Engineering at Nebraska, Spring 2008
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FORE! A Good Cause

Fore a Good Cause

At the college's annual Alumni Golf Tournament, Nebraska Engineers "researched" whether even a rainy day of golfing is really better than most other ways to spend a fall Monday. In October, more than 60 alums and students showed up at Lincoln's Firethorn Golf Club to help the Friends of the University of Nebraska College of Engineering raise funds for scholarships. The event was organized by Gretchen Dolson, P.E., a project manager with HDR who is a 1996 graduate of Biological Systems Engineering and holds a 2002 MBA from UNL. Nebraska Engineering thanks all our golfers. We hope to see you on the greens again next year, with a return to sunny skies!

Class of 1958 engineers celebrate 50th reunion

Class of 1958
During Homecoming 2008, several of Nebraska Engineering's "Golden" alums visited Othmer Hall. Clockwise from lower left are Bruce Lindley, Edward Travnicek, Gary Oakeson, Jerry Stratbucker and Ronald Lantz, who welcomed Dean David Allen (center) into their midst.


Bob Brichacek, B.S. EE '66, Columbus, is secretary/treasurer with Space Rentals, Inc. "I retired from Becton-Dickinson after 34 years. I founded and sold business which made vending machines. I currently manage a real estate rental business, am writing a book, and am also engaged in farm management."

Donald J. West, B.S. CIVE '69, Southport, N.C., worked his entire career with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), serving in offices from coast to coast. He led the FHWA Division Offices in Vermont and Connecticut and also served in the FHWA Washington, D.C., Headquarters Office, working with Congress to craft transportation legislation. He retired in 2004 and enjoys building houses for Habitat for Humanity, golfing, boating, and entertaining


PROFILE: John Miller -- A Success Story
by Lori McGinnis

John MillerRabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas, and other small pets are eating better thanks to John Miller, a 1971 UNL agricultural engineering graduate. Miller is founder and president of Oxbow Animal Health, maker of premium foods for small animals, in Murdock, Neb.

Similar to many other well-known inventors, Miller started Oxbow in his garage in Murdock, moved it to his parents' larger garage in Elmwood, then returned to Murdock, where the business is now centered on his farm. The renovated barn, built in 1901, houses offices for an approximately 50-person staff. The business has grown tremendously and now ships products throughout the United States and to 26 countries.

"We were really lucky to have the right idea at the right time," he said. "The market was ready for innovative products."

Having a successful business was far from his mind when he was a student at UNL. Miller was a member of Farmhouse Fraternity, and said the members had a reputation for being aggressive leaders. He added that his experiences gained from his fellowship in the Nebraska LEAD program also contributed greatly to his innovative ideas and leadership skills. After graduation, he worked as a petroleum engineer for Amoco then returned to his family farm several years later.

He decided against growing corn and soybeans since they were traded on the Chicago Board of Trade. Alfalfa was not a traded commodity; he could therefore have more control over the price.

"I've always been really independent," he said. "That's one of the reasons I came to the farm and the reason I raised alfalfa instead of corn and soybeans."

He started Oxbow Hay Co. in 1980, learning to grow premium-quality alfalfa that he sold to dairies and horse owners. As he grew adept at marketing alfalfa, he decided to add value to his product. Realizing the types of available food for small animals was limited, "I started thinking about the pet food market," he said. "I knew I could do a better job."

He made his first bag of packaged alfalfa hay in 1993. Miller said the education he received in agricultural engineering was instrumental in his ability to visualize and create the custom hay stuffing machines that now package 2,000 tons of hay per year into 15-ounce and 40-ounce bags.

At the time, people were beginning to place a higher value on small animals as pets and were taking these pets to veterinarians. So in addition to trade shows and conferences, he also marketed his product to veterinarians who, in turn, promoted it around the world. Miller created a Web site in 1994, before most businesses had sites, and began to sell his product online.

Miller has added production and warehousing facilities to his operations and expanded the line of pet food. Oxbow now has 25 different products for a variety of carnivores and herbivores. It was the first company to package and market timothy grass hay, which is now a staple food for small animals. The company recently changed its name from Oxbow Pet Products to Oxbow Animal Health, a move, he said, that better defines the professional image and direction of the company's mission. In 2006 the Small Business Administration cited Oxbow as National Exporter of the Year.


Patrick Lee, B.S. AGEN '81, of Denver, was recently named president of Gates North America Fluid Power Division. He began with Gates as an applications engineer after graduating from UNL. classnotes > He held several positions in engineering, global business development, and most recently as vice president of North American Sales.

Joe Walter, B.S. EE '81, Houston, Texas, is product development manager for Subsea Systems with Schlumberger. He gained his MSEE in 1988 from Texas Tech University. " (I am) currently working as the product development manager for Deepwater Subsea Systems and Downhole Testing Products ... Schlumberger is a multi-national oil services company with 80,000+ employees


After 10 years in Washington, D.C., David Milligan, B.S. BSEN '96, and his wife moved back to Nebraska to raise their family. David is a patent attorney and a partner with Husch Blackwell Sanders LLP in Omaha. He is starting a patent law and intellectual property law practice in Omaha and Lincoln.

