Engineers’ Day

2012 Early-Career Achievement Award

Tanya M. Higgins
Quality Deployment Manager
John Deere Agricultural and Turf Division
Waterloo, Iowa

2012 Distinguished Achievement Awards

Donald E. Baldovin
Vice President, Finance and Business Support (retired)
Worldwide Exploration Business Group
Amoco
Austin, Texas

Thomas A. Benes
Major General (USMC, retired)
Vice President, Strategic Planning and Development
Alion Science and Technology Corporation
Dumfries, Virginia

Gary M. Gigante
President and Chief Executive Officer
Waupaca Foundry, Inc.
Wapaca, Wisconsin

Thomas F. Gunkel
Chief Executive Officer
Mortenson Construction
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Patrick M. Hanrahan
Canon Professor of Computer Science
Stanford University
Stanford, California

James H. Thompson
Executive Vice President of Engineering
Qualcomm, Inc.
San Diego, California

2012 Early-Career Achievement Award Recipient

Tanya M. Higgins

Tanya M. Higgins
Quality Deployment Manager
John Deere Agricultural and Turf Division
Waterloo, Iowa

Five years into a successful career with John Deere, Tanya Higgins began looking for a way to “tie the bow on the package” of her professional goals. That desire led her in 2004 to the Master of Engineering Professional Practice (MEPP) program.

Since graduating from MEPP in 2006, Higgins has received an impressive five promotions in six years with John Deere. “I already had my undergraduate schooling as a solid foundation and my career experiences as building blocks,” says Higgins, a 1994 materials engineering graduate of Youngstown State University. “What I needed was a way to tie it all together to help me make the transition from executing the ideas of others to communicating my ideas to others and inspiring their engagement. MEPP helped me develop that.”

Higgins, who is quality deployment manager in the John Deere Agriculture and Turf Division, works in an increasingly global network of colleagues that relies heavily on virtual interactions. She focuses on deploying common quality processes and tools, identifying and developing key quality leadership skills and talent, and tracking and improving the company’s quality metrics. One of her career highlights was presenting in 2008 to the John Deere CEO and board of directors.

“Tanya exemplifies all the qualities of a proven, respected, confident young leader,” says Engineering Professional Development Professor and Chair Phil O’Leary. “She is widely regarded as an early career leader and rising star at John Deere.”

She shows that same leadership outside the workplace as a mentor for women in engineering. She serves in the John Deere Women REACH (relating, enriching, achieving, challenging and helping) organization. Higgins’ REACH subcommittee, based in Waterloo, Iowa, helps women engineers network, develop their leadership skills and interact with company leaders. Her work with the local United Way Women’s Philanthropy Connection has provided opportunities for students at Hawkeye Community College in Waterloo to pair with corporate mentors who help with everything from resume writing to choosing the right career path.

“I have been fortunate to have some very strong women mentors in my own career that I have gone to for advice and feedback and their support has been invaluable,” she says. “I feel that I need to take what I have learned from them and share it with others.”

Higgins is married to Ronald Higgins, a 2004 MEPP graduate and also a John Deere employee, and has two daughters, Peyton, 16, and Reese, 13.


2012 Distinguished Achievement Award Recipients

Donald E. Baldovin

Donald E. Baldovin
Vice President, Finance and Business Support (retired)
Worldwide Exploration Business Group
Amoco
Austin, Texas

It’s somewhat of an understatement to say that much of Donald Baldovin’s career was internationally focused.

Baldovin, who joined the Standard Oil Company (later named Amoco Corporation) as an assistant chemical engineer in 1957 and retired from its worldwide exploration business group as vice president of finance and business support in 1998, has traveled to nearly 120 countries in his professional life and free time.

A native of Hurley, Wisconsin, Baldovin enrolled at UW-Madison with the aid of the Knapp and freshman scholarships and earned his bachelor's degree in chemical engineering in 1957. He earned an MBA from the University of Chicago in 1962. “The combination of chemical engineering and an MBA was instrumental in my career progression in Amoco,” says Baldovin, who often was the first to fill newly created positions at Amoco that he could tailor to the company's needs, as well as his abilities.

