Sault Ste. Marie, MI — Lake Superior State University and the LSSU Alumni Association will pay tribute to three highly accomplished alumni at the annual Alumni Awards Reception beginning at 12:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 14, in the Walker Cisler Center as part of Great Lake State Weekend 2023.
The public is welcome at the reception to honor Ashley (Ryckman) O’Dwyer ’13, Anita Saluja ’92, and Doug Weight ’91. Reservations are $10 each and must be reserved by October 6, for this event. They are available at alumni.lssu.edu/glsw-2023, Lukenda Alumni House on LSSU’s campus, or by calling the LSSU Alumni Office at 906-635-2844.
“Awards help our institution celebrate individuals who’ve achieved outstanding personal and career successes. They also help remind us that belief in our students often leads to inspiration, and in turn, becomes the beginning of achievement,” Interim President Lynn Gillette said. “I’d like to congratulate all of our recipients. We have a unique story to tell here at LSSU, and each of these people have helped make our story richer and worth remembering.”
Ashley (Ryckman) O’Dwyer, OD was selected as the 2023 recipient of the Paul Ripley Award for Young Alumni. The award was established in 1994 and is presented to graduates who have enjoyed exceptional personal and professional success early in their careers. She is married to fellow Laker Alumnus, Shawn O’Dwyer, and they have two children, Murphy (3) and Lily (1).
O’Dwyer graduated Summa Cum Laude in 2013, with her Honors Degree of Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry Pre-Professional. While a student at LSSU, she was in the Honors Program, and was also a member of the Pre-Professional Society and Chemistry Club. She worked as a Chemistry tutor and an Associate Instructor for Humanities.
“I loved the individual attention from the small class size,” O’Dwyer commented. “I loved the small school and knowing each person in your class for the four years. I am still close with a lot of people I met there. Two classmates and friends actually work with me at Bay Mills Health Center as dentists. We all went to Lake State the same time, went to professional school and came back into the area to work in the same clinic. If you would have told me then that we would all have different careers but work in the same building, I never would have believed you. Lake State cultivates an experience where classmates become friends that feel like family.”
During the summer following her junior year, O’Dwyer received a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (NSF: REU) at the University of Wisconsin, and did microbiology research. After earning her BS at LSSU, she attended Indiana University School of Optometry in Bloomington, IN to obtain her Doctor of Optometry degree. While there, she continued to do research as part of the Dean Scholar Program in ocular surface research, and as a clinical research assistant doing entrance testing for subjects in the ocular surface clinical research lab. She also had several externships including Atwater Eye Care Center, Talley Eye Care Center, Indianapolis Eye Care Center, and with the Veterans Affairs Clinic.
“Life is such an amazing journey and adventure,” said O’Dwyer. “It’s hard to look forward and see where you are going – you have an idea and a dream that keeps becoming clearer as you move forward. Sometimes the view can be extremely cloudy. But then you realize when you look behind you, it all made perfect sense all along, and couldn’t have happened any other way. My advice is keep moving forward, even with messy, unclear action. It will all be clear someday. ”
O’Dwyer is licensed to practice optometry in Alaska and Michigan. She is Chief Optometric Officer with the Bay Mills Indian Community, and the co-owner of a traveling eye clinic – the Eye Guys LLC – in Wasilla, AK, which she co-founded in March 2021.
O’Dwyer grew up on the water in Houghton Lake and enjoys fishing and boating. She also enjoys yoga and is a guest instructor at Northern Life Yoga in Sault Ste. Marie. O’Dwyer met her husband, Shawn, while at LSSU, where he studied in the Fire Science program. Her dad, Doug Ryckman is an LSSU alum and played on the LSSU men’s basketball team 1974-78. Her sister, Cassandra is a Laker as well, and met her husband at LSSU. Lake State definitely holds a very special place in all their hearts.
Anita Saluja, MD, FAAD will receive the Kenneth J. Shouldice Professional Achievement Award at the annual Alumni Awards Reception during Great Lake State Weekend on Saturday, October 14. The Shouldice Award, established in 1994, honors individuals whose personal and professional successes serve as outstanding examples to LSSU graduates. Dr. Shouldice is, in many ways, the founding father of today’s Lake Superior State University. 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. Saluja is married to Raj Gutta, an emergency medicine physician, and they have two children, son Sajan (22), daughter Priya (19).
Saluja is the daughter of long-time LSSU professor emeritus, Madan Saluja and his wife Karuna Saluja, who is a retired school teacher. Her family ran a summer gift shop and at an early age she would compute the customers’ bills in her head. Her parents realized she needed math classes that were more advanced. She started as a student at LSSU when she was just 10 years old, and graduated in 1992 summa cum laude with a BS in Mathematics at the age of 15.
