2006 Distinguished achievement award: James Senty

// Materials Science & Engineering

Tags: alumni, Engineers' Day, James Senty, MSE E-Day

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James A. Senty 
President
Midwest Natural Gas, Inc.
BSMinE ’60
LaCrosse, WI

James A. Senty grew up in Independence, Wisconsin, a western Wisconsin farm community of 900 residents. He earned his bachelor’s degree in 1960 in mining engineering; however, the degree formed the foundation for interests that range from sulfur reclamation to banking, insurance and finance.

That variety is due in part to his UW-Madison education. He graduated with 194 credits — 30 percent more than he needed — in courses that extended from engineering and geology into areas like business and law.

Senty currently is president and chairman of Midwest Natural Gas, Inc., a public utility serving more than 15,000 meters in western Wisconsin. He also is chairman of the board of The Park Bank in Madison and chairman of Western Gas Resources, Inc., a Denver-based gas and oil company listed on the New York Stock Exchange. He is chairman of Deerfield Financial, a bank holding-company in Deerfield, Wisconsin, and was director and senior vice president of Midwest Security Insurance Companies.

Throughout his career, he has been on the lookout for interesting and challenging possibilities. One such opportunity involved environmental remediation. In northern Alberta, Canada, natural gas production generated enormous blocks of sulfur byproducts that weighed hundreds of thousands tons and wreaked havoc on the environment. In the 1980s, Senty and other engineers developed a method to melt the sulfur, make it into ingots, and sell it to Asian firms for making rubber or manufacturing pharmaceuticals.

Senty’s other endeavors include developing several retirement communities in Wisconsin and Florida. At 70, he works 50- to 60-hour weeks and has no plans for retirement. He currently is chair of SWIB, the State of Wisconsin Investment Board.

After a 20-year tenure, the La Crosse, Wisconsin, resident recently retired from the Viterbo College board of directors. He also was a member and chair of the St. Francis Hospital Foundation board of directors and was active in the National Propane Gas Association, serving as its president in the late 1980s. Senty served six years with the Wisconsin National Guard and was a member of the Tau Beta Pi and Alpha Chi Sigma fraternities.

Senty is an avid hunter and fisherman and enjoys flying airplanes, riding his Harley, sailing, and working on his farms. He and his wife of 46 years, Catherine, also enjoy spending time with their grandchildren and family, and climbing Colorado’s 14,000-foot mountains, where they have a home. Their two children, Paul and Amy, live in the Madison area and are involved in the family businesses.