UWM Alumni Association announces 2018 award winners

MILWAUKEE _ The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Alumni Association has announced its 2018 honorees, an accomplished group of 24 individuals and one organization who will be officially recognized during a ceremony at Milwaukee’s Pfister Hotel on Friday, Oct. 12. The 24 alumni award recipients and corporate partner were chosen based on their outstanding professional achievements, civic involvement and partnerships with the university.

“The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is fortunate to have so many influential and dedicated alumni, not only in this region, but also across the country and throughout the world,” said Adrienne Bass, associate vice chancellor of alumni relations. “Once again, the UWM Alumni Association received an impressive number of award nominations, and we are proud to publicly recognize the demonstrated talent and altruism of this distinguished group of 2018 awardees.”

For tickets, sponsorship opportunities and information about the Oct. 12, 2018, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Alumni Association Awards Evening, please visit uwm.edu/alumni/awards.

A complete list of 2018 UWM Alumni Awards recipients is below. Biographies of all 25 awardees can be found below the list. Interview requests will be handled by the Alumni Association. Please contact Jennifer Bauer at (414) 229-5423 or jenbauer@uwm.edu

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
Paul Hemmer
, BS Biological Sciences ’85
Professor of medicine and vice chair, educational programs, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences Department of Medicine

DISTINGUISHED ALUMNI SERVICE AWARD
David Misky
, BS Biological Sciences ’92
Assistant executive director, Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee

DISTINGUISHED ALUMNI ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
Eugene Guszkowski
, BS Architecture ’71, MArch Architecture ’73
Senior principal / design, AG Architecture

Lei Schlitz, MS Mechanical Engineering ’93, PhD Mechanical Engineering ’98
Executive vice president, Food Equipment Segment, Illinois Tool Works

CORPORATE PARTNER AWARD
Robert W. Baird & Co.

COMMUNITY SERVICE AWARD
Jennifer Lehrke
, BS Architectural Studies ’97, MArch Architecture ’99
President, principal architect & historic preservation consultant, Legacy Architecture Inc.

Harris Turer, BBA Marketing ‘88
Owner & CEO, Milwaukee Admirals

HONORARY ALUMNI AWARD
K. Vairavan
Professor emeritus, UWM College of Engineering and Applied Science

PANTHER PRIDE VOLUNTEER AWARD
Meg Jansky
, BBA Management Information Systems ’85
Vice president – field integration, Northwestern Mutual

GRADUATE OF THE LAST DECADE (Undergraduate)
Brent Aussprung, BSE Mechanical Engineering ’14
Patent agent, Michael Best & Friedrich LLP

Jacarrie Carr, BS Community Education ’15
Founder, Jacarrie’s Kicks for Kids

Nathaniel Deans Jr., BS Education & English ’11
English teacher, Riverside University High School

Lauren Decker, BFA Music ’12
Ensemble member, Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Brian Firkus, BFA Music ’12, BFA Inter-Arts ’12
American drag queen, stage persona Trixie Mattel

Eric Miller (posthumous), BA Mass Communication – Journalism ’06
Award-winning journalist

Julia Robson, BS Biological Sciences ’12, BS Conservation Science ’12
Conservation biologist, Waukesha County Parks & Land Use

Ed Sturkey, BBA Marketing ’07, BBA Finance ‘07
Portfolio management operations supervisor – vice president, Baird Equity Asset Management

GRADUATE OF THE LAST DECADE (Graduate)
Daniel Burkholder
, MFA Dance ’11, MFA Performing Arts ’11
Assistant professor, Department of Dance, UWM Peck School of the Arts

Natalie Harlan, MHRLR Human Resources and Labor Relations ’08
Director, Milwaukee Lifecourse Initiative for Healthy Families

Eva Marie Lewis King, MS Biomedical Sciences ’15
DNA laboratory supervisor, Milwaukee Crime Laboratory

