Albion Recognizes Three Distinguished Alumni at Homecoming (2014)
Shari Parker Burgess, ’80
Shari Parker Burgess has had a wild—and wildly successful—ride with Lear Corporation, a Fortune 250 company and one of the automotive industry's foremost suppliers of seating and electrical distribution systems, based in Southfield, Michigan. Over the past 22 years, Burgess has helped Lear make acquisitions, deal with activist shareholder issues, enter and emerge from bankruptcy, and grow annual sales from $1.5 billion in 1992 to over $17.5 billion projected for 2014.
After beginning her career as an auditor at Ernst & Young, LLP, Burgess joined Lear's finance team at the beginning of a corporate “growth spurt.” In a six-year period, she was a principal player in Lear's acquisition of 16 companies. Promoted to vice president and treasurer in 2002, she tapped her deep experience to help Lear weather several upcoming challenges. In 2013 she added the role of chief diversity officer to her responsibilities at Lear.
As early as 2005, Burgess reorganized the company's capital structure to provide the flexibility Lear required to proactively lead the industry in restructuring its global operational footprint to gain cost efficiencies and to prepare for the emergence of global car platforms. In 2007, she played a key role in Lear's evaluation of a $5.3-billion buyout proposal from Carl Icahn. Then, like many of its customers and other suppliers in the automotive industry, Lear was forced into bankruptcy following the 2008 financial crisis. Unlike most others, however, Lear emerged from bankruptcy with one of the industry's strongest balance sheets, thanks in part to Burgess' skillful management.
Burgess' outstanding leadership in her field has been recognized with a number of professional awards. In 2007, she was named one of Detroit's Most Influential Women by Crain's Detroit Business; in 2010 she made the Automotive News list of 100 Leading Women in the North American Automotive Business and in 2011 was recognized as one of Treasury and Risk's Women in Finance.
Burgess is a board member with Inforum Center for Leadership, Health Alliance Plan, and the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion, and is active with the United Way Tocqueville Society. She holds an M.B.A. from the University of Michigan and was a member of Albion's Alpha Xi Delta sorority. She is the mother of Parker Burgess, '06, and Eric Burgess.
Paul R. Dixon, ’83
As a postdoctoral researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in New Mexico, Paul Dixon delved into a range of projects in physical chemistry, nuclear chemistry, and nuclear geochemistry. Dixon's wide-ranging expertise prompted LANL to invite him to lead the geochemistry research for, and ultimately their entire contribution to, the ambitious vision for a permanent nuclear waste storage facility for the United States at Yucca Mountain, Nevada.
The Yucca Mountain project was intended to address the nation's growing stockpile of nuclear waste. Dixon and his colleagues were tasked with designing a leak-proof, disaster-proof storage facility that would contain tons of dangerous materials for at least 25,000 years. As the LANL team program manager, Dixon oversaw an annual $12-million budget devoted to creating and studying geological and geochemical tests that Los Alamos was conducting. Under two different Department of Energy (DOE) contractors, Dixon was the deputy science manager for the Yucca Mountain project and managed an annual budget of approximately $85 million and support from seven national laboratories, twelve subcontractors, and four universities. He also briefed congressional committees and officials from four states. During the final year Dixon worked on the Yucca Mountain project, he also became the technical manager of the post-closure criticality group.
Since the federal government's abandonment of the Yucca Mountain project, Dixon has applied his unparalleled understanding of hazardous waste management to a career involving safe and cost-effective cleanup of environmental contamination at former DOE weapons production sites. Dixon is currently the senior program manager for environmental sciences within the civilian nuclear program office at LANL and is also the multi-lab program manager for the DOE's Advanced Simulation Capability for Environmental Management (ASCEM) program. The ASCEM program is developing standardized state-of-the-art modeling software to facilitate both a better understanding and communication of the cleanup decisions for contaminated soil and groundwater across the former DOE weapons complex. As the multi-lab program manager, he supervises a 30-person team of the nation's foremost geochemists, hydrologists, mathematicians, and computer scientists from the Los Alamos, Berkeley, Pacific Northwest, Oak Ridge, and Savannah River laboratories. In 2014, Dixon's team released a research version of the ASCEM program to the scientific community for their evaluation and feedback.
Dixon currently serves as chair of the Clark County, Nevada, Wildlife Advisory Board, volunteers with Youth Charities of Southern Nevada, and is a volunteer science teacher with the Clark County School District of Southern Nevada.
Dixon holds master's and doctoral degrees in geochemistry from Yale University. He and his wife, Mary Lou, live in Las Vegas and are the parents of three grown children (Ian, Jessica, and Hannah) and one grandchild (Gavin).
Carolyn Aishton Ouderkirk, ’64
French high school students, business executives, Albion alumni, and women around the world have all benefitted from Carolyn Aishton Ouderkirk's dedication to professional excellence, education, and her alma mater. Ouderkirk pursued a hard-driving business career while maintaining a lifelong devotion to service, especially on behalf of Albion College.
Ouderkirk spent 24 years at Avon Products, Inc., eventually becoming vice president of corporate affairs. At Avon, she oversaw training programs for some 500,000 Avon representatives, directed Avon's $20-million sponsorship of the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, organized an Avon partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration, and headed the Avon Women's Breast Cancer Crusade globally to raise awareness and funding for breast cancer research.
Following her retirement from Avon, Ouderkirk spent eight years as an independent consultant, teaching business communication skills and offering executive training and coaching. This education-focused work brought Ouderkirk full circle to her first 11 years out of Albion, spent teaching English for a year in France as a Fulbright-Hays Teaching Fellow, and teaching French and Spanish to elementary, high school, and college students in Michigan, Illinois, and Vermont.
Despite the many demands of her professional life, Ouderkirk's work on behalf of Albion College has remained constant and significant. She spent six years on Albion's Alumni Association Board of Directors, followed by 15 years on Albion's Board of Trustees, much of that time as the only woman on the executive committee. At their 45th reunion, Ouderkirk and a committee of her classmates presented the Class of 1964 with an ambitious five-year plan for their 50th reunion. The Class of 1964 Faculty Tribute Scholarship is well on the way to its $250,000 fundraising goal. Ouderkirk has served on a number of College advisory boards, worked on Albion capital campaigns, chaired class reunions, co-chaired a leadership campaign, organized events for New York-area alumni, and mentored Gerstacker Institute students. She has maintained close friendships with Albion faculty and residents of Albion, decades after graduation.
Ouderkirk holds a master's degree in French literature from the University of Michigan. As an Albion undergraduate, she held leadership roles in a number of organizations, including Kappa Delta sorority and student government.
She and her husband, Jerry, live in New York City and Sag Harbor, New York.