Alumni and Friends

ABE Alumni Awards & Recognitions

The Purdue Distinguished Agricultural Alumni Award is presented to mid-career Purdue Agriculture graduates who have made significant contributions to their profession, or society in general.

2014 Distinguished Agricultural Alumnus - Johnann (Joe) R. Garwood

Joe GarwoodJoe Garwood is a man ahead of his time. His stay at Purdue was colored by family tragedy and personal challenge. Despite the challenges – or maybe because of them – Joe has made his way from DuPont’s Agricultural Products Division to oil company entrepreneur, pausing to collect coaching, leadership, and marketing awards along the way.

Since 1999, he has started numerous companies – precursors to eBay and Amazon among them – and still manages, or helps manage, five of them.

Joe continues to visit Purdue, helping recruit students, and providing industry insight into economic challenges, interacting with faculty and students of ABE. His engagement is multiple times per year and his ideas are incorporated in class teaching. In 2012 he started and helped organize the inaugural ABE Entrepreneurial Day event.

  • 2011 Distinguished Agriculture Alumnus - W. Douglas Griffin
  • 2010 Distinguished Agriculture Alumnus - Edward Vondell
  • 2008 Distinguished Agriculture Alumnus - Dr. Jeffrey Arnold
  • 2006 Distinguished Agriculture Alumnus - Matt Reynolds
  • 2005 Distinguished Agriculture Alumnus - Gerald Powell
  • 2004 Distinguished Agriculture Alumnus - Kevin Eikenberry
  • 2003 Distinguished Agriculture Alumnus - William Carteaux
  • 1998 Distinguished Agriculture Alumnus - John Oelslager
  • 1997 Distinguished Agriculture Alumnus - Jan Doorenbos
  • 1996 Distinguished Agriculture Alumnus - David Doster
  • 1995 Distinguished Agriculture Alumnus - Bart Nelson
  • 1994 Distinguished Agriculture Alumnus - David Dull

The Purdue Distinguished Engineering Alumni Award is presented to engineering alumni who have distinguished themselves in any field of endeavor that reflects favorably on Purdue University, the engineering profession, or society in general.

2010 Distinguished Engineering Alumnus - Thomas A. Burke

Thomas BurkeMr. Burke received a bachelor’s degree in Machine Systems Engineering from Purdue University in 1979. He has been a long time member of several professional organizations, including ASABE and SME.

In the beginning of his career, Mr. Burke spent 13 years with Ford Motor Company in the Climate Control Division in a variety of engineering and operations positions in the United States and Mexico. Then, Mr. Burke worked for nine years with Visteon Corporation, where he was Vice President of the North American Manufacturing Operations with responsibility for more than $10 billion in sales. While there, he led an effort to develop and implement business strategies to enhance the company’s global manufacturing product portfolio. Before that, and based in Cologne, Germany, Mr. Burke served as Vice President of European and South American Manufacturing and Vice President of North American and Asian Operations.

Mr. Burke joined Modine Manufacturing Company in 2005 as Executive Vice President. In July 2006, he was promoted to the position of Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, taking on the responsibilities of streamlining the company’s global organizational structure.  As COO, he was in charge of all global operations for the Powertrain Cooling, Engine, Passenger Thermal Management, Commercial and Fuel Cell Products Groups, as well as the Environmental, Safety and Security Department.

Mr. Burke was born in South Dakota and is a native of Bloomington, Illinois. He is on the Board of Trustees of MAPI/Manufacturers Alliance and been nominated to become a director of the National Association of Manufacturing for a term beginning in January 2010. In addition, Mr. Burke serves on the Board of Directors of the Racine County United Way. He resides in Racine, Wisconsin with his wife Ginee, and they have two grown children.

  • 2001 Distinguished Engineering Alumnus - Harmon Towne
  • 1997 Distinguished Engineering Alumnus - Wayne Skaggs
  • 1993 Distinguished Engineering Alumnus - Kevin Forster
  • 1990 Distinguished Engineering Alumnus - Don Price
  • 1988 Distinguished Engineering Alumnus - Robert Marin
  • 1979 Distinguished Engineering Alumnus - Ben Pollard
  • 1977 Distinguished Engineering Alumnus - Howard Johnson
  • 1973 Distinguished Engineering Alumnus - Paul Sink

Each year the ABE department recognizes and honors alumni and friends of the department who have achieved significant professional, community, educational, and social accomplishments in areas involving agriculture, engineering, and technology. This year’s awardees are John Brubaker, Douglas Dawes, Bradley Fife, Cynthia McCracken, Kevin Richman, and Ron Thieme.

2014 Outstanding ABE Alumni

2014 Outstanding Alumnus - Susan L. Brocksmith, BS ASM '83

Susan Brocksmith received her Bachelor of Science Degree from Purdue University in Agricultural Systems Management (called Ag Mechanization) in 1983 and a Masters of Business Administration from Ball State University in 1987. While at Purdue she was a member of the ABE club and was one of the founders of Sigma Alpha Sorority.

She started her career with Monsanto Chemical Company before becoming a professor at Vincennes University. Ms. Brocksmith is the program chair for the Agribusiness program since 1994. She sponsors the Ag Club which is both a Collegiate FFA and Collegiate Farm Bureau affiliate. She worked to develop a new Agribusiness Concentration to the Bachelors of Technology to meet the needs of the community. Ms. Brocksmith received an Award for Exemplary Service for Vincennes University in 1995 and the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development Excellence Award from the University of Texas at Austin. She received the 2011 Women in Agriculture award for her agricultural leadership activities. Ms. Brocksmith presented “A College Student Perspective” at the Indiana Soil Health Symposium in 2012. Through her guidance, the Agribusiness program has received the Awards of Excellence for Career and Vocational Education from the State of Indiana in 2014.

