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Six new fellows were named and two team awards were bestowed at Thursday night’s induction ceremony held at Horseshoe Casino for the Society of Innovators of Northwest Indiana at Ivy Tech Community College.

In all, the largest class in the society’s 12-year history was announced, with 377 new individual and associate team members welcomed. The Society of Innovators discovers and celebrates innovation in Northwest Indiana.

Nominations for the honors come from Jasper, Lake, Porter, LaPorte, Newton, Pulaski and Starke counties.

“The selection of our individuals and team members culminates a rigorous six-month process based upon nominations reviewed by leaders serving as reviewers and judges,” said O’Merrial Butchee, director of the Gerald I. Lamkin Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center. “Our goal is to select the most innovative individuals and teams in our seven counties.”

Society Chairman Richard Marrell, founder of an innovative prosthetics firm, told the audience you invent alone but you innovate together.

He told the story of his mother, who suggested an idea for using the mounds of sawdust accumulating in his shop for a new product.

“Collaboration can come from surprising places when you let your guard down and listen to what people have to say,” Marrell said.

Inducted as fellows into the Society of Innovators of Northwest Indiana at Ivy Tech Community College were:

Jon Groth, area director/principal, Porter County Career and Technical Education, Valparaiso, who led the innovative repurposing of an historic 1912 Grand Truck rail depot into a 21st century classroom. Groth worked with community leaders and volunteers to raise funds and relocate the historic building.

Chancellor Thomas L. Keon, Ph.D., launched and led the unification of two campuses into a single university called Purdue University Northwest. This is a first in Indiana and one of a handful of unifications of this nature in the nation involving innovative educational mergers.

Elizabeth Lynn, Ph.D., Valparaiso University, founded the Center for Civic Reflection, a national center that developed and refined an innovative, applied use of the humanities to illustrate issues of concern through reflective dialogue. The Center has trained more than 7,000 facilitators and led more than 20,000 people in public, community and workplace dialogues.

Sandra Chimon-Peszek Rogers, Ph.D., Director of the Calumet College of St. Joseph Biophysical Chemistry Department and a researcher into Alzheimer’s disease, launched an innovative curriculum that combines lectures with hands-on lab work that especially helps struggling students.

Mayor Joseph Stahura of Whiting transformed a “sleepy company town” into an evolving “21st century destination.” This shift had its roots in the 2004 tax crisis that led to an innovative entrepreneurial culture that reinvigorated the community.

Dr. Barbara Eason-Watkins, Superintendent, Michigan City Area Schools, championed transformation by overcoming “missed opportunities” and demonstrating an innovative spirit of collaboration involving the community, county and school system. Among other initiatives, she launched the first NIPSCO Energy Academy; the first STEM public elementary school, and the first construction technology program in Indiana leading to apprenticeships.

The society’s new Accelerating Greatness Award for Team Innovation was bestowed on Urschel Laboratories Inc., of Chesterton. The company has pioneered a transformation in technology and created an entrepreneurial culture among its 400 employees that have made it the global leader in food cutting technology. The company is now owned by its employees.

The Society’s Chanute Prize for Team Innovation was awarded to The Grand Calumet River Partners in Restoration, which transformed the Grand Calumet River, with more than 80 percent of the river “coming alive again” over the past decade. Once called the most polluted river in the world, this massive cleanup grew out of the 2004 Grand Cal Consent Decree.

Principal partners in the Society of Innovators are ArcelorMittal, Bukva Imaging, Doherty Imaging, Horseshoe Casino, Krieg DeVault, Lakeshore Public Media, NIPSCO, Northwest Indiana Business Quarterly, SMDG, and The Times Media Company. The Center for Workforce Innovations is a community partner.

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