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Five UW-Eau Claire Graduates Will Receive Alumni Awards

RELEASED: April 30, 2009

EAU CLAIRE — Five graduates of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire will receive awards from the UW-Eau Claire Alumni Association May 16 at a luncheon and ceremony in conjunction with spring commencement.

"We will celebrate the talent, creativity and intelligence of these individuals who represent and honor this university so well," said John Bachmeier, UW-Eau Claire director of alumni relations. "The university is proud to recognize them for their personal success and for their service to others."

JoAnne Brandes
JoAnne Brandes

JoAnne Brandes will receive the Lifetime Excellence Award, which is presented to alumni who have demonstrated longtime and successful commitment to their careers and communities. Recipients have made positive and dramatic impacts through dedication to service and living their lives as a testimony to UW-Eau Claire's motto, "Excellence."

Brandes was a top executive of SC Johnson and JohnsonDiversey Inc. for more than 25 years. She retired in 2007 as the executive vice president, chief administrative officer, general counsel and secretary of JohnsonDiversey Inc. She now serves as an outside director of several corporate boards and sits on numerous nonprofit boards. She is founder and senior fellow of the Carroll University Center for Leadership Excellence and serves on the Carroll University board of trustees. She is a UW System Regent emerita, serving from 1996-2003. Brandes chairs the UW-Eau Claire Foundation strategic planning committee and is a member of the UW-Eau Claire chancellor's advisory council. She is a partner in a new business that provides programs and consulting in global leadership.

Brandes, who was involved in creating a corporate child care center more than 23 years ago and implementing family friendly policies at SC Johnson, was named Working Mother magazine's 1994 Working Mother of the Year. She also received the 2006 State of Wisconsin Friend of Education Award, was a UW-Eau Claire Alumni Hall of Honor recipient in 2002 and received a UW-Eau Claire Alumni Distinguished Service Award in 1995.

Brandes graduated from UW-Eau Claire in 1975 with bachelor's degrees in journalism and political science. She graduated from the Willamette University College of Law in Salem, Ore., in 1978 with a doctorate of jurisprudence.

Reggie Bicha
Reggie Bicha

Reggie Bicha and Ritter Diaz will receive the Alumni Distinguished Achievement Award, which recognizes distinguished service to the community, state or nation in a manner that brings credit to the recipient and UW-Eau Claire.

Bicha is the inaugural secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, Wisconsin's first cabinet agency devoted to helping and protecting kids and families of the state.

Bicha previously served as the division administrator of Children and Family Services in the state's Department of Health and Family Services and served as DHFS deputy secretary. He has 15 years of social work experience, including serving as the Pierce County director of human services. He has served as vice president of the Wisconsin County Human Services Association and chaired the West Central Wisconsin Care Management Collaborative, which includes nine counties and three private organizations that are working to develop a public/private managed care system to expand family care and serve seniors and people with disabilities. He was appointed by Gov. Jim Doyle to the Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board in 2003 and was a foster parent from 1995 to 1998.

Bicha received a bachelor's degree in social work from UW-Eau Claire in 1992.

Ritter Diaz
Ritter Diaz

Diaz is a commercial attaché to the Embassy of the Republic of Panama in Japan. During the absence of the embassy's ambassador, he assumes the direction of the embassy's operation in the capacity of Charg d'Affairs. He has been a diplomat at the Panama Embassy in Japan since 2000. From 1994-96, he was the head of credit and collection in the finance department of Panasonic Latin America in Panama City, Panama, and from 1991-93, he was an assistant officer for the legal and collection department of Banco General in Panama City, Panama.

Through his work at the embassy, Diaz has promoted projects to clean up Panama Bay and complete the Panama-Colon Highway, connecting the Pacific and Atlantic sides of Panama. Both projects are supported by the Japanese government.

Diaz received his bachelor's degree in political science from UW-Eau Claire in 1991 and a master's degree in international political economy from the University of Tsukuba, Japan, in 2000. He also studied at the University of Panama School of Law and Political Science.

A member and past president of the Fulbright Alumni Association of Panama, Diaz helped establish a scholarship program for elementary school children in Panama in 1992.

Michael Carney
Michael Carney

Michael Carney will receive the President's Award, which recognizes outstanding professional and personal achievements and service to UW-Eau Claire.

A 1983 UW-Eau Claire chemistry graduate, Carney was named Outstanding Student in the College of Arts and Sciences. He received full support for graduate work at Harvard University, where he completed a doctorate degree. He was a National Institute of Health postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Berkeley. Following his post doctorate, Carney spent 10 years in research positions in the chemical industry, first at Chevron Chemical Co. and then at W.R. Grace & Co, where he led aresearch and development team of chemists and engineers. He joined UW-Eau Claire's chemistry faculty in 2000.

Carney has received several UW-Eau Claire awards for teaching and mentoring. He received the chemistry department's 2004 Professor of the Year award, he was named a Residence Hall Favorite Professor in 2006-08 and in 2008 he received the Mortar Board Chapter Citation Award.

Carney has been active in collaborative research projects with undergraduates, securing nearly $300,000 in external funding. Several of his undergraduate collaborators are now in graduate chemistry programs throughout the country. He helped revise the chemistry with business emphasis major, and helped redesign and modernize the general chemistry curriculum.

Samuel Ecoff
Samuel Ecoff

Samuel Ecoff will receive the Outstanding Recent Alumnus Award, which acknowledges special achievements and great promise of alumni who are within 15 years of their graduation from UW-Eau Claire.

Ecoff received his bachelor's in music, theory and composition from UW-Eau Claire in 1997 and studied music recording at Full Sail University in Winter Park, Fla. Since 1997, he has been an instructor of piano, music theory and composition and music technology at the Waukesha County Conservatory of Music in Hartland. He has written three textbooks on music technology and published articles on music technology in Clavier, Piano Notes and Keyboard Companion.

Ecoff is the state music technology chair for the Wisconsin Music Teachers Association and second vice president on the state board of the Wisconsin Federation of Music Clubs.

In addition to teaching, Ecoff is a composer with more than 500 published musical compositions for television, radio, cinema and advertising. His compositions have been heard on many television programs including, "The Today Show," NBC Nightly News," "20/20" and "Dancing with the Stars."

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KH/JB

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