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March 14, 2015

The Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes recipients for outstanding achievements in their professional lives, personal integrity and stature, and service to the university. It was established in 2001 to honor extraordinary accomplishments by members of the Auburn family. Recipients of Lifetime Achievement Awards are selected by a committee of Auburn administrators, trustees, faculty and alumni.

This year’s recipients are 1959 graduate Sam Ginn, pioneer of the wireless industry.; 1977 graduate Melissa Herkt, leader for women in the engineering world; 1969 graduate David Housel, former Athletic Director for Auburn University and Auburn man, and 1968 graduate Mike Warren, president and CEO of Children’s of Alabama.

2015 LAA Winners

(pictured above) David Housel, Mike Warren, Melissa Herkt, and Sam Ginn receive their medals representing Auburn University Alumni Association's 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award during a ceremony Saturday, March 14, 2015, at The Hotel at Auburn University & Dixon Conference Center.

A Press Release is available for download.

Photographs from the event are available for purchase at this link.

2015 LAA Winners

Sam Ginn Class of 1959

Auburn University Bachelor of Science, Industrial Management; Master of Business Administration, Stanford University (1969); Honorary D.S., Auburn University (1998)

Sam Ginn has more than 42 years of experience in the telecommunications industry. After graduating from Auburn in 1959 with a degree in industrial management, he served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps. Ginn began his career in 1960 with AT&T as a student engineer. His early years at AT&T led him to increasing responsibilities in sales, engineering and operations. Ginn was transferred to California in a time of upheaval in telecommunications. Out of that upheaval came the creation of the wireless industry, where Ginn became founder, chair and CEO of AirTouch Communications, which later merged with Vodafone to become the world’s largest wireless communications company. Since the merger, Ginn has been active in charitable boards, startup companies and is chairman of the Ginn Family Foundation. In addition, Ginn made a gift of $25 million to Auburn University to establish an undergraduate degree program in wireless engineering, the first accredited wireless engineering degree program in the country. This accreditation was received because Ginn assembled an advisory board composed of executives from most of the major telecommunications companies who helped provide direction when the program was being developed and who continue to be involved in guiding the program and helping to insure the curriculum remains on the cutting edge. The College of Engineering is now the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering in his honor. In addition to his major contributions to the wireless engineering program, Ginn co-chaired Auburn’s last major fundraising campaign, during which the university raised $609 million, the largest campaign amount in the school’s history. In 2012, Ginn was appointed as the first chairman of the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), an organization designated by congress to build a nationwide mobile broadband network for first responders. In 1992, Ginn was inducted into the State of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame and just this year, he was named to the Wireless Hall of Fame Class of 2014 by the Wireless History Foundation (WHF). Ginn was given engineering’s Distinguished Alumni award in 2004 and he has served on the board of trustees for the university. Ginn and his wife, Ann, reside in Hillsborough, Calif., and they have three children and six grandchildren. Sam is a life member of the Auburn Alumni Association.

Melissa Brown Herkt Class of 1977

Auburn University Bachelor of Science, Civil Engineering

Melissa Herkt entered the male-dominated field of engineering in 1977 and quickly began breaking the barriers to help pave the way for women in civil engineering. She was the first female co-op student and worked for Alabama Power for three quarters. Following graduation from Auburn, she was hired by Exxon, where she became the first female engineer posted overseas. In that post, she was a construction engineer on a $30 million project in Denmark. This post led her to head up several billion-dollar operations in both North and South America. She was then appointed as the first female construction manager for Exxon, where she led a $300 million refinery expansion in France and a $400 million project in the UK and Denmark. Herkt has spent a great deal of her career rising in the ranks and breaking new boundaries. She served as president of Process Systems and Solutions – Americas, a division of Emerson Process Management, one of the largest and most respected engineering companies in the world. Herkt was responsible for a half-dozen vital industries approaching $900 million in annual revenue. She oversaw 4,000 employees and provided cutting-edge process-improvement solutions. Honors include induction into the National Academy of Construction in 2009 and the State of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame in 2008. Herkt continues to provide for students at Auburn University through the Melissa Brown Herkt Endowment for scholarships in civil engineering. She also is actively involved with engineering student outreach and has traveled with student teams to Bolivia twice. Herkt is part of the Auburn Alumni Engineering Council, which assesses and reviews processes used in each engineering department, and contributions through that committee have significantly strengthened the college’s academic programs. Herkt received the Construction Industry Institute’s 2004 Outstanding Implementer Award; she serves on the CII executive committee and is the past director of Mascaro Sustainability Institute, promoting green construction. She has received outstanding alumni awards from Gadsden State, Auburn University and the Chancellor of Alabama’s college system. In 2014, she was selected to serve on the AU Foundation Board. Herkt resides in Round Rock, Texas. She is a life member of the Auburn Alumni Association.

