Hugh McDiarmid, ’84
2014 Elkin R. Isaac Alumni Lecture
“Michigan’s Clean Energy Success and Why Not Everyone Is Thrilled”
April 23, 2014
7:30 p.m., Towsley Lecture Hall/Norris 101
As communications director with the Michigan Environmental Council (MEC), Hugh McDiarmid, Jr., '84, works with more than 60 environmental, public health, and faith-based groups across the state dedicated to positive change through the political process. Based in Lansing, MEC works on issues such as clean energy, forest management, children’s health, environmental justice, transportation, climate change, and air pollution. Surrounded by the world's largest freshwater ecosystem, MEC is also heavily involved with issues affecting the health and preservation of the Great Lakes.
An English major at Albion, McDiarmid worked as a reporter and editor at the Roscommon Herald-News and the Grand Rapids-based Advance Newspapers before joining the Detroit Free Press in 1996. At the Free Press, McDiarmid won numerous state and national awards within news beats as varied as crime, politics, local government, and breaking news. He became the Free Press' environmental writer in 2003 where he broke news on issues including Great Lakes water pollution, lead poisoning in Michigan children, dioxin contamination downstream from Dow Chemical Co. in Midland, and efforts to protect public access to the Upper Peninsula's hardwood forests.
McDiarmid is a member of the East Michigan Environmental Action Council. He was a member of Albion's Delta Sigma Phi fraternity and active with Albion's club lacrosse team. McDiarmid lives in Farmington, where he keeps bees and plays goalie on a master's lacrosse team.
Read about McDiarmid’s lecture
Michael Harrington, ’85
2013 Elkin R. Isaac Lecture
Senior Vice President and General Counsel
Eli Lilly and Co.
“Reflections on the Globalization of American Business and Its Implications for Future Leaders”
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
7:30 p.m., Towsley Lecture Hall/Norris 101
For the past 22 years, Michael Harrington has worked for Eli Lilly and Company, currently serving as the firm’s senior vice president and general counsel and as a member of the company’s executive committee. Previously he was deputy general counsel of global pharmaceutical operations, overseeing legal matters for Lilly’s global business units in animal health, biomedicines, diabetes, emerging markets, and oncology. Among other positions he has held with Lilly, Harrington served as managing director of Eli Lilly New Zealand and as general counsel for Lilly’s operations in the Asia Pacific region. As a member of various leadership teams at Lilly, he enhanced the company’s internal and external diversity initiatives.
Along with serving as an Albion College trustee, Harrington currently serves on the boards and executive committees of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, Lawyers for Civil Justice, the Indiana Repertory Theatre, and the International School of Indiana. He is a former director of the St. Francis Healthcare Foundation in Indianapolis and has been a board member of the American Tort Reform Association and the Indiana Legal Foundation. Harrington frequently shares his litigation expertise as a speaker, recently addressing the American Conference Institute and the International Association of Defense Counsel.
At Albion College, Harrington majored in English, and was a member of Delta Tau Delta and Omicron Delta Kappa. After graduating from Albion with Phi Beta Kappa honors, he earned a J.D. from Columbia University. He is married to Judy Small Harrington, ’86, and they and their family live in Zionsville, Indiana.
Read more about Harrington in our Success Stories series
Lawrence Schook, ’72
2012 Elkin R. Isaac Lecture
Vice President For Research And Senior Research Officer, University Of Illinois
“Individualizing Health and Wellness: Navigating Your Personal Journey”
7:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Towsley Lecture Hall
In his role at the University of Illinois, Schook oversees an $800 million annual sponsored research portfolio covering the University’s three campuses. Additionally, he monitors the University’s research-related concerns including intellectual property, technology commercialization, and economic development.
Schook is also an active researcher, exploring comparative genomics and translational biomedical models. He is an Edward William and Jane Marr Gutgsell professor in biomedical sciences and holds faculty affiliations with the Institute for Genomic Biology, the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, and the Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory. He currently directs the international Swine Genome Sequencing Consortium and was principal investigator for a $25 million research project sponsored by the NIH, NSF and USDA.
Schook has launched two start-up companies focusing on molecular medicine and is a fellow at the Kaufman Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership. He has served in key leadership roles at the National Research Council in animal genomics, chaired the executive steering committee of the Alliance for Animal Genome Research and was coauthor of both the cattle and pig NIH genome project white papers.
He has served on the boards of multiple biotechnology companies and the Biotechnology Industry Organization and was appointed by Illinois governor Pat Quinn to the Illinois Innovation Counsel. He is currently on the board of governors for the Argonne and Fermi National Laboratories.