Scott Sass, B.S. CM '98, Austin, Texas, is a senior project manager with DPR Construction, Inc., where he finished as project manager on Camino Medical Center (CMG) just over a year ago. CMG was a $100 million project in Mountain View, Calif., for Sutter Health. The project involved Building Information Modeling (BIM) and LEAN Project Delivery Methods and has received awards from both AIA and FIATECH for innovation and delivery. After the completion of the CMG project, he relocated to the Austin office. He is currently working on a $30 million project for Thomas Properties Group, a nationally recognized land/property developer. He has been with DPR for nine years. He and his wife, Beth, have two children: Owen (2) & Oliva (8 months).

Leigh (Ramert) Batten, B.S. ME '99, Fort Worth, Texas, is a senior aeronautical engineer with Lockheed Martin. "I work in systems design on the F-35 Lightning II (Joint Strike Fighter) program. I actively recruit for UNL at Dallas/Fort Worth area college fairs. I am also a board member of the Greater Fort Worth Metroplex USBC Association."


Blaine Christiansen, B.S. BSEN '01, holds a postdoctoral fellowship at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston (affiliated with Harvard University) and works in the Orthopedic Biomechanics Laboratory. He finished his Ph.D. in biomedical engineering at Washington University in St. Louis.

Shelby (Pridie) Fuerst, B.S. BSEN '01, is an industrial engineer (Package IE Planner) with UPS in Omaha. She received her M.S. in Industrial Engineering, also at UNL, in 2003. She has been a supervisor in the IE department for the past four years. She and her husband, Nathan, welcomed their first child, a daughter, in April 2007.

Matthew Jorgensen, B.S. BSEN '01, works with Abengoa Bioenergy in Colorado as a process engineer. He is part of the process design team for a one-of-a-kind starch/biomass hybrid bioethanol plant set to be constructed in Hugoton, Kan.

Michael Kimmel, B.S. BSEN '01, recently completed his Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Minnesota. He is a senior design engineer with Medtronic in the Cardiac Rhythm Disease Management group. Mike and his wife, Janis, have one child and live in Minneapolis.

Brian Magnusson, B.S. AGEN '01, received his P.E. license in 2006 and is finishing his MBA at Harvard Business School. After graduation, he will work for Bain & Company, a management strategy consulting firm, in their Chicago office.

Joshua Walles, B.S. CHME '02, of Spokane, Wash., is a plastic manufacturing engineer with KeyTronicEMS. " (I am) currently working on two new product introductions totaling over $3M in injection molding tooling into the company's Juarez, Mexico plant."

Tim Bray, B.S. AGEN '03, is a design engineer with Airlite Plastics Company in Omaha. Philip Christenson, M.S. '03, M.S. AGEN '04, has returned to Aurora, Neb., to begin farming after he worked for three years at John Deere IVS in Des Moines, Iowa.

Matt Foral, B.S. BSEN '03, is a process engineer in R&D with ConAgra Foods in Omaha. He enjoys the challenges and the exposure to a variety of processes. He and his wife, Anna, welcomed their first child, a daughter, in May. Tony Paulsen, M.S. ME '03, works with Lockheed Martin on the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV). The Orion program's mission includes safely transferring humans to and from the International Space Station (ISS), and providing a return to the Moon by the middle of the next decade.

Jennifer (Muller) Frey, B.S. BSEN '05, is a process engineer for ADM Corn Processing in Clinton, Iowa. She is currently the interim Alcohol Department superintendent.

Garrett Pommeranz, B.S. AGEN '05, is finishing his M.S. in Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering at the University of Minnesota.

Spencer Vorderstrasse, B.S. AGEN '05, is an irrigation design engineer for Reinke Manufacturing Co. Inc., in Deshler, Neb.

Melissa (Eman) Collins, B.S. BSEN '06, is a graduate research assistant in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Texas A&M. She is working toward her Ph.D. in cardiovascular biomechanics. Her research involves atherosclerosis and its effects on the abdominal aorta regarding the possibility of abdominal aortic aneurysms.

Mark Rentschler, B.S. ME '01, Ph.D. BMD '06, recently passed the Professional Engineer exam. He is an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

Scarlett Herrinf, B.S. IE '06, M.S. IE '07, is a doctorate student in Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she is conducting research in Human-Computer Interaction. Scarlett is involved in an interdisciplinary Ph.D. program between the IESE, Human Factors and Computer Science departments.

Max Porter, B.S. AGEN '07, is a design engineer with Behlen Manufacturing Co., in Columbus, Neb.

Aaron Stubbendieck, B.S. CHME '07, received the Automation Leadership Award in July 2008 from the Automation Division of Exxon-Mobil in Fairfax, Va., where he is an operator guidance technology engineer.

Bret Mader, B.S. CM '08, is a project engineer at Bleeker Vigesaa General Contractors in Brighton, Colo. Bleeker Vigesaa is owned by James Vigesaa, a 1988 graduate of the UNL Construction Management program. "We are very excited to add another UNL Construction Management graduate to our team," Vigesaa said. " Bret is working on our largest project to date, a 10-story high rise renovation located in Denver that will add upscale for-rent senior housing to the Capital Hill neighborhood."