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2019 Alumni Achievement Awards


Alumni Engagement, Office of Advancement

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2019 Knox College Alumni Achievement Award Recipients
Knox celebrated the 182nd anniversary of its founding with the presentation of Alumni Achievement Awards at the 2019 Founders Day Convocation on Friday, February 15, in the Muelder Room, Seymour Library.

Bridget Coughlin '94, President and CEO of Shedd Aquarium; Joe Cecchi '68, former Dean of the School of Engineering at University of New Mexico and former Director on the Board of STC.UNM, the university’s technology transfer and startup incubator organization; Joel Christensen '06, attorney and partner at Behr, McCarter & Potter, P.C.; and Mark McIntosh '72, Vice Chancellor for Research, Graduate Studies and Economic Development, University of Missouri, and Vice President for Research and Economic Development, University of Missouri System.

2019 Recipients 

Joseph Cecchi '68
Citation presented by Chuck Schulz '72, Professor of Physics

Joseph Cecchi graduated from Knox in 1968 and went on to earn a Ph.D. in physics from Harvard University in 1972. At Harvard, Joe worked under the mentorship of the renowned Professor Norman Ramsey, who was awarded the 1989 Nobel Prize in Physics.

After completing his doctorate, Joe then joined the faculty of Princeton University, where he held appointments at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory and in the Department of Chemical Engineering. It was there that he focused his teaching and research on the manufacturing of semiconductor integrated circuits—the "chips" that populate computers, tablets, cell phones, and underpin the internet. This led to his first academic leadership appointments as director of Princeton's Graduate Program in Plasma Science and Technology, and director of the New Jersey SEMATECH Center of Excellence for Plasma Etching.

After 21 years at Princeton, Joe left to join the School of Engineering at the University of New Mexico as Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering (CBE). Concurrently, he served as CBE department chair for seven years and led the School of Engineering as its dean for 12 years. During his time as dean, enrollments approximately doubled to 2,300 undergraduates in nine bachelor of science degree programs and 900 graduate students in 12 programs pursuing their master of science or Ph.D.

Joe has been successful in securing more than $10 million in funding for his research from multiple government agencies and companies engaged in semiconductor manufacturing. His students were co-authors on most of his approximately 100 peer-reviewed research publications, presentations at professional meetings, and on many of the 10 patents that arose from the research. One of his patents was licensed by a major manufacturer, and other patents were the basis for a startup company formed by one of his students.

Joe also became engaged in economic development, serving on the board of directors of STC.UNM, the university's technology transfer and startup incubator organization, for 17 years, including seven years as board chair. Under his leadership, STC experienced significant growth and recognition as an innovative technology-transfer program and contributor to economic development in New Mexico. In recognition of his service to STC, the STC.UNM Board of Directors renamed the STC.UNM Lobo VentureLab the Joseph L. Cecchi VentureLab.

He is undoubtedly the most high-achieving alumnus in the long history of the Knox physics department.

Bridget Coughlin '94
Citation presented by Larry Welch, Professor of Chemistry

Bridget Coughlin graduated from Knox College in 1994 and went on to earn a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Iowa and an executive MBA certificate from Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management.

In January 2016, Bridget was named the fourth president of Shedd Aquarium, Chicago's most visited cultural attraction and a national leader in animal care, conservation education, and marine research. She has been at the forefront of developing innovative experiences that educate, entertain, and enhance the guest experience, and her commitment to learning extends well beyond the walls of Shedd. She is an active member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the Museums in the Park consortium and is a founding member of the Aquarium Conservation Partnership. Additionally, she serves on the boards of After School Matters, mindSpark Learning (Denver), and the Alaska SeaLife Center.

Before joining Shedd, Bridget served as vice president of strategic partnerships and programs and adjunct curator at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. In her position at the museum she led the creation of the museum's health exhibit, a recipient of the Association of Science-Technology Center's 2010 Leading Edge Award for Visitor Experience. She also established a National Institutes of Health-funded Genetics of Taste Lab, a community-based laboratory that gives museum guests the opportunity to participate in ongoing scientific research.

Prior to the Museum, she spent five years with the National Academy of Sciences, where she served as managing editor of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. She has also led research teams funded by the National Institutes of Health, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory.

