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News release prepared by: Mary Rankin, 785-532-6715,

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


MANHATTAN -- The Kansas State University College of Engineering will honor 10 alumni for success in the middle years of their professional careers and accomplishments. The honorees will be recognized at ceremonies Saturday, April 30, on the K-State campus.

Recipients of the college's Professional Progress Award were nominated by their respective department heads and confirmed by John English, dean of engineering. The honorees are:

* John Curtis, Dodge City, received his bachelor's degree from K-State in nuclear engineering in 1993 and then completed a master's at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, also in nuclear engineering, in 1995. Curtis was named president of Curtis Machine Company Inc., the largest manufacturer of small right-angle bevel gearboxes in North America, in July 2004. His current responsibilities include marketing, engineering, purchasing, accounting, maintenance and operations. He had previously served as vice president of production, senior vice president of sales and general manager. Curtis joined Curtis Machine Company Inc. after working at Entergy's Grand Gulf Nuclear Station for two years.

* David Compton, Lenexa, a 1990 graduate of K-State in electrical engineering, is vice president-engineering at Cerner Corporation, responsible for development of acute care solutions within the Cerner Millennium platform, which is a registered trademark. Compton joined Cerner in 1991 and spent the first 11 years in the system integration organization, specializing in device interfacing. In 2001 he moved to clinical solutions with FirstNet-Emergency Medicine, a registered trademark, where he served as knowledge architect for specialties. He became the engineering executive for acute care in late 2006, and was promoted to vice president in 2007. He has served in numerous leadership and executive positions within Cerner's intellectual property organization. Compton is a member of K-State's College of Business Administration Management advisory board. He is the Cerner executive sponsor for the University of Nebraska, and is also a member of the KC Hub advisory board, a group that promotes innovation in the Kansas City area.

* Erick McNett, Lenexa, graduated from K-State in 1992 with a bachelor's in computer science, later completing a master of business administration at Auburn University. Now with Fleishman-Hillard, McNett is an expert in emerging digital and mobile solutions. He has been involved with digital marketing and communications for more than 15 years, developing websites, applications and social media solutions. He has focused on a number of industry verticals, including telecommunications, health care, retail, consumer packaged goods, finance, and cause-related marketing for companies and organizations. He was formerly a partner and group technology director at VML, an interactive marketing firm, where one of his top accomplishment was the spearheading of a mobile development group. One of the applications he created was highlighted in Forbes' top 10 branded applications for 2009. He also spearheaded initiatives in social media application development, augmented reality research, e-commerce conversion analysis and data visualization, along with managing the development of company and campaign websites. McNett spent seven years on active duty in the U.S. Air Force as a computer-communications officer. He spent time working for the Air Force Intelligence Agency as well as for the Judge Advocate General's Office developing and managing a number of Web-based and desktop software solutions.

* Jim Schmidt, Manhattan, is a 1998 graduate in biological and agricultural engineering. As a senior mechanical engineering manager for Dell Services Engineering Solutions, he guides teams of engineers working on off-road product development projects for multiple Fortune 500 companies in the Midwest. In his career he has led product development activities at CaseIH, Agco and DSES, helping drive innovative solutions resulting in the application and/or granting of more than 20 patents worldwide. He was awarded the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers Kansas Section Young Engineer of the Year Award in 2005. He also presented a 2011 winter intersession class at K-State, Applications of Technologies in Industry. Schmidt has chaired the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers' International Quarter-Scale Student Tractor Design Competition and continues to play a lead role in this contest for tomorrow's engineers.

* Katrina Gerber, Overland Park, a 1992 K-State graduate in architectural engineering, is president of BGR Engineers. Licensed to practice in more than 30 states, she became the first LEED-certified professional in the Kansas City area in 1997 and has been a champion of sustainable design ever since. She currently serves on the boards of the Metropolitan Energy Center, Country Club Bank and Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. She also donates time to many charitable organizations, including Catholic Charities, the Mattie Rhodes Center and the Ronald McDonald House. In recognition of her involvement in the community as well as her business, she was named to Ingram's Forty Under 40 list in 2006.

* The late Richard Klover, Overland Park, graduated from K-State in 1987 with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering. He began his career with Burns & McDonnell, an engineering consulting firm in Kansas City, in 1987. He was instrumental in the success and growth of its energy global practice, earning a promotion to the project management group. In 2006 he was promoted to associate vice president in energy, where his responsibilities included managing the project management group, maintaining relationships with key clients and overseeing major projects. Klover was a past chair of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, as well as a member of the National Society of Professional Engineers and the Missouri Society of Professional Engineers. He was a member of the K-State Alumni Association and on the board of K-State's Electric Power Affiliates Program. Klover died in February 2010.

