SOCORRO, N.M. May 17, 2011 -- Every year at commencement, three organizations give awards to honor individuals who have provided exceptional service to New Mexico Tech. The Student Association, the Graduate Student Association and the Alumni Association each give awards.
|Alex Plonczak accepts his award from SA President Joaquin Roibal.
|Dr. Dan Walsh prepares to accept a 2011 Appreciation Award from the Student Association.
|SA President Joaquin Roibal congratulates Dr. Jeff Altig for taking home an Appreciation Award.
|GSA President Sarah Hendrickson thanks Dr. Daniel Lopez for his support of the organization.
|GSA President Sarah Hendrickson introduces award winner Mike Herman.
|Past president of the GSA Shasta Marrero is all smiles while receiving an appreciation award from current GSA president Sarah Hendrickson.
|Gaye Herkenhoff Dwyre accepts the award on behalf of her uncle Earl Herkenhoff, Class of 1936.
|John Dowdle, Class of 1960, accepts the Distinguished Service Award from Paul Shoemaker, president of the Alumni Association. At center is Dr. Lopez.
|Richard Chamberlin of the Bureau of Geology accepts the award on behalf of Ted Wilton.
The Student Association honored Dr. Jeff Altig of the Chemistry Department faculty, Dr. Dan Walsh of the Research Office and student Alex Plonczak.
The Graduate Student Association honored university President Dr. Daniel H. Lopez and students Mike Herman and Shasta Marrero.
The Alumni Association honored Tech graduates Earl Herkenhoff, Ted Wilton and John Dowdle.
Plonczak’s interest and dedication to serving the student body at New Mexico Tech has been exemplary.
Plonczak serves as a Student Association Senator and was elected President Pro Tem. He has also held the position of public relations committee chair. This semester, he also took the position of Assistant Student Activities Officer, where he helped organize numerous activities for the students, including planning and organizing Spring Fling activities.
During his sophomore year, Plonczak served as a Resident Assistant in South Hall where he helped establish the first chapter of Greek life on the Tech Campus, the Kappa Sigma fraternity.
Plonczak has served as an officer for the Kappa Sigma Pi Tau Chapter and he has volunteered for school and community events, including many food drives and fundraisers that benefit the Socorro community. His initiative paved the way for the establishment of a second Greek chapter – the Alpha Sigma Kappa Sorority. For the new Sorority, he co-coordinated seminars on a variety of topics, such as conflict resolution.
Shortly after graduation, the team will travel to Illinois where they will participate in an international, collegiate competition.
Last year, he represented the American Society of Mechanical Engineers club at the HENAAC conference in Long Beach, California. He earned a third place trophy in College Bowl X. Plonczak also recently had his first paper published. Alex also works part time at EMRTC.
Dr. Dan Walsh
Associate Vice President of Research Dr. Dan Walsh has been an advisor and mentor to the students involved in the new fraternity on campus, Kappa Sigma. In presenting the award, Student Association President Joaquin Roibal has taken numerous students under his wing and provided reassurance, guidance and friendship. Walsh always goes out of his way to help students find campus employment, particularly at EMRTC and its subsidiaries.
Walsh is one of the friendliest and most genuine people you will meet anywhere. He truly cares about people, but especially students. He always listens, is an engaging person and has a great sense of humor. He is an excellent role model for all students on campus.
Dr. Jeff Altig
Dr. Jeff Altig came to New Mexico Tech in 2006 as a visiting professor and joined the Chemistry Department faculty in 2007. In his short time at New Mexico Tech, Dr. Jeff Altig has made a mark in the lives of students, in the lab and in the chemistry department.
Altig has earned the respect and adoration of the student body.
Virtually every student spends time in Altig’s lab and everyone knows him. Two years ago, Dr. Altig won the Distinguished Faculty Award. Students submitted nominations in record numbers, praising Dr. Altig for being an excellent instructor, an accessible mentor and an all-around good guy.
Chemistry students know that they can often find Dr. Altig in his office late into the evening, where he is willing to guide students in their chemistry work.
Dr. Daniel Lopez
Sarah Hendrickson, president of the GSA, said that the organization found itself in a financial mess in the fall fo 2010.
“Frankly, we needed a bailout plan and since the feds were not about to help us out, Dr. Lopez stepped in,”she said. “He was able to find institute funding to get the GSA back on track…and for that, we are truly grateful. Thank you Dr. Lopez.