In 2010, Bridget was named a Livingston Fellow of the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation, awarded to leaders in Colorado's nonprofit community. She served on the boards of Share Fair Nation, Clayton Early Learning, and Denver Public Schools Foundation, national and local efforts to provide access to quality education for all and increase the number of young girls in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics careers.

Tyrone C. Fahner, past chairman of Shedd Aquarium's Board of Trustees and search committee chairman, said, "Her accomplishments have established her as one of the brightest leaders of any education, research, and conservation organization today."

Mark McIntosh '72
Citation presented by Dudley McCarter '72

Mark McIntosh graduated from Knox College in 1972 and went on to earn his Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of Texas at Austin. He was a postdoctoral fellow in biochemistry from 1978 to 1981 at the University of California, Berkeley.

Mark has dedicated his entire career to the University of Missouri, where he began in 1981 as an assistant professor of microbiology. His research has focused on bacterial pathogenesis, the process by which bacteria infect and cause disease in an organism. In addition, he directed a program-project grant to develop new diagnostic and therapeutic targets for detection and control of foreign animal diseases. During his career, he has received grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the USDA, the Cystic Fibrosis Association of Missouri, and the Missouri Life Sciences Resources Board.

In 1987, he was named the first director of MU's DNA Core Facility, the first of several core research facilities at the university. In 2004, he was named director of the Research Core Facilities. He also served as director of graduate studies for 14 years in the Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, and served as chair of that department for 15 years.

He was asked to serve as MU’s interim vice chancellor for research, graduate studies, and economic development in 2015. And, in 2017, Mark was named UM System vice president for research and economic development as well as MU vice chancellor of research, graduate studies and economic development. The dual role that Mark fulfills allows him to lead the efforts to achieve excellence in research and creative breakthroughs for not only the flagship campus, but all four public research universities that make up the UM System.

Mun Choi, president of the University of Missouri System, states, "When I took the job as president, I knew that the team I formed around me would be instrumental in the important work ahead. What I didn’t know at the time was just how valuable Mark would be to me in his role. His commitment to higher education, no doubt, began at Knox College as an undergraduate student. You should be proud to know that he has made remarkable contributions to our land-grant mission of educating tomorrow's leaders while serving our state, nation and world through ground-breaking research, life-saving medicine, service and outreach."

Joel Christensen '06
Citation presented by Lane Sunderland, Professor of Political Science

Joel Christensen graduated from Knox College in 2006 with a double major in political science and philosophy. As a Knox student, he completed three internships in three remarkably different contexts—a state public defender's office, a private law firm, and the Supreme Court of the United States, a very competitive position for which only two students across the United States are chosen. After Joel finished this internship, the Administrative Assistant to the Chief Justice praised Joel’s service to Lane Sunderland, particularly his ability to help in the elaborate preparations for the investiture of Chief Justice John Roberts.

Joel went on to earn his J.D. from Washington University School of Law. While in law school, he was editor-in-chief of the Washington University Journal of Law & Policy and won the Wiley Rutledge Moot Court competition, Washington University's oldest and largest moot court. He received the faculty's Mary Collier Hitchcock Prize for outstanding writing and was awarded the Dan Carter-Earl Tedrow Memorial Award, selected by his classmates as the graduating student "exemplifying the aims of all those entering the profession of law."

After a year at Devereux Murphy and more than two years at Armstrong Teasdale, Joel joined Behr, McCarter & Potter, P.C. in 2013 and was named a partner in 2016, at an uncharacteristically young age. In the words of his nominator, Joel’s promotion came "after demonstrating the superior skill, temperament, and work ethic required to handle all aspects of our most complex litigation matters and making exceptional contributions to our firm, profession, and community."

Joel was named one of Missouri's Up & Coming Lawyers in 2016 by Missouri Lawyers Weekly® and has been recognized by Super Lawyers® as a 2016 and 2017 Rising Star in business litigation. He is a member of the Lupus Foundation of America's Board of Directors, the St. Louis County Bar Association's Executive Committee, and teaches as an adjunct professor at Washington University School of Law. On February 2, 2019, Joel was presented the "Outstanding Young Lawyer Award" by the St. Louis County Bar Association.

Joel is a former member of the Alumni Council and has returned to Knox to speak with pre-law students, most recently during spring term 2018. In summary, he has made substantial contributions to Knox, to the legal profession, and to the St. Louis community.

Click here to view previous Alumni Achievement Award Recipients.

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Printed on Monday, January 20, 2020