In addition to her work at Vincennes University, Susan has been very active in her community. She has served on the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors for over 10 years. She has been the facilitator for the adult Leadership Knox County for 11 years and for the Youth Leadership Knox County for 3 years and continues to host Ag Day for the two groups. She is a member of the Ag Day committee which hosts the largest Ag Day celebration in the State of Indiana. She has been a member of the Purdue Dean's Advisory Committee and continues her support through local involvement with Purdue Ag Alumni. Susan is an Elder of the Indiana Presbyterian Church.

Susan is part owner/operator of their family farm along with her husband, Mike, and two daughters. They have been practicing continuous no-till for over 23 years. They have hosted numerous soil judging contests and conservation field days as well as many other rural and urban events. The farm has achieved tier 3 CSP status on all their cropping acres. Their farm has been selected to participate in the Conservation Cropping Systems Initiative program. Their goal is to be environmentally friendly and they believe in leaving the land in better shape than they received it. Their farm is their sanctuary. They hope to pass on their passion of agriculture and their love of the land to their daughters and future generations.


2014 Outstanding Alumnus - John "Chris" Layer, BS AE '81

Chris grew up on a farm outside Ithaca, New York and followed his father’s footsteps into Agricultural Engineering. His first job out of college was with Warner Electric (Rockford, Illinois) working on actuation and clutch systems for the Ag Equipment industry. He later moved onto Sundstrand where he designed high performance turbo-machinery, jet engine gearboxes, and hydro-mechanical flight controls for the Aerospace industry.

Since 1988 he has worked at MOOG Inc. outside of Buffalo, New York where he is now both a Principal Engineer and Group Engineering Manager specializing in servo control systems for the Aerospace and Industrial segments. As a Principal Engineer he plays an integral part in developing the company’s innovation strategy and its pursuit of emerging technologies. In his role as Engineering Manager he oversees an engineering organization supporting five business units across more than a dozen sites, both domestic and international. He serves on Moog’s Executive Engineering Team Board of Governors.

Chris has developed unique specialties in hydraulic controls, electro-mechanical actuation, compound planetary gearing and “additive” manufacturing. Over the course of his 25 years at Moog, he has been at the cutting edge of electro-mechanical controls, working on train-tilt systems, active vibration cancellation, gun-turret equilibration, primary flight controls and thrust vector systems. His designs currently are on the Oshkosh Hemtt, Delta IV Rocket, Boeing 787, Airbus A320, Joint Strike Fighter, Virginia Class Submarines and Sikorsky’s S92 Helicopter. Chris currently holds nine patents and is routinely consulted on technical problems worldwide. He has continued his education at the University of Illinois, Cornell University and University of Buffalo.

Chris also runs a consulting business specializing in advanced power transmission technologies and has taught professional and academic courses in gear technology. He has been involved in the designs of transmissions most notably for Segway, Johnson & Johnson, Timken, EZGO, GE, Caterpillar, and Union Switch & Signal.

Chris resides in East Aurora, New York, with his wife Holly (Purdue BS RN ’80); they have 3 grown children. Their son continued the family tradition and graduated with a Purdue degree (MS ME ’06). He will be returning to campus in November for the 2014 College of Agriculture Entrepreneurial event.

2014 Outstanding Alumnus - Daniel Orr, BS FPE '99

Dan started his career at Frito-Lay in Plano, Texas, as a process engineer in Research and Development. His first role was on the Tostito team that accomplished the creation, scale-up, and roll-out of the Tostitos® Scoops™ process. The Scoops process has now been replicated at 8 plants across the US with annual product sales revenue over $0.5B. He transitioned to the Cheetos® Innovation team in the lead role for the development and roll-out of another technically challenging process, Cheetos® Twisted. Dan also led a cross-functional team to deliver the product proposition resulting in the highest-margin Cheetos™ product and “100% incremental” $62MM first-year sales. His R&D career continued to innovation and global leadership roles for Lay’s®, Baked Lay’s®, and the PepsiCo Food Service Vend business.

In 2010 Dan accepted a new role on the new “Total Company Productivity” team as a Senior Manager in Supply Chain Strategy. In this role he has led cross-functional teams focused in marketing, procurement, supply chain, and manufacturing to deliver $13MM productivity savings. He has provided solutions in process automation, inventory reduction, sanitation water, packaging lead time, and obsolescence. Dan provides oversight for productivity ideation and project staffing across manufacturing, go-to-market, marketing, and regional sales.

Dan holds 6 US Patents and was the recipient of the R&D Creativity award in 2001 and two PepsiCo Chairman’s Awards in 2002 and 2003.

Dan currently resides in Dallas, Texas, with his wife, Celina, and their daughter, Phoebe. He holds an MBA from Southern Methodist University and a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt from Accenture’s George Group. In his personal time he has been a substitute teaching leader for Bible Study Fellowship and enjoys ranching, archery, and marathon running. 

