10 College of Science graduates to receive 2011 Distinguished Alumni Award

April 11, 2011

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Ten graduates from the College of Science received the 2011 Distinguished Alumni Awards on Friday (April 8).

A ceremony honored alumni that have had a significant impact in their fields and on society. Award recipients include: David Capka, Tracy Choka, George Garrick, William Gommel, Paul Krishna, Thomas Longo, Timothy O'Leary, Vaidyanathan "Ram" Ramaswami, Chun-Fang Wu and Jeffrey Young.

* David Capka graduated from Purdue in 1973 with a master's degree and in 1983 with a doctoral degree, both in computer science. After serving a four-year term with the Purdue ROTC program and beginning his professional career, he chose to pursue a doctoral degree. He is currently chief scientist for Systems Development Operations at Northrop Grumman Mission Systems, a leading global security company. His assignments include a variety of research projects and development contracts focusing on payload management, defense information systems and border control. Capka also serves as corporate partner to the Department of Computer Science at Purdue, serving as a resource for both students and faculty.

* Tracy Choka graduated from Purdue in 1988 with a bachelor's degree in mathematics. After having an actuarial internship with Lincoln Financial Group, she found her interests gravitated toward math, statistics, biology and computer science. She now uses all of these as a managing director of Swiss Re America Holding Corp. Throughout her time at Swiss Re, she developed a risk management framework for preferred risk classification, including mortality table construction and empirical data analysis. This framework was recently awarded a U.S. patent.

* George Garrick graduated from Purdue in 1974 with a bachelor's degree in engineering, in 1976 with a second bachelor's degree in mathematics and a master's degree in management. Garrick boosted Flycast Communications in 1998 from a struggling startup company to a $500 million IPO in one year and sold it for $2.3 million one year later. Garrick credits Purdue for the constant challenge to figure out how to succeed in the face of extreme pressure and challenges.

* William Gommel graduated from Purdue in 1973 with a doctorate in earth and atmospheric sciences. After serving in the U.S. Army, Gommel realized the U.S. Air Force’s need for weather officers to assist pilots during missions through stormy weather. Before earning his doctorate, he served as Air Force staff meteorologist, chief forecaster and staff scientist in the Pentagon. Gommel retired in 1997 as the commander of the Indiana Guard Reserve. Since then, he has served as chairman of earth and space sciences and director of Noblitt Observatory at the University of Indianapolis. He also is director of the Central Indiana Science and Engineering Fair.

* Paul Krishna graduated from Purdue in 1988 with a master's degree in earth and atmospheric sciences. Krishna had an extensive mineral collection by the time he was in high school. This interest continued through college, where he was offered a job to work Exxon Mobile after graduation. He now serves as environmental programs manager in Irving, Texas, and plays a key role in supplying the country with the energy it needs while ensuring safety and enforcing  environmental regulations. He is a member of the Society of Petroleum Engineers and head of the advisory council for Purdue's Department and Atmospheric Sciences.

* Thomas Longo graduated from Purdue in 1947 with bachelor's degrees in naval science and physics and chemistry, in 1953 with a master's degree in physics and in 1957 with a doctorate in physics. After serving as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy, Longo returned to Purdue to research industrial uses of silicon. He researched and developed silicon-based technologies for the next 50 years, working in academia and industry. Today, largely because of Longo’s advancements, silicon is the principal component of most semiconductor devices, such as integrated circuits and microchips. In 1985 he launched Performance Semiconductor Corp., which develops submicron complementary metal oxide semiconductor technology and microprocessors for military applications. Longo retired in 2003.

* Timothy O'Leary graduated from Purdue in 1972 with a bachelor's degree in chemistry. O'Leary is an acting deputy and deputy chief research and development officer for the Veterans Administrations Office of Research and Development in Washington, D.C. He also serves on the editorial review board of several journals and has taught university-level courses. He has published in more than 100 journals, holds three patents and is co-author of three books.

* Vaiyanathan "Ram" Ramaswami received a master’s degree from Purdue in 1976 and a doctoral degree in 1978, both in statistics. He is a renowned researcher in applied probability, which has impacted telecommunications in helping ensure dial tones for emergency 911 calls and developing algorithms for video and Wi-Fi hotspot traffic. He has seven patents and has authored 75 research papers. He co-authored a book about matrix analytic methods in applied probability.

* Chun-Fang Wu received a doctorate in biological sciences from Purdue in 1976. Wu is a biological sciences professor at the University of Iowa and is exploring genetic and environmental factors affecting the nervous system. Wu and his associates were the first to identify and characterize genes such as K+, NA+ and TRP.

* Jeffery Young graduated from Purdue in 1988 with a bachelor's degree in mathematics. He is president and chief executive officer of Mitsubishi Motors Credit of America. Since 2005 he has opened the door for partnerships and led formation of a three-year joint venture with Merrill Lynch to originate, underwrite and service retail loan production. He also served in the U.S. Air Force and in executives positions in capital markets, risk management and strategic planning at Ford Motor Corp. and Centex Home Equity Co.

The College of Science has been presenting the Distinguished Alumni award since 1990. The award has been received by 175 alumni, including NASA astronaut Andrew Feustel and nationally respected scientist and educator Rita Colwell.

Writer: Amanda Sliepka, 765-496-3006, asliepka@purdue.edu 

Source: Janelle Musch, director of alumni relations and special events, 765-494-0586, jmusch@purdue.edu

Note to Journalists: Complete biographies and photographs of the 2011 distinguished alumni are available online at https://www.science.purdue.edu/for-alumni-and-friends/alumni-recognition-a-awards/96-distinguished-science-alumni