Angela Meyers, BA Sociology ’02, MLIS Library and Information Science ’08
Coordinator of youth and inclusive services, Bridges Library System

Srikanth Pilla, PhD Mechanical Engineering ’09
Founding director, Clemson Composites Center & Dean’s Faculty Fellow of Automotive Engineering at Clemson University

Nirmal Raja, MA Art ’10, MFA Art ’12
Award-winning interdisciplinary artist

Nicholas Robinson, BS Architectural Studies ’10, MArch Architecture ’12
Co-founder & principal, DREAM Builders LLC

Mark Speltz, MA History ’09
Vice president & senior historian, Wells Fargo Wealth Management and Abbot Downing

2018 AWARDEE BIOGRAPHIES (in alphabetical order by last name)

Brent Aussprung, BSE Mechanical Engineering ’14
Patent agent, Michael Best & Friedrich LLP
Current residence: Milwaukee
GRADUATE OF THE LAST DECADE (Undergraduate)
As a patent agent, Brent Aussprung protects innovative ideas as they go from the concept stage to market. He has firsthand experience navigating this rigorous process because he is an inventor himself. While a student at UWM, Brent developed a hybrid clap skate based on his own experience as a national-class speedskater. The skate, which automatically transitions from a fixed skate to a clap skate, led him to win UWM’s Student Startup Challenge and found his own company, Dynamic Skate Technologies. In 2017, he received a patent for his skate, which was featured in news stories during the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Daniel Burkholder, MFA Dance ’11, MFA Performing Arts ‘11
Assistant professor, Department of Dance, UWM Peck School of the Arts
Current residence: Shorewood, Wisconsin
GRADUATE OF THE LAST DECADE (Graduate)
Daniel Burkholder came to UWM with 20 years of innovative dance-making, teaching, research and community engagement experience nationally. Within just three years of graduating with his master’s, Daniel became the director of the Dance MFA Program at UWM – a rare honor for a junior faculty member. He also holds a master’s degree in dance from American University in Washington, D.C., a certificate of somatic studies, and is a Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner. Since he joined the UWM faculty in 2014, he has choreographed, directed, co-created and performed in numerous works in Milwaukee and across the country.

Jacarrie Carr, BS Community Education ’15
Founder, Jacarrie’s Kicks for Kids
Current residence: Milwaukee
GRADUATE OF THE LAST DECADE (Undergraduate)
Born and raised in Milwaukee, Jacarrie Carr has a heart for helping the city’s youth. While he was an undergraduate student at UWM, he started Jacarrie’s Kicks for Kids, a program that collects and distributes free, clean, comfortable shoes for students of Milwaukee Public Schools. Since 2014, hundreds of families have benefitted from his foresight and generosity. His organization continues to expand, providing Milwaukee youth with mentoring from individuals who believe in their potential. Jacarrie accomplished all of this while working full time and also managed to make the dean’s list at the School of Education. He is currently enrolled as a graduate student at UWM.

Nathaniel Deans Jr., BS English & Education ’11
English teacher, Riverside University High School
Current residence: Milwaukee
GRADUATE OF THE LAST DECADE (Undergraduate)
An alumnus of Riverside University High School, Nathaniel Deans Jr. returned to his alma mater after graduating cum laude from UWM. As one of few male teachers of color at Riverside, Nate serves as a role model. He has become a well-respected educator whom graduates often seek out and thank. Nate inspires his students to develop a love of English and challenges them to take actions that will improve their community. He goes beyond the classroom to mentor students as well as new teachers. In 2017, he received the Start, Stay, Succeed Champion Award from the Milwaukee Public Schools Foundation.

