SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. – Iron Mountain’s William C. (Bill) Verrette has been chosen to receive an honorary doctorate at the commencement ceremony for Lake Superior State University this spring.
LSSU President Tony McLain said Verrette is being honored for his longtime service to the community, from one end of the Upper Peninsula to the other, for his family’s connection to LSSU, and for his accomplishments through his work at Champion Inc. over the years. He will receive his degree during LSSU's graduation ceremony on April 27.
“Bill has not only been a good friend to Lake Superior State University, but he has been instrumental in the economic development of the Upper Peninsula,” said LSSU President Tony McLain. “It is our privilege to honor him in this way.”
Verrette is owner/director of Champion Inc. of Iron Mountain. Champion and its affiliates provide construction services, general construction, heavy construction and project management throughout the Midwest, and on-site production of ready-mix concrete throughout the country. They supply mechanical equipment for the mining and paper industries in Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, Wyoming and Montana, and electrical equipment to the utilities throughout Michigan. Together, the companies owned by Verrette employ about 1,000 people.
Verrette’s connections to LSSU extend to the university’s beginnings. His father, Louis, was on the board of control for Michigan College of Mining and Technology when LSSU was a branch campus. As a board member, Louis encouraged and assisted with the move to establish autonomy for Lake Superior State College in 1972. From there, both Louis and Bill Verrette worked with LSSC President Kenneth J. Shouldice on many campus projects, including 11campus buildings. They helped place what is now known as the Alumni Anchor on the grounds of the campus. Verrette has continued his relationship with LSSU through the years, and has been a lifelong contributor to the LSSU Foundation.
“He is truly an entrepreneur, philanthropist, advocate and leader for the entire Upper Peninsula and state of Michigan,” said Gary Benjamin, CEO of Champion Inc., member of the LSSU Foundation board of directors, and LSSU alumnus. “He embodies the virtues of skill, integrity and responsibility in his personal and business life.”
Verrette’s connections to the Eastern U.P. go beyond LSSU. In the 1950s, he spent his summers in Chippewa County with his family as Champion completed more than 10 projects at Kincheloe Air Force Base. The company worked on the base until 1973, shortly before it closed, and was then involved with the construction of the state prison on the former base.
Through the years, Verrette and his company have completed projects for the Sault Radar Base, Raco Missile Facility, Sault Tribe housing projects, Chippewa County Courthouse, Bayliss Public Library, International Bridge, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-Soo Locks, and public school projects in Sault Ste. Marie, Rudyard and Cedarville.
Verrette has always placed an importance on education, having donated money and volunteered his service for not only LSSU, but also Northern Michigan University, where he was a member of the NMU Development Fund board of trustees from 1985-2007, to Michigan Technological University, where he was a member of the professional advisory committee for MTU’s Civil and Environmental Engineering departments, member and past chair of the MTU board of control, and served on the Michigan Tech Fund board of trustees. He graduated from MTU with a degree in civil engineering in 1961.
Verrette was also a member of the board of education for Iron Mountain Public Schools from 1970-1986, serving as president for five years.
Verrette has been recognized for his contributions and service by many institutions, including NMU and his alma mater. He received the President’s Distinguished Citizen Award from NMU in October 1998 and was MTU Distinguished Alumnus in 1993. He received the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007 from the Community Foundations of Upper Michigan, and was inducted into the Michigan Construction Hall of Fame in 2011.
Upon receiving his honorary degree from LSSU, Verrette will have been recognized by all three of the public universities in the U.P.
“We hope Mr. Verrette’s receipt of an honorary doctorate will serve to preserve important stories of LSSU’s founding,” said David R. Finley Ph.D., dean of the LSSU College of Business and Engineering. “We want to recognize the critical role that he and the Verrette family have played in the genesis and development of Sault Tech and modern-day LSSU.”
Born in Iron Mountain, Verrette has four grown children -- Tom, Steve, Cynthia and Paula -- and 10 grandchildren. He and his wife, Wilma, reside in the Iron Mountain area. -LSSU-
CONTACT: Tom Pink, 906-635-2315, firstname.lastname@example.org; John Shibley, 635-2314, email@example.com; David Finley, 635-2207, firstname.lastname@example.org