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May 10, 2024

Honoring alumni for outstanding contributions

MSU Engineering presents top recognitions

Professional Headshot of Alumni Awards
Honored at the 2024 MSU Engineering Alumni Awards celebration were (from left) David Spalding, Holly Bowers, Rachel Hutter, Kathryn Kithas Stewart, Chad Steiner, Dean Leo Kempel, Charles Severance, Lizette Chevalier, Lynn Frostman and William Ramsell.

The Michigan State University College of Engineering honored eight distinguished graduates with 2024 Alumni Awards on Saturday, April 27, at the Kellogg Conference Center in East Lansing, Michigan. The alumni were honored for their significant achievements and outstanding contributions as leaders in computer science, education, entertainment, finance, manufacturing, and environmental sustainability.

The college also recognized a high school educator whose noteworthy efforts to teach technical education, mathematics and computer science reflect positively on the university and the college. This educator was nominated by an MSU engineering student as someone who inspired them to further their career.

MSU College of Engineering Dean Leo Kempel looks forward to celebrating honorees each spring, noting their dedication helps future generations align with the college’s mission to create a safer, healthier, more productive, and sustainable world.

“Congratulations to all of these esteemed recipients who are leaders in their career fields and communities,” Kempel said. “You have created legacies that will inspire our students, staff and faculty for years to come.”

A look at the honorees:

Claud R. Erickson Distinguished Alumni Award
Rachel S. Hutter, PE, CSP
BS, 1993
Electrical Engineering

Rachel Hutter and Dean Leo Kempel
Rachel Hutter and Dean Leo Kempel

The head of studio operations at Walt Disney Studios is this year’s recipient of the Claud R. Erickson Distinguished Alumni Award. The award is the college’s top alumni honor and recognizes professional accomplishment, volunteer participation, and distinguished service to the college and engineering profession.

Hutter is a licensed professional engineer and certified safety professional. She joined Disney in 1997 and was part of the team that built and opened Disney’s Animal Kingdom. She led technical organizations within the parks division for 25 years leaving as the Senior Vice President of Worldwide Safety, Health, Engineering and Sourcing. During that time, Hutter was charged with providing visionary leadership to ensure the health and safety of 157 million guests and 145,000 cast members including leading Safety and Health aspects of Covid response for the Walt Disney Company.

Hutter’s responsibilities include planning and tracking content for Marvel, Lucasfilm, Disney Live-Action, Disney Animation, Pixar, 20th Century Studios and Searchlight Pictures.

She previously held an Attractions Engineering Services and Quality Assurance role at Disney and was also part of a team responsible for ensuring the safety, operability and maintainability of new Disney resorts around the world. She designed and patented a Disney ride safety system used worldwide.

Hutter was charged with providing visionary leadership to ensure the health and safety of 157 million guests and 145,000 cast members.

She graduated from Michigan State University in 1993 with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and had a concentration in theater. She held roles early in her career with the U.S. Veterans Administration, General Motors, General Mills, and Rockwell Automation. Hutter resides in California.

As part of the Erickson Award honor, Hutter presented the keynote address to Spartan Engineers during the 2024 Undergraduate Engineering Spring Commencement on Sunday, April 28, at the Jack Breslin Student Events Center.

Applied Engineering Sciences Distinguished Alumni Award
Chad B. Steiner
BS, 1993
Applied Engineering Sciences

Steiner is president of North America Packaging and Graphics at Sun Chemical Corp. in Midland, Michigan. He was recently promoted from his position as vice president of U.S. sales and customer technical services at Sun Chemical. He was previously global commercial director for Dow Chemical Company in Midland, Michigan.

Steiner served on the Flexible Packaging Association’s Emerging Leaders Board for two years and has been involved in several civic activities supporting the United Way of Midland County. He served as chair of Dow employees’ United Way campaign and also served on Shelterhouse’s Board of Directors. Shelterhouse is an agency providing emergency shelter, counseling, and advocacy to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in Midland and Gladwin counties.

Steiner met his wife, Deborah A. Steiner, during his sophomore year at MSU when they both lived in Holmes Hall on the east side of campus.

Deborah Steiner earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at MSU and graduated in 1992. The couple married at MSU’s Alumni Memorial Chapel in 1995. Following Chad Steiner’s time in the College of Engineering studying AES, he earned a master’s degree from MSU’s Eli Broad Graduate School of Management in 1995.

Chad Steiner served on MSU’s Applied Engineering Sciences Alumni Advisory Board for two years.