Lauren Decker, BFA Music ’12
Ensemble member, Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago
Current residence: Chicago
GRADUATE OF THE LAST DECADE (Undergraduate)
With a remarkable and rare contralto voice, Lauren Decker has launched a high-level classical singing career. When Lauren auditioned at the Ryan Opera Center, one of the nation’s most prestigious post-graduate young-artist programs for singers, she was the only vocalist to receive unanimous support from the panel of judges. She has been featured in the Lyric Opera’s mainstage productions of “The Magic Flute, Rigoletto,” “Die Walküre” and “I Puritani.” Lauren has twice received an Encouragement Award at the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions – Upper Midwest Region. She has also appeared in “The Flying Dutchman” at the Florentine Opera Company in Milwaukee.

Brian Firkus, BFA Music ’12, BFA Inter-Arts ’12
American drag queen, stage persona Trixie Mattel
Current residence: Milwaukee
GRADUATE OF THE LAST DECADE (Undergraduate)
Brian Firkus is better known as his alter ego, Trixie Mattel. Trixie was a contestant on the seventh season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” A fan favorite, he was invited back to compete in season three of “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars,” which he won. His YouTube series “UNHhhh” led to the Viceland TV series “The Trixie & Katya Show.” Brian has written and produced two country folk albums, and his latest album, “One Stone,” premiered at No. 1 on Billboard’s Heatseekers Albums Chart. Half Native American, Brian has been a role model for many, succeeding in spite of discrimination.

Eugene Guszkowski, BS Architecture ’71, MArch Architecture ’73
Senior principal / design, AG Architecture
Current residence: Wauwatosa, Wisconsin
DISTINGUISHED ALUMNI ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
Eugene Guszkowski was among the first to graduate from the School of Architecture & Urban Planning. He began as a print boy at Shepherd Associates in 1967 and rose to be a firm leader. Licensed in 39 states, Gene has had a great impact on senior living communities across the country. Under his leadership, the firm has received local and national recognition for award-winning multifamily and senior living design. A recognized thought leader and innovator, he has contributed to industry publications and been a featured speaker at national conferences. Gene has been a strong supporter of scholarships at UWM, and 86 percent of his staff are UWM alumni.

Natalie Harlan, MHRLR Human Resources and Labor Relations ’08
Director, Milwaukee Lifecourse Initiative for Healthy Families
Current residence: Brookfield, Wisconsin
GRADUATE OF THE LAST DECADE (Graduate)
After a decade in occupational therapy, Natalie Harlan shifted her career to the nonprofit sector. In her current role, she works on reducing Milwaukee’s infant mortality rate, partnering with Mayor Tom Barrett on the Strong Baby Campaign, an advocacy effort for smoke-free homes. Natalie has served on the boards of the Milwaukee Montessori School, the Girl Scouts of Wisconsin Southeast, and the Cinderella Project MKE, which provides prom dresses to local youth. She is also the regional chair of logistics for Jack and Jill of America Inc., an organization dedicated to nurturing future African-American leaders, and sits on UWM’s Board of Visitors.

Paul Hemmer, MD, BS Biological Sciences ’85
Professor of medicine and vice chair, educational programs, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences Department of Medicine
Current residence: Bethesda, Maryland
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
A native of Cudahy, Paul Hemmer earned his medical degree at the Medical College of Wisconsin and completed his postgraduate training in La Crosse. He is a faculty member at the institution that trains health care professionals for all branches of the military. At this Bethesda, Maryland, university, he is responsible for curriculum development, mentorship programs, student clinical training and research programming. He also maintains an internal medicine practice, seeing patients at Walter Reed Medical Center. Paul served in the military from 1991 to 2012, retiring with the rank of colonel. He lectures around the world and has received numerous awards for his outstanding service.

Meg Jansky, BBA Management Information Systems ’85
Vice president – field integration, Northwestern Mutual
Current residence: Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin
PANTHER PRIDE VOLUNTEER AWARD
Meg Jansky has been a key volunteer leader at her place of work and at UWM. She serves on the UWM Alumni Association Board of Trustees and its executive committee and nominating committee. Meg was a driving force in establishing Northwestern Mutual’s Panthers@Work alumni group, and has helped it grow to more than 100 members. She also led the company’s Panther Prowl teams for five of the last eight years. An advocate for UWM’s new Focus on the Future student leadership/career program, which exposes students to life beyond graduation, Meg coordinated Northwestern Mutual’s involvement, connecting students with alumni.

