Alumni of the Year honored at Slide Rule Dinner
More than 200 people attended the College of Engineering & Science's 75th annual Slide Rule Dinner, March 24 at the Detroit Athletic Club. During the event, two alumni, who are profiled below, were recognized for their accomplishments: Charles Biegun '55, was named Engineering Alumnus of the Year and Richard Ziemba, M.D. '56, was named Science Alumnus of the Year. To view photos from the event, visit UDM's online gallery.
Charles Biegun '55
UDM Engineering Alumnus of the Year
Engineering Alumnus of the Year Charles (Chuck) Biegun '55, can gaze down a Detroit freeway and at a minnow splashing in a stream and derive a sense of accomplishment from both. As a co-op student in 1953 he helped survey and construct the Lodge Freeway. But the project he is proudest of, he says, is Commerce Township's Waste Water Treatment Plant. Although critics feared the plant might endanger a species of minnow, the species today thrives in the stream where the 15-year-old plant he designed discharges water. Likely those critics didn't know his senior thesis focused on waste water treatment.
After graduating from St. Rita's High School in Detroit, Biegun commuted to classes at the University. Before graduating with a degree in Civil Engineering in 1955, he also had become a husband and father.
His professional career began at Hubble, Roth and Clark and the City of Troy. In 1965 he became the 10th employee of Giffels-Webster Engineers, Inc. During his years there, he served as a principal engineer, vice president, president (for 13 years) and board chairman as the Rochester Hills-based firm became a leading civil engineering, surveying and urban planning company with over 150 employees.
Grateful for his own co-op experience, he established a co-op program at Giffels-Webster that has since employed more than 50 co-op students from UDM. Twenty-three were hired as employees.
"The co-op program gave me an edge," he describes. "Today I encourage other alumni to employ co-op students."
Among the students he mentored was Keith Mayer '71, current president/CEO of Giffels-Webster and the 2003 Engineering Alumnus of the Year.
Of his award Biegun says, "I am flattered and humbled to be selected for this honor. I am happy to share the occasion with my family and friends."
Now retired, he consults for Giffels-Webster and enjoys free time with family, which includes six children and 23 grandchildren, and playing golf.
Aside from his professional career, he also has served as:
- president of the Board of St. Joseph's Parish Elementary School in Lake Orion
- lay minister with the Stephen Ministry, which councils troubled persons
- member of his parish's Stewardship Committee and
- member, UDM College of Engineering and Science's Advisory Council.
For 40 years, he and his wife Virginia, who attended Mercy College, have lived in Oakland Township.
Richard A. Ziemba, M.D. '56
Science Alumnus of the Year
During his career, Richard Ziemba, M.D. '56, has served in the military, cared for the sick on several continents and helped save a tract of northwest Florida beach. For his achievements, he received the Science Alumnus of the Year Award for 2007.
He initially studied engineering before switching to mathematics and graduating magna cum laude. Because of his mother's fatal cancer, he decided to study medicine and was accepted at Wayne State University Medical School, graduating in 1960. He served an internship in Detroit and, in 1961, joined the Navy. He served three years as a flight surgeon. After discharge, he completed a residency in internal medicine at Orange County General Hospital and a cardiology fellowship at the Veterans Administration Wadsworth Medical Center, both in southern California.
Upon completion of his medical training in the late 60s, he says, "The Lord directed me into medical missionary work." Having learned about the Mission Doctors Organization while in Los Angeles, he, his wife Melanie (whom he had met while stationed in Pensacola, FL) and their two children moved to Malawi, Africa. For almost three years, Ziemba served in a 200-bed Catholic mission hospital where he delivered babies (including his and Melanie's third) and treated serious, tropical infectious diseases. He says his family led "a simple but gratifying life" with fellow missionaries.
Returning to Pensacola in 1971, he began a cardiology practice that lasted 30 years. He affiliated with Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola and, now retired from private practice, heads its cardiac rehabilitation program.
Through the years, Ziemba also has:
- founded "Save Our Beach," which worked with other environmental groups to save 12 miles of pristine beach from development
- founded Pensacola's "Right to Life" organization and a home for unwed mothers
- volunteered at a free clinic for the indigent and uninsured
- performed short-term mission work in Honduras and
- assisted his wife in foster parenting 10 infants, many with health problems.
About his recent UDM honor and 50-year career, Ziemba says, "I appreciate the recognition of my labors. But my life is not that different from many others'; everyone has a story to tell. If I can be an inspiration to others, that would be satisfying."