Alumni Awards recognize Grover excellence, achievement

This Homecoming weekend, the Grove City College Alumni Association will honor seven of its own who have demonstrated extraordinary achievement in their fields of endeavor and for distinguished service to their alma mater.

The Jack Kennedy Memorial Alumni Achievement Award and Distinguished Service Award winners represent a commitment to excellence and service that Grove City College values and the world needs.

The newest Achievement Award honorees are A. Christopher Bakken ’82, Dr. Brian Pall ’94, and Christine (Bittler ’97) Keener. They will be feted along with the 2020 award winners at a reception and ceremony Friday.

“Exemplary service brings honor to the College. Distinctive success in an individual’s occupational field is worthy of honor and is recognized as an extraordinary commitment to bettering the world around us. This fits into the mission and value system of Grove City College,” declare guidelines approved by the Alumni Council when they established the award in 1964. That first year, the awards went to College icons: Weir C. Ketler ’08, Rev. Paul McConkey ’09, J. Howard Pew ’00, George Southworth ’14, and Robert Thorn ’16.

In 1987, the achievement award was renamed in honor of the College’s first alumni secretary and placement officer. Jack Kennedy ’37 served the College as director of alumni relations for many years and had an indelible influence on the lives and future careers of hundreds of Grovers. Additionally, a Distinguished Service Award was created in 1999 to recognize consistent and exceptional service to the College.

“The value of Grove City College is in the shared experiences that build a community that endures years and decades beyond the numbers behind our names,” Melissa (Trifaro ’96) MacLeod, senior director of Alumni and College Relations, said. “With nearly 30,000 living members, the Alumni Association is a vital constituency of the Grove City College family. The selection and presentation of the Jack Kennedy Memorial Alumni Achievement Award is a rich tradition, and we are honored to recognize alumni success, achievement, and service to the College.”

The 2020 Alumni Achievement Award honorees are:

A. Christopher Bakken III ’82 is executive vice president of nuclear operations and chief nuclear officer at Entergy Nuclear and is responsible for plants in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Michigan, and Nebraska. An enterprise leader, he builds relationships with stakeholders and the nuclear industry, and is a strong advocate for the company’s Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging initiatives.

He began his career in 1982 as a test engineer at Duquesne Light Company, where he spent nine years in the control room of Beaver Valley Unit 1 as a licensed senior reactor operator. Since then, he has held positions of increasing responsibility in operations leadership for both domestic and global companies including American Electric Power, Public Service Enterprise Group, British Energy and Électricité de France.

Prior to his current role, he led the design, licensing, procurement, construction, and commissioning of the first nuclear new-build project in the United Kingdom in 20 years for EDF Energy Nuclear New Build. An electrical engineering major, he holds a master’s in industrial administration with distinction from Carnegie Mellon University and is a fellow in the Institute of Engineering and Technology.

During his time at Grove City College, he was a brother of the Sigma Alpha Sigma fraternity. He is married to Katherine (Hofmann ’82) Bakken and has two sons.

Dr. Brian Pall, director of Global Clinical Science, Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Inc., leads a team of research clinicians who are developing the next generation of contact lens products. Throughout his career, he has focused on soft contact lens product development from prototype to global launch. He has authored multiple peer-reviewed publications and has been granted four patents. He led the clinical development and launch of the world’s first commercially available medication-releasing contact lens.

He majored in Biology at Grove City College and earned his Doctor of Optometry degree from The Ohio State University College of Optometry in 1999. He remained at Ohio State as a cornea and contact lens resident/advanced practice fellow and earned an MS degree in Vision Science in 2001. He joined Johnson & Johnson that year.

In 2017 was awarded the J&J Philip B. Hofmann Research Scientist Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Research and Development. He lectures on clinical research and contact lens-related topics worldwide.

While at Grove City College, Pall was involved in the Student Government Association and was class president all four years. He was also a member of the Tri-Rho housing group. He is married to Michele (Herold ’93) Pall and has a son and two daughters.

Christine (Bittler ’97) Keener is vice president operations, Europe and North America, for Alcoa, Inc., where she is responsible for the operational performance of 10 production facilities in Europe and North America employing over 6,300.

Working at Alcoa since 2000, she has led marketing, sales, trading, new business development, metal planning, commodity risk management, and customer service for the global primary metal portfolio of $7-8 billion in revenue, been accountable for setting the strategic direction and managing portfolio decisions and growth projects for the Aluminum business unit and held several positions in operations where she ran casthouses in Canada, the United States, and Brazil; Commercial; and Corporate Finance. Prior to her affiliation with Alcoa, Keener worked as a certified public accountant at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP.

Keener earned an accounting degree at the College and an MBA from Carnegie Mellon University. She is a member of the Aluminum Committee of the London Metal Exchange, and former chair of the Sustainability Advisory Council for the U.S. Aluminum Association and the Alcoa Women’s Network.

Keener was a member of the varsity swim team and was named the 1997 Sportswoman of the Year. A sister of the Gamma Chi sorority, she was also member of the Accounting Society and the ODK Honorary. She is married to Chad Keener ’96 and has one son and two daughters.

In addition to this year’s winners, the 2020 Alumni Achievement Award and Distinguished Service Award winners will be celebrated in person at this year’s Homecoming ceremony. The winners were recognized virtually last year.

They are:

  • Robert D. King ’69, Known as GE’s “father of electric vehicle research and development,” King and his team developed technology and patents now used by more than half of hybrid electric vehicles worldwide. King also worked on radar and sonar signal processing systems and has 135 issued U.S. patents.
  • Lisa Adams Gordon ’78 is a television news anchor and producer for Erie News Now at WICU/WSEE TV, the NBC and CBS affiliates in Erie, Pa., where applies her skills as ive broadcast director, anchor, reporter, producer, and digital  news writer. She also hosts and produces The Insider.
  • David H. Peiffer ’81 has more than 36 years of expertise in trade and commerce in the Near East. He is founder and president of NITCOM Inc., a key firm in the manufacture, marketing, and sales of vehicular climate control systems and parts throughout the Levant. He is also a published researcher and author.
  • Distinguished Service Award: David R. Rathburn ’79 chaired the College Board of Trustees for 17 years, stepping down in July 2020. In total, he served on the Board for 28 years, including a year as interim College president. He helped lead the College during a period of growth and change: extricating itself from the federal student loan program; raising half a dozen new structures – including a namesake Christian activities building; and working with four College presidents. In corporate life, Rathburn led Hopeman Brothers Marine Division of AWH Corp. for 22 years. He then formed marine interior outfitter US Joiner LLC, and now serves as vice chairman of Trident Marine Systems.
Alumni Awards recognize Grover excellence, achievement

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