With more than half his career involving overseas operations and new ventures, Baldovin travelled extensively to Europe, Africa, the Middle East, the Far East and South America. Following the 1979 revolution, the Islamic Republic of Iran nationalized all of Amoco's activities in Iran, and in 1987, the U.S.-Iran Tribunal heard Amoco's claim for compensation. When Iran decided to negotiate with Amoco rather than wait several years for the tribunal decision, Baldovin was one of the two Amoco delegates who, for the next 18 months, met several times with Iranian representatives and reached an agreement in which Iran paid $600 million in cash to Amoco. At that time, it was the largest amount that had ever been paid by a government as compensation for an expropriation.

Baldovin's career included assignments in planning, economic evaluation, administration and finance, and he worked three times in the company's Chicago headquarters, as well as in New York, London, Tehran, Denver and Houston offices. During his last 18 years with the company, Baldovin hired 85 MBA graduates and mentored all of the MBAs who worked in the exploration and production segment of the company. “This activity was very rewarding, as I personally witnessed their contributions to decisions and saw many of these people advance in the corporation,”. he says.

In retirement, Baldovin has continued to travel extensively. When he's in the country, he divides his time between Denver, Colorado, and Austin, Texas, where he is an active member of the University of Texas Learning Activities for Mature People lifelong learning program. He also enjoys reading both fiction and nonfiction.


Major General Thomas A. Benes

Major General Thomas A. Benes
Major General (USMC, retired)
Vice President, Strategic Planning and Development
Alion Science and Technology Corporation
Dumfries, Virginia

Since age 8, Milwaukee native Thomas Benes always wanted to fly airplanes. Born into a long line of tool makers, fabricators and machinists, he also loved science, working with his hands, and figuring out how machines were put together.

First in his family to earn a college degree, Benes received his bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering in 1974 and spent the next several decades flying fighter jets for the U.S. Marine Corps from aircraft carriers and bases in Japan, Europe and the Pacific.

A graduate of the TOPGUN program, he was a pilot and flight instructor for 25 years and participated in combat operations that included leading a squadron in Operation Desert Storm in 1990.

In 1993, he received his MPA in public administration from George Washington University and went on to hold more senior leadership roles, including president of Marine Corps University and director of strategy and plans for the Marine Corps. In 2003, he was the chief of staff for land operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2006, after being promoted to major general, Benes became director of expeditionary warfare for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps until his retirement in 2009. His military career spanned 35 years, and he left with honors that include Department of Defense awards, international military recognitions, and a Bronze Star.

As a pilot, he says, his engineering degree was crucial. “You have to really understand how that airplane's designed and how it functions to get the most out of it,” Benes says. And as a squadron leader in charge of a dozen planes, hundreds of people and millions of dollars, that expertise helped him prioritize systems improvements and maintenance efficiency. In tactical roles, his engineering background helped him guide the development of new aircraft systems.

Following retirement from the military he became vice president of the Integrated Solutions Group at Alion Science and Technology, a technology firm that contracts with the Department of Defense, other governmental agencies, and commercial customers.

He now lives in Spotsylvania, Virginia, with Betty, his wife of 30 years. In his free time, he likes to fish and hunt, which he attributes to his Wisconsin upbringing. He also enjoys woodworking, making traditional furniture and musical instruments such as the Appalachian mountain dulcimer, which he also plays.


Gary M. Gigante

Gary M. Gigante
President and Chief Executive Officer
Waupaca Foundry, Inc.
Wapaca, Wisconsin

Gary Gigante was inspired to pursue engineering after taking a woodworking and metalworking course in high school. He designed a pattern in wood shop to make a casting of an eagle in the foundry lab, and his teachers acknowledged his talents and encouraged him to consider college.

Today, Gigante is the president and CEO of ThyssenKrupp Waupaca Inc., the largest iron foundry in the world.

He began his college career in general engineering at UW-Milwaukee and later decided he wanted to study metallurgical engineering. He transferred to UW-Madison, earned his bachelor’s degree, and immediately went to work at Waukesha Foundry. “After working in it for this long, it’s no longer a job,” he says. “It’s a way of life. I really enjoy it.”