“The time I spent at LSSU was the best time of my life,” commented Saluja. “There was a sense of community. The professors were hands on, the classes were small, and my fellow students were friendly and focused. It was a supportive learning environment.” It would only seem fitting that Anita is this year’s recipient of the Shouldice Award, as she went on to say, “I loved my study sessions in the Shouldice library, often staying there until close. Also, the Norris Center recreation sessions could not be beat! The best part is that I left LSSU fully prepared.”
Following her graduation from LSSU, she transitioned from studying numbers to studying medicine. Saluja earned her medical degree at the age of 20 from The University of Michigan, where she was a member of the prestigious Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society. After her internship, Saluja received three years of dermatology specialty training at Emory University in Atlanta, GA, helping her become an expert dedicated to skin. Additionally, she is board-certified in dermatology by the American Board of Dermatology since 2001, and is also an Assistant Volunteer Professor at the University of Central Florida School of Medicine.
Saluja moved to Melbourne, Florida in 2001, where she was fortunate to be part of physician owned multi-specialty group MIMA (Melbourne Internal Medicine Associates) for 11 years. After MIMA was acquired by Health First healthcare system, she continued for another 4 years. In March 2017, she founded her modern, synergistic dermatology practice, Dermatology + Plastic Surgery in Melbourne, FL, alongside her partner and fellow LSSU grad, plastic surgeon Rebecca (Johnson) Novo, MD ‘04. They are two specialist physicians with one shared mission — to help patients achieve their best selves through prevention, treatment and maintenance.
Saluja has been the number one volume and experienced Botox, filler, and Sculptra injector in central Florida and in the top 100 in the United States for years. The practice serves 23,000 patients and has grown to a team of 50. Three years ago, the practice joined Forefront Dermatology, a leading dermatology group practice with 225+ locations and 250+ dermatologists in 26 states.
Additionally, Saluja enjoys being involved in her Brevard County, FL community, especially with charities benefiting women and children. She is a long-time supporter of Candlelighters of Brevard, a nonprofit offering assistance to children with cancer and their families. Recently, this year, Dermatology + Plastic Surgery was the presenting sponsor for Wine, Women, and Shoes Space Coast benefiting weVenture Women’s Business Center, a nonprofit helping women entrepreneurs.
Doug Weight, who attended LSSU 1989 through 1991, has been chosen as the 2023 recipient of the LSSU Outstanding Alumnus Award. The award established in 1968, is the highest honor that the association presents. It recognizes recipients for their personal and professional accomplishments and their involvement with LSSU, highlighting the significant achievements of alumni who serve as leaders in our region, state and nations. Weight is married to Allison and they have three children – daughters Ryan (24) and Addison (20), and son Danny (22). Weight, a Laker standout from 1989-1991, established the Doug Weight Hockey Endowment in 2002 to support Laker hockey operations, noting that it was his intention to establish an endowment that reflects his desire to benefit the growth and success of the program while inspiring others to contribute as well. His endowment represented the first major financial contribution by a former Laker Hockey player in the university’s history. In 2021, the Doug Weight Performance Center was made possible through a distribution from the Doug Weight Endowment at LSSU. The newly renovated facility includes all new floor to ceiling décor and state-of-the-art weight equipment.
“I absolutely loved my time and experience at Lake Superior State University,” Weight reminisced. “The years I spent as a resident of the Soo, an LSSU student and a Laker hockey player are beyond memorable. Sharing great times with teammates, staff and fellow students and creating many lifelong friendships. It is truly a wonderful place and I am proud and honored to continue to be able to be a part of the University and Laker Hockey. For Always, Go Lakers!”
A Warren, MI native, Weight played two seasons at Lake Superior State, where he helped lead LSSU to
CCHA regular-season and playoff titles in 1991 and two NCAA Quarterfinals appearances, 1990, 1991. He was drafted by the New York Rangers in the second round (34 th overall) of the 1990 NHL entry draft. This was LSSU’s second-highest NHL Draft pick. Weight went on to represent the United States at nine major international competitions throughout his professional career including three Olympic Winter Games (1998, 2002 and 2006), three IIHF Men’s World Championships (1993, 1994 and 2005), two World Cups of Hockey (1996 and 2004) – winning a gold medal in his first appearance – and one IIHF World Junior Championship (1991). He was inducted into the LSSU Athletics Hall of Fame in 2010, and into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2013.
A veteran of 1,238 NHL games, Weight finished his career placing 65 th on the NHL’s scoring list with
1,033 points (755 assists and 278 goals). He is one of nine American-born players with more than 1,000 NHL points, which he earned across 20 years in the league. His playing career included stints with the New York Rangers, Edmonton Oilers, St. Louis Blues, Carolina Hurricanes, Anaheim Ducks and the New York Islanders.
After retiring from playing, Weight became an assistant coach of the New York Islanders in the 2011-12 season. In January 2017, he was promoted to Interim Head Coach. In April 2017, he was officially named head coach after he led the team to a 24–12–4 record after taking on the coaching duties mid-season. Weight is currently a key member of the San Jose Sharks’ organization, with one of the most intriguing roles and job titles, Hockey Operations Adviser.