Redefining the Classroom

University to honor alums, supporters during Alumni Association awards evening

Posted: October 17th, 2012

FOR CORPORATE STEWARDSHIP – Lake Superior State University alumni employees of Precision Edge Surgical Products, LLC, pose outside the company's Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., facility. The company is receiving the Donald and Catherine Finlayson Distinguished Citizen Award during the LSSU Alumni Association's annual awards banquet at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 27, at the Walker Cisler Center. The award is presented to an individual or group who has enjoyed success in their profession and community, and who is a strong advocate of the university, its programs, faculty, staff and students. All told, the company employs 25 LSSU alumni. Back row, left to right, is Steve Nayback, Nick Veit, Josh Crawford, Chris Swailes, Joe Gallagher, Jeff McLeod, Taylor Vollick, Wendy Moss-Beach, and Jerry Lockhart. Front row, left to right, are Kathleen Joutsie, Duke Pepin, Katie Pepin, Graham Tompkins, Emily Smith, Cheri Shegena, and John Truckey. (LSSU/ John Shibley)

A print-resolution photo that runs with the caption above can be found by clicking here.

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. – Lake Superior State University's Alumni Association will honor three alumni and one friend of the university in the form of a successful Sault area business when it hosts its annual Alumni Awards Banquet at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 27, at the Walker Cisler Center.

The public is welcome to attend the event, which is part of Great Lake State Weekend, Oct. 26-28. Tickets will be available until Wednesday, Oct. 24, by calling 906-635-6219 or writing They can also be purchased through LSSU's alumni office by calling 906-635-6219 or writing

The honorees include: Daniel T. Laur '76, Sanford, Outstanding Alumnus Award; Tom Ewing '73, Sault Ste. Marie, Shouldice Achievement Award; Heather J. Benjamin '01, Waterford, Wisc.; and Precision Edge Surgical Products, Sault Ste. Marie, Finlayson Distinguished Citizen Award. Read more on all of them at

When Dan Laur's parents took a gamble and opened their own business in 1977, Dan, newly graduated from LSSU with bachelor's degrees in history and political science, became the first person on the payroll.

Dan Laur
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Today, 35 years later, the recipient of this year's Outstanding Alumnus Award is still on the payroll as president of Laur Silicone Inc., a company that specializes in custom formulating and mixing silicone rubber for use in a variety of manufacturing products. The company has built a reputation for providing a superior product and service from its Beaverton, Mich. base. Its facility provides lab samples, stringent quality-control testing, pilot runs for trial scale-ups and production quantities of any size.

"I received a good education at LSSU," he said. "In addition, many times I walked by the sign (formerly posted at the east entrance to campus) that said, 'Enter to Learn – Go Forth to Serve.' Beyond that, life is just not that complicated," he said.

"To that point, I learned a lot about machines during the summer that I borrowed the campus auto shop to drop a rebuilt engine into my car. From that, I gained a greater confidence working on machines and doing things that I had not done before, something that has proven useful when working on rubber equipment. This equipment is just bearings, gears and bolts, just like a car, only sometimes bigger. Again, it really is pretty simple."

Through the years, his experiences at LSSU have remained in his thoughts and have motivated him to donate to the LSSU Foundation to help other students find their career paths. His gifts are unrestricted, meaning that they may be used wherever the need on campus is greatest, whether it's for equipment to refurbish the former auto shop that has since become an expanded machine shop and robotics lab, or to help raise the necessary funds for the university's match in the South Hall project.

Outside of work, Laur enjoys fishing and has been making trips north to the rapids of the St. Mary's River in recent years. He predicts that steelhead should be making their way into the rapids right about the time that he and other LSSU alumni are returning to campus for Great Lake State Weekend, Oct. 26-28. Laur met his wife, Suzann, in Mexico while scuba diving, a hobby they enjoy sharing. They were married in Hawaii and are parents of two children, Kevin and Alexandra, both of whom are attending college in Santa Barbara, California.

Tom Ewing has been involved with Lake State in one way or another since he enrolled as a student in 1968. As a news reporter, he has covered nearly everything with which the university has been involved, from building projects to board meetings and Laker athletics. He speaks to LSSU students about his profession, assists in university promotional campaigns and has offered advice on news media classroom configuration for the Arts Center when it was first proposed more than 20 years ago.

It is for his campus and community involvement, career achievements and more, that he is being recognized with the Alumni Association's Kenneth J. Shouldice Achievement Award.

Tom Ewing
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"I'm very honored to receive the award named for Ken Shouldice," Ewing said. "Ken was definitely a dynamic leader for the college when I attended LSSC."

Ewing started his broadcast career a year before he enrolled at Lake Superior State College and continued working while he took classes to earn a degree in social science. He continued at WSOO after graduating, and his experience earned him a job as station manager, program director and salesman for a new station, WSMM.

Ewing is currently the vice president and general manager of Sovereign Communications, which owns and operates 15 radio stations across the Upper Peninsula, including WSOO, where he started.

