2007 Early-Career Achievement Award
Matthew F. Laudon
Executive Director of Business Development
For the Nano-Science and Technology Institute
2007 Distinguished Achievement Awards
Jeffrey H. Curler
President, CEO, and Chairman of the Board
Bemis Company, Inc.
Michael F. Davy
Davy Engineering Co.
Donald C. Erbach
National Program Leader
Engineering and Energy
U.S. Dept. of Agriculture
Stephen E. LeBeau
President and CEO
Ann Arbor, MI
Edwin A. McKinnon
VP of Technology (Retired)
General Carbide Corp.
Principal Staff Scientist
Cardiac Rhythm Management
St. Jude Medical Center
Andrew T. Rensink
President and COO
West St. Paul, MN
Jeffrey D. Wiesner
2007 Early-Career Achievement Award
Matthew F. Laudon—MS ’93, PhD ’96, mechanical engineering
Cofounder, Clean Technology and Sustainable Industries Organization
Co-founder and executive director of business development, Nano Science and Technology Institute
Matt Laudon grew up near the University of Missouri, which he attended for his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering. While there, he read a magazine article about advances in microtechnology, a field that focuses on small high-tech advances, from microphones to air bag sensors. The story highlighted work by UW-Madison engineers, and since Laudon’s grandfather was a UW-Madison professor (and several other family members had attended the school), he investigated it as a possible fit for his own graduate work.
A visit to the school helped Laudon decide. He completed master’s and doctoral degrees in mechanical engineering from UW-Madison before taking jobs with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology of Lausanne, Motorola in Los Alamos National Laboratories, and several Boston-area startups that focused on micro- and nanotechnology commercialization and partnership development.
Laudon since co-founded several companies, including the Nano Science and Technology Institute, a worldwide nanotechnology community providing nanotechnology, scientific, commercialization and investment events, courses and consulting; and TechConnect LLC, which brings together university tech-transfer offices and early-stage technology companies with corporate business developers and venture capital investors. Most recently, he started the non-profit Clean Technology and Sustainable Industries Organization (CTSI), which aims to advance the commercialization and global adoption of clean technologies and sustainable industry practices. To meet these objectives, Laudon works with a community of industry, academic and government leaders who are committed to a safer, cleaner and more productive world.
Laudon has published more than 30 technical publications and patents in topics that include nanotechnology, semiconductors, microsystems and optics.
He is married to Sylvia Avulah-Laudon, an engineer who is currently in medical school. They have two children (both born in Madison); son Avinash is 13 and daughter Nina is 11.
While his work and child-rearing occupy much of his time, he occasionally rows on Lake Quinsigamond, near his home in suburban Boston. “Rowing has saved me a couple of times on the east coast,” Laudon says of a sport that is popular with many young professionals in the Boston area. “I’ll be in meetings with guys from Harvard and MIT, and they’ll joke, ‘He’s from the University of Wisconsin. But they have a good crew team, so he’s OK.’”
2007 Distinguished Achievement Awards
Jeffrey H. Curler—BS ’73, chemical engineering
Chairman and CEO
Bemis Company Inc.
As a boy, Jeffrey Curler spent Saturdays at his father’s packaging plant in New London, Wisconsin. While his dad, the late Howard Curler (BSChE ’48), worked at developing a new flexible polymer film for cheese packaging, Curler performed what he called “rather crude science experiments” with scraps of plastic and matches. This early fascination with the properties of plastic developed into a passion for chemistry and math, leading Curler on a lifelong pursuit of new materials and techniques for the flexible plastic packaging industry.
Curler graduated from UW-Madison (where he never missed a football game) with a chemical engineering degree in 1973, then joined Bemis Company Inc., which in 1965 had acquired his father’s business, Curwood Company Inc. Curler worked as an engineer in new product development, and his hands-on knowledge of the company plants and labs served him well when he was named CEO of Bemis in 2000.