He started out as a metallurgist with responsibility for quality control. In the early 1980s, the Waupaca Foundry produced only grey iron used in cast brake rotors, brake drums, and transmission housings. Gigante was put in charge of introducing ductile iron to the business. Ductile iron castings are a lower-cost alternative to malleable iron castings, steel forgings and steel fabrications. Gigante guided the conversion to success and was immediately made plant manager, a position he held in Marinette from 1986 to 2002.

He was named president and COO in 2004, and assumed his current position as president and CEO of the company in 2007.

It is a demanding environment and Gigante enjoys the challenges it presents. The process in a high-volume foundry is continuous. For example, in one Waupaca plant the cupola melts 120 tons of metal per hour to feed nine molding lines. In total, Waupaca Foundry melts 9,500 tons each day. “For the melting process to be stable the molding lines must have high reliability, so we work very hard to make sure equipment is operable above 90 percent,” he says. “The controls and the level of systems we use are equal to or better than most other industries. You wouldn’t think of that in a foundry, but it really is very high-tech.”

Currently, Gigante is focused on making the foundry as green as it can be. The company tries to recycle 100 percent of all the materials and waste it generates. Currently, it reuses about 90 percent of the water, 80 percent of the sand and 100 percent of metallics. “We’re probably the largest recycler in the Midwest,” he says.

Gigante and his wife, Jeanne (also a metallurgist and 1977 UW-Madison graduate), live in Waupaca and have been married for 33 years. They have two children, Teresa, 2004 UW-Madison graduate, and Nicholas.


Thomas F. Gunkel

Thomas F. Gunkel
Chief Executive Officer
Mortenson Construction
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Look across the university skyline today and you can see the impact that Tom Gunkel's close ties to his alma mater have had on the campus. Under his leadership, M. A. Mortenson Company, the 19th-largest U.S. contractor, has constructed one of the most beautiful buildings on campus—the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery—and currently is hard at work on its counterpart for energy research, the Wisconsin Energy Institute.

During his 29 years with the company—including 12 years as president and the last five years as president and CEO—Gunkel has played a key role in Mortenson's emergence as one of the nation's most respected builders.

A Madison native and West High School graduate, Gunkel received his bachelor's degree in construction administration from UW-Madison in 1982 and immediately joined Mortenson as a project estimator. Just four years later, he relocated to Milwaukee, where he oversaw construction of a 39-story building. Following its completion, Gunkel led the team that opened the company's new Milwaukee office, which soon became the largest construction firm in southeastern Wisconsin. His past successes propelled Gunkel to other positions at Mortenson, including vice president overseeing Mortenson’s commercial building division nationwide—and eventually overall construction operations as its chief operating officer. He was appointed president of the company in 2001 and chief executive officer in 2008.

Under Gunkel’s leadership, Mortenson has constructed many high-profile buildings, including the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, Target Field in Minneapolis, and the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee. Experience gained through working on some of the most advanced medical facilities in the world has put Mortenson on the forefront of healthcare facility design, and its experience developing wind and solar power facilities has made the company North America's leading renewable energy builder and a leader in sustainable construction.

Throughout his career, Gunkel has leveraged his professional and personal success to support UW-Madison and the College of Engineering. He frequently arranges construction industry experts to speak to engineering students and has been a fund-raiser, guest lecturer and strong supporter of faculty and expanding construction education at every opportunity. He also has served on departmental-level advisory committees and was a longtime member and past chair of the College of Engineering Industrial Advisory Board.

Gunkel married his high school sweetheart, Kelley, also a UW-Madison graduate. They have been married for 31 years and have three children: daughter Cori, 25; and sons Taylor, 22; and Erik, 19. Gunkel enjoys spending time at the family cabin, fly fishing, antiquing, hiking, reading and spending time with family and close friends.


Patrick M. Hanrahan

Patrick M. Hanrahan
Canon Professor of Computer Science
Stanford University
Stanford, California

In the late 1970s, as a UW-Madison nuclear engineering undergraduate, Pat Hanrahan achieved perfect grades.