Mike Herman is a doctoral student in Atmospheric Physics and has served as GSA Travel Grants Officer. In addition to his graduate studies, Herman has done an amazing job of coordinating travel and distributing funds to students to attend conferences, symposia, and other academic and professional events.
Herman has also worked on our website, answered emails and, in general always gone above and beyond the call of duty.
Herman is stepping down as Travel grants Officer for the best of reasons: he and his wife, Saska, are expecting their first child in July and will no doubt have their hand full. He has actively recruited his own replacement to make the transition as smooth as possible.
Shasta Marerro, a PhD student in geology, has played a pivotal role in the GSA since 2005, including two years as President from 2007-2009.
“Shasta has devoted countless hours of her time to GSA business including training incoming officers,” Hendrickson said. “She has been an excellent leader and the brains behind the operation. She is, for lack of a better title, the ‘GSA guru’.”
Up until she stepped down, Marrero did virtually everything that needed to be done to keep the GSA thriving and active.
“When I took over in January of this year, Marrero took, and still takes, the time to mentor me and pass on her vast knowledge of the GSA and how to lead a successful organization,” Hendrickson said.
The first Distinguished Service Award from the Alumni Association was given post-humously to 1936 graduate Earl Herkenhoff. Accepting on behalf of his family and estate was Gaye Herkenhoff Dwyre.
Born in Socorro in 1915, Earl Herkenhoff literally grew up at New Mexico Tech. His family lived in the basement of Driscoll Hall for many years. His mother, Lillian, was the matriarch of the family and longtime employee at New Mexico Tech.
Earl Herkenhoff earned a degree in mining in 1936 and went on to establish an international reputation as a mining and metallurgical expert. He was a consultant in strategic metal deposits in many countries and his experience garnered him opportunities to work for the U.S. State Department and international corporations. He was a prolific inventor and researcher; he registered 15 patents related to mining operations and published numerous professional papers. In 1990, he received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from New Mexico Tech.
When he passed away in 2002, Mr. Herkenhoff’s ashes were scattered over ‘M’ Mountain.
Before his passing, Earl established the Herkenhoff Endowment Fund, which provides direct support to the university’s Mineral Engineering Department. Since 2002, the Endowment has been extremely generous to New Mexico Tech, contributing more than $1.4 million to the Mineral Engineering Department.
The second recipient of the Distinguished Service Award was John Dowdle from the Class of 1960.
A native of Deming, New Mexico, Dowdle was valedictorian of his high school class, then earned a bachelor’s with highest honors in mathematics at Tech. After a one-year NSF fellowship at the University of North Carolina, John received another fellowship to study economics at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
Dowdle returned to his native New Mexico to start his career at Mountain States Telephone Company. After four years of climbing the ranks, John accepted a position with Booz, Allen & Hamilton in Dallas. After only four years in Dallas, John transferred to Chicago and become a vice president. Over the next 20 years, John made impressive accomplishments and worked for Booz Allen in the Middle East, Buenos Aires, Mexico City and back to Dallas. He also served two terms on the company’s board of directors.
John retired from the company in 1998, but he didn’t quit working. He joined Day & Zimmerman as president of the transportation construction division. After a second retirement in 2003, John started NODO Services, his own management consulting firm.
Throughout his career, John has always stayed involved in civic groups, professional organizations and New Mexico Tech activities. Last year, he organized the Class of 1960 reunion and was a guest speaker for the Management Department lecture series. He was president of the Santa Fez Shrine Club and a director of the Santa Fe Rotary Club. He also volunteers for Tax Aide, an AARP program to assist low-income senior citizens.
The Distinguished Achievement Award for 2011 goes to Dean “Ted” Wilton, who earned a bachelor’s in geology in 1970. Wilton could not attend graduation. Accepting on his behalf was Richard Chamberlin of the Bureau of Geology.
Since graduating from Tech, he has made quite a name for himself in the gold mining industry. Just last December, Ted was named the vice president of exploration for the Victoria Gold Corp. in Elko, Nevada.
Wilton has managed exploration programs, which have led to numerous significant gold discoveries, and much of his work has been focused on geology in Nevada. He also has extensive experience in the Yukon.
Wilton has been involved in exploration, pre-development and development programs and mine geology, including working as district exploration manager. He also worked for Kinross Gold Corp. as a group chief geologist responsible in Alaska and in Western Australia.
-- NMT --
Article and photos by Thomas Guengerich/New Mexico Tech