UW-Eau Claire Alumni


Alumni Distinguished Achievement Award
2013 Recipients

Jerry Eliason, Krystyna Wolniakowski and Dr. Bart Wilson will receive the Alumni Distinguished Achievement Award, which recognizes distinguished service to the community, state or nation in a manner that brings credit upon the recipient and the university.

Ken ThoresonJerry Eliason '78

Eliason graduated from UW-Eau Claire in 1978 with a bachelor's degree in environmental and public health. His first job out of school was in the water quality lab of the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District in Duluth, where he worked for five years. He then joined the Minnesota Department of Public Safety as a driver's license examiner, was named Minnesota's examiner of the year in 2001 and was promoted to assistant regional supervisor in 2002.

A resident of Cloquet, Minn., Eliason said his reason for seeking employment in the Duluth area was to feed his growing interest in exploring and documenting Lake Superior shipwrecks. During the 1980s he published a dozen magazine articles about shipwrecks, many featuring his underwater photography.

Eliason is part of a three-member team that has been searching for sunken ships for more than three decades. He and his fellow crew members have discovered a total of 12 shipwrecks, 11 in Lake Superior and one in the North Atlantic. Two sunken freighters were discovered this year alone: the Henry B. Smith and the Scotiadoc.

Professor emeritus Dr. Robert Nelson, one of Eliason's environmental health instructors at UW-Eau Claire, assisted the Eliason crew in operating the underwater camera system Eliason developed and used during the Scotiadoc expedition.

"Observing Jerry's genius and savvy in planning, research and technology was truly a fulfilling and proud experience for me," Nelson said. "The other members of Jerry's team, Kraig Smith and Ken Merryman, are equally skilled, and the combination of their talents has led to many shipwreck discoveries."

Eliason is a member of the Great Lakes Shipwreck Preservation Society, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting Great Lakes shipwrecks from the looting of artifacts.

Eliason said his greatest achievement is his son, Jarrod (high school valedictorian and summa cum laude college graduate).

"At the age of 4, Jarrod attended a few classes with me at UW-Eau Claire when I couldn't find a babysitter or afford day care," he said

Ken ThoresonBart Wilson '92

Wilson graduated summa cum laude and with University Honors from UW-Eau Claire in 1992 with majors in economics and mathematics. He also holds a master's degree and doctorate in economics from the University of Arizona. He is a professor of economics and law at Chapman University (Orange, Calif.) and holds the Donald P. Kennedy Endowed Chair of Economics and Law. He has joint appointments in the Argyros School of Business and Economics and the Fowler School of Law, with a specialty in experimental economics.

Wilson's current research focuses on the emergence of markets and property right systems in laboratory economies. His other research programs compare human and nonhuman primate decision-making and apply the experimental method to topics in gasoline markets, e-commerce, electric power deregulation and antitrust. Wilson is part of the team, led by Nobel laureate Vernon Smith, that founded the Economic Science Institute at Chapman in 2008.

Wilson's research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Federal Trade Commission and the International Foundation for Research in Experimental Economics. He has published papers in numerous professional journals, including the American Economic Review, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Wilson and three collaborators were awarded the 2012 Oliver E. Williamson Prize for best article in the Journal of Law, Economics and Organization for their article titled "The Ecological and Civil Mainsprings of Property: An Experimental Economic History of the Whalers' Rules of Capture."

Wilson extensively uses experimental economics in teaching undergraduate and graduate classes and has for the past eight years taught an intensive six-week program to introduce high school students and undergraduates to research in experimental economics.

Prior to joining Chapman University, Wilson taught at George Mason University in the department of economics, with affiliations in the schools of law and management. He also was a research scientist at the Economic Science Laboratory at the University of Arizona. He also spent a year in Washington, D.C., as an economist in the Division of Economic Policy Analysis and the Antitrust Division of the Federal Trade Commission

Ken ThoresonKrystyna Wolniakowski '77

Wolniakowski graduated from UW-Eau Claire in 1977 with a bachelor's degree in biology. In 1979 she received a master's degree from Oregon State University in environmental sciences with emphases in oceanography and marine ecology. She currently works as director of the Western Partnership Office for the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. She previously worked in conservation for consulting firms, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and the German Marshall Fund of the U.S.

At the Oregon DEQ, she worked for 10 years on the passage of the toughest water quality standards in the country to prevent toxic pollution from being discharged into the state's waters and to protect high-quality waters in pristine wilderness areas.

During a decade abroad, Wolniakowski worked for the German Marshall Fund of the U.S., setting up the first philanthropic foundation in post-Communist Poland and helping to educate the newly democratic citizens about how to become involved in free elections. During this time she received the EcoLisc Award for her contributions to the Polish environmental movement. She was then promoted to director for Central and Eastern Europe, where she initiated grants to develop independent think tanks in economic, human rights and political reforms as well as the environment.

Wolniakowski started the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation's regional office in Portland, Ore., in 2000. Of note is her work to create the Community Salmon Fund for Washington state, leveraging millions of federal dollars with private community donations to bring almost extinct wild salmon species back from the brink to their home streams. She also is a member of the National Fish Habitat Partnership board, which oversees the restoration of marine and freshwater fish habitat across the U.S.

"My goal is to promote stewardship; protect intact, healthy habitat; and restore our nation's waterways and wildlife for future generations to learn from and enjoy," Wolniakowski said.

View the list of past recipients of this award.