Steiner and his wife live in Midland, Michigan, and are avid hikers and have logged countless miles in the Red Rock Wilderness Area in Sedona, Arizona, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Grand Teton National Park and several other outdoor recreation treasures. The Steiners have three children – Alexandria, Nicklaus and Kaley.

The Applied Engineering Sciences Distinguished Alumni Award was established in 2004. Recipients must have a distinguished career, evidenced by significant accomplishments; possess high standards of integrity that positively reflect on the college and the university; be recognized for leadership in the community; and demonstrate support of the Applied Engineering Sciences program (formerly Engineering Arts), the College of Engineering, and/or MSU. The winner is selected by the Applied Engineering Sciences alumni advisory board.

Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering Distinguished Alumni Award
Holly Bowers
BS, 1998
Biosystems & Agricultural Engineering

Bowers serves as Consumers Energy’s vice president of gas engineering and supply. She is responsible for engineering and planning the company’s natural gas transmission and distribution systems, and for natural gas supply.

Bowers also oversees natural gas pipeline integrity, natural gas metering and regulation, natural gas transmission, compression, storage, and natural gas control. She has more than 25 years of industry experience to lead maintaining, upgrading and expanding the company’s natural gas delivery systems.

Bowers is leading the transformation of the network for a cleaner future through a focus on methane emission reduction through asset management, technology and the development of renewable natural gas. Through this focus, Consumers Energy is on track to achieve net zero for scope 1 emissions by 2030.

Bowers previously served as Consumers Energy’s executive director of operations compliance and controls and joined the company in 1998 as a gas distribution engineer. She is a member of Michigan State University’s Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering Industry Advisory Board and the Michigan 811 MISS DIG Board of Directors. The MISS DIG Board promotes safe digging practices.

Early in her career at Consumers Energy, Bowers held several leadership positions. They included southwest gas operations and construction manager, director of economic portfolio management, and gas distribution pipeline engineering lead.

In 2017, Bowers was named one of the “Top 40 Innovators in the Nation” by Public Utilities Fortnightly. Bowers earned a bachelor’s degree from MSU in biosystems engineering in 1998 with an environmental specialization. She also holds a master’s degree in business administration from Baker College.

Bowers resides in Jackson, Michigan with her husband, Tim Bowers.

Established in 2004, the BAE Distinguished Alumni Award is given to an alumnus or alumna who has distinguished himself/herself as a leader in the biological/agricultural engineering profession through professional contributions, public service, and personal accomplishments. Alumni who graduated at least 10 years ago with an undergraduate and/or graduate degree are considered.

Red Cedar Circle Award in Chemical Engineering and Materials Science
Dr. Lynn M. Frostman
BS, 1990
Chemical Engineering

Frostman is vice president of sustainability and corporate social responsibility at Syzygy Plasmonics. She develops and implements Syzygy’s strategy on safety, sustainability, diversity, equity and inclusion, organizational development, community engagement, and corporate governance. She previously served as Syzygy’s vice president of engineering, leading a team developing novel photocatalytic reactors that electrify the manufacturing of chemicals, fuels and fertilizers, thereby reducing both cost and emissions.

She started her career at Baker Hughes and progressed through various functional roles, including leading technology teams on the global and regional levels. Frostman later transitioned to Newpark Fluids Systems, where she served as senior vice president of research and development. She was accountable for product commercialization, applied engineering and digital initiatives.

An advocate for developing women in STEM roles, Frostman currently serves as chair of the External Advisory Board for the Chemical Engineering & Materials Science Department at the University of Minnesota, and as a member of the Pearland Innovation Hub Advisory Board.

Frostman recently joined the MSU College of Engineering’s Alumni Board. She received her bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from MSU in 1990 as a member of the Honors College. While Frostman was a student, she spent three years as a professorial assistant and was also active in Tower Guard, Tau Beta Pi, the Mortar Board Honor Societies, and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers’ MSU Chapter.

Frostman and her husband, Dr. Michael ZumMallen, served from 2022 to 2023 on the Spartan Parent Ambassador Council, and have established the Frostman and ZumMallen Endowed Scholarship in the MSU College of Engineering. They have two children and live in Sugarland, Texas.

Initiated in 2000, the Red Cedar Circle Award recognizes MSU Chemical Engineering and Materials Science alumni for their distinguished service to the profession and outstanding commitment to the community. The Red Cedar River, which passes through the center of the MSU campus, is a favorite gathering place. This award is named in recognition of the importance of this landmark to MSU alumni.