Schook began his research career working with Albion College biology professor Ken Ballou, and went on to earn a doctorate from Wayne State School of Medicine, followed by postdoctoral training at the Institute for Clinical Immunology in Switzerland, and the University of Michigan. He has also held faculty positions at the Medical College of Virginia and the University of Minnesota, and was a visiting professor at the Ludwig Cancer Center of the University of Lausanne.
He is a recipient of NIH, Swiss National Fund and Pardee fellowships, received the Funk Award for Meritorious Achievements in Agriculture and the Pfizer Animal Health Research award, and is an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 2010, Schook was a Fulbright Distinguished Chair in human genomics at the University of Salzburg. He was recently selected as the ninth University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Chancellor’s Center for Advanced Study Lecturer for his pioneering work on genomics and evolutionary biology. He has mentored 38 undergraduate students, 37 graduate and doctoral students, and 19 postdoctoral fellows; has written more than 200 published works; edited six books; and is founding editor of Animal Biotechnology. Schook was named an Albion College Distinguished Alumnus in 1996.
About the Elkin R. Isaac Endowment.
John Ferris, ’89
2011 Elkin R. Isaac Lecture
Product Planning Manager, Elec. Vehicles & Infrastructure, Energy and Environmental Policy & Commercialization, General Motors Company
“Recharging the Auto Industry: The Story of the Chevrolet Volt”
7:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Towsley Lecture Hall/Norris 100
Mr. Ferris has more than 20 years of experience in the automotive industry, including multiyear assignments in corporate finance, corporate strategy, product planning, and advanced vehicle development. He has also traveled and worked overseas in Japan, South Korea, China, and the United Arab Emirates (UAB). Ferris was a member of the Chevrolet Volt Concept Team and was the program planning lead for the Chevy Volt production program. He is currently managing electric infrastructure development and home charging installation for the Volt and future General Motors Plug-in Electric Vehicle (PEV) programs. Ferris started his GM career at Saturn Corp. and has an MBA from the University of Chicago. In 1994, he was selected as one of eight MBA students nationally to participate in the 1994 Business Fellowships in Japan Program.
About the Elkin R. Isaac Endowment.
Kristen Verderame, ’90
2010 Elkin R. Isaac Lecture
CEO and Founder of Pondera International LLC
7:30 pm, Weds., April 21, 2010
Towsley Lecture Hall/Norris 101
Kristen Verderame is CEO and Founder of Pondera International LLC, a consultancy formed to assist
venture capital firms ensure and increase the value of their investments. Ms. Verderame has held a
number of consultative and strategic business roles over the last several years.
Ms. Verderame spent the bulk of her professional career in a variety of roles within BT
(British Telecom) Group plc. Her last role was Vice President and General Counsel for the
company’s US operations, where she was a leading member of the management team. During her tenure,
Ms. Verderame led the company’s Legal Department, and was also responsible for various operational
areas such as Procurement, Security and BT Federal (BT’s US Government sales organization).
Ms. Verderame holds several advisory roles outside of her day-to-day professional
responsibilities. She has been actively involved in the network of British-American organizations
in the US and UK for years, and currently serves as the general counsel to the British American
Business Council, the international umbrella organization that represents over 2,500 British and
American businesses across 25 chapters in the US and the UK. She is also past president of the
Washington, D.C. chapter. Ms. Verderame currently serves as the general counsel to the
European-American Business Council, and as a Non-Executive Director for UK Trade & Investment.
She holds membership in the Federal Communications Bar Association, the American Bar Association
and the bars of the State of Illinois, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Court of Appeals
for the Federal Circuit, and the U.S. Court of International Trade. Ms. Verderame is an
accomplished public speaker, and has presented in numerous fora on a variety of international
telecommunications policy, security, trade, employment and business issues.
Ms. Verderame received her Juris Doctor from the University of Michigan Law School, and her
Bachelors of Arts degree from Albion College, Summa Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa, with Honors.
James Gignac, ’01
2009 Elkin R. Isaac Alumni Lecture
Midwest director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign
“New Energy for America: From ‘Liberal Arts at Work’ to Moving Beyond
7:30 pm, Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Towsley Lecture Hall/Norris 101
James Gignac currently serves as Midwest director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign. Based in Chicago, Gignac helps coordinate and manage the campaign’s legal, organizing, and communications activities across a fourteen-state region. His principal focus is on supporting the campaign’s goal to eliminate one-third of the nation’s global warming emissions that come from the use of coal to generate energy by opposing new coal plant proposals, accelerating the retirement of existing coal-fired power plants, and driving investment away from coal and into clean energy solutions like energy efficiency, solar power, and wind power. Gignac’s day-to-day work consists of a varied and interesting mix of strategic planning, legal coordination, messaging, organizing, and policy advocacy designed to help move America beyond coal and into the clean energy economy of the future.