2014 Outstanding Alumnus - Lonnie Oxley, BS AE '84

Lonnie grew up on a farm in Pike County in Southwestern Indiana and graduated from Purdue with a B.S. degree in Agricultural Engineering in 1984. He started his career as an engineering intern at Allis Chalmers and, after graduating, joined John Deere- Horicon Works as a design engineer in the mower group in Wisconsin. In 1987 he relocated to Lexington, Kentucky, to be a design engineer for the forklift manufacturer Clark Material Handling Company specializing in LP, gasoline and diesel engine applications. He has resided in the Lexington area ever since.

In 1996 he joined Echlin Engine Systems as a sales application engineer to help develop their start-up industrial engine management system business. In 1998, Lonnie founded his own start-up company, Lonmore, which developed a series of compact mowing/utility equipment. Subsequently, he went back to the forklift industry as a service and design engineer in 2003 at NACCO Material Handling (Hyster & Yale forklifts).

In 2006 Lonnie joined Bucyrus International which was a prominent name where he was raised. Bucyrus-Erie draglines were common features in the skyline around the coalfields in Southwestern Indiana, Kentucky and Illinois years ago. He served as a field engineer for a new blast drill design and eventually became a UT machine inspector for draglines, shovels and drills inspecting some of the same machines he was infatuated with while growing up. Although now, most of these same machines have been relocated to the phosphate mines in Florida, coal mines in Colombia, etc.

Since 2011 Lonnie has rejoined Clark as an Engineering Manager where he is responsible for electric and IC (Internal combustion) forklift and burden carrier products distributed throughout North America.

Lonnie has had the opportunity to work in India, Japan, South Korea, China, Europe, and Latin America. He has 22 patents/pending patents in a wide variety of equipment and recreational categories. He resides in Versailles, Kentucky, with his wife Michelle, 12-year-old son Landon and he has a daughter, Madison, who is a sophomore at the University of Kentucky pursuing a pharmacy degree. He still helps his dad farm a few acres on the homestead in Indiana, and is also staying busy by building a home in Versailles, Kentucky.

2014 Outstanding Alumnus - Karl Weiss, BS AE '92

K.E. (Karl) Weiss is a vice president of Caterpillar, Inc., with responsibility for the Earthmoving Division. Caterpillar’s Earthmoving Division encompasses three product lines and two brands. The products include Mid-sized Track-Type Tractors,
Mid-sized Wheel Loaders, and Motorgraders. The team is responsible for the end-to-end business for these product lines including product development, manufacturing, and support. The Earthmoving business also encompasses the SEM brand of utility products. Earthmoving products are manufactured in the U.S., Europe, Brazil, China, Japan, and Thailand and sold worldwide.

Karl joined Caterpillar as an Engineering Co-op student in 1988. Following graduation from Purdue in 1992, he has had various assignments within product development at Caterpillar’s Decatur, Joliet, and Aurora facilities in Illinois, primarily focused on large machine design. Karl subsequently transferred to Geneva, Switzerland, with Caterpillar Global Mining as an Equipment Management Consultant serving mining customers and dealers in Europe and Africa. He then became the Large Wheel Loader New Product Introduction Manager in Aurora, Illinois. He and his family then moved to Beijing, China, for 4 years where Karl served as the Wheel Loader Product Manager for the Asia Pacific Region. In that role he managed the integration of Shandong Engineering Machinery (SEM) as Caterpillar’s entry into the China WL market. Most recently, Karl was the worldwide product manager for Medium Wheel Loaders in Aurora. In 2013, the Caterpillar Board of Directors named Weiss a vice president in the Earthmoving Division.

Weiss was raised the youngest of 11 children on the family dairy farm near Hagerstown, Indiana. He graduated from Purdue University in 1992 with a Bachelor of Science degree in agricultural engineering. He received an MBA from Northern Illinois University in 1999. While at Purdue, Karl served as president of Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity and was active in the Interfraternity Council. Prior to entering Purdue, Karl served as vice president of the Indiana FFA organization.

Karl is married to Jill (Hofbauer) Weiss and they have two children, Daniel, 16, and Katy, 14. He serves on the Boards of the YMCA of Metro Chicago and the Center for Faith and Human Rights. He also volunteers at Crossroads Christian Church and The Hesed House.

2014 Outstanding Alumnus - Ryan Williams, BS AE '02

Ryan Williams grew up on a central Indiana farm, where he still has a seasonal hand in the operation. That background, combined with his technical aptitude, led him to Purdue’s Agricultural and Biological Engineering program. Ryan received his bachelor’s degree in 2002, specializing in Machine Systems Engineering. He credits the start of his career to his Purdue ABE degree, combined with experience gained through internships at Caterpillar’s Large Engine Center, Oerlikon Fairfield, and DuPont Pioneer.

Ryan began his career with NSK-Corporation, a global manufacturer of bearings and precision machine components. Ryan was responsible for grind process engineering of automotive hub and transmission bearings and tasked with many responsibilities, such as reducing a perishable tooling procurement budget.

In 2004, Rexnord Corporation recruited Ryan for his lean manufacturing experience and bearing manufacturing knowledge. For the first few years of his career with Rexnord, Ryan implemented lean flow concepts, consolidated manufacturing facilities, purchased over $1 million in capital machinery, and managed union and salaried personnel.

Ryan joined Rexnord’s Application Engineering team in 2008 where he held a customer-facing role. He was responsible for conducting training, helping customers select bearings for their applications, troubleshooting problems, and conducting bearing failure analysis. In this role he was able to begin interacting with several agricultural companies on an intimate basis, such as Vermeer, CNH, AGCO, Cargill, ADM, and others.

