WAA Honors Eight Grads
Anniversary-year awards go to alumni with global impact.
In celebration of its 150th anniversary, the Wisconsin Alumni Association has selected eight honorees to receive its highest honor, the Distinguished Alumni Award. Four of the award winners will accept their accolades at an all-alumni reception on April 28, during Alumni Weekend. The other four will accept on July 28 during a four-day International Convocation on campus. All alumni are welcome to attend both events. For more information, see uwalumni.com.
Accepting their awards during Alumni Weekend are: Dennis Dimick, Aicardo Roa-Espinosa, Carol Toussaint, and David Walsh. Accepting during the International Convocation are: Krishna Ella, Dong-Soo Hur, Kamoltip Payakvichien, and Stephen Roach.
Dennis Dimick MS’74 could easily describe in words the environmental challenges facing the planet, but he has chosen to combine words with the power of photography, graphics, and maps to more richly tell these stories. As executive editor for the environment at National Geographic magazine, Dimick has earned awards and praise for publishing articles on soil degradation, biofuels, Earth’s carbon cycle, sustainable agriculture, and many other topics. In his position, he works to provide perspective and put complex environmental problems into context, which has made him a sought-after speaker. His presentation “Where Energy and Climate Meet” has earned international acclaim by focusing on the nexus between climate change, energy choices, and a sustainable economy. Dimick has overseen magazine projects on energy and climate change that have been cited by the Overseas Press Club, the Society of Environmental Journalists, and Pictures of the Year International. Along with his work on the magazine, Dimick has been picture editor for a dozen National Geographic books, and has served on the faculty of the Missouri Photo Workshop, sponsored by the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Dimick, who grew up on an Oregon farm, worked at newspapers in Oregon, Washington, and Kentucky before joining National Geographic in 1980.
A scientist turned entrepreneur, Krishna Ella PhD’93 is most notably a humanitarian, supplying affordable hepatitis vaccines to millions of people around the globe. Ella, who grew up in a farming village in India, initially studied agriculture before turning to molecular biology. After earning his PhD, he returned to India in 1996. While conducting research on a yeast gene, he began to conceptualize a hepatitis vaccine. In search of funding to get his product to market, he was met with suspicion when he proposed a price of $1 per vaccine when the going rate was $35 to $40. Undeterred, he raised funds to launch Bharat Biotech International, Ltd., a company that today has supplied 1.5 billion affordable vaccine doses to more than sixty-five countries. Bharat Biotech’s hepatitis plant was the initial tenant in India’s first biotech park, paving the way for hundreds of knowledge-based industries at Genome Valley in the city of Hyderabad. Ella has a strong belief in the power of innovation and entrepreneurship to solve societal problems, and he has also been instrumental in setting up three other biotech centers in India.
Known as “Mr. Oil,” Dong-Soo Hur MS’68, PhD’71 is the guiding hand behind GS Caltex, the oldest private oil company in the Republic of Korea. As the firm’s chairman and chief executive officer, he heads a corporation that is a leading force in the Korean energy industry, with a 30 percent share of that nation’s petroleum market. Hur grew up in Seoul and studied chemical engineering at UW–Madison before returning to Korea as a research engineer with the American oil company Chevron. In 1973, he joined Honam Oil, the predecessor to GS Caltex, and rose through the executive ranks, becoming vice president in 1978 and president in 1991. With GS Caltex, Hur has been a tireless advocate of diversification and sustainability. While the company is a dominant force in oil and petrochemicals, he has led it into the gas, fuel cell, and renewable power industries. Outside of work, Hur promotes the play of Baduk, an ancient board game, and he was elected head of Korea’s Baduk Association. Under his watch, GS Caltex fielded one of the nation’s most successful women’s volleyball teams, champions of the Korean Super League each year from 1991 to 1999.
Her friends know her as Au (pronounced “Ah-o”), while everyone else who meets Kamoltip Payakvichien MA’71 knows her as someone who is driven to make her home country of Thailand a better place. During her time at UW-Madison, she established the Thai Students Association of Wisconsin, was one of the founders of the Wisconsin Alumni Association of Thailand, and was a member of the committee that helped bring the Thai Pavilion — one of only four located outside of Thailand — to Olbrich Gardens in Madison. After graduating from the UW, Payakvichien returned to Thailand to take a job with a leading trading company, Loxley Public Company, Ltd., and in 1976, she joined Colgate Palmolive. From there, her entrepreneurial spirit took over. In 1993, she opened the Wangree Resort hotel in Nakornnayok Province and set up the Farmer Career Center, where she taught farmers modern practices of processing crops and commercializing products to help improve their way of life. In 1998, Payakvichien joined the Universal Peace Federation, Thailand Chapter, where she worked with government officials and religious leaders to develop peaceful solutions to some of her country’s problems. Since 2000, she has also worked with the Paveena Foundation to help women who have been victims of rape and human trafficking.
