Woman of Distinction

Trine University has long recognized women as a rich reservoir of service, innovation and leadership. Contributions from women permeate our school’s history. Powerful women have provided service, support and leadership. This year’s Woman of Distinction Award was given to Dr. Jorja J. Allen.

Higher education has been an important facet of her life. Ever since she was a little girl growing up in a rural Ohio town, she knew she would go on to a brighter future, as her grandparents, and even some of her great-grandparents, had paved the way, earning college degrees.

After graduating from high school, she pursued a college degree and transferred to Tri-State University midway through her quest. She played a major role in establishing the first sorority on campus. Her influence spurred other women to action, and now there are three sororities, each reflecting a different academic or civic interest.

Dr. Jorja J. Allen credits this university with starting her and her husband, Jerry, also a Tri–State grad, on the path to success. Fifteen to 20 years after they graduated, they became re-engaged with campus. In the mid-1990s, they made the largest single cash contribution toward a building project in the university’s history, and Trine’s Allen School of Engineering & Technology was named in their honor. While they were uncomfortable with the recognition, they eventually conceded, hoping it would inspire others to give.

They support numerous endeavors on our campus – both academically and athletically including annual scholarship dollars to assist hard-working and deserving Trine students from their local area.

At her core, Allen recognizes the value in other people. She seeks to make an impact and encourage others. She embraces change and has a vision for the future – not just her future, but our future.

Distinguished Service Award

President Brooks, Rick James and Mike Darch, Alumni Association president.

The Distinguished Service Award is given each year to an alumnus/alumnae who has performed outstanding service to society in his or her profession, personal achievement or community; and who has manifest interest in Trine University and has supported it by contributions of time, talent, and treasure.

Rick graduated with a degree in business administration in 1977. After college, he worked at Auburn Foundry for nearly two decades, serving as vice president for sales, sales manager and production manager before being named president and chief executive.

In 1997, Rick teamed with Keith Turner to establish Metal Technologies, Inc. as a privately held corporation. Metal Technologies is a global metal casting company that offers high quality parts and value-added processes for a variety of industries.

The company rapidly grew, buying Milwaukee Gray Iron from Briggs & Stratton and Dock Foundry Co. in Three Rivers, Mich. A few years later, Metal Technologies bought the remainder of Briggs & Stratton’s Castings Divisions and opened a corporate center in Auburn, Ind. By 2012, Metal Technologies’ sales exceeded $300 million.

Rick serves on the board of directors for the Foundry Educational Foundation, which provides scholarship support to promising individuals who desire to enter the foundry industry.  He has also been named to the Board of Directors of the American Foundry Association. He was selected by American Foundry Society to participate in the International Foundry Forum in Prague this September - the most distinguished worldwide organization in the industry, consisting solely of foundry CEOs of major companies, recognizing his leadership in the world-wide foundry industry.

While Rick continues to make a nationwide impact in industry, he has greatly impacted the lives of many students at his alma mater. He and his wife, Vicki, have played an instrumental role in the university’s growth. They have helped to support the annual Black and White Scholarship Gala for many years. Most recently, they spearheaded the Books and Beyond Scholarship Program, which has raised tens of thousands of dollars for deserving students who need financial assistance with textbooks, class supplies and more.

Much of their philanthropy is anonymous and takes place behind the scenes. Earlier this year, they agreed to lend their name to the University Center as an encouragement for others to support Trine’s transformation moving forward.  The past few days have demonstrated the impact that Rick has made upon the University. Earlier this month, Rick moved into his position as Board Chair of the Trine University Board of Trustees.

Outstanding Achievement Alumni award

President Brooks, Greg Ilko and Mike Darch, Alumni Association president.

The Outstanding Achievement Alumni award is given to one alumnus/alumnae each year who has attained a high level of accomplishment in his or her profession, is well thought of in his or her community, and who upholds the ideals of Trine University.