Thousands of products—from food and consumer goods to manufacturing and medical devices’are sold wrapped in Bemis packaging. Under Curler’s leadership, the company has become the No. 1 maker of flexible packaging material in the Americas, operating 31 manufacturing facilities in 13 states in the United States and 24 foreign plants in nine countries. Bemis employs 16,000 people worldwide and posts annual sales of more than $3.5 billion. The company, among the 10 largest in Wisconsin, employs nearly 3,500 people in the state.
Curler is particularly proud of the Bemis reputation for excellence. In March, the company tied for first place on the Forbes list of the top-10 most trustworthy U.S. companies, and it has been named to the Forbes Platinum 400 List of America’s Best Big Companies every year since the list started nine years ago.
As Bemis nears its 150th anniversary in 2008, and Curwood prepares for its 50th anniversary that same year, Curler remains focused on bringing innovative products to the packaging marketplace.
Curler and his wife of 35 years, Lea, have four daughters. Erin, 31, is an editor in Manhattan. Gina, 28, is expecting Curler’s first grandchild in Colorado. Katie, 25, is a public relations specialist at Bemis. Laura, 22, is a senior at Tulane University in New Orleans.
Two of his daughters (Gina and Katie) received their graduate degrees from UW-Madison, which, says their father, “gave me an excuse to make it to a few more Badger games.”
Michael F. Davy—BS ’69, civil and environmental engineering
President, Davy Engineering Company
Manager, Davy Laboratories
La Crosse, Wisconsin
At age 10, Michael Davy earned one silver dollar an hour when he began assisting with field surveys for his family’s consulting and engineering company, Davy Engineering Co. By the time he started courses at UW-Madison, his hourly rate had increased as he drafted engineering plans and led survey crews.
Four generations of the Davy family studied in the UW-Madison Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering to prepare for work with the family company. Davy’s grandfather, Frank, started the company in 1929. Ten years later, Frank’s son, Philip (Davy’s father), joined the company. Davy’s son, Mark, 36, currently is the company vice president.
A division of the firm, Davy Laboratories, began providing water and wastewater analysis in 1976. Its chemists and biologists currently provide services for more than 80 municipalities in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa. The firm’s philosophy dictates direct project involvement by the principals, leading them to a conscious decision to avoid branch offices, limit the geographic area where services are offered, and limit services to areas where the principals have demonstrated expertise, says Davy. For him, it means that he continues to work as a project engineer while also serving as the company president since 1988.
During his professional career, Davy has been involved in more than $450 million in construction projects. He also is active in professional and technical societies, including the National Society of Professional Engineers, as well as the Wisconsin chapter.
Davy spends leisure time each summer on his 45-foot houseboat After You, which is docked a half-mile from his office and 2 miles from his home. He and his wife of 39 years, Joyce, motor to various islands along the Mississippi River for quiet camping weekends.
For the last 10 years, Davy and his wife have spent part of the winter on the north shore of Kauai in Hawaii. Davy logs into his computer each morning, then hits the waves for swimming, scuba diving and snorkeling.
In addition to their son, Davy and his wife have two daughters. Katherine, 33, is a physical therapist in Grey’s Lake, Illinois. Jennifer, 30, works as a registered nurse in Minneapolis. The couple also has three granddaughters and two grandsons.
Davy’s one career regret? Not hanging on to those silver dollars his grandfather initially paid him when he began work at age 10.
Donald C. Erbach—BS ’65, mechanical engineering
Retired national program leader for engineering and energy
U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service
As a boy, Don Erbach spent mornings and evenings milking cows on his family’s 80-acre diversified dairy farm. While he enjoyed farm life in New Holstein, Wisconsin, milking was what he calls “a thrill you can get over pretty fast.” He dreamed of creating a more mechanized milking process. After earning bachelor’s degrees in agricultural engineering and mechanical engineering from UW-Madison in the 1960s, and while working on a graduate degree in ag engineering, he designed a device that would remain on cows for long periods to ease the milking process.
His device didn’t take off, but throughout his career his interest in agriculture and engineering has remained steadfast. Erbach began work in 1966 with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Ames, Iowa. He spent 23 years as an agricultural engineer with the unit before becoming research leader of the USDA Soil and Water Conservation Research Unit.