For the last 3 years Ryan has held the Marketing Manager position for Rexnord’s roller bearing products. He also served as Product Manager for sleeve bearings. This role required Ryan to manage multiple product lines in both the Link-Belt® & Rex® Brands and over $100 million in annual revenue.

Recently, Ryan was offered a position with Allegion™, a $2 Billion spinoff company formerly known as Ingersoll-Rand Security Technologies. He is looking forward to furthering his career with this organization.

Ryan and his wife Lori, also a Purdue graduate, have been married for 10 years. They have two future Boilermakers, Elizabeth (7) and Emily (5). Ryan has been involved with the building of 4 Habitat for Humanity houses and various fundraisers for children such as the Finish Line Youth Foundation’s Bowl for Kids and Walk for Kids.  Ryan enjoys fishing, farming, hunting, many other outdoor activities, and especially spending time with family.  Ryan and his family are actively involved members of Indian Creek Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.


2013 Outstanding ABE Alumni

2013 Outstanding Alumnus - John R. Brubaker, BS AGE '81, MS AGE '91

Krutz, Brubaker, and Engel John grew up in Warren, Indiana.  His first job out of college was as a Service Tool Engineer for Cummins Engine Company, Columbus, in July 1981. Joining the Columbus Jaycees that summer, he eventually served as a board member and held various offices in the local chapter, including president 1987-1988.  He was a Senior Engineer when he took an educational leave of absence August 1989 to pursue his master’s degree with Dr. Gary Krutz, sponsored by Harvey White of White Hydraulics.

Residing in northern Tippecanoe County near Battle Ground, he has been employed by Caterpillar, Inc., since May of 1992 at the Lafayette Large Engine Center in the Gas Engine Product Group.   His initial work responsibility was Core Component Engineer (cylinder head, cylinder liner, cylinder block, piston, etc.) for the G3600 family of natural gas engines. Next, he held a position of G3600 Performance Engineer, where he developed custom engine ratings.  As a Project Engineer he worked to develop a Gas Engine Emission Technology Strategy.  He became a 6 Sigma Black Belt in 2004 leading product development teams for such things as a landfill/bio gas engine, increased stroke of certain engine models, and a hydraulic lash adjuster.  Currently, he develops new engine technologies to the point of market introduction on new and current platforms.

His community activities include: Toastmaster’s International (1997 – 2004); ABE senior design project Review Panel member at the planning, mid-year, and final stages; John Purdue Club member supporting Purdue Athletics (1987 to present) and a season-ticket holder for football, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, and volleyball; and a President’s Council member since 1995. Occasionally, John runs in 5K races for various charities.

2013 Outstanding Alumnus - Douglas E. Dawes, BS AGE '81

Krutz and DawesDoug Dawes was raised on a farm in Wabash County in Northern Indiana, and graduated from Purdue with B.S. degree in Agricultural Engineering in 1981.  Doug joined Cummins Inc. in Columbus, Indiana after graduation and has enjoyed a 30+ year career with Cummins.

He currently lives and works in Beijing where he is the Director of Quality and Service for Cummins Components Business Unit in China.  This group of Cummins subsidiaries and joint ventures designs and manufactures engine components and emission control systems for the domestic market in 6 locations around China. 

During his career Doug has worked in Product Development (diesel fuel injection systems), Service Engineering, Quality Management, and International Service Management roles. 

He and his family have lived abroad during 3 expatriate assignments, previously living in Singapore and China for 7 years before returning to China in April 2012 for his current role.  Doug has been a Boy Scout leader, County Purdue Club leader, and served in various roles for local churches. He is married (wife Lore) with 2 daughters, Emily and Kristen – all Purdue graduates.  He enjoys sports, fishing and gardening.

2013 Outstanding Alumnus - Bradley S. Fife, BS ASM '95

Brad FifeBrad is a native of Galveston, Indiana, and a 1995 graduate from Purdue University with a BS in Ag Systems Management. After graduating from Purdue, Brad accepted a position with L.B. White as a Regional Sales Manager where he worked for a year prior to joining John Deere. 

In 1996 Brad began his career with John Deere and has served in positions of increasing importance. His first assignment with John Deere was Territory Aftermarket Manager in Pittsburgh, PA.  In 1999, he moved to Dallas, Texas, to serve as Territory Manager and then in 2002 he accepted the position of Dealer Development Manager, remaining in Dallas.  Brad moved to Springfield, Missouri, in 2005 to serve as Sales and Marketing Manager for John Deere Reman. In 2007, he accepted the position of Branch Customer Support Manager in Atlanta, Georgia, and then in 2009 he relocated to Indianapolis, Indiana, to assume his current position of Division Sales Manager.

As Division Sales Manager for the Agriculture and Turf Division of John Deere, Brad has responsibility for five Territory Managers in Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio, as well as two product specialists.  Brad and his team work with John Deere dealers to grow sales and market share of John Deere agriculture and turf products.  They also work with these dealers to improve their profitability, succession planning, and transitioning in and out of the John Deere business.

In addition to his regular work at John Deere, Brad is involved with recruiting for John Deere at Purdue and often gets the opportunity to speak to classes in the Agricultural & Biological Engineering Department about John Deere products and his career experiences.  Brad is actively involved with the FFA and serves annually as a judge at both the state and national levels.  Brad is an avid Purdue sports fan and enjoys watching football games at Ross-Ade with his wife and daughter.