David Housel Class of 1969

Auburn University Bachelor of Arts, Journalism

David Housel graduated from Auburn University in 1969 with a BA degree in journalism from the College of Liberal Arts. After working for the athletic ticket office from 1970-1972, he was an instructor in the journalism department and advisor to the Auburn Plainsman from 1972 until 1980. He then rejoined the athletic staff as assistant sports information director, and went on to become sports information director in 1981 and assistant athletic director for the university in 1985. Housel became Auburn’s 13th Director of Athletics in April of 1994, and set standards to evaluate and measure the department’s competitive success, fiscal responsibility, rules compliance, and academic success of student-athletes during his 10-year tenure. Under his leadership, the Tigers won eight national titles, 38 SEC titles and added softball and equestrian to the sports roster at the university. Student-athletes during his tenure posted their highest graduation rates in school history and a number of athletic facility improvements were added to campus, including the construction of Samford Stadium at Plainsman Park, Jane B. Moore Field, the Lovelace Museum, the McWhorter Center for Women’s Athletics, and the Tatum Strength and Conditioning Center. Housel was named director of athletics emeritus upon his retirement from the director position in 2005. During his career, he has served as president of the SEC Sports Information Directors, chair of both the NCAA public relations and communications committees, a member of both the NCAA Championships Cabinet and Executive Committee of the Southeastern Conference and worked 18 consecutive Final Four tournaments at the request of the NCAA. Along with his positions in committees in the NCAA and SEC, Housel also served as chair of the dean’s council for Auburn University’s College of Liberal Arts. For his significant contributions to the field of sports communication, Housel has been awarded membership in the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, the Sports Information Directors Hall of Fame and has received distinguished service awards from the Walter Camp Football Foundation and the Alabama chapter of the National Football Hall of Fame. He is an honorary member of the Auburn Football Letterman’s Club and University Singers and received the Coach Jack Meagher Award at Auburn in 2011 for making significant contributions to society through athletics. In addition to these awards, in 2005, the press box in Jordan-Hare Stadium was officially named the David E. Housel Press Box. Housel has authored five books, including Saturdays to Remember (1973), Auburn University Football Vault (2007) and his 2014 publication, Auburn University Flashback: The History of the Tigers. Housel and his wife, Susan ’73, live in Auburn. He is a life member of the Auburn Alumni Association.

W. Michael Warren Class of 1968

Auburn University Bachelor of Arts, History; J.D., Duke University (1971); J.D., Birmingham Southern University (2003)

After graduating from Auburn and attending law school at Duke University, Mike Warren began his career practicing law with the Birmingham firm of Bradley, Arant, Rose & White for 12 years before joining Alabama Gas in 1983. Warren became president of Alagasco in 1984 and was named president and CEO of Energen in 1997, and chair in 1998. Under Warren’s leadership, Alagasco was named one of the 100 best companies to work for in America in the book by the same name and the Fortune magazine annual listing for two years. In 2001, Warren was named Alabama CEO of the year by The Birmingham News and in 2008, he was named president and CEO of Children’s of Alabama, the state’s only free-standing pediatric medical facility. Warren has been involved in many state and local efforts and served as chair of the Business Council of Alabama, the United Way, Leadership Birmingham and Leadership Alabama. He has also chaired the Metropolitan Development Board, the Alabama Symphony and his area American Heart Association. He has had a pivotal role in helping with the establishment of and fundraising for the Provost Leadership Undergraduate Scholarship Program (PLUS) at Auburn, a program that provides scholarships to deserving minority students. He and his family have established the William Michael Warren Endowed Undergraduate Student Leadership Awards in the College of Agriculture’s Department of Animal Sciences to honor his father, a longtime faculty member, and to support animal sciences students who demonstrate both academic excellence and leadership. In 2012, the Greater Birmingham Auburn Club awarded Warren the title of Distinguished Alumnus of the Year and just recently, Warren was selected as Birmingham’s Game Changer at The Vulcans, given by the Vulcan Park & Museum. Warren and his wife, Anne, live in Birmingham and have three children. He is a life member of the Auburn Alumni Association.

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