Six to Receive Distinguished Alumni Award at Homecoming 2013

September 6, 2013

An airline CEO, the founder of a camp for children with serious health issues and President Obama’s campaign finance manager are among Albion College’s 2013 Distinguished Alumni Award recipients. The awardees will be honored Friday, October 11, as part of Albion’s Homecoming Weekend festivities.

This year’s ceremony will include the first presentation of the Distinguished Service Award, to Joe Serra, ’82, president of one of the nation’s largest retail automotive enterprises. “We created this new award to highlight and celebrate unselfish service and support to the College, ensuring that the alumni who are recognized are not only those with significant professional achievement, but also those who have made a difference at Albion,” said Elinor Marsh, executive director of alumni engagement. “This addition of the Service Award represents a significant and formal recognition of alumni who have performed distinguished service for Albion College through cumulative contributions or by an extraordinary act or effort that advances the College."

The 2013 Distinguished Alumni Award honorees:

Doug Armstrong

Douglas Armstrong, ’88

Ann Arbor, Michigan
Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award

A licensed EMT before he graduated from Albion High School, Doug Armstrong worked for the University of Michigan as a transplant organ perfusionist (flying with surgical teams to collect and transport organs), eventually becoming clinical transplant research nurse coordinator and assistant director of transplant clinical research and clinical trials manager. This work led Armstrong, as a volunteer, to help create Camp Michitanki (Michigan Transplant Kids) and to found and become chief executive officer of North Star Reach Group, a nonprofit now affiliated with Paul Newman’s SeriousFun organization. Next year, North Star Reach will open a 105-acre camp near Pinckney, specifically designed and built for campers ages 7-15 who have chronic and life-threatening health challenges. Armstrong has won two Washtenaw Area Mutual Aid Association Life Saving Awards. He is the son of Roberta Armstrong and Robert Armstrong, professor emeritus of chemistry.

Doug Parker

Douglas Parker, '84

Tempe, Arizona
Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award

The longest-serving current chief executive officer of a U.S. airline, Doug Parker became chairman and CEO of US Airways Group following the 2005 merger of US Airways and America West Airlines. In fiscal year 2012, US Airways set company records in on-time performance and profits, leading all Fortune 500 companies in total shareholder return. Parker got his start at American Airlines, where he and other young financial analysts developed post-deregulation innovations that transformed the entire industry, including frequent-flyer miles and the hub system. He spent four years as vice president and assistant treasurer at Northwest Airlines before becoming senior vice president, chief financial officer and eventually CEO of America West Airlines in 2001. At Albion, he was a member of the Sigma Nu fraternity, the Student Senate, and the 1980 and 1981 football teams.

Marty Nesbitt

Martin Nesbitt, ’85

Chicago, Illinois
Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award

A friend of Barack Obama for more than 20 years, Marty Nesbitt served as finance manager for Obama’s Illinois State Senate and U.S. Senate campaigns before becoming Obama’s presidential campaign treasurer. Earlier this year, Nesbitt co-founded The Vistria Group, a private equity firm focused on fields at the nexus of the public and private sectors, such as education, health care and financial services, and serves as co-chief executive officer. He developed and was CEO of The Parking Spot, an executive assistance company which today has more than $80 million in annual revenue. Nesbitt was appointed by Mayor Richard M. Daley to the board of the Chicago Housing Authority, and by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to an advisory committee on the privatization of Midway Airport. He was a member of Albion’s Delta Tau Delta fraternity, the Professional Management Program (now the Gerstacker Institute) and the men’s basketball team. In 2009, Nesbitt delivered the Stoffer Lecture and received an honorary doctorate from Albion College.

Joe Serra

Joseph Serra, ’82

Grand Blanc, Michigan
Distinguished Alumni Service Award

Joe Serra is president of Serra Automotive, which operates 28 dealerships in six states and employs more than 1,300 people. Serra himself has received the General Motors Dealer of the Year award every year since its inception, and in November 2009 was named one of 50 Visionary Dealers by Automotive News. A deeply committed Albion alumnus, he has served as a College trustee, has been a presidential adviser, and volunteers for Career Development, Admission and Institutional Advancement. For nearly 20 years, he has provided dozens of cars for Albion’s fleet. He has made significant gifts to the Dow Center wellness renovation and the campaign for upgrades of the College’s outdoor athletic facilities. Serra was a member of Delta Sigma Phi fraternity and the 1980 men’s basketball team. He was co-captain of the 1981 MIAA-champion men’s basketball team, which was inducted into Albion’s Athletic Hall of Fame.

Norma Taber

Norma Taber, ’78

McLean, Virginia
Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award

Norma Taber has spent 30 years with the MITRE Corporation, a not-for-profit research and development organization trusted for its impartiality in working with the Federal Aviation Administration, current air traffic management operations and academic researchers. As a senior systems engineer, Taber has contributed to improvements in air traffic operations including air-ground communications, route and traffic planning, and collaborative decision-making for rerouting or delaying flights. Currently, she is working with a research team developing concepts and algorithms for the next generation of departure flow management software. Just four years after graduating from Albion, she established the Norma J. Taber Scholarship for Women in Pre-Engineering at Albion College to encourage female students considering the profession. Taber is active on local and conference levels with the United Methodist Church, and makes clothing and blankets for local and international relief organizations.

Dennis Wahr

Dennis Wahr, ’74

Minneapolis, Minnesota
Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award

In the past 12 years, Dennis Wahr has co-founded two successful startup companies to develop medical devices for use in cardiovascular surgery. Following the sale of both companies to larger manufacturers, Wahr is now president and chief executive officer of Holaira, Inc., a device development company focused on new technologies for use in treating lung disease. Before he entered the business side of medicine, Wahr spent 14 years as an interventional cardiologist and served as chief of cardiology at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor. A member of Albion’s Athletic Hall of Fame, Wahr led the Britons to an MIAA golf championship in 1972; he was also an honorable mention All-MIAA basketball selection and team MVP for the 1973-74 season. He was a member of Sigma Nu fraternity.