Eva Marie Lewis King, MS Biomedical Sciences ’15
DNA laboratory supervisor, Milwaukee Crime Laboratory
Current residence: Milwaukee
GRADUATE OF THE LAST DECADE (Graduate)
Eva Marie Lewis King has worked for the Milwaukee Crime Laboratory for more than 20 years as a controlled substance analyst, a toxicologist and now as a DNA supervisor. In her master’s thesis, Eva identified several factors that contributed to a significant DNA backlog within the Wisconsin State Crime Laboratory Bureau. This backlog had developed into a public safety and population health crisis across the state. Through her innovative approaches, Eva led the way in reducing the backlog and ultimately delivering justice to victims. At UWM, Eva is a program advisor and guest lecturer for the Forensic Science Certificate Program.

Jennifer Lehrke, BS Architectural Studies ’97, MArch Architecture ’99
President, principal architect & historic preservation consultant, Legacy Architecture, Inc.
Current residence: Glenbeulah, Wisconsin
COMMUNITY SERVICE AWARD
A Sheboygan-based architect, Jennifer Lehrke volunteers her time to serve local and state organizations that work toward preserving historic structures. Recently, she has focused her efforts on saving Sheboygan’s armory from destruction. A board member of the American Institute of Architects Northeast Wisconsin, Jennifer speaks at events around the state on the importance of historic preservation. She volunteers for the Sheboygan County Historical Society, serving as a docent at its Historic Homes Tour. At the School of Architecture & Urban Planning, Jennifer serves on the selection committee for the Leenhouts Scholarship, the largest scholarship awarded by the school.

Angela Meyers, BA Sociology ’02, MLIS Library and Information Science ’08
Coordinator of youth and inclusive services, Bridges Library System
Current residence: Oconomowoc, Wisconsin
GRADUATE OF THE LAST DECADE (Graduate)
Angela Meyers is a librarian for young and old alike. She conceived of an app for the 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program and worked with UWM’s App Brewery to help make it a reality. She has formed three Memory Cafes, which serve as social gathering places for people with memory loss, and her Library Memory Project received an award from the Alzheimer’s Association of Southeastern Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Library Association selected Angela to be its national public library liaison, and the Department of Public Instruction named her to a leadership team. She is a board member of the Friends of Matheson Memorial Library.

Eric Miller (Posthumous), BA Mass Communication – Journalism ’06
Award-winning journalist
GRADUATE OF THE LAST DECADE (Undergraduate)
As a student, Eric Miller was deeply involved in the UWM Broadcast Club and UWM’s PantherVision student television newscast. He went on to work in local, national and international news with organizations including South Carolina’s WHNS-TV, Home Front Communications and Voice of America. He ultimately became a photojournalist and editor for Al Jazeera English network’s Riz Kahn, which took him around the world, producing, filming and directing interviews with world leaders and such prominent people as Stephen Hawking, Steven Spielberg and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Eric passed away in 2016, and his family and friends established the Eric Miller PantherVision Scholarship in his memory.

David Misky, BS Biological Sciences ’92
Assistant executive director – Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee
Current Residence: Milwaukee
DISTINGUISHED ALUMNI SERVICE AWARD
David Misky was elected to the UWM Alumni Association Board of Trustees in 2012 and recently completed a five-year term president of the Alumni Association. Understanding how important UWM is to the greater Milwaukee area, he has facilitated the Redevelopment Authority’s involvement in many projects championed by the UWM Real Estate Foundation. Dave has served on several search committees at the dean and chancellor level, has represented the Alumni Association on the UWM Foundation Board, and at countless campus and community events. Dave played a key role in the inaugural Focus on the Future program, which exposes students to life beyond graduation.

