitchiner Manufacturing Corporation joint venture company) before retiring in 2008. He is a Michigan Tech Fund board life trustee as well as a member of the College of Engineering Advisory Board and is a member of Michigan Tech’s Academy of Materials Science and Engineering. 

Distinguished Alumni

John J. Rockwell  received the Distinguished Alumni Award, which is presented to alumni who have made outstanding contributions both in their careers and to Michigan Tech over a number of years.

Rockwell has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Michigan Tech. He also earned a MBA from the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota. He is a founder of a venture capital and private equity firm that manages $800 million in capital and is CEO of Accelergy Corporation.

He says some of the best years of his life were at Michigan Tech. “I was fortunate to be part of Michigan Tech. The culture and the people were a perfect fit for me.”

Humanitarian Award

Humanitarian Award recipients are Sanna B. Messinger Roling and Nicholas H. Schreiner. The award honors alumni who, through their outstanding involvement and dedication, have made a significant contribution of volunteer leadership or service that has improved or enriched the lives of others and the welfare of humanity, and whose accomplishments reflect admirably on or bring honor to their alma mater.

Roling is a 1967 biological sciences graduate and the founder and president of Dream Catcher Stables Inc. in Houston, Texas. The non-profit, all volunteer organization provides educational, recreational and vocational support to at-risk youth and people with disabilities through horse-based involvement and therapies. She also has a master’s degree in organic chemistry from the University of Massachusetts.

“Tech taught me to dream, to analyze, to go forward and assess the risks, and if something went wrong, then figure it out,” she says. “Tech helped me to follow my dream.”

Schreiner, who earned a master’s in environmental engineering at Michigan Tech, has served as a water and sanitation engineer with Medecins Sans Frontieres (also known as Doctors Without Borders). He was part of a team that responded to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014.

Schreiner came to Michigan Tech to learn and develop as an engineer but also to provide service to at-risk people and communities. He accepted the award on behalf of all of the people in need and serviced by Doctors without Borders.

“The best decision I made was to come to Michigan Tech, in the out-of-the-way corner of the UP,” he said. “And, I thank my parents for their unconditional love and support.”

Last Modified 3:53 PM, August 9, 2017


Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 60 countries around the world. 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 beautiful campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.