Redefining the Classroom

Alumni Association To Honor Four During Great Lake State Weekend

Posted: October 16th, 2002

October 15, 2002
SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. -- Four Lake Superior State University alumni will be recognized for their personal and professional success during the eight annual Alumni Association Awards Banquet on Friday, October 18.

The awards ceremony is the signature event of the 2003 Great Lake State Weekend celebration.

The community is invited to join in the banquet honoring Mike Sawruk '72, Winter Park, Fla.; Paul MacDonald '81, Commerce Township; Rick Fitzpatrick, Sault Ste. Marie; and Bill Thorne '96, Sault Ste. Marie. A public reception begins at 4 p.m.; dinner begins at 5 p.m. in the Walker Cisler Center. Reservations are required for dinner.

Mike Sawruk
Outstanding Alumnus Award
President of Smi Inc., in Winter Park, Fla. Sawruk has supported a number of LSSU projects and programs through the years.

He is a 1999 recipient of the prestigious Ellis Island Medal of Honor from the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations (NECO) Inc. Each year, NECO pays homage to the immigrant experience, as well as individual achievement. Medals are awarded to U.S. citizens from various ethnic backgrounds. The honorees are remarkable Americans who exemplify outstanding qualities in both their personal and professional lives, while continuing to preserve the richness of their particular heritage.

"It is a great honor to be recognized by Lake Superior State University, one of the finest small colleges in this country that has inspired not only me, but my two brothers Don and John, as well as my Dad, with a 'can-do attitude' that has served all of us well. I look forward to getting reacquainted with the place that I will always call 'home'.

All three of the Sawruk boys are LSSU alumni. Don, president of Edison Sault Electric Company in Sault Ste. Marie, graduated in 1970. John, who graduated in 1977, is also an Edison employee.

Mike and his wife, Deborah Rockafellow, live in Winter Park, Florida.

The Outstanding Alumnus Award is the highest honor that the Association bestows upon its members. Established in 1968, it recognizes alumni who have distinguished themselves in their profession and community while also making a significant contribution, be it time, treasure or talent, in the life of their alma mater.

Paul MacDonald
Kenneth J. Shouldice Achievement Award
MacDonald is vice president of finance with the National Hockey League's Detroit Red Wings. Prior to joining the Wings, he worked for eight years in the Detroit area as an accountant in the steel service and processing industry. He began his accounting career in 1981 with the firm of Sutherland and Yoe in Plymouth. Within five years, he was promoted to president of Prestole Corporation, a stamping plant and steel service center.

Tired of the buffeting of the economic winds that have an impact on any business related to the automotive industry, he began to seek opportunities elsewhere. From the start, working with one of the major sports franchises topped his wish list. As it turns out, his timing was impeccable.

"As I was interviewing for a job in manufacturing, the Ilitch family was preparing to buy the Tigers. I got a call, and the rest is history."

Starting as a controller, his job has expanded and become more complex as the NHL has grown. He was promoted to director of finance in April 1995 and senior director of finance in October 1998. He was recently promoted to his present position.

"I am honored to be chosen for this award," MacDonald said. "Since graduation, I have tried to support the school and attend as many local functions as possible. It is great to talk to fellow alumni and throw out a few names from the past, and places in the Soo that we used to frequent."

"In the last decade, since joining the front office, the team has been to the Stanley Cup finals four times! The thrill of winning the Cup ranks just ahead of the Lakers winning a national championship," he said.

MacDonald and his wife, Sue, have three children and reside in Commerce Township.

The Shouldice Achievement Award is presented annually to an LSSU alumnus or alumna who has enjoyed significant personal and professional success.

Shouldice is, in many ways, the founding father of today's LSSU. As the first chancellor and president (1965-1982), he guided the campus from a two-year branch of Michigan Technological University to an autonomous four-year college. Enrollment grew from 700 students in 1965 to more than 2,800 in 1983 under his leadership and much of the physical plant as it exists today was developed during his tenure.

Bill Thorne
Lighthouse Recognition Award
Bill Thorne, class of '96, has a lifelong connection with LSSU. His father worked for the University and was a strong advocate at the time the school was the Soo Branch of Michigan Tech.

His father's devotion to LSSU pushed Thorne to attend the college from 1950-52. Since that time, Thorne has spent his career passing along LSSU's message to others.

"I am truly honored to receive this award," said Thorne. "I have been blessed by the many opportunities I have had in my life and it makes me smile to think of how many lives I have touched."

Thorne has worked in the broadcast industry for the past 55 years, getting his first radio job in 1948 as a disc jockey with WSOO when he was just 16 years old. When he started college in 1950, Bill established the first radio show at LSSU, titled, "Soo Tech Speaks." Broadcasting from Crawford Hall auditorium, Bill interviewed students and staff. From there, he moved on to work with many radio stations and became involved in the community.

At 27, he was selected for a national award known as Mr. DJ USA. He received the award in Nashville and was provided with the opportunity to do a coast-to-coast broadcast while interviewing Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, Jim Reeves, Fayon Young and others. His interviews have included Chief Justice Warren Berger of the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as attendance at a presidential conference with former President Richard Nixon. He recently spoke at a Michigan State University graduation ceremony.

Currently, Thorne is the host of four broadcasts and is close to releasing a book entitled A Thorne among the Roses. This book will capture all of the incredible stories, people and memories he has experienced during his lifetime in broadcasting.

Rick Fitzpatrick
Donald and Catherine Finlayson Award
Fitzpatrick is president and owner of Pingatore Cleaners Inc., a dry-cleaning and commercial rental business based in Sault Ste. Marie. As a student at LSSC, he worked at the cleaners part time while attending classes. Gradually, he started spending more time working and less time in the classroom.

After six years of juggling both work and classes, he figured he'd better choose one or the other and, at 26, he purchased Pingatore Cleaners. Since then, the business has thrived and Fitzpatrick has supported myriad activities and events in the community and at LSSU. The Sault is one of only 15 cities that can claim to be home to a state university. It is something that "Fitz" knows is an important part of his hometown.

"We are very fortunate to have LSSU as a partner in providing educational, economic and cultural opportunities for the region," he said. "The growth and prosperity of this community is closely tied to the growth and success of LSSU."

Fitzpatrick was an original member of the re-chartered LSSU Alumni Association's board of directors and currently serves on the board for the Bi-national Regional Initiative Developing Greater Education (BRIDGE). He supports and volunteers for a slew of LSSU activities and programs. He and his wife, Susan, are lifetime members of the Alumni Association's Anchor Club.

In 1998, Fitzpatrick was named an honorary member of Student Alumni Involved for Lake State (SAILS) for his continuing support of their efforts to promote the University.

He was a community bank board director for First of America Bank, is a past president and active member of the Sault Lions Club, and is president–elect of the Michigan Institute of Laundries and Drycleaners. He is also a member of Immanuel Lutheran Church's council and past school board member of the church school.

The Fitzpatricks have two children: Andrea, 10, and Ryan, 8. Ryan aspires to be a Laker hockey player some day.

The Donald and Catherine Finlayson Award is presented to an advocate of the University in recognition of contributions to profession and community. Dr. Finlayson came home to the Sault in 1946 following World War II and became the first and, until 1978, only school physician for the Sault Branch and LSSC.

To get tickets for the banquet, contact the LSSU Alumni Relations office at 635-2619 or through the web at You may also send e-mail to –LSSU-