Srikanth Pilla, PhD Mechanical Engineering ’09
Founding director, Clemson Composites Center & Dean’s Faculty Fellow of Automotive Engineering at Clemson University
Current residence: Greer, South Carolina
GRADUATE OF THE LAST DECADE (Graduate)
After earning his doctorate at UWM, Srikanth Pilla received his postdoctoral training at Stanford University. He worked as an assistant scientist at UWM before joining Clemson. Srikanth’s cross-disciplinary research focuses on the interface of polymer chemistry, polymer physics, energy resources, materials engineering, manufacturing science and computational theories. The author of more than 100 frequently cited academic publications, he edited the world’s leading handbook in bioplastics and biocomposites. He has received numerous prestigious awards for his work, and is a valued advisor to BMW, Honda and Firestone. Srikanth also mentors K-12 students, undergraduates, graduate students and post-doctorate students.

Nirmal Raja, MA Art ’10, MFA Art ’12
Award-winning interdisciplinary artist
Current residence: Milwaukee
GRADUATE OF THE LAST DECADE (Graduate)
Born in India, Nirmal Raja is an interdisciplinary artist, curator and mentor. Her work has been featured in venues in the Midwest, California, New York, South Korea and India. As a curator, Nirmal has produced exhibitions at UWM, Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum, Northern Illinois University Art Museum and Jawaharlal Nehru Fine Arts University in India. In the past three years, she has guided and hosted local Milwaukee artists in India by organizing exhibitions, residencies and tours. Nirmal has served as a mentor for RedLine Milwaukee’s artist-in-residence program, the Milwaukee Artist Resource Network and UWM’s graduate program in art and design.

Nicholas Robinson, BS Architectural Studies ’10, MArch Architecture ’12
Co-founder & principal, DREAM Builders LLC
Current residence: Milwaukee
GRADUATE OF THE LAST DECADE (Graduate)
Nicholas Robinson has a passion for increasing diversity within the field of architecture. One of only eight licensed African-American architects in the state of Wisconsin, Nick started DREAM Builders to expose Milwaukee’s youth to career paths in architecture and design, using architectural projects as a vehicle to teach civics, sociology, project management, leadership, science and art. Through this program, he worked with high school students to design and build a vertical green wall at UWM. An award-winning volunteer for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Milwaukee, Nick has plans to start his own firm to serve overlooked neighborhoods.

Julia Robson, BS Biological Sciences ’12, BS Conservation Science ’12
Conservation biologist, Waukesha County Parks & Land Use
Current residence: Silver Lake, Wisconsin
GRADUATE OF THE LAST DECADE (Undergraduate)
Julia Robson started a wetland monitoring program, recruiting and training Milwaukee County residents to assist in collecting natural resource data. In 2016, this program earned the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ Citizen-Science Monitoring Program of the Year Award. Julia is an active board member of the Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory, Friends of the Cedarburg Bog, the Forest Exploration Center and Southeastern Wisconsin Invasive Species Consortium. Last year, she walked from Milwaukee to the Upper Peninsula to raise money for Great Lakes restoration, and she also received the Jean B. Tyler Leader of the Future Award from the Public Policy Forum.

Lei Schlitz, MS Mechanical Engineering ’93, PhD Mechanical Engineering ’98
Executive vice president, Food Equipment Segment, Illinois Tool Works
Current residence: Northbrook, Illinois
DISTINGUISHED ALUMNI ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
Lei Schlitz’s tremendously successful career has landed her at the top of a Fortune 500 corporation. A researcher focused on heat transfer, Lei began her career at Eaton Corporation’s Innovation Center before taking positions at GE Global Research Center, GE Industrial Systems and Siemens. She joined Illinois Tool Works in 2008 as vice president of research and development and was appointed executive vice president in 2015. Under her leadership, ITW was recognized in 2017 as “Best in Class” by Food Equipment Magazine and as the recipient of EPA’s Energy Star Partner of the Year Sustained Excellence Award. She is also active in the Society of Women Engineers.

