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WMU announces 2008 Distinguished Alumni Award recipients

Sept. 2, 2008

KALAMAZOO--A prominent teacher-entrepreneur, researcher and businessman have been selected by the Western Michigan University Alumni Association to receive its most prestigious honor, the Distinguished Alumni Award.

This year's award recipients are: Dr. Richard Koehn, president and chief executive officer of Sentry Animal Care Inc. in Salt Lake City; Dr. Nick Triantafillopoulos, director of polymer innovation for the Akron Technology Center of OMNOVA Solutions Inc.; and Charles Valluzzo, CEO of McDonald's of Baton Rouge, La.

The Distinguished Alumni Award was established in 1963 to recognize graduates of WMU who have achieved a high level of success in their professions. The 2008 recipients will be recognized at a reception and dinner starting at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 3, in the West Ballroom of the Bernhard Center on WMU's main campus.

Reservations for the event are due by Friday, Sept. 19, and may be made online by visiting wmich.edu/alumni or by calling (269) 387-8777.

Richard Koehn heads SentrX Animal Care, a start-up company devoted to delivering cutting-edge animal care products.

He earned a bachelor's degree from WMU in 1963 and a doctorate from Arizona State University in 1967, then went on to teach at the University of Kansas for three years. Koehn accepted a professorship in ecology and evolution at the State University of New York at Stony Brook in 1970 and spent the next 22 years of his career there.

In addition to his teaching responsibilities, he served as the university's dean of biological sciences and was the founding director of its Center for Biotechnology for New York State.

In 1992, Koehn was appointed vice president for research and professor of biology at the University of Utah, where he worked until 2001. He then became president and CEO of Salus Therapeutics, an oncology drug company acquired by Genta Inc. in 2003.

One year later, he co-founded SentrX Surgical, a medical device company and a spin-off of research at the university. As president and CEO of SentrX Surgical, he negotiated a major investment by a leading venture group that resulted in the creation of Carbylan BioSurgery and SentrX Animal Care, which also was founded on technology from the University of Utah.

Koehn is credited with advancing science and technology in Utah, both as a research leader and entrepreneur, and received the state's Governor's Medal for Science and Technology. He also has received several other honors, including being named a Guggenheim Fellow, a NATO Senior Science Fellow, and an Ernst & Young's "Entrepreneur of the Year."

Nick Triantafillopoulos is an internationally recognized expert in coating process technologies and rheology.

He earned a bachelor's degree in physics from the University of Athens in 1979 and bachelor's and master's degrees in paper science and engineering from WMU in 1981 and 1985, respectively.

Over the course of the next five years, Triantafillopoulos worked as a research scientist, engineer and scientific advisor for several Midwest companies while earning a doctorate in 1991 from the Institute of Paper Science and Technology in Atlanta.

OMNOVA Solutions, known for its innovative emulsion polymers and specialty chemicals, hired him as a senior research associate in 1992 and since then, he has held several positions of increasing responsibility.

Named to his current post in 2000, Triantafillopoulos oversees OMNOVA's activities in the areas of polymer innovation, analytical solutions and new product development for paper and carpet. He added to these responsibilities in 2003, when he was named director of new technologies for RohmNova, OMNOVA's paper coatings joint venture with Rohm & Haas.

Triantafillopoulos holds four patents and is a technical editor for several professional journals. He has received numerous honors for his technical innovation and leadership in the paper science and printing industry, including a fellowship from the Technical Association of the Paper and Pulp Industry, a recognition given to only 1 percent of the association's 24,000 worldwide members.

Charles Valluzzo is one of McDonald's largest franchise holders, overseeing 53 stores as CEO of McDonald's of Baton Rouge.

Valluzzo, a marketing major at WMU, purchased his first McDonald's franchise in Joplin, Mo., immediately after graduating in 1962 with a Bachelor of Business Administration. Two years later, he moved to Baton Rouge, a larger market suitable for expansion beyond one store, and opened the first McDonald's in that area.

A second and third store soon followed and by the end of the 1960s, Valluzzo had seven stores throughout the area. With his strong work ethic and sound understanding of every facet of business, he more than tripled his number of stores by the end of the 1980s.

As the operation has grown, Valluzzo has continued to prove his business acumen by creating his own distribution center, McBR Distribution, and becoming one of only three franchise operators to supply their own goods. Growth also has resulted in the business becoming a family affair, with key divisions being led by Valluzzo's four sons and son-in-law.

In addition to winning McDonald's marketing excellence award three times, Valluzzo has received the corporation's highest recognition--the prestigious Golden Arch Award. He has served on the boards of every significant social and civic organization in Baton Rouge and has earned many awards for community service and philanthropy.

They include the McTLC Award from McDonald Children Charities, which is given in recognition of efforts to improve the lives of children; Caring Award from the Louisiana Red Cross for humanitarian services; and Philanthropist of the Year honor from the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

Media contact: Jeanne Baron, (269) 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

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