2013 Outstanding Alumna - Cynthia A. McCracken, BS FPE '00

Okos, McCracken, and EngelCindy started her career at Tate + Lyle, a corn processor, in Lafayette, Indiana, as a refinery process engineer. At Tate + Lyle, Cindy was responsible for refinery process optimization and capital projects including a $2 million waste treatment expansion and automation. 

Upon her husband’s graduation from Purdue, Cindy relocated to Houston and took a technical service engineer position with Genencor International, a biotech company, in their grain processing division.  She was responsible for servicing corn processors including Corn Products Intl., Archer Daniels Midland, Roquette, and her previous employer, Tate + Lyle.  As a technical service engineer, Cindy traveled to plants in North and South America and Europe assisting customers with enzyme usage.  She was promoted to global sales account manager with responsibility for the sales, technical service, lab studies, and contract management of a key global customer. 

In 2010, Cindy was promoted to key account director at Danisco (formerly Genecor).   In this role, she manages a cross-functional account team and is responsible for global customer activities including identifying and facilitating research projects.  Danisco was acquired by DuPont where Cindy continues in her role as key account director in DuPont’s Industrial Bioscience division.  Cindy was awarded a DuPont Sales Excellence Award for her leadership in customer management. 

Cindy is married to Michael McCracken, also a Purdue alum.  They have two little girls, ages 6 and 4.  She enjoys traveling and spending time with family and friends.  Cindy and her husband are active at their church and lead a teen Bible quizzing ministry and a small group study.

2013 Outstanding Alumnus - Kevin Richman, BS AGE '82

Kevin RichmanKevin started his career with International Harvester Company in January, 1980, as part of the Purdue Cooperative program and spent 3 semesters at the Hinsdale, IL, engineering center, assigned to planter design and evaluation. In 1985 he moved into the Cotton Harvesting development group and by 1991, he was promoted to Chief Engineer of that same product team. The entire engineering team was relocated to the E. Moline manufacturing plant in 1992 and remained there until the facility was closed in 2004. In 1999, Kevin was asked to be the Technical leader for a CaseIH Joint Venture in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, where several products were being localized, primarily a small cotton picker, since cotton was the main agricultural export at that time, along with mid-sized tractors and planters. In this position he was responsible for evaluating local/regional suppliers and their ability to provide components that meet the very strict requirements of the CaseIH products and wholegoods. After this 2-year International assignment, Kevin returned to the U.S. and accepted a position as global marketing for CNH Cotton Harvesting Eq., located at E. Moline and then later transferring to New Holland, PA. From 2004 through 2008, Kevin was responsible for all New Product development for the cotton team, located at New Holland and Benson, MN.

Since 2008, Kevin has been a Product Category Manager for CNH Global, responsible for the strategic range plan for crop production equipment and hay and forage. One of the main functions of this position involves coordination of product development programs with the Case IH and New Holland commercial organizations. He has spent his career with Case IH both in domestic and international situations, within product development, manufacturing, product support, and global marketing of cotton-harvesting equipment.

Growing up on a grain and livestock farm near Fargo, North Dakota, gave Kevin a working knowledge of machinery related to small-grain and livestock feed farming. He has worked in Australia, China, Uzbekistan, Mexico, and areas in Latin America, making his wide knowledge of farming practices a valuable asset.

Kevin currently holds 19 US patents related to cotton equipment with 10 additional submissions pending.

2013 Outstanding Alumnus - Ronald H. Thieme, BS ASM '83, MS ASM '84, PhD ABE '87

Ron ThiemeRon graduated from Purdue with undergraduate (BS ’83, ASM and Ag Econ) and graduate (MS ’85, ASM; PhD ‘87 ABE) degrees. Since then he has put his Purdue education to work for over 25 years in creating teams, leading organizations, and providing business results. He has served as company Chief Executive Officer, President, Chief Information Officer, and Co-Founder with extensive experience in creating and implementing strategy, building organizations, implementing and overseeing technology programs, and administering budgets. Ron is a successful entrepreneur who created a value proposition; built a company; and rallied support from employees, funding agencies, and clients. He has considerable experience working within and consulting to businesses of all sizes, and is actively involved in healthcare and life sciences leadership and governance.

Dr. Thieme most recently served as President and CEO of AIT Laboratories, a national provider of clinical tests that has achieved numerous accolades for its business success and company culture. In his role as CEO and earlier as Vice President, CIO, and member of the executive team, Ron helped grow revenue 425% over 4 years, transition company ownership to the employees, launch new product offerings, and establish reseller and business development partners. He developed and led public policy efforts to influence education, payment, and healthcare policy issues at the national level, and formed an industry coalition to educate policy makers and legislators on the value of laboratory drug testing. He championed executive team development using systems thinking and organizational learning concepts.

Prior to AIT Dr. Thieme served as a business and technology consultant, advising firms in the life sciences, financial, and logistics sectors. His focus has been to ensure that company strategy, organizational structures, and technology drivers are aligned to create tangible business benefits. Ron’s clients included outstanding organizations such as Purdue University, John Deere Financial, Zimmer, and Delta Air Lines. He worked with numerous executive teams to develop strategy, transform organizations, and create effective working relationships. He also co-founded, managed, and ultimately sold Cambient, a successful business and IT consulting company.