Greg Ilko graduated from Tri-State University in 1994 with a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering. Since 1997, Greg has worked for CrossRoad Engineers, P.C. In 2006, he became a vice president and senior project manager, overseeing the organization’s site development department. Since its inception in 1995, CrossRoad Engineers has established itself as a leading civil engineering firm with an excellent reputation.

Greg works to recruit Trine students to intern with his company. He views internships as three-month job interviews. Many of the company’s new hires come directly from the internship program. Over half of CrossRoad Engineers’ employees are Tri-State or Trine graduates.

Ilko currently serves as vice president of Trine’s Kappa Sigma Alumni Association, working to connect with and help plan events for fellow alumni. He played an active role in overseeing the construction of Kappa Sigma’s new fraternity house.

“My experiences at Tri-State were spectacular. I can reiterate that statement,” Ilko said. “It was a great five years. I didn’t want to leave. Now, I’m able to stay, but in a new capacity. I hope I can continue to connect with old fraternity brothers and friends in the times to come.” 

Distinguished Service Young Alumnus Award

President Brooks, Casey Pierce and Mike Darch, Alumni Association president.

The Distinguished Service Young Alumnus Award recognizes a younger alumnus/alumnae who has performed outstanding service to society through his or her profession, has garnered personal and community achievement, has manifest interest in Trine University and has supported it through contributions of time, talent and treasure.

For 2007 design engineering technology alumnus Casey Pierce, his degree was a passport to work in China.  Pierce works for iwis Drive Systems, a German company headquartered in Munich. The company has offices throughout Germany, in Indianapolis, Shanghai, Suzhou, China, and South Africa. Currently, Pierce is based in Suzhou.

He worked hard to connect with the other 2 million ex-patriots living in China. Having played semi-professional football in the states, he thought starting a football league would be right up his alley. Along with some newfound friends, he created the Shanghai Warriors.

“It’s been a great networking experience. People always talk about networking being so important. It’s really kind of come to light here in China,” Pierce said.

Despite living in China, Pierce has stayed involved on campus, serving on the design engineering technology advisory board. He’s also spoken to and given seminars to the SME group, partnered with career services and supported the university financially.

“I really want to focus on pushing our department to the next level,” Pierce said. “On the advisory board, I want people to work to get donations through their companies. I want to be a part of students’ success and for others to feel that same satisfaction.”

This past year, Pierce funded a student engineering group that earned regional recognition for its design. “For me to be a part of their success made me feel really good,” Pierce said. “As the design engineering department grows, I want to see the program strengthened and have more people come on board.”

Mural Highlights Life of Cliff Sponsel

On Oct. 5, the Sponsel Mural, “Giving Back: From Birth Through Education to the End of Life” was dedicated in honor of Drs. Cliff and Juliette Cummins Sponsel. This hand–glazed artwork reflects the life of Dr. Sponsel, who graduated from Tri–State College in 1931 with a civil engineering degree. The mural is the result of a year’s worth of creative ingenuity by a team and its creative designer, Juliette. The mural highlights the passions, philanthropic efforts and endless devotion to volunteerism, and most importantly, their story.

Throughout his successful career, Dr. Sponsel has always recognized the importance of giving back. The Sponsels have supported this institution for decades, willing to give of their time, talent and resources to get this institution where it is today. Dr. Sponsel served on the board of trustees of this institution and has been an active supporter of multiple endeavors. The C.W. Sponsel Administration Center is named in his honor, as is the library and the towers on Fawick Hall.  He and Juliette are both recipients of honorary doctorate degrees from this institution.

This artwork is a fitting addition to the Rick L. and Vicki L. James University Center. Just as this mural is a pictorial representation of Dr. Sponsel’s progression from the early 20th century to the 21st century, the building is a structural representation of a campus moving forward. Our students and alumni can see the impact this institution had on one person – and the impact he made on so many lives for so many years. Through this mural, the Sponsel’s story of perseverance, kindness, dedication, loyalty and generosity will be shared with generations to come. They’ll share his story, take pieces of it to heart or aspire to make the difference they made by giving of their time talent and resources.