MERRILLVILLE | NIPSCO kicked off its official 100th anniversary on Thursday with a trip to the past, a celebration of the present and a promise for the future.
The Centennial Celebration at NIPSCO’s headquarters featured a temporary lobby museum highlighting historic photos, equipment, ads and memorabilia.
Among the guests’ favorites was the large figure of Peppy Flame, the utility company’s gas mascot from the 1950s, surrounded by posters and advertisements using the folksy flame symbol.
During the festivities, the latest poster in the South Shore series was unveiled, created by Michigan City artist Neil Kienitz. The poster entitled “Powering Indiana for 100 years” is the fourth commissioned by NIPSCO and “the second to celebrate our legacy of providing gas and electric service for Northern Indiana,” said NIPSCO CEO Jimmy Staton.
The highlight of the evening centered on the inaugural presentation of NIPSCO Luminary Awards to four community leaders and organizations recognizing their “integrity, faith and confidence in Indiana and the Northern Indiana region,” said Staton.
“Congratulations to each of the inaugural award recipients for truly lighting the way for others to follow,” he said.
NIPSCO President Kathleen O’Leary presented the awards in four categories, and announced a $1,000 donation by NIPSCO to the charities designated by the Luminary Award winners.
Indiana state Rep. Chet Dobis was honored with the Community Leadership Award and recognized for 42 years of public service, representing House District 13.
The Emergency Response Award was presented to retired South Bend Fire Chief Howard Buchanon and members of the South Bend Fire Department.
A member of the South Bend Fire Department for 38 years, Buchanon was honored for “his willingness to partner with NIPSCO to improve emergency response procedure, natural gas safety training and damage prevention,” O’Leary said.
Purdue North Central Chancellor James Dworkin received the Education Award in recognition of partnerships he’s initiated with local school corporations encouraging and supporting science, technology, engineering and mathematics projects in grades kindergarten through 12th.
“Under his leadership, the Purdue North Central campus (in Westville) has become a change agent, supporting initiatives that emphasize and support STEM education in this region,” O’Leary said.
The Environmental Stewardship award was given to Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist. He was honored for championing the use of renewable energy sources in the new Lake Station municipal complex which opened in October.
“By including a roof-mounted solar array, three wind turbines and many other eco-friendly features in this LEED-certified building, he established the city of Lake Station as a leader in both green and energy efficiency,” O’Leary said.
The future for Northwest Indiana is bright, said Staton as he announced that NIPSCO will invest $500 million a year over the next 10 to 15 years in infrastructure, facilities, systems, employees and customer service.