* Dennis Kerschen, Wichita, a 1992 K-State graduate in construction science management, is senior vice president of The Law Company. He has been in the design/construction industry for more than 25 years. He started working for The Law Company in 1985 as a laborer when he was a sophomore in high school and continued working on construction projects in that capacity during breaks while attending K-State. Upon receiving his bachelor's degree, Kerschen joined The Law Company full time. He has worked as a field engineer, estimator, assistant superintendent, superintendent, project manager and senior project manager. In March 2003 he was promoted to vice president and in 2008 he advanced to his current position as senior vice president. At this same time, he also assumed the role of director of marketing and business development. Kerschen's community involvement includes serving on the board of directors of Goodwill Industries and as a member of Leadership Wichita through the Wichita Chamber of Commerce. He was selected as a member of the Wichita Business Journal's 40 under 40 honorees in 2005, and has served on the board of directors of the Associated General Contractors of Kansas since 2006, recently completing a term as president. Currently he serves on the K-State College of Engineering Construction Science advisory board.

* Beth Ward, Westwood, earned a bachelor's in industrial engineering from K-State in 1993, and a master's in engineering management from the University of Kansas in 1998. Ward joined Hallmark Cards Inc. in 1996 as an industrial engineer at its Liberty distribution center. She's earned positions of increasing accountability in operations, including distribution engineering manager, global procurement manager, procurement operations director, order operations group manager, general manager-Liberty Distribution Center, and director-logistics services. She also supported William Arthur Inc. in Kennebunk, Maine, a wholly owned Hallmark subsidiary, as director of continuous improvement and order fulfillment director. She is currently retail operations vice president, where she is responsible for the operational planning, execution and servicing of all programs at the retail level for Wal-Mart. Prior to joining Hallmark, Ward worked as an industrial engineer at the J.C. Penney logistics center in Lenexa. Ward is currently a member of the advisory councils for the KU Supply Chain Management program and the K-State Industrial Engineering program. In recent years she had a board seat with the Central Exchange and is former chair of the United Way Young Leaders Society. She was named to Ingram's 2009 Forty Under 40 list and as a Woman to Watch at the annual Central Exchange Women of the Year celebration in 2008.

* Paul Fisher, Midland, Mich., graduated from K-State in 1991 with a degree in chemical engineering and began working for the Dow Corning Corporation. He has held a number of positions in engineering, manufacturing, application engineering and business development. Fisher holds multiple patents supporting innovative technologies at Dow Corning and is the recipient of numerous manufacturing and business awards as a result of millions of dollars of new business development revenue. In his current position he is responsible for leading global, multifunctional teams to create new businesses that will have a positive impact on sustainability. Through the use of the innovation process, Fisher is specifically responsible for building multimillion-dollar business programs within both the renewable energy and energy storage markets.

* Scott Wetzel, Round Rock, Texas, earned bachelor's and master's degrees in civil engineering from K-State in 1993 and 1995, respectively, and has a master of business administration from Fort Hays State University. Currently, Wetzel is vice president and principal with H.W. Lochner Inc., a Chicago-based consulting engineering firm. He serves as manager of Lochner's Austin, Texas, office. He began his consulting career with Bucher, Willis & Ratliff Corporation in Salina as a project engineer in the water and wastewater design department. He was promoted to project manager in 1998 and to team leader in 2003. Wetzel's design expertise includes water and wastewater treatment, pumping stations, water storage facilities, wastewater collection, water distribution, hydraulic modeling and roadway design. He also has worked for the Kansas Department of Transportation and the Greeley County Roadway Department. Wetzel is a member of the American Council of Engineering Companies, American Public Works Association and the American Water Works Association. Previous awards he has received include the Outstanding Young Engineer of the Year from the Kansas Society of Professional Engineers and the Young Engineer of the Year from the society's Smoky Valley chapter.

* Deborah Crawford, Spring, Texas, a 1992 graduate of K-State in electrical engineering, is vice president of application development and product engineering at PAETEC. She also has has served as vice president of engineering at PATEC, overseeing innovation and deployment of strategic technologies and systems, including the next-generation voice-over-IP network and developing innovative products across the company's 46-state footprint. During her previous tenure with McLeodUSA, she served as the director of network engineering, where her responsibilities were expanded in the areas of telemetry network management and corporate networking. She also served as the lead architect to design and deploy a nationwide facilities-based network. Her early experience after college with WilTel, a Tulsa, Okla.-based telecommunication company, shaped her career as she had an opportunity to work within multiple areas of engineering and provide solutions directly for the customers, as well as work with advanced products and technology.