College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters

CASL's Alumni Difference Maker Recipients

For nearly 40 years, UM-Dearborn has honored outstanding alumni for their contributions to the University and community.  These men and women are "difference makers" who have continued the University's legacy of leadership in their lives and careers.  On October 21, the University once again recognized several distinguished alumni at its annual awards celebration.  The following CASL alums were honored as 2016 UM-Dearborn "Difference Makers" at the event:


College of Arts, Sciences, & Letters Alumnus of the Year: David Spaight, '83, B.S.

Mr. Spaight  is chairman and chief executive officer at WIL Research Company, Inc., where he recently successfully completed the sale of the company to Charles River Laboratories International Inc. Prior to his work at WIL Research Inc., he served as president of MDS Pharma Services. Spaight is also committed to community service and philanthropy. During his tenure, MDS became a major sponsor of Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, which raises funds for pediatric cancer research. He has also been a dedicated supporter of the College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters, serving as an active member and chair of the college’s Dean’s Advisory Council.

Distinguished Alumnus of the Year: Mark Atkinson, '83, B.S.

Mr. Atkinson is director of the University of Florida Diabetes Institute and a globally recognized authority on Type 1 diabetes (T1D). The author of more than 375 publications on the prediction, prevention and cure of the disease, he has had leadership or advisory roles in many prominent organizations in the T1D community including the American Diabetes Association, the National Institutes of Health and the Immunology of Diabetes Society. And as the founding president of Insulin for Life USA, he works to improve diabetes care in developing countries.

Jeannette Schumacher Alumni Service Award: Eric Sadek, '04, B.A.

Mr. Sadek is the founder and CEO of ERSA Group, an IT services company that provides information technology, cyber security, mission support and advisory services. Sadek is also passionate about community service and UM-Dearborn. He’s always ready for opportunities to partner with UM-Dearborn to enhance student learning by sharing his time, expertise and resources –personally and through his company. He’s been active in the College of Business’s e-Academy and as a mentor in the university’s 30 Minute Mentor Program. In both, he has shared his knowledge and experience as business owner and provided valuable feedback to students about their academic endeavors and career paths. He has worked with faculty on helping prepare students to work in the computer and information science industry and is exploring potential collaborations with our cyber security initiatives.

College of Education, Health, and Human Services Alumna of the Year: Sandra Ference Cicirelli, '82, B.A./CASL and Teaching Certificate

Service to the community has long been a hallmark of Judge Cicirelli's career. A long-time member of Westland’s city council, she also served as mayor of the city for five years, and since 2006, has been a judge at Westland’s 18th District Court. Cicirelli implemented a Teen Court program at John Glenn High School, which brings actual court cases involving juveniles to a jury of their peers and has been shown to reduce the rate of recidivism. She is involved in numerous civic and charitable groups, has received many awards including the YWCA Woman of Achievement Award, and was on the Alumni Affiliate Board of Governors for the School of Education.

Click here for entire list of the 2016 award winners.