Mark Speltz, MA History ’09
Vice president & senior historian, Wells Fargo Wealth Management and Abbot Downing
Current residence: Lafayette, California
GRADUATE OF THE LAST DECADE (Graduate)
At Abbot Downing, Mark Speltz helps Wells Fargo’s clients of unique wealth discover and preserve their family history. Prior to joining Wells Fargo, Mark was senior historian at the American Girl doll company, where he introduced countless children to American history. He provided the context for several characters, including the newest doll, Melody Ellison, whose story takes place during the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. Mark is the author of “North of Dixie: Civil Rights Photography Beyond the South” and co-author of “Bottoms Up: A Toast to Wisconsin’s Historic Bars and Breweries” and “Fill ’er Up: The Glory Days of Wisconsin Gas Stations.”

Ed Sturkey, BBA Marketing ’07, BBA Finance ‘07
Portfolio management operations supervisor – vice president, Baird Equity Asset Management
Current residence: Milwaukee
GRADUATE OF THE LAST DECADE (Undergraduate)
A successful leader at Robert W. Baird, Ed Sturkey is also a standout volunteer. An active participant in Baird’s internal volunteer group, Baird Gives Back, Ed also co-chairs Baird’s UWM Alumni Panthers@Work group. He has tutored at St. Anthony Middle School, is a board member of the Malaika Early Learning Center, and is a member and graduate of the Partners Advancing Values in Education Board Corps, which recruits and trains new leaders for independent school boards. To enhance Milwaukee’s community experience, he serves in organizations responsible for Jazz in the Park, Bastille Days and the Lakefront Festival of Arts.

Harris Turer, BBA Marketing ‘88
Owner & CEO, Milwaukee Admirals
Current residence: Milwaukee
COMMUNITY SERVICE AWARD
Harris Turer is a member of the Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Club and president of Hometown Property Management. Both he and his family’s foundation, the Anon Charitable Trust, have enriched Milwaukee’s community through significant contributions to UWM Athletics, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee, the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, the United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County and many others. In addition, Harris has been an active board member for numerous organizations, including Make-A-Wish Wisconsin, the Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center and Operation DREAM – a mentoring program for Milwaukee boys.

K. Vairavan
Professor emeritus, UWM College of Engineering and Applied Science
Current residences: Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin and Scottsdale, Arizona
HONORARY ALUMNI AWARD
Celebrating 50 years of service to UWM, K. Vairavan is considered to be one of the most influential faculty members and contributors to the College of Engineering & Applied Science. He founded the computer science program, which has earned national recognition for its academic programs and faculty research. He was influential in establishing the Connected Systems Institute and helped connect UWM with his former student, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. KV and his wife established a scholarship for computer science and electrical engineering students, and many of his former students have contributed to the fund. Upon his retirement, KV was awarded emeritus status, and he was also an Ernest Spaights Plaza Honoree.

Robert W. Baird & Co.
CORPORATE PARTNER AWARD
An employee-owned international financial services firm, Robert W. Baird & Co. has deep connections to UWM. More than 200 UWM alumni are currently employed at Baird, including several dozen managing directors and directors. UWM students represent nearly a quarter of Baird’s interns, and roughly a third of these interns are hired on full time. Baird leaders volunteer on the Lubar School of Business’s Investment Management Certificate Program Advisory Council, Business Advisory Council and the Baird Mentoring Circles Program. In 2016, associates from Baird gave $1 million of working capital for students to practice managing portfolios. The company has a strong Panthers@Work alumni group and regularly participates in the Panther Prowl 5K Run/Walk, helping to raise money for UWM student scholarships.