Lasting impact: UM-Dearborn recognizes seven Alumni Difference Makers during annual awards ceremony

October 24, 2016

University of Michigan-Dearborn recognized seven outstanding alumni during the 2016 Alumni Difference Makers Awards Ceremony on Friday, October 21.

7 Alumni Difference Makers pose with the Chancellor in front of UM-Dearborn Victors for Michigan banner.
7 Alumni Difference Makers pose with the Chancellor in front of UM-Dearborn Victors for Michigan banner.
2016 UM-Dearborn Alumni Difference Makers

More than 125 people attended the annual Homecoming Weekend event, which recognizes alumni for their contributions to the university and community.

“Tonight, we celebrate 37 years of honoring executives, innovators, inventors, activists, elected officials, teachers, entrepreneurs and community leaders,” said Nancy Gioia (’82 B.S.E.), the night’s emcee and the recipient of the 2011 College of Engineering and Computer Science Alumnus of the Year.

“In that time, more than 250 people have been honored, and all of them are a testament that University of Michigan-Dearborn produces victors who are creating a positive impact—not only in their workplace, but also in their communities and personal lives.”

The seven 2016 recipients are:

Distinguished Alumnus of the Year
Mark Atkinson (’83 B.S.) 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.

Young Alumnus of the Year
Christopher Scott (’11 M.S.E.) is a senior electrical engineer with the U.S. Department of Defense at TARDEC, working to protect the lives of U.S. military by developing unmanned ground vehicles currently used on the battlefield. Scott started at TARDEC in high performance computing systems, and then led a team working on robotics standards and capabilities. Active in his community as well, Scott volunteers in the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s STEM Days in the Detroit Public Schools and organized the Black Male Orientation Leader program.

Jeanette Schumacher Alumni Service Award
Eric Sadek (’04 B.A.) 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 Arts, Sciences, and Letters Alumnus of the Year
David Spaight (’83 B.S.) 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.

College of Business Alumnus of the Year
Jeffrey Henning (’86 B.B.A.) is a CPA and partner at Ernst & Young (EY), where he specializes in global automotive markets. An active member of the community, Henning serves as treasurer on the Board of Directors for the Boys and Girls Club of Southeastern Michigan and chairs the Board of Finance for St. Paul’s Lutheran Church and School in Northville. Henning is a key member of the College of Business’s Board of Advisors and helped to create the EY-Hillary Q. Kind Memorial Scholarship, which is awarded to COB students who demonstrate leadership and are pursuing a career in professional services.

College of Engineering Alumnus of the Year
John Cole (’76 B.S.E.I.S.) is the president and chief operating officer of Parkwood Engineering Development Corporation, where he has been for 10 years. He was previously vice president of engineering and development for Kolene Corporation. Cole has been awarded both the State of Michigan’s Professional Engineers in Industry “Outstanding Engineering Award” and the Detroit Metro Chapter’s “Engineer of the Year” award and is involved in many trade and professional organizations, including SME, SAE, and the Industrial Heating Equipment Association, where he served as national president in 2003. Cole also served as chair of the UM-Dearborn Alumni Society, CECS Industrial Advisory Board and chair of the CECS Alumni Affiliate Board for 13 years.

College of Education, Health, and Human Services Alumna of the Year
Service to the community has long been a hallmark of Judge Sandra Ference Cicirelli’s (’82 B.A., Teach. Cert.) 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.