After graduating from Albion with majors in history and political science, Gignac earned his law degree from Harvard Law School in 2004. While in law school, Gignac served as executive director of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, was elected president of the Harvard Environmental Law Society, and received a Dean’s Award for Community Leadership. After leaving Harvard, he spent a year serving as a judicial law clerk for the Alaska Supreme Court. Gignac then returned to the Midwest and worked as an associate in the environmental practice group with the law firm of Mayer Brown LLP in Chicago. He joined the Sierra Club in his current capacity in June 2008.
This will be Gignac’s second presentation at an Elkin R. Isaac Symposium. As an Albion College senior in spring 2001, he presented his thesis entitled “Citizen Environmental Activism: Three Case Studies in the Albion, Michigan Area.” The thesis consisted of an analysis of three different opportunities Gignac had during his time at Albion to work with and study citizen involvement in environmental issues as a member of the Environmental Institute’s interdisciplinary Rice Creek Project and Professor Wesley Dick’s Environmental History course. Gignac received a Jenkins Award for his thesis work and was also named the outstanding graduate in both American history and political science in 2001. In his current role with the Sierra Club, the nation’s oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization, Gignac continues to work with and for volunteer activists seeking to protect their local environment and address the critical challenge of climate change.
The Institute for the Study of the Environment is a co-sponsor of this lecture.
Jim Beck, ’97
2008 Elkin R. Isaac Alumni Lecture
Program Analyst in the Office of Policy, Planning, and Evaluation (PPE)
“From Albion to Africa and Back Again: Reflections on Alternative
Careers in Science”
7:30 pm, Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Towsley Lecture Hall/Norris 101
Jim Beck is currently a program analyst in the Office of Policy, Planning, and Evaluation (PPE) in the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). He plays a technical support role or two high-level advisory bodies (NOAA’s Science Advisory Board and Research Council) that guide NOAA on research matters concerning climate modeling, weather forecasting, ecosystem management, ocean and coastal resource management, and related issues.
Over the last 10 years, Beck has focused on international natural resource management issues in Africa with a variety of leading science-based environmental organizations, initiatives, and government agencies. From 2003 to 2007, Beck worked on land-use planning and ecosystem management projects in central Africa, first for Global Forest Watch at the World Resources Institute (Washington, D.C.) and later for the Wildlife Conservation Society (Republic of Congo). He also worked at Cornell University, where he was a research assistant on a socio-economic study related to park management in Gabon for the World Wildlife Fund.
Following his graduation from Albion, Beck served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Gabon for two years, assisting with a rural aquaculture development project, and then spent a third year with the Peace Corps as a researcher collaborating with the World Wildlife Fund and the Gabonese Ministry of Forest and Water. He has also taught at the University of Maryland.
Beck’s career experiences also include management of “think tank” programs seeking to strategically influence environmental policy and practice, multi-stakeholder coalition building, and grassroots rural development.
He received a B.A. from Albion College, with a biology major and environmental science concentration, and a master’s in sustainable development and conservation biology from the University of Maryland at College Park. While an undergraduate, he had a special interest in marine biology, and conducted research with Albion biologist Jeffrey Carrier and at the Duke University Marine Laboratory in Beaufort, N.C. He participated in the Isaac Symposium in 1997 with a presentation on “Male Nurse Shark (Ginglymostoma cirratum) Movement in Relation to Mating Activities.”
Emilio DeGrazia, ’63
1999 Elkin R. Isaac Lecture
Professor of English at Winona State University
7:30 pm, Wednesday, April 14, 1999
Bobbitt Visual Arts Auditorium
Emilio DeGrazia holds master”s and doctoral degrees in English from Ohio State University. He has lived in Minnesota since 1969, and is currently a professor of English at Winona State University.
DeGrazia says he began his career as an author “in the middle of [one] night in 1973.” That night produced a first draft of “The Enemy,” one of the stories included in Enemy Country, DeGrazia”s first published book. Enemy Country was selected by Anne Tyler for a Writer”s Choice Award and chosen as one of Library Journal”s “Best Small Press Books of 1984”; another collection of stories, Seventeen Grams of Soul, won a Minnesota Book Award. DeGrazia has also published more than 100 works of fiction, poetry, and essays in various anthologies and literary journals. He is the author of two published novels, Billy Brazil and A Canticle for Bread and Stones, has co-edited the anthology 26 Minnesota Writers, and is the founder of the literary journal Great River Review. A third short story collection, Born-Again Blues, is awaiting publication.
Of his craft, DeGrazia says: “I”m driven by fairly old-fashioned ideas about the writing life: That one becomes a writer by discovering that one has something to “say” that the result should be at once story, sermon, and song; that one should genuinely want to communicate, present a vision capable of evoking a passionate response; …and that good art has only one legitimate raison d'etre, the clarification of life for the purpose of enhancing it.”