Later, he applied his soil and crop production research knowledge at the ARS National Soil Tilth Laboratory in Iowa and as laboratory director and research leader with the National Soil Dynamics Laboratory in Auburn, Alabama. In 1999, he moved to the ARS headquarters outside Washington, D.C., where as national program leader for engineering and energy, he led agency programs in bioenergy and crop production research.
As a research engineer, he has authored or coauthored more than 200 publications on his work in agricultural soil compaction, crop residue management, weed and insect control, and conservation tillage. He has served on various agricultural task forces, including a White House science and technology policy task force. He has consulted on soil compaction management in Europe, participated in a science exchange in China, consulted on conservation tillage projects in Argentina and Hungary, and served as a visiting researcher for a tillage and energy study in Australia.
Erbach retired in September 2006. Since his retirement, he has been invited to speak on bioenergy at several conferences in North America and Europe. In June 2007, he became president of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers. He also officiates golf tournaments—a sport he has enjoyed since learning to play as a graduate student in Madison.
He and his wife, Sharon, have been married for 42 years. They have two children, three granddaughters and two grandsons. Their son Don is a public affairs consultant in Little Rock, Arkansas. Daughter Adrienne is agriculture branch chief with the White House Office of Management and Budget in Washington, D.C.
Stephen E. LeBeau—PhD ’82, metallurgical engineering
President and CEO
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Stephen LeBeau grew up in Bark River, Michigan, a rural Upper Peninsula town so small that he jokes that the local chicken and cattle population outnumbered residents. However, there LeBeau became intrigued with engineering, after watching a film about engineering careers during his junior year in high school.
A year later he followed his older brother Dan to the Michigan Technological University (five other siblings also attended college, becoming the first generation in his family to complete post-secondary schooling). Initially, LeBeau focused on chemical engineering, but he so enjoyed a course in materials engineering his sophomore year that he switched majors and graduated with a degree in metallurgical engineering.
He completed graduate work at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York and worked briefly for the Caterpillar tractor company in Illinois. While his job was satisfying, LeBeau recalls a gnawing inclination to complete his doctoral degree. Wooed by a number of prestigious engineering schools, he selected UW-Madison for its cutting-edge research, renowned faculty and strong engineering disciplines. LeBeau, a hockey fan since his college days in northern Michigan, also enjoyed cheering the Division 1 Badgers team.
After graduating in 1981, he spent nine years at the U.S. Steel and Babcock & Wilcox corporate research facilities, where he worked closely with their manufacturing divisions. He then shifted his focus to smaller high-tech companies located in the Detroit metro area, working his way into corporate management positions.
In 1998, LeBeau joined Thixomat Inc., which uses a patented technique for transforming magnesium chips into a smooth, pliable semi-solid. When heated nearly to its melting point, magnesium becomes a lightweight, yet strong, material that can be molded for use in a variety of consumer products, including computer housings, auto parts, fishing reel components, and high-end sun-glass frames. Thixomat has licensed the technology to more than 50 companies worldwide.
While living near Madison, LeBeau and his wife, Becky, purchased a two-person tent. As their family grew, they graduated to a pop-up trailer and continue to enjoy camping in northern Michigan with their children, including sons Andy, 25; David, 19; and Charlie, 7; and daughters Maria, 23, and Laura, 21.
LeBeau’s recreational pursuits in Madison also included a one-credit class in golf. He earned an A for the course, but muses: “My current handicap suggests I must have somehow misled my former professor with my potential golfing skills.”
Edwin A. McKinnon—PhD ’72, engineering mechanics
Retired vice president of technology
General Carbide Corporation
Edwin McKinnon was a lifelong resident of Nevada and a lecturer at the state university in Reno when he broadened his search for graduate schools to include a dozen universities in the East. He accepted a teaching assistantship at UW-Madison because of its strong program in solid mechanics. In 1972, he completed his doctoral degree in engineering mechanics with the guidance of his major professor and mentor, Bela Sandor.