Dr. Thieme is a graduate of the Society for Information Management’s Leadership Development Forum. He is a member of SIM, and has served as president of the SIM Indy Chapter. He currently serves on the board of directors of Community Health Network (one of the largest healthcare delivery organizations in Indiana) and the Foundation for Lutheran Child & Family Services. He credits his Purdue education with giving him the broad education needed to work in many industries and many roles.

2012 Outstanding ABE Alumni, Outstanding Service

2012 Outstanding Alumnus - Johann (Joe) R. Garwood, BS AGE '78

While Joe was in his sophomore year at Purdue, a family member was involved in a tragic plane accident that resulted in his accepting the challenges of a full-time farming operation. Upon graduation, he joined DuPont’s Agricultural Products Division and remained with them for 21 years.  At the height of his career, the CEO awarded him with DuPont’s highest recognition for Corporate Marketing Excellence.   Recognizing a need, he created and led the development and implementation of a unique, single-source supplier strategy. This multi-year effort (subsequently trade named FarmCare) became the flagship for DuPont’s Ag Business end user marketing efforts, requiring cross-functional coordination between Legal, Marketing, Sales, Advertising and Finance.  His continuous efforts to grow DuPont’s Ag Business qualified him for global variable compensation (offered to a select few individuals within each strategic business unit who have significantly contributed new revenue, cost savings, and paved the way for long-term growth).  His entrepreneurial desires were satisfied in 1999 when he made the leap into private business. 

Today, he and his partners are successful independent oil producers in Oklahoma with their base of operations near Dallas, Texas.  Joe’s corporate responsibilities include all back office functions, finance, and strategic planning.  He and his wife Lisa live in Morrow, Ohio, near Cincinnati.

2012 Outstanding Alumnus - Dennis A. Kim, MS BFPE '00

Dennis currently holds the title of Senior Associate Principal Engineer in the Ingredient and Process Research Department at Kraft Foods, Inc. During his undergraduate years at Purdue, he served as an Engineering Co-op student with the USDA and, upon graduation, held an R&D internship with Kraft Foods. Following his passion for research, Dennis returned to Purdue as a graduate student with Dr. Narsimhan to work on understanding the physical chemistry of globular proteins on their interfacial properties.

While Dennis was completing his Master’s  degree , he was recognized for his creative thinking and following the completion of that degree, he returned to Kraft Foods and continues to develop his talents as he leads internal teams and collaborates with research institutions and suppliers. Dennis has maintained a strong link with academia by chairing various sessions at conferences, publishing numerous journal  articles and a book chapter—“Ethylcellulose-oleogels,” in Edible Oleogels.

Dennis has focused most of his research on lipids and emulsifiers and his work at Kraft has resulted in the granting of six patents and one pending patent application. He has led efforts to develop ingredient technologies based on sound food physical chemistry, resulting in the creation of new products, as well as improvements in the nutrition, quality, and productivity of ingredients and processes within North America and around the world.

He helps mentor junior scientists and engineers and serves on the Agricultural & Biological Engineering Advisory Board and is the incoming chair of the Edible Applications Technology Division of American Oil Chemists’ Society.

Dennis is a proud father of two (Abigail and Alexander) and a grateful husband (Jeanne).

2012 Outstanding Alumnus - Reid Waitt, BS ASM '81

Since 2008, Reid has been General Manager of the Compact Construction Equipment (CCE) Business for Caterpillar’s Building Construction Products Division in Cary, North Carolina. As General Manager, he leads a global team including strategic product planning, design engineering, manufacturing operations, and product support responsibilities.

Reid began his career at Caterpillar in 1988 as a machine designer and was a technical contributor for the company during the first 15 years of his career. He is an experienced product developer and serves in roles including product design, performance analysis, and hydraulic system design. Reid is listed as an inventor on a number of patents for Caterpillar’s Skid Steer Loader and has been the New Product Introduction (NPI) leader on many CCE products.

Before being named CCE General Manager, Reid was the Managing Director for Turner Powertrain Systems, a Caterpillar company located in Wolverhampton, England. Turner designs and manufactures mechanical transmission for Caterpillar and other OEM customers for applications in Backhoe Loaders and Telehandler machines, among other products. Reid also served as Caterpillar’s Hydraulic Valve and System Product Manager (Joliet, Illinois) from 2002 to 2004.

Understanding the value of lifelong learning, Reid has studied at Bradley University, Peoria, Illinois, and North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina, in addition to Purdue’s mechanical engineering program. He also completed the Sanford University Executive Education Program in Palo Alto, California, in 2005.

2012 Outstanding Alumnus - Amos Wu, PhD BE '82

Dr. Rei-young Amos Wu (Amos) is a proud alumnus of ABE.  He received his Ph. D. degree specializing in Food/Biochemical Engineering under the direction of Professor Martin Okos. Amos began work at The Quaker Oats Company in late 1981. He advanced up the technical ladder, becoming a Capability Leader B2/Technical Director in 1999. He is the second person ever to assume this top technical position in Quaker/PepsiCo. Early last year, Amos took on further management responsibility and assumed his current position as Senior Director, Engineering Technology of PepsiCo North America Beverages.

Amos is well respected by his colleagues and has won many awards at the departmental, divisional, and companywide levels; most notably - the PepsiCo Chairman’s Award in 2008, the Supply Chain Leadership Awards in 2005. Amos is highly innovative and productive. In his R&D days, he was responsible for development of new processes and products for a plurality of snacks, cereals, rice/pasta side-dishes, breakfast syrups, baked goods, canned foods, frozen foods items as well as hot-filled and chilled beverages.  Currently, he is mainly accountable for implementing new beverage processing/equipment and resources sustainability technologies through interfacing with technical resources internal and external to PepsiCo.