For Hanrahan, it's a particularly notable early accomplishment because he wasn’t even sure he wanted to go to college. Now, however, he considers college the most important opportunity he’d ever had. “The university reached out to me with an honors program in engineering physics and it was the perfect program for me,” he says. “It gave me flexibility to explore my interests, while ensuring I had a solid foundation in the fundamentals.”

That foundation was key to his success. “I loved the environment at Wisconsin,” he says. “I really liked the engineering, but had broad interests. I would not be where I am today had I not seized the opportunity that was offered and gone into that honors program.”

Hanrahan went on to earn a PhD in biophysics at UW-Madison. In the 1980s, he worked at the New York Institute of Technology graphics laboratory and Digital Equipment Corporation. He was among the first employees at Pixar, where he is credited with developing the RenderMan software used to create such movies as Toy Story. For their work in rendering and computer graphics, he and colleagues received an Oscar for Technical Achievement and a Scientific and Engineering Oscar.

In 1989, Hanrahan joined the faculty of Princeton University and in 1995, he moved to Stanford University, where he is the Canon professor of computer science and electrical engineering.

In 2003, he co-founded Tableau Software to take business analytics to the masses. The product is a high-powered, easy to use analysis tool that integrates with a company’s databases and lets business users without any programming skill easily turn columns of numbers into interactive maps and graphs. “I’m an academic at heart, but I feel it’s important to build real stuff that people use,” Hanrahan says. “Many of my students have also started companies to transfer their research into products.”

At Stanford, he teaches classes in graphics and imaging. Yet for all his accomplishments, Hanrahan is most proud of the impact his students have had. “I’ve had about 30 PhD students and they’ve done a lot of great stuff. Perhaps 10 have gone on to be professors. Of the whole group, they have started 14 companies,” he says.

Hanrahan, who is married to Delle Maxwell, is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.


James Thompson

James H. Thompson
Executive Vice President of Engineering
Qualcomm, Inc.
San Diego, California

Long before apps and email became the main reasons to keep a mobile phone in your pocket, James Thompson arrived at a then-small California startup called Qualcomm to begin work on implementing what would become one of the most common protocols for cellular phone calls in the world.

Shortly after he graduated in 1991 with a PhD—his third UW-Madison degree in electrical and computer engineering—Thompson set to work on a prototype base station that employed code division multiple access (CDMA), a digital wireless communication standard initially viewed as a fringe technology that allowed for vast improvements in network capacity over competing standards. The explosive popularity of cellular phones in the ensuing two decades helped the company grow into the dominant technology supplier in the mobile industry and the largest fabless semiconductor supplier in the world.

As senior vice president of engineering for the Qualcomm CDMA Technologies Division, he was responsible for the development of Qualcomm’s industry-leading Mobile Data Modem and the Snapdragon Processor product lines. Thompson has recently been promoted to executive vice president of engineering for Qualcomm.

Thompson credits the independent thinking skills he developed during his time as a graduate student as pivotal for a career in the fast-moving technology sector. “The only way to avoid becoming obsolete in the technology world is to keep learning and relearning,” says Thompson. “The broad education I received at Wisconsin is instrumental in allowing me to keep up with the changes and branch into areas outside my expertise.”

Thompson prizes that spirit of innovative thinking and hopes to convey it to future engineers. In addition to serving on the College of Engineering Industrial Advisory Board, Thompson has been instrumental in fostering innovation among current students through the Qualcomm Wireless Innovation Prize, a competition now in its third year that encourages students to turn innovative technology concepts into solid business proposals. He hopes the competition helps students understand the power of collaboration when it comes to creating something new. “Most things that are worth doing are pretty complicated, and require more than one person to do,” he says. “Innovation often involves working with people of different backgrounds. The best ideas are usually found at the boundaries between disciplines.”

Thompson spends his free time learning about history and philosophy, and enjoys mountain biking, skiing and hiking with his wife, Virginia, and children Chelsea, Daniel and Allison.