Commencement 2012: Alumni achievers
A local businessman who has enjoyed global success, a revered judge, an optometrist who makes house calls...long distance house calls, and a powerful advocate for mental health were the University of Wisconsin-Parkside's alumni award winners. All four, businessman James Kettinger, Judge Mark Nielsen, Dr. Thomas Lutz, and mental health advocate Luann Simpson, were honored during Saturday's commencement ceremonies.
Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award
James Kettinger ('80, Business & Administrative Science, Accounting Specialization)
The words "President" and "Vice President" appear frequently on Jim Kettinger's curriculum vitae. "Chief Executive Officer" and "Chief Financial Officer" also show up regularly. Mr. Kettinger has never shied away from titles or the responsibilities inherent in the corner office. On the contrary, he has sought out leadership roles during his three-plus decades in private industry.
Starting fresh out of UW-Parkside as an accountant in the Milwaukee office of Price Waterhouse, Mr. Kettinger began a steady ascent through the ranks of major Wisconsin corporations. Over the years, he has led the planning, accounting, legal, treasury, human resource, IT, investor relations, and purchasing operations for various companies, companies that built mining and construction equipment, produced injection and compression molded products, and processed food. He has successfully designed and implemented corporate turnarounds.
Mr. Kettinger currently serves as president and CEO of Kenosha-based equipment manufacturer IEA, Inc. The company makes heating and cooling systems for large internal combustion engines used mainly for power generation. The company also manufactures environmentally managed enclosures for data centers. It employs 270 people in Kenosha and Menominee Falls, Wis.
In 2010, he engaged UW-Parkside students in a project for IEA through the university's Ralph Jaeschke Solutions for Economic Growth Center. This spring, he served as the School of Business and Technology's Executive In Residence.
He recently added another title to his CV: advisory board member in the School of Business and Technology (SBT). In that capacity, he will return to campus frequently to help advise Dean Fred Ebeid on future SBT decisions.
Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award
Mark Nielsen ('76, Economics and Political Science)
Mark Nielsen is no stranger to award recognition. On the contrary, he started earning accolades before graduating from UW-Parkside and has been collecting honors ever since.
The year he completed his studies at UW-Parkside, Judge Nielsen was the university's outstanding social sciences graduate. He added Outstanding Alumni Volunteer awards in 1989 and 1991.
Peer recognition came in the form of the three Martin Hanson Advocate's Prizes from the Wisconsin Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers for attorneys who "have accomplished the rare homicide case acquittal." He won three other murder cases before the award was established. He also received the Wisconsin Public Defenders 1999 "Outstanding Achievement Award" for his criminal law work. He has been a Wisconsin Super Lawyer yearly since 2006 and has served as a Racine municipal court judge since 2006.
A 1979 graduate of Harvard Law School, education has been an important part of Judge Nielsen's professional life. He regularly addresses legal conferences on subjects such as handling hearsay, defending cold cases, and issues unique to notorious cases. He has published more than 20 articles covering a variety of legal subjects.
Beginning his career as an assistant district attorney in Racine, Judge Nielsen moved into private practice in 1982. Since then, he has tried more than 150 cases before juries including handling litigation on 34 murder trials. Since becoming a Racine municipal court judge, Judge Nielsen's innovative approach to truancy problems, according to one nominator, is "beginning to make a difference."
Judge Nielsen now adds the University of Wisconsin-Parkside Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award to his list of accomplishments.
Distinguished Alumni Service Award
Thomas A. Lutz ('78, Biology)
It's a long journey from Illinois to Mexico. It's even farther from Kansas to Honduras; farther still to Costa Rica.
University of Wisconsin-Parkside graduate Dr. Thomas Lutz took these journeys. First with the Illinois College of Optometry Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity (VOSH) on the trip to Mexico then to Honduras and Costa Rica with Kansas VOSH, Dr. Lutz provided eye care to the poor in Central America.
Of his Costa Rica mission, Dr. Lutz said people began to arrive early for treatment.
"That first morning, we were met by hundreds of the local citizenry already waiting for us, neatly lined up in rows that extended several blocks," he said. "Over the course of the next two weeks, we examined thousands of individuals."
The hot, humid days were "long and overwhelming, usually 10 to 12 hour days," Dr. Lutz said.
But Central America wasn't the only place he saw poverty and worked to aid those affected by it.
"Dr. Lutz saw firsthand the poverty of those in the inner city at the clinics of the Illinois College of Optometry," said one nominator. "He saw firsthand the destitution of rural Native Americans on the Sioux Nation reservations in South Dakota [as an optometry intern]; he saw firsthand the shattered lives of American military veterans."
To fight these problems, Dr. Lutz dedicated his professional life to service through the public health care system. He is currently staff optometrist in the Veterans Affairs Eastern Kansas Health Care System.
"The opportunity to make a difference in patients' lives was there," said one nominator, "Dr. Lutz grabbed that opportunity."
Distinguished Alumni Service Award
Luann Simpson ('85, Psychology)
"She is a credit to her profession and an inspiration to the many people who live with mental illness in Racine County. Her dedication to the field has had a profound impact on the progress in treatment of mental illness throughout the state of Wisconsin."
Luann Simpson has obviously earned the admiration of many people over the years. As program coordinator for the Consumer Advocacy Team of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Racine County (NAMI-Racine), she "has challenged the mental health community to look at treatment and programming issues through the eyes of those they serve," said a nominator.
As a person living with bipolar disorder, Ms. Simpson has been called a positive role model to people fighting mental illness. She is a strong voice on behalf of mental health consumers and their families at all levels of advocacy and she promotes self-advocacy through education and empowerment.
Ms. Simpson's efforts have not gone unnoticed. She received the NAMI Wisconsin Outstanding Consumer Award in 2001 and Gateway Technical College's C.L. Grieber Award of Merit in 2005. In 2009, she was named a champion in women's health in the area of mental health by the Wisconsin Women's Health Foundation.That award prompted a congratulatory letter from U.S. Congressman Paul Ryan praising Ms. Simpson's dedication to her profession and the contributions she made to the community. "You are truly deserving of this tremendous honor and should be proud of your accomplishments," Mr. Ryan wrote. "The community of Racine, the 1st District, and the State of Wisconsin thank you for your exceptional work."