As busy as he has been professionally, Ewing has found plenty of time to volunteer for many causes in the community. He works with the United Way of the Eastern Upper Peninsula, Sault Ste. Marie Rotary Club, Sault Area Chamber of Commerce, Elks Lodge, United Way Volunteer Center, Sault Country Club, Sault Area Public Schools, and the Soo Theatre Project, to name a few.

"LSSU has always been in my thoughts during my career," Ewing said. "I've developed many great friendships on campus and I consider it to be a vital part of my hometown."

Ewing credits his wife and station owners for supporting him in his endeavors.

"My wife Marsha has supported me for 35 years in everything I have tried to accomplish," he said. "And my thanks also go to the eight ownership groups who have employed me through the 45 years in radio, including Bill Gleich, my current employer at Sovereign Communications. All of the station's owners have allowed me the freedom to get involved in the community."

Heather Benjamin followed her parents' example to become a Laker. Now she's blazing her own trail in the business world and is being recognized for her accomplishments with the Paul Ripley Young Alumna Award.

The Ripley Award recognizes LSSU alumni who have enjoyed exceptional personal and professional success early in their careers. Heather graduated in 2001 with a bachelor's degree in accounting, obtained her CPA license in Michigan and Illinois in 2003, and earned a master's in business administration from Michigan State University in 2006. She is currently pursuing a doctorate in organizational leadership and business management.

Heather Benjamin
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In addition, she remains connected to her alma mater, returning to campus regularly for Great Lake State Weekend and special events. As a former member of LSSU Students in Free Enterprise, she participated as a SIFE judge in Chicago and took the LSSU SIFE team to dinner when it was competing there.

"My education at LSSU has given me the opportunity to work for the largest of the Big Four international accounting firms with professionals who have degrees from Yale, Northwestern, University of Michigan, University of Chicago and other tier one business schools," Heather said. "LSSU is very competitive and our degrees are first-class. I am extremely proud to be a Laker and we Lakers bring a tremendous amount of knowledge and proven work ethic to corporate America."

Heather's parents, Gary and Dolores, graduated from LSSU in 1970 and 1971, respectively. Gary was the recipient of the Alumni Association's Outstanding Alumnus Award in 2001 and was a former member of the LSSU Board of Trustees.

Since earning her bachelor's degree, Heather has worked and lived in Illinois, Michigan, New York and, recently, Waterford, Wisc., not too far from her hometown of Iron Mountain, Mich. She is currently a manager with Deloitte LLP out of the Chicago office, a position she accepted earlier this year.

"At Deloitte, I'm working as a manager in the Audit and Enterprise Risk Services function with a primary focus on business risk for bank and financial services clients," Heather said. "My role is to provide guidance and support services to our banking and financial services clients regarding regulatory and legal requirements."

While she is officially part of the Deloitte Chicago office, Heather travels frequently. Her current assignment has her traveling primarily to Charlotte, NC, where she is working with Bank of America, NA.

Precision Edge Surgical Products sets a wonderful example of what it means to be a university and community advocate and is being recognized with the Dr. Donald and Catherine Finlayson Distinguished Citizen Award.

This award is presented to an individual or group who has enjoyed success in their profession and community, and who is a strong advocate of the university, its programs, faculty, staff and students.

Precision Edge is a world-renowned contract manufacturer of fine surgical components, cutting tools, burs, blades, drills, instruments and other surgical cutting accessories used in orthopedic surgery and procedures. It had its beginnings in 1989 as a small shop in Barbeau, expanded to a 37,000 sq. ft. facility in Sault Ste. Marie, and has now opened a second plant in Boyne City. The company has provided employment for about 200 people at Sault Ste. Marie and more are being hired at the Boyne plant.

Headed by John Truckey '80, president, the company has been a very generous donor to LSSU, providing thousands of dollars worth of equipment to the engineering program, and many thousands more through a real estate donation. It sponsors teams during LSSU golf fundraisers and, most important, the company hires many LSSU interns and graduates.

Through its donations, each year the company provides four scholarships of $2,500 each to LSSU for local high school seniors. In addition, through the sale of the real estate that Precision Edge donated, an endowment was created for two annual engineering scholarships of $2,000 each. The company is also supporting the South Hall renovation project and will have a seminar room in the new building named in its honor.

"Precision Edge has always had a strong commitment to our customers, employees, suppliers and the community in which we live and operate," said Truckey.

"LSSU is an integral part of our community and our business. We consider ourselves to be partners with LSSU for development of our people as well as helping our communities prosper and grow. We believe that manufacturing is vital to the growth and success of our area. For us to be successful, Precision Edge depends on LSSU to provide talented graduates to fill our needs in a remote area where recruiting necessary talent is not an easy task."

Precision Edge hires general laborers, experienced computer-numerically-controlled machine operators, manufacturing engineers, quality engineers and validation engineers, among other positions. Everyone is responsible for producing an excellent quality product for a very discerning client.

"LSSU provides opportunities for many of our local students and employees to further their education," Truckey said." We are very fortunate to have such a fine university in our community and have many Lake State graduates and current students on our team. We feel fortunate to be able to support students and the university through scholarships, event sponsorships and donations."


CONTACTS: John Shibley, e-mail, 906-635-2314; Tom Pink, e-mail, 635-2315.