Spring 2006

Alumni honored at annual Slide Rule Dinner

More than 200 people attended the College of Engineering & Science's 74th annual Slide Rule Dinner, April 1 at the Mabry Center in Warren. During the event, two alumni, who are profiled below, were recognized for their accomplishments: Richard Kunnath '71, was named Engineering Alumnus of the Year and Joseph Hanak '55, was named Science Alumnus of the Year. To view photos from the event, visit the online gallery.

Engineering Alumnus of the Year: Richard M. Kunnath '71

Rik Kunnath
Co-op students benefit from alumnus' success

As Chief Executive Officer for Pankow Operating, Inc., Richard ("Rik") Kunnath '71, lives in California but keeps close ties to UDM as an advisor to the Engineering program and employer-participant in the student co-op program.

Following his undergraduate studies in Civil Engineering at University of Detroit and Cleveland State University's Graduate School of Business, he held construction-management positions with Mobil Oil and BASF before joining Pankow in 1979. In 1999, he became president and CEO of the parent company of entities internationally recognized for innovative concrete construction methods and design-build practice in projects including office buildings, hotels and residential, health care and academic facilities.

A registered civil engineer and licensed contractor and real estate broker in several states, he frequently speaks to industry and academic groups on trends and advances in design and construction. In 1993, Kunnath was among the founders of the Design-Build Institute in Washington, D.C. and served as its national chairman in 1995.

Andrea Hooper and Laurel Vandeputte
UDM Civil Engineering students Andrea Hooper and Laurel Vandeputte completed a co-op assignment with Pankow Operating, Inc., in Hawaii during winter term.
Today he is president of the Design Build Education and Research Foundation. He also heads the Board of Directors of the Charles Pankow Foundation and serves on the Board of Directors of the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association and a number of other organizations.

Kunnath's corporate and industry roles provide UDM civil engineering students co-op opportunities in a number of specialties and locations. "There is something special for students to learn that companies with out-of-state opportunities recruit UDM students. Going to Hawaii or San Francisco can be a great experience for a student, in addition to the professional exposure that may help them choose a specialty," he describes.

"Also, the salaries paid can make a big difference for students who are financially challenged. When students are considering UDM, its year-round co-op program supported by a wide range of high quality firms is a major advantage," says Kunnath.

Science Alumnus of the Year: Joseph J. Hanak '55

Joseph J. Hanak
Joseph J. Hanak
Student work evolves into patent 40 years later

Joseph Hanak '55, has spent his life's work on the cutting-edge of innovation. He recently received his 45th patent and says, "I got the idea to develop this project – a water desalination process – on the basis of some electrochemical work I was doing in my thesis work at U-D more than 40 years ago."

Born of Czechoslovakian parents in Tarrytown, N.Y., Hanak spent his childhood in Europe before returning to Tarrytown in 1946. After receiving his Bachelor of Science in Chemistry at Manhattan College in New York City, he came to the University of Detroit to earn his master's degree in Physical Chemistry. He earned his Ph.D., also in Physical Chemistry, from Iowa State University in 1959. That too led to an innovation. 

"An important process that I developed during my Ph.D. research was the first process of producing pure Europium metal (80 grams)," he says. He and two of his professors published the work.

Joining RCA's David Sarnoff Research Center in Princeton, N.J., he gained experience in areas including superconductivity, magnetism, xerography, electroluminescence and thin-film photovoltaics (PV). During his 24-year stay, he developed a number of processes, the most important of which, he says, was the Multiple-Sample Concept, a significant improvement in synthesizing new materials, that was published in 1970. It was recognized as the forerunner of the Combinatorial Materials Synthesis, which came to be widely used in producing medications and many patents and new materials. At RCA, he was also involved in producing a 140 kGauss Nb3Sn superconducting magnet.

Following General Electric's purchase of RCA, Hanak joined Energy Conversion Devices in Troy, Mich. During his six years there, he was director of PV processes and products and of defense and aerospace PV products. In 1990, he returned to Iowa and founded Apogee Corp., which initially specialized in PV and now, in water desalination. His patented ELCOR process "works well, especially for drinking water and contaminated mining water," he says

During his career, Hanak has published 85 papers in addition to inventing 45 patents. He has six children and five grandchildren, and lives with his wife Ann in Iowa.

Giving to UDM

  • We challenge you to make a difference! If made by June 30, your new or increased gift to UDM will be matched dollar-for-dollar! Please help support our students' educational experience. Challenge grant

Save the dates!

Jesuit founders Loyola, Faber, and Xavier

Sept. 25 – Oct. 7: UDM will celebrate Founders Week and Jesuit Jubilee, including a visit from the Superior General of the Jesuit order, The Very Reverend Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J.
Find out more

News and Events