GARY – Marking its 12th year of discovering and celebrating innovation in Northwest Indiana, The Society of Innovators of Northwest Indiana at Ivy Tech Community College will announce later today its 2016 – 2017 Fellows, Accelerating Greatness and Chanute Prize recipients.


Also to be announced will be the largest class recognized by The Society, with 377 new individual and associate team members.


“We are proud to serve our community by discovering innovators across our region from all walks of life who improve lives and strengthen our economy,” Dr. Thomas G. Coley, chancellor of Ivy Tech Community College’s Northwest and North Central regions, said. Nominations come from Jasper, Lake, La Porte, Newton, Porter, Pulaski, and Starke counties.


The innovators will be among 41 individuals and teams to be honored at the 12th Annual Innovators Induction Ceremony at the Horseshoe Casino, Hammond, on Thursday, Oct. 20. This includes two individual members who were inducted previously. All members receive lifetime honorary membership in The Society of Innovators.


In addition to the 18 new individuals and 21 teams inducted this year, the Society also honors associate team members who make up the teams. Both individual and team members receive personalized certificates. This year marks the largest class, with 359 team members being recognized, with certificates sponsored by NIPSCO and Don Babcock, director of Economic Development, NIPSCO and vice chair of The Society of Innovators.


“The selection of our individuals and team members culminates a rigorous six-month process based upon nominations reviewed by leaders serving as reviewers and judges,” said O’Merrial Butchee, director, Gerald I. Lamkin Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center. “Our goal is to select the most innovative individuals and teams in our seven counties.”


Six new Fellows will be selected from among the Society’s members. The Fellowsare Jon Groth, area director/principal, Porter County Career and Technical Education; Chancellor Thomas L. Keon, Ph.D., Purdue University Northwest; Elizabeth Lynn, Ph.D., Valparaiso University; Sandra Chimon-Peszek Rogers, Calumet College of St. Joseph, Ph.D.; Mayor Joseph Stahura, City of Whiting; and Dr. Barbara Eason-Watkins, Michigan City Area Schools. The Fellow awards are sponsored by ArcelorMittal.


In the team category, Urschel Laboratories, Inc. will receive the prestigious Accelerating Greatness Award for Team Innovation. It is sponsored by Tom Sourlis, founder and chair, Mortar Net Solutions. The Grand Calumet River Partners in Restoration will receive the Chanute Prize for Team Innovation, the Society’s highest award for teams. This award is sponsored by Krieg DeVault and NIPSCO.


The Society is the largest project of the Lamkin Center, serving the Gary, Valparaiso, Michigan City and East Chicago campuses of Ivy Tech Community College. This is accomplished through initiatives that encourage staff, faculty, students and community members to “think differently” in a global economy, said John Davies, assistant director of the Lamkin Center and managing director of The Society of Innovators. Nominations opened on “Innovation Day” May 6 at the Purdue Technology Center of Northwest Indiana.


The following individuals will be inducted as Fellows:


Jon Groth, area director/principal, Porter County Career and Technical Education, Valparaiso, led the innovative repurposing of a historic 1912 Grand Truck rail depot into a 21st century classroom. Jon worked with community leaders and volunteers to raise funds and relocate the historic building during July 2014. Students are helping to convert the 3,200-square-foot structure. Jon also launched the first student-built alternative demonstration project on a school roof in Indiana. He was inducted as a Society Team member in 2012.


Chancellor Thomas L. Keon, Ph.D., launched one of the first models in the nation leading to the unification of two campuses into a single university called Purdue University Northwest. This is a first in Indiana and one of a handful of unifications of this nature in the nation involving innovative educational mergers. This creates more choices for students through a unified curricula, promotes a regional identity and creates a stronger university as a “cornerstone” for new economic development in Northwest Indiana.


Elizabeth Lynn, Ph.D., Valparaiso University, founded the Center for Civic Reflection, a national center that developed and refined an innovative applied use of the humanities to illustrate issues of concern through reflective dialogue. Civic reflection uses readings, images and videos to engage people in productive conversation about their communities. The Center has trained more than 7,000 facilitators and led more than 20,000 people in public, community and workplace dialogues. The center is part of The Institute for Leadership and Service.


Sandra Chimon-Peszek Rogers, Ph.D., Director of the Calumet College of St. Joseph Biophysical Chemistry Department and a researcher into Alzheimer’s disease, launched an innovative curriculum that combines lectures with hands-on lab work that especially helps struggling students. They win awards even when competing with students from larger universities, and it has led to the selection by NASA for a 30-day experiment on the International Space Station.


Mayor Joseph Stahura of Whiting transformed a “sleepy company town” into an evolving “21st century destination.” This shift had its roots in the 2004 tax crisis that led to an innovative entrepreneurial culture that reinvigorated the community. These actions led to multimillion-dollar investments that included lakefront beautification, a revitalized downtown, and the National Mascot Hall of Fame. He and his team created a new mindset in the face of a changing tax structure that shook NWI communities to their core. He was inducted in 2011.


Dr. Barbara Eason-Watkins, superintendent of Michigan City Area Schools, championed transformation by overcoming “missed opportunities” and demonstrating an innovative spirit of collaboration involving the community, county and school system. Among other initiatives, she launched the first NIPSCO Energy Academy, the first STEM public elementary school and the first construction technology program in Indiana leading to apprenticeships. She is now overseeing a districtwide $10 million technology/digital classroom initiative. She was inducted into The Society in 2013.


The following team will be named recipient of the new Accelerating Greatness Award for Team Innovation:


Built on a foundation of engineering marvels and innovations in making industrial cutting machinery for 106 years, Urschel Laboratories Inc. has pioneered a transformation in technology and created an entrepreneurial culture among its 400 employees that have made it the global leader in food-cutting technology. Now owned by employees and combined with a new $100 million, 350,000-square-foot manufacturing facility and headquarters, this company is positioned to enhance its global leadership over the next century.


The following team will be named recipient of the Chanute Prize for Team Innovation:


Demonstrating an innovative collaboration involving eight companies working with regulatory agencies, The Grand Calumet River Partners in Restoration transformed the Grand Calumet River, with more than 80 percent of the river “coming alive again” over the past decade. Once called the most polluted river in the world, this massive cleanup grew out of the 2004 Grand Cal Consent Decree, which represented the second largest multiparty action of the Natural Resource Damage Assessment process in history.


The principal partners of The Society are ArcelorMittal; Bukva Imaging; Doherty Imaging; Horseshoe Casino; Krieg DeVault; Lakeshore Public Media; NIPSCO; Northwest Indiana Business Quarterly; SMDG, LLC; and The Times Media Company. The Center for Workforce Innovations is a community partner. For details, contact Davies at (219) 981-1111, Ext. 2292.

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