Amos has been a driving force for the evolution and development of manufacturing process for beneficial consumer foods and beverage products. As of today, he is the author of 8 and the co-author of another 7 U.S. Patents in the processing and formulation of foods and beverages. In addition, he has several international and pending U.S. patents. Amos also has published two professional papers. He is a professional member of several trade societies including Institute of Food Technology (IFT), Chinese American Food Society (CAFS), and American Institute of Chemical Engineer (AICHE). Amos serves as an Industry Advisor for Center for Advanced Process and Packaging Society (CAPPS) since 2009. He served on the Purdue Engineering Alumni Association Board from 2004 to 2006 and on the Industrial Sponsors Board for the National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center (ERC) where Purdue is one of the four University-Sites from 2006 to 2009. He has been an Executive Member for the CAFS for many years and served as the president of CAFS in 1999-2000. Amos serves on the PepsiCo Senior Technical Advisory Committee (STAC) since 2007.  He also served on the Chicago QTG Diversity and Inclusion Steering Committee from 2000 to 2009 and is a sponsor for employee resource group PAN (PepsiCo Asian Network). Additionally, Amos is a career mentor and on the Ph.D. dissertation advisory committee for another co-worker.

In his free time, Amos enjoys traveling, learning different cultures, bicycling, fishing, and tending his pet cockatiels and doing yard work.  He is happily married; he and his wife Shau-ling have three grown daughters.  Interestingly, his oldest daughter was born while he was a graduate student at Purdue and now she is practicing medicine as “Dr. Wu”.

2012 Outstanding Service - Brian Pree, ADM

A graduate of Iroquois West High School (Gilman, Illinois) and Joliet Junior College (AS in Agricultural Science ‘94), Brian has served as the Purdue University Campus Champion for ADM since 2003.

Brian joined ADM as a Grain Terminal Operations Trainee in 1994 and has held many other positions as well: River Terminal Superintendent, Rail Terminal Superintendent, Regional Safety Superintendent, Regional Operations Superintendent, and Divisional Mentoring Program Coordinator. In these rolls, he has accepted responsibility for many varied tasks, including facility operations, safety, maintenance, personnel., injury investigations, capital projects, facility efficiencies, and day-to-day operations As Rail Terminal Superintendent, he was responsible for overseeing the $5 million renovation of a facility that had sustained damage from a fire.

Brian has been instrumental in the launch of the Mentoring Program that ensures new ADM hires have the tools necessary to be successful. He will be evaluating the training process, the locations for training, and analyzing feedback from the trainees.

Since 2005, ADM has hired 40 Purdue graduates in the Operations Trainee Program, 13 as Commodity Merchandising Trainees, and 9 as Engineering Trainees. As a company, ADM hosts 180 interns per year.

Brian is married to Sarah, and they have two children: Allie (11), and Jackson (9). They enjoy outdoor activities as a family

2011 Outstanding ABE Alumni

2011 Outstanding Alumnus - Edwin Bahler (BS AGE '79)

Ed Bahler Ed's connection with Purdue’s Ag Engineering school originated with his father, Ed Sr.  As a young teenager in the early 70’s he would come to campus with his father as he consulted with professors Al Dale and Bill Friday. He never considered attending college anywhere else.

His father was a passionate learner and in many ways a transformational figure. He loved his days at Purdue, did quite well, and, as a result, graduated with many options.  However, instead of grad school, he went back home to join four other family members to continue his father's legacy.  With the help of Purdue, and his engineering degree, FBi became one of the top five companies in their industry, employing over 350 team members. Because of Ed Sr.'s heart for church work they have built many church facilities. That niche market eventually grew into a separate business unit branded as Aspen Group in 2003. Aspen is one of the premier church architecture and construction management firms in the Midwest today.

2011 Outstanding Alumnus - Jonathan Landes (BS AGE '95)

Jonathan Landes Jon joined IMI Severe Service in Dec 2009 from Dresser where he was the Vice President of Sales, Marketing, Product Line Management, and Aftermarket.  Former positions also include various management roles with GE and Caterpillar. At IMI Severe Service, Jon has responsibility in leading new product development, marketing, sales operations, and M&A.  Jon holds BS and MS degrees in Agricultural Engineering from Purdue University and an MBA from Notre Dame.

IMI plc is a FTSE 100 company traded on the London stock exchange.  IMI has a market capitalization of over $5 billion.

2011 Outstanding Alumna - Rebecca Thompson (BS AGE '93)

Becky Thompson Becky began her career in 1993 at Campbell Soup Company in thermal process development for the US and international markets.  In 1997, Becky moved to Battle Creek, Michigan with the Kellogg Company.  At Kellogg, Becky has filled various roles in engineering, R&D management, and international R&D; however, the bulk of her Kellogg career has been in project management.  Becky and her team of project managers launched new product introductions in the US and Canada for Kellogg and Kashi brands in cereal, Pop Tarts, drinks and fruit snacks between 2003 – 2009.  Today Becky is a global program director for the Kellogg Company, coordinating the effective global deployment of innovation and renovation projects and chairing a council of peers who set the global strategy for the project management function and processes at Kellogg.

