Chancellor Little prepares to speak at the Alumni Difference Makers Award ceremony Oct. 9.
Chancellor Little prepares to speak st the Alumni Difference Makers Award ceremony Oct. 9.
Chancellor Little prepares to speak at the Alumni Difference Makers Award ceremony on Oct. 9. (Demetrio Nasol/MJ)

By MARIA KANSO, Guest Reporter

They were once students. With heavy backpacks and exhausted bodies, they walked around campus with steps of ambition, hope and a dream of making a change. Those steps did not only leave an influential mark on UM-Dearborn, but remain engraved in the lives of thousands of people around them.

On Friday, Oct. 9th, the 2015 Alumni Difference Makers Award ceremony was conducted to award special alumni for their leadership, contributions in the community and applausable performances in their careers and fields of study.

“UM-D Alumni are a special group,” said Anthony Alegrina, a 1982 graduate and recipient of the CASL Distinguished Alumnus of the Year award in 1995. “I have worked with hundreds of our alumni over the years, and almost without exception I have found them to be motivated solely by a sense of gratitude to the university and a commitment to the success of its current students.”

UM-Dearborn has been granting the Alumni Difference Makers Award for 35 years. Each college chooses one bright, talented, and active alumni who has been involved in making his or her community a better place.

The nominees are chosen by a committee made up of two alumni and a representative from each of the four colleges: College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters, College of Business, College of Engineering and College of Education, Health, and Human Services.

First, the committee requests nominations from people across campus, including staff, faculty, students and alumni, who fill out a form of who they think deserves to win. The committee then rates the nominations according to a scoring system and chooses seven honorees that would be granted the awards.

The Distinguished Alumnus of the Year Award was given to Michigan Supreme Court Judge Mary Beth Kelly. The recipient of this award is considered unique for his or her personal commitment in helping others.

Other than the Alumnus of the Year Award chosen for each of the four colleges, three other prestigious awards include the Jeanette Schumacher Alumni Service Award, the Young Alumnus of the year Award, and the Distinguished Alumnus of the Year Award.

The Jeanette Schumacher Award is granted for a UM-Dearborn graduate who is distinguished for possessing energy and creativity in addressing a certain problem in the community, in addition to his or her contributions to UM-Dearborn. Doug Krizanic, who graduated from the College of Business in 1981, received the Schumacher award.

State Senator David Knezek was awarded the Young Alumnus of the Year. This is granted to an alumnus who is under the age of 35 and has exemplary accomplishments both in his or her career and the community. Knezek graduated from CASL in 2012.

The College of Business selected 1982 alum Kevin Cunningham, now the vice president of risk management at Daimler Chrysler, as their Alumnus of the Year; Lou Ann Hamblin received the award from the College of Education, Health and Human Services; the College of Engineering and Computer Science recipient was 1964 graduate John Junge.

“I was inspired to start a career of service when I was a student here and it has been a wonderful journey ever since I had left,” said Honor Potvin, the College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters Alumnus of the year. “So, I can truly say I don’t believe there’s another place I could have spent my undergraduate years.”

The most important criteria that weave the seven awards together are having done outstanding philanthropic and/or professional achievements in their community after graduating from UM-Dearborn and having a strong sense of leadership and commitment.

Throughout the ceremony, deans for the four colleges, two chancellors, and the alumni relations director presented the alumni awards and gave brief speeches about the honor they are awarding. After a short video that summarized their impact on the people around them, the alumni received their awards. Each gave a two or three-minute speech in which they expressed their gratitude and deep appreciation for UM-Dearborn.

“They are a validation that we produce strong community leaders and that we provide an impact.” said Peggy Pattison, the director of alumni relations. “They provide inspiration to current students, letting them know that ‘I was where you are now, and look where you could be.’”