McKinnon then accepted a position as an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. For the next three years, he guided a number of graduate students through their thesis work, authored eight published articles, and was recognized for outstanding teaching.
He went on to spend most of his career working for two metallurgical companies in southern Pennsylvania and on the East Coast. In the 1980s, while at the tooling components company Kennametal, he helped build, staff and manage a new carbide powder manufacturing facility in Henderson, North Carolina—an experience he calls “a highlight of my career.”
In 1993, McKinnon joined the General Carbide Corporation, where he became vice president of technology. General Carbide manufactures carbide components used for tools and dies and tool-cutting industries, and also provides components to concrete and steel industries.
Prior to McKinnon’s retirement in 2005, the Cemented Carbide Producers Association recognized him for more than 30 years of service to the carbide industry.
He and his wife, Nancy, have two daughters. Kristin Friedline, 31, is a nurse anesthetist in Virginia. Jill Mando, 27, works in sales and marketing in the beverage industry in Pennsylvania. She is the mother of McKinnon’s 2-year-old grandson, Ty Albert—a popular subject for one of McKinnon’s hobbies: photography.
McKinnon is a church elder at the Latrobe Presbyterian Church. He also has spent the last two years studying German. He and Nancy, who recently retired from teaching high school German and journalism, plan to spend more time traveling. In September, they spent two weeks in Germany and Austria.
Dorin Panescu—MS ’91, PhD ’93, electrical and computer engineering
Principal Staff Scientist
St. Jude Medical Inc.
Dorin Panescu’s father is a former high school physics teacher and, when Panescu was an intensely curious fifth grader, his father showed him how a radio transmits sound waves. “That demonstration,” Panescu says, “opened up a new world of thinking for a 10-year-old boy.”
In 1989, when communism fell and opportunities for far-flung travel and education finally opened to Eastern Europeans, Panescu began considering a doctoral degree from an American university. A year later, the 28-year-old engineer left Romania to interview at several U.S. engineering schools, including UW-Madison. He recalls an instant rapport with Biomedical Engineering Professor John Webster, who shared Panescu’s passion for medical instrumentation.
At his job in Romania, Panescu had worked on manufacturing electronic temperature regulators and other instruments similar in architecture to medical devices. That background proved useful in Webster’s lab as he pursued electrical modeling research on cardiac implant devices.
After earning his PhD in 1993, Panescu left Wisconsin for northern California to join EP Technologies. He then spent eight years with Boston Scientific, where he was recognized three times for his patent milestones. To date, Panescu is the inventor or co-inventor on 129 U.S. patents—most related to cardiac catheters, as well as hardware and software for a variety of medical imaging, diagnoses and therapy systems.
In 2005, Panescu joined the cardiac rhythm management division at St. Jude Medical Inc. His work focuses on two devices: implantable heart defibrillators designed to treat potentially lethal arrhythmias, and pacemakers, devices that send electrical signals to help the heart beat in a regular rhythm. (Coincidentally, earlier versions of these types of devices also were the thrust of his research at UW-Madison.)
Panescu has two daughters from his first marriage. Julia, 20, is a psychology student at the University of California at Santa Cruz. Priera, 16, is a junior in high school. Each summer they lead their dad on a trip—most often Disneyland or Disney World. But as they have matured, so have their travel tastes and recently, the trio traveled to London, Paris and the coast of the Black Sea.
Panescu also returns occasionally to his hometown, Deva, located in western Romania. Several years ago he traveled there to celebrate his father’s 70th birthday. During that trip, to Panescu’s happy surprise, he met an accountant named Luminita. The two married last year.
Andrew T. Rensink—BS ’79, mechanical engineering
President and CEO
West St. Paul, Minnesota
In 2004, while contemplating his next career move, Andrew Rensink and his wife, Shirley, embarked on an adventure akin to Huckleberry Finn’s. With their collies, Blues and Jazz, they boarded their 34-foot cruiser Galileo in New Orleans and traveled across the Gulf of Mexico to Mobile, Alabama. Then they pointed the bow north.