Becky received the President’s Award from Campbell Soup Company as part of the team who extended V8 juice to plastic bottles. At Kellogg, she received the Functional Excellence award and the W.K. Kellogg Values award for her management of programs in global project management software servers and North American product renovations, respectively.  As part of the United Way leadership team, Becky co-led the research and engineering divisions at Kellogg to their largest pledges ever.  In recognition of the entire company’s performance, the United Way named the Kellogg Company its 2010 Spirit of America award winner, the highest national honor given by United Way. Becky is active in her church and in growing her faith, volunteers with her daughter’s Girl Scout troop, and returns to Purdue periodically as a part of ABE advisory council meetings and to root for the Boilermakers in sports events.

Becky credits Agricultural and Biological Engineering for her technical expertise and a passion for discovery which has opened so many doors.  She credits her leadership experiences through Purdue and the College of Agriculture for her belief in the power of great teamwork.  Becky is a third generation graduate of Purdue’s College of Agriculture, and lives in Battle Creek, Michigan with her family.

2011 Outstanding Alumnus - Brian Vorst (BS AGE '93)

Brian VorstBorn in Lafayette Indiana, Brian and his wife, Beth, have been married for 17 years and have 3 children: Kierstin, 11, Nicole 7, and Rachel 4.  The couple owns several businesses and Brian serves in several capacities:

President of Azland, Inc, a manufacturer of equipment for the Agricultural, Construction, Marine and Recreation Industries. Azland primarily focuses on the Agricultural industry by providing Anhydrous Running Gears, Fuel Trailers, Seed Tenders, Tool Bars and Water Trailers.  While Azland has products in many states, most products are shipped and utilized within Indiana and the adjoining states.

President of Echo-Pac, Inc., a design and testing company. Echo-Pac’s primary function is to provide label validations for Post-Consumer Recycled content (PCR), and safety for validation of toxins and migrants coming out of packaging materials into food and medical products.  Echo-Pac also provides design and packaging services and works with companies to reduce packaging costs and their associated carbon footprint.  Furthermore, Echo-Pac provides expert witnesses for court cases and has been utilized by the U. S. Department of Justice.

Vice President of Nicon, a Sand-blasting and Powder Coating company. Nicon specializes in providing powder coated parts to the agriculture, construction, marine, racing, recreational and transportation industries. 

Engineering Sales Manager for ProAxis, Inc.  ProAxis is a metal fabrication company that provides manufactured parts for the agricultural, construction, medical, pharmaceutical, recreation, telecommunications and transportation industries.  ProAxis strives to be a one-stop fabricator for its customers. ProAxis has a wide range of fabricating capabilities from machining centers to flat & tube lasers to robotic welders. ProAxis has the ability to design in 3D and analyze designs utilizing Finite Element Analysis (FEA) software.

President of Vorst Technologies, LLC., a real estate, farm and leasing company.  Vorst Technologies manages and operates the family farm and leases equipment and real estate.

Brian enjoys riding ATVs, boating, camping, model trains, snowmobiling, playing the piano, traveling and providing technical consulting for IT, whole-house audio and video, and security and surveillance systems.

2010 Outstanding Alumni - Michael Cox, Brad Meyerholtz, Mark Zeltwanger

2009 Outstanding Alumni - Jeffrey F. Birkel, Ryan D. Howard, Gary A. Michel

2008 Outstanding Alumni - Dr. Charles Spillman, Dr. Michael Veenhuizen

2007 Outstanding Alumni - Del Botcher, Jason Shonk, Ernest Streicher, Edward Vondell

2006 Outstanding Alumni - Tetuo Hara, Terry Brown; 2006 Outstanding Service - R. John Rodgers

2005 Outstanding Alumni - Scott Benko, W. Douglas Griffin, Stanley Morton, Dr. Leroy Pickett; 2005 Outstanding Service - Robert Marlow, Dr. David Waits

2004 Outstanding Alumni/Alumnae - Thomas Burke, Michael R. Duncan, C. Gene Haugh, Otto Loewer, Melcy Curth Pond, John Rettinger; 2004 Outstanding Service - William Friday

2003 Outstanding Alumni - Joseph K. Boddiford, Jr., Yael Edan, Mauri Fortes, Levon L. Mathews, David W. Smith, William C. Werner; 2003 Outstanding Service - David L. Daughtery

2002 Outstanding Alumni/Alumnae - Kevin L. Eikenberry, Jane L. Lavey, Evandro C. Mantovani, Michael E. Massone, Lyle F. Stephens; 2002 Outstanding Service - Duane M. Crockrom, Lawrence F. Schrader

2001 Outstanding Alumni - David B. Beasley, Donald M. Edwards, Ted S. Macy, Kurt Waananen, Philip J. Wegh; 2001 Outstanding Service - Larry R. Cline, Alvin C. Dale

2000 Outstanding Alumni/Alumnae - John C. Nye, Gerald A. Powell, Dale D. Reed, Katherine P. Wettschurack, Larry R. Wettschurack; 2000 Outstanding Service - Hubert B. VanHolten

1999 Outstanding Alumni - Marvin Joray, Bruce McKenzie, Matthew Reynolds, Harold Schramm, Larry Segerlind, Harmon Towne; 1999 Outstanding Service - Tom Bechman

1998 Outstanding Alumni - William Carteaux, John Greiner, W. David Shoup; 1998 Outstanding Service - Gerald W. Isaacs, Harvey C. White, Clarence B. Richey