Civil and Environmental Engineering Distinguished Alumni Award
Dr. Lizette R. Chevalier
Ph.D., 1994
MS, 1990
Civil Engineering

Chevalier has more than 30 years of experience in higher education and a career with demonstrated marked achievements in teaching, research, scholarship, service, leadership, and administration. She is currently Dean of the Dr. Robert A. Savoie College of Engineering at the University of New Orleans and the Freeport-McMoRan Chair in Environmental Modeling.

Her research and teaching have aligned with national and global issues in water resources engineering, environmental engineering, and engineering education. She has expertise in several areas including fate, transport, groundwater hydrology, and the remediation of contaminants in soil, air, and water.

One of Chevalier’s notable achievements is a collaborative interdisciplinary grant on watershed science and policy that spanned research on the Cache River, the Atchafalaya, the Yangtze, and the Tisza watersheds. She has been published in more than 40 peer-reviewed papers featured in journals and conferences.

Chevalier has participated in committees for the National Science Foundation, the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and several professional societies. She has provided faculty leadership for a group of students building a bridge culvert in Honduras for the Engineers Without Borders Program. She also has served on the board of Specialized Equine Services, a non-profit organization serving disabled children and veterans.

Chevalier earned her Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering from MSU in 1994 and master’s degree in 1990. During her time as a MSU student, she was a Dean’s Distinguished Fellow in Engineering, a graduate research assistant, a numerical methods instructor, and a General Electric Fellow. She also served as a graduate intern engineer at General Motors in Warren, Michigan.

Recipients of the CEE Distinguished Alumni Award must be graduates of the department; national leaders in their profession; contributors to the department, the college, or the university in some meaningful way; and community leaders whose actions reflect favorably on MSU. Nominations are made by faculty, alumni, and other supporters of the department. The department’s professional advisory board selects the winner.

Computer Science and Engineering Distinguished Alumni Award
Dr. Charles R. Severance
Ph.D., 1996
MS, 1990
BS, 1984
Computer Science

Severance is a long-time advocate for open-source educational technology and resources to empower teachers. He is a clinical professor for the University of Michigan’s School of Information and a founding faculty member of the Informatics Concentration.

He teaches several online courses, including “Python for Everybody,” one of the most popular online program courses in the world.

Severance is also chair of the Sakai Project Management Committee (PMC). He was previously executive director of the Sakai Foundation and chief architect of the Sakai project. He also has experience with the IMS Global Learning Consortium and its promotion and development of Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) for teaching and learning technology.

Severance was the editor of the “Computing Conversations” column in the IEEE Computer Magazine from 2011-17 that featured monthly interviews with computing pioneers. He has written several books, including "Using the Google App Engine," "Python for Everybody," "Sakai: Building an Open-Source Community,” and “High Performance Computing.” Severance produces a podcast on privacy at LearnerPrivacy.org.

Severance has co-hosted several TV shows including “Nuthin but Net,” produced by MediaOne. He also is involved in a nationally televised program about the internet called “Internet: TCI,” considered the first TV show dedicated to the internet.

For more than 10 years, he served as an internet and technology expert for a live call-in radio program on WKAR, a public station serving MSU and the surrounding East Lansing community.

He has bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. degrees in computer science from MSU and enjoys several hobbies including auto racing, off-road motorcycle riding, karaoke, and hockey.

Established in 2004, the CSE Distinguished Alumni Award recognizes an alumnus or alumna who has distinguished himself/herself as a leader in the computer science and engineering profession through professional contributions, public service, and personal accomplishments. Nominations are made by faculty, alumni, and other supporters of the department. The winner is selected by the department chairperson and advisory committee.

John D. Ryder Electrical and Computer Engineering Alumni Award
Kathryn Kithas Stewart
BS, 1980
Electrical Engineering

Stewart is the founding and managing partner of Cranbrook Capital. The firm manages a crossover fund that invests in early stage private and public equity with a focus on technology.

She was recently honored as one of DCA Live’s Power Women of DC Tech, which recognizes dynamic professionals in the Washington, D.C., area. Notable Cranbrook Capital investments and exits include HomeSnap (CoStar), Canvas (K1 Capital), FanDuel (Flutter), AppHarvest (APPH), CircleUp, Huntress, and Passive Capital Management.

Stewart is on the board of Passive Capital Management, a Baltimore-based investment firm, and active with Wharton’s Entrepreneurship Program at the University of Pennsylvania.

