Purdue Science welcomes seven new Distinguished Science Alumni

Author(s):Tim Brouk

2017 DSAs

(From left) Henry "Hank" Foley, Kelly Kramer, Dongchu Sun, Brad Surak, College of Science interim deam Craig Svensson, Reid Leonard, Edward L. Bensman and Timothy Beers pose before the Purdue Disguished Science Alumni awards event.


The 2107 Purdue University Distinguished Science Alumni Awards ceremony was held April 7 at the Spurgeon Club inside Purdue’s Mackey Arena.

Seven scholars were given the Purdue College of Science honor, representing all seven departments of the College. The awards were created in 1990 and the 2017 honorees brought the total of Distinguished Science Alumni up to 234.

Awards are given to alumni whose work and achievements have made a significant difference in communities and lives. In many ways, distinguished alumni embody the college’s missions of launching tomorrow’s leaders, discovery with delivery, meeting global challenges and creating diverse communities for excellence. Their work and accomplishments are real world proof that a Purdue degree in science can lead to professional success and to help solve some of the enormous challenges facing modern society. They are inspirational role models for undergraduate and graduate students.

The class of 2017 includes leaders in academia and industry. They include:

  • Timothy Beers, Department of Physics and Astronomy -- For more than 30 years, Beers designed and executed large-scale surveys to discover and analyze the first generations of stars born in the galaxy and universe. He has worked with some of the planet’s most powerful telescopes including the Hubble, Hobby-Eberly and Keck in order to publish fascinating cosmic findings. Beers’ impactful work has helped him become an academic leader at Michigan State University and Notre Dame while his research has brought him numerous awards, honors and fellowships.
  • Edward L. Bensman, Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences -- Bensman realized his passion for weather data while a Purdue undergrad. He worked on the technological side, developing computer code to calculate atmospheric radiation effects as part of an early global climate model. This led to decades of metrological accomplishments, which have brought excellence to his industry, academia and the U.S. military. Today he serves as program director in Physical & Dynamic Meteorology for the National Science Foundation and a computational engineer at University of Notre Dame.
  • Henry “Hank” Foley, Department of Chemistry -- Current interim chancellor at the University of Missouri and soon to be president of the New York Institute of Technology, Foley still finds time to advance the field of chemistry. He has propelled programs not only at Mizzou but at Penn State and the University of Delaware as well. As a master’s student in Purdue Chemistry, Foley immersed himself in research. This experience helped earn him a landmark structural discovery of nanopourus carbons. His work led to a better understanding of the particles.
  • Kelly Kramer, Department of Mathematics -- As executive vice president and chief financial officer of Cisco, Kramer manages the financial strategy and operations of the company that has more than 73,000 employees and total revenue for fiscal year 2016 of $49.2 billion.
  • Reid Leonard, Department of Biological Sciences -- During his PhD studies at Purdue, Leonard witnessed the activity of an individual protein in real-time, a nicotinic acetylcholine receptor expressed on an embryonic cell taken from muscle. After Purdue, he climbed the ranks at Merk Research Laboratories on the East Coast before creating multiple start-up companies. Leonard also earned his certification as a search and rescue and disaster response mission pilot for the Civil Air Patrol, an auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force.
  • Dongchu Sun, Department of Statistics -- Sun has been a leading academic force in the University of Missouri Statistics program for more than a decade. He has earned numerous awards for his statistical prowess, all while teaching numerous classes. Sun’s research has brought more depth to the fields of Bayesian methodology, survey sampling, small area estimation, decision theory, business and econometrics, just to name a few. He currently serves as chairman of the Department of Statistics at Missouri.
  • Brad Surak, Department of Computer Science -- Surak is chief operating officer of GE Digital and a founding member of the GE Digital executive team, where his more than 20 years of technology industry leadership, computer software and analytics expertise, and executive management experience became a major asset to the longstanding company’s digital side. Surak’s knack for industry success started while still a Boilermaker undergrad. He credits his IT work at a Whirlpool Corporation facility – then located in West Lafayette – as an important first exposure to how computing can fuel major companies.

For lists of previous Distinguished Science Alumni, click here.

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