Distinguished engineering alumni honored

Oct. 25, 2007

by Renee Meiller

In recognition of their outstanding contributions to fields ranging from nanotechnology and information management to medicine, materials and agriculture, the University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Engineering will honor nine influential alumni on Oct. 26 at the 60th annual Engineers' Day celebration.

The honorees are:

  • Matthew F. Laudon, MS '93, PhD '96, mechanical engineering, Early Career Award. Laudon is co-founder, Clean Technology and Sustainable Industries Organization; and co-founder and executive director of business development, Nano Science and Technology Institute, Cambridge, Mass. Laudon's industry experience includes positions with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology of Lausanne, Motorola in Los Alamos National Laboratories, and several Boston-area start-ups that focused on micro and nanotechnology commercialization and partnership development. He also co-founded several technology-based and technology-transfer companies. Most recently, he started the nonprofit 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.
  • Jeffrey Curler, BS '73, chemical engineering, Distinguished Achievement Award. Curler is chairman and CEO, Bemis Company Inc., Neenah, Wis. Curler's boyhood fascination with the properties of plastic led to a lifelong pursuit of new materials and techniques for the flexible plastic packaging industry. He joined the Bemis Company Inc. in 1973 as an engineer in new product development; in 2000, he became company CEO. 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.
  • Michael F. Davy, BS '69, civil and environmental engineering, Distinguished Achievement Award. Davy is president, Davy Engineering Company; and manager, Davy Laboratories, both in La Crosse. Beginning with Davy's grandfather, four generations of the Davy family have studied in the UW-Madison Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering to prepare for work with the family company, consulting engineering and surveying firm Davy Engineering Co. and Davy Laboratories, which conducts chemical and biological analysis of water and wastewater. 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. For Davy, it means that he continues to work as a project engineer while also serving as the company president since 1988.
  • Donald C. Erbach, BS '65, mechanical engineering, Distinguished Achievement Award. Erbach is retired national program leader for engineering and energy, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service, Beltsville, Md. As a research engineer with the USDA, Erbach 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. Erbach, who retired in 2006 as USDA national program leader for engineering and energy, 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 on 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.
  • Stephen LeBeau, PhD '82, metallurgical engineering, Distinguished Achievement Award. LeBeau is president and CEO, Thixomat, Ann Arbor, Mich. After nine years in manufacturing at the U.S. Steel and Babcock & Wilcox corporate research facilities, LeBeau shifted his focus to smaller high-tech companies, working his way into corporate management positions. In 1998, the materials engineer joined Thixomat, Inc., which uses a patented technique for transforming magnesium chips into a smooth, pliable semi-solid. After 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 sunglass frames. Thixomat has licensed the technology to more than 50 companies worldwide.
  • Edwin A. McKinnon, PhD '72, engineering mechanics, Distinguished Achievement Award. McKinnon is retired vice president of technology, General Carbide Corporation, Greensburg, Penn. Though he began his career as a lecturer at the state university in Reno, Nev., and worked briefly as an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, McKinnon spent 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, N.C. - an experience he calls a highlight of his career. He retired in 1993 as vice president of technology for General Carbide Corp., which manufactures carbide components used for tools and dies and tool-cutting industries, and provides components to the concrete and steel industries.
  • Dorin Panescu, MS '91, PhD '93, electrical and computer engineering, Distinguished Achievement Award. Panescu is principal staff scientist, St. Jude Medical Inc., Sunnyvale, Cal. 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. After working for medical device companies EP Technologies and Boston Scientific, 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.
  • Andrew Rensink, BS '79, mechanical engineering, Distinguished Achievement Award. Rensink is president and CEO, Tapemark Inc., West St. Paul, Minn. Early in his career, Rensink helped to design and manufacture General Electric products ranging from aircraft engines to appliances to CAT scan machines. Later, as a corporate leader, he helped fluid-purification products company Osmonics grow from $40 million to more than $200 million in annual sales and water-filtration startup Pentapure grow from $3 million to $44 million in annual sales. Currently, Rensink is president and CEO of pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturer Tapemark-the first person hired from outside the 55-year-old company to direct the operation.
  • Jeffrey Wiesner, BS' 83, industrial engineering, Distinguished Achievement Award. Weisner is retired partner, Accenture LLP, Milwaukee, Wis. Throughout his 20-year career at management consulting company Accenture LLP, Jeffrey Wiesner maintained strong UW-Madison ties: For 10 years, he was responsible for on-campus recruiting for the firm. He coordinated the charitable outreach program within Accenture for UW-Madison alumni and was instrumental in developing the freshman introduction to engineering curriculum and the Women in Science and Engineering program. At the firm, he specialized in managing large-scale management information system 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 an Accenture partner in charge of the company SAP software practice for automotive and industrial equipment companies in North America.