For three months, they followed rivers like watery highways as they made their way to Minneapolis. Each day, they completed about 50 miles, a pace that gave them time to dock and visit Civil War sites or explore small towns on bicycles that they stashed on the boat. As they traveled, usually at a speed of about 8 knots, Rensink considered his past and future engineering career.
He grew up in Janesville, Wisconsin, where he often spent time on the job with his father, who directed operations at an assembly automation company. In 1979, Rensink graduated from UW-Madison with his mechanical engineering degree, then joined General Electric. For nearly a decade, he helped design and manufacture a range of products, from aircraft engines to appliances to CAT scan machines. At night, he studied with the General Electric education program, earning the equivalent of an MBA and a master of science in electrical engineering.
In 1991, Rensink joined Osmonics, a provider of fluid purification products. In 12 years, he helped Osmonics grow from $40 million to more than $200 million in annual sales. He then moved to Pentapure, a small water-filtration startup company. During Rensink’s four years as vice president of operations, Pentapure annual sales grew from $3 million to $44 million.
After Pentapure was sold, Rensink planned to take a year off work to explore rivers and spend time at his cabin on Lake Pepin in Minnesota. But when Galileo pulled into its final port, another opportunity quickly arose. He became president and CEO of Tapemark, a pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturer that serves a number of Fortune 100 companies. Tapemark is privately held and Rensink was the first person hired from outside the 55-year-old company to direct the operation.
The Rensinks have two sons, both of whom have inherited their father’s creative mind and adventurous spirit. Matt, 25, is a carpenter in the Twin Cities. Tom, 24, is a UW-Madison physics graduate. Tom spent the last year teaching English in France and, in summer 2007, toured Europe. He chose a different method of travel from his dad, however: moving by bicycle, not boat.
Jeffrey D. Wiesner—BS ’83, industrial engineering
During the last eight decades, attending UW-Madison has become the norm for members of Jeffrey Wiesner’s family. In 1931, Wiesner’s grandfather graduated with his bachelor’s degree from the university. His grandmother, who studied sociology, followed two years later. In 1957, their son—Wiesner’s father—completed a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering. That same year, Wiesner’s mother finished her nursing degree.
Wiesner, who grew up in Neenah, Wisconsin, studied industrial engineering at UW-Madison and graduated with honors in 1983. There, he met his wife, Sara, who earned degrees in secondary education and political science. Currently, their 19-year-old son, Colin, is enrolled as a sophomore in the engineering college.
Today, Wiesner’s dedication to UW-Madison continues. Throughout his 20-year career at management consulting company Accenture LLP, he maintained strong ties with the College of Engineering. For 10 years, he was responsible for on-campus recruiting for the firm, working closely with Engineering Career Services, engineering faculty, and the University of Wisconsin Foundation. He also coordinated the Accenture charitable outreach program for UW-Madison alumni. He was instrumental in developing the freshman introduction to engineering curriculum and the Women in Science and Engineering program. He also served five years on the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering Industrial Advisory Board.
While at Accenture, Wiesner specialized in managing large-scale management information systems projects for manufacturing companies. He traveled worldwide in support of clients based in the United States, as well as France, Germany and Brazil.
Before retiring in 2002, Wiesner was a partner in the firm in charge of Accenture’s SAP software practice for automotive and industrial equipment companies in North America. He continues to connect with the university as a new member of the Wisconsin Alumni Association board and as a visiting mentor for the Accenture Leadership Center. This center was founded in 2006 within the UW-Madison business school to provide opportunities for undergraduate students to develop leadership skills outside the classroom.
Outside the university, Wiesner chairs the Waukesha Education Foundation, a volunteer organization that raises funds for the Waukesha public schools. He also is a member of the boards of the United Way of Waukesha County and the Waukesha County Community Foundation. In addition to son Colin, Wiesner and his wife have another son, Dillon, 16, and a daughter, Brenna, 14. Both attend Waukesha West High School.