Stewart also serves on business advisory boards at the University of Maryland. Previously, she was managing director at Alex. Brown and held a post-acquisition role at Deutsche Bank in institutional equity sales. She is also a committee member of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory-Tech Commercialization Panel.

She currently serves on the Board of the Washington Episcopal School and is a past Board Member at the Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart, where she currently sits on the Finance and Investment Committee.

Preceding Alex. Brown, Stewart was an electrical engineer for San Francisco-based Chevron in its telecommunications division. She holds an MBA in finance from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the MSU College of Engineering. In May 2023, Stewart was elected to the MSU Research Foundation’s Board of Directors.

She and her husband, Rob, also a Wharton graduate, reside in Bethesda, Maryland, and have three children.

Established in 2004, this award commemorates the outstanding professional contributions of John D. Ryder, former dean of the College of Engineering and professor in the department. Nominations are made by alumni, faculty, and students. The department’s advisory committee selects the award winner in consultation with the chairperson. The award is given on the basis of contributions in furthering the mission of the department.

Mechanical Engineering Distinguished Alumni Award
David F. Spalding
BS, 1967
Mechanical Engineering

Spalding has been a Spartan his entire life; his parents met and married at MSU. He received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from MSU in 1967 and a master’s degree from Western Michigan.

He had a successful 10-year career at Uniroyal in its industrial roofing division before founding American Hydrotech Inc. Spalding purchased the rights to Uniroyal’s unique waterproofing membrane formula before he founded his own company.

At American Hydrotech, Spalding led a team that sold thermal and moisture protection products to architects and builders. The company grew to have a presence in 86 countries and was an early importer of the green roof concept to the U.S. from Germany. After 44 years, Spalding sold the company to Swiss-based Sika Chemical Co.

Born and raised in Saginaw, Michigan, Spalding currently sits on the Gilmore Car Museum’s Board of Trustees. The museum, considered one of the best in North America, tells the history of America through the automobile and has more than 400 vehicles on display. It is located in Hickory Corners, Michigan, about 15 miles north of Battle Creek.

In his free time, Spalding enjoys boating, keeping up with MSU-related activities and spending time with his three children and five grandchildren. He established the Charles and Mary Jane Spalding Expendable Engineering Scholarships for MSU undergraduate engineering students, which are named for his parents. Spalding is also a member of the university’s Theophilus C. Abbot Donor Society.

Spaulding and his wife, Betsy, met in Chicago, Illinois, and have lived there since 1969.

Established in 2004, the ME Distinguished Alumni Award honors a graduate of MSU’s Department of Mechanical Engineering who has a minimum of 15 years of professional experience in an engineering or engineering-related field; provides leadership in engineering, engineering education, the related sciences, or technical management; contributes to the department, the college, or MSU; and is actively involved in the community. The winner is selected in consultation with the department’s advisory committee and board of visitors.

MSU College of Engineering Green Apple Teaching Award
William Ramsell
Tecumseh, Michigan, High School

Ramsell is the math department chair at Tecumseh High School in Tecumseh, Michigan, and credits his students for giving him inspiration. He teaches a wide range of math courses, including algebra II, pre-calculus, geometry, and advanced placement courses in calculus. He has been with the Tecumseh Public Schools since 2011.

He has been the equations coach at Tecumseh High School for the past nine years. The program has been undefeated during competitions over the past seven years. He also has been the Trig-Star coach at the school since 2017. The Trig-Star program at Tecumseh encourages students to explore math-related careers and has won four straight state championships.

Ramsell is also a member of the Tecumseh High School and district improvement teams. In 2023, Ramsell was named an “Amazing Teacher” in a Gannett Media Group/USA Today Network contest.

He graduated from Eastern Michigan University in 2009 and has a love for teaching advanced placement courses. He believes the level of rigor these courses offer to students forces him to be the best version of an educator he can be.

When he is not spending time focusing on school, Ramsell loves to golf, watch movies, and play video games. Ramsell is also a collector of Power Rangers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Transformers toys.

He was nominated for the Green Apple Teaching Award by Katherine Foss, who graduated from MSU with a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering on Sunday, April 28.

He lives in Tecumseh, Michigan.

Established in 2006 at the suggestion of College of Engineering Alumni Association board member Joseph M. Colucci (B.S. ’58 Mechanical Engineering), the Green Apple Teaching Award honors a K-12 teacher who has inspired students to study math, science, and engineering.