The American Dream is alive and well. Doubters need look no further than Aicardo Roa-Espinosa MS’85, PhD’89. A native of Colombia, he received most of his elementary education in the 1950s on the road from his father, a physician who was forced to continually move due to political fears. Roa-Espinosa earned his bachelor’s degree in agronomy engineering and worked in Colombia’s sugar industry before saving enough money to move to the United States in search of higher education in engineering. He found it at UW-Madison, and today he is considered the leading authority in the use of polymers in erosion control and water clarification. In the last decade, his research has drawn the attention of the U.S. Marine Corps, which tasked him with developing dust-control methods for landing helicopters in the 2003 Operation Iraqi Freedom campaign. To further apply his technology, he formed Soil Net, a company that develops and supplies polymer-based separation technology for a number of different applications, including vegetable-oil and biodiesel refining, erosion control, waste separation and transformation, and water clarification. A passionate advocate for UW-Madison, Roa-Espinosa is an honorary fellow of the College of Agricultural & Life Sciences and supports student research in collaboration with his laboratory in Belleville, Wisconsin.
Carol Toussaint ’51 has racked up so many professional and volunteer accomplishments that even she gets a bit overwhelmed when listing them all. She’s been a tireless advocate for women, for civic leadership, and for community service. An independent consultant, she’s also had several stints in Wisconsin state government, including serving as secretary of the Department of Local Affairs and Development and as deputy director of the Wisconsin Strategic Development Commission. Since 1988, she’s owned Vantage Point, a lecture business that promotes networking for Madison-area women. Toussaint was the first woman elected to the board of Wisconsin Power and Light and the first woman president of the Madison Rotary, and she’s lent her expertise to women’s advocacy groups as far afield as Russia. She serves on the board of the University Research Park and the College of Letters & Science Pathways to Excellence program, and she was a founding member of the UW Foundation’s Women’s Philanthropy Council. She’s also served on the WAA board and its Cabinet 99 women’s advocacy group, and she’s been very active with the League of Women Voters and with Mad-ison’s Overture Center since its inception. These activities and a host of others have led to numerous awards, including an honorary degree from Edgewood College and a Distinguished Alumni Award from the UW–Madison School of Journalism.
As one of Wall Street’s most influential economists, Stephen Roach ’68 knows a thing or two about good investments. He has recently put this knowledge to good use with a teaching position at Yale University, where he is developing curricula on Asia and macroeconomic policy. A California native, Roach discovered economics while a student at UW–Madison, and he went on to earn a PhD from New York University. He has spent the bulk of his career as chief economist at Morgan Stanley, and more recently as chairman of the firm’s Asian businesses, including a three-year stint in Hong Kong. In addition to his senior fellow position at Yale, he will continue his twenty-eight-year career with Morgan Stanley in Asia and other parts of the world. Roach’s research, opinions, and writings on globalization, the emergence of China, productivity, and the macroeconomic impacts of information technology have appeared in academic journals, books, and congressional testimony, and have helped shape policy from Beijing to Washington. His latest book, The Next Asia, was named the 2009 Book of the Year by China Business News — China’s equivalent of the Wall Street Journal.
An attorney with Foley & Lardner LLP of Madison, David Walsh BBA’65 (JD’70, Harvard) extends his expertise to fields as varied as telecommunications law, sports law, and estate planning, and authoritative publications such as The Best Lawyers in America, Chambers USA, and Wisconsin Super Lawyers have often included him in their top rankings. But Walsh may be even better known for his distinguished public service to Madison, the state of Wisconsin, and the university. He’s been a member of the UW Board of Regents since 2002 and served two terms as its president, is chairman of the board of directors of the University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority, and has advocated for some of Wisconsin’s top companies and economic development organizations. But his greatest cause is personal. Two of his four children are afflicted by Usher Syndrome, a genetic condition that leads to blindness and hearing loss. Walsh personally raised more than $1.2 million for stem-cell retinal research, resulting in the establishment of a UW research program that has now garnered an additional $4 million in grants.
Published in the Spring 2011 issue