Seven alumni received awards May 21 from the UW-Eau Claire Alumni Association, recognizing their professional and personal successes as well as their contributions to UW-Eau Claire, their communities and their professions. The awards were presented at a luncheon and ceremony in conjunction with spring commencement.
Learn more about the Alumni Association honorees below. Also read their words of advice for UW-Eau Claire's May graduates.
Outstanding Recent Alumnus Award
The Outstanding Recent Alumnus Award acknowledges the special achievements and great promise of alumni who are within 15 years of their graduation from UW-Eau Claire.
Hiep Nguyen ‘08, bachelor’s degree in computer science
Hiep Nguyen, a native of Vietnam, attended UW-Eau Claire as an international student. His experiences living, learning and working in another country as an undergraduate, and later as a financial economics graduate student at the University of Oxford in England, have led to a successful international career in the financial industry.
Nguyen is director and investment analyst for Southeast Asia for Caravel Management LLC, a New York-based investment management firm focused on investing in frontier and emerging markets.
Before joining Caravel Management, Nguyen was a research analyst for Saigon Securities Inc. in Vietnam, where he did in-depth research on the telecommunications and gold and jewelry industries. He also worked previously as an IT analyst for Marshfield Clinic, where he designed, developed and deployed real-time financial applications for the largest private group medical practice in Wisconsin.
The President’s Award recognizes outstanding professional and personal achievements and service to UW-Eau Claire.
Judge William Domina ‘82, bachelor’s degree in business administration
A judicial clerkship with the Wisconsin Court of Appeals from 1985-87 gave Judge William Domina, then a recent University of Wisconsin Law School graduate, a firsthand look at the importance of the state judicial system. The experience led him to decide that one day he wanted to work as a judge in Wisconsin.
Following positions as a litigation associate for a Milwaukee law firm, principal assistant legal counsel for Waukesha County and then chief legal counsel for Milwaukee County, Domina was appointed by Governor Jim Doyle as circuit court judge in Waukesha County in 2010. He later was elected to the position in 2011.
As circuit court judge, Domina helped establish the Waukesha County Drug Treatment Court in response to rapidly rising heroin and opiate addiction problems and related criminal activity. The purpose of the Waukesha DTC, which facilitates treatment for adults who are nonviolent offenders, is to break the cycle of addiction. In addition to presiding over the DTC for three years, Domina was the presiding judge over Waukesha County’s Alcohol Treatment Court for two years. Domina also established the Waukesha County Juvenile Legal Clinic. In June 2015, he was named the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Bench and Bar Committee Judge of the Year for his work with both the Waukesha DTC and Juvenile Legal Clinic.
A commitment to his community has been a priority for Domina outside of his career as well. His many volunteer leadership roles have included serving for 10 years on the Waukesha School Board and as a Governor Doyle appointee to the Wisconsin Tobacco Control Board, which was responsible for setting tobacco control policy for Wisconsin. He also has been very active in the professional bar associations for Wisconsin and Waukesha County lawyers.
Scott VanderSanden ‘87, bachelor’s degree in finance
Scott VanderSanden has been president at AT&T Wisconsin since 2006. Before being appointed president, he held positions in the company’s finance and central regulatory departments, followed by serving as the company’s vice president of regulatory affairs.
As president of AT&T Wisconsin, VanderSanden worked closely with the Wisconsin State Legislature on Act 42, the video competition bill, which accelerated AT&T’s successful entry into the Wisconsin video market. He also led AT&T’s efforts to support the Telecommunications Modernization Act of 2011, the first major revision of the statutes regulating telecommunications since 1994. Under his leadership, AT&T continues to expand its wireless network within Wisconsin.
VanderSanden received a master's degree in business administration from UW-Madison. He is a member of the board of directors for the Milwaukee Metropolitan Association of Commerce and is president of Competitive Wisconsin. He serves as a member of the UW-Eau Claire Chancellor’s Council, which provides strategic leadership counsel to Chancellor James Schmidt, and he is a member of the UW-Madison School of Business Dean’s Advisory Board. He has supported the Scott VanderSanden International Study Scholarship through the UW-Eau Claire Foundation since 2009.
Alumni Distinguished Achievement Award
The Alumni Distinguished Achievement Award recognizes distinguished service to the community, state or nation in a manner that brings credit upon the recipient and the university.
Felix Cisneros Caballero ‘97, bachelor’s degree in journalism
Felix Cisneros Caballero has been the senior press specialist in the diplomacy section of the U.S. Embassy in Managua, Nicaragua, since 2005. In that position, he monitors the news media on a daily basis and establishes contact with the Nicaraguan press corps, ensuring they are up to date on the embassy’s public positions. He also coordinates the selection, adaptation, targeting, distribution and placement of the embassy’s print, audio and visual communications, and he maintains professional contacts with Nicaraguan officials at the highest level.
Prior to his position at the U.S. Embassy, Cisneros worked for 6½ years as a journalist in his native Nicaragua. He first was a journalist for Channel 2 in Managua, where he was producer of the evening newscast. He then was news director at Channel 12 in Managua, Nicaragua’s national television station. He oversaw four daily newscasts, served as news anchor and directed a weekly show on which he interviewed presidents, prime ministers, and other top national officials, including U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell during his 2003 visit to Nicaragua.
Cisneros also has a law degree from Universidad Politécnica de Nicaragua, where he teaches part time. He also volunteers with various organizations working with Nicaraguan youth, helping to promote education and sports among youth as a means to overcome social and economic challenges.
John Hecht ‘80, bachelor's degree in accounting
John Hecht is an award-winning financial services executive with 33 years of experience in Wisconsin and Illinois. He is the Madison market president at Starion Financial, where he is responsible for leadership of the firm’s business banking team and related services in the greater Madison area.
Hecht passed the CPA exam following his UW-Eau Claire graduation and began his career as an internal auditor for a bank in Wausau. After progressing through various positions there, he was recruited to AMCORE Financial in Illinois, where he began as corporate controller and over time was promoted to chief financial officer.
Moving back to Wisconsin, Hecht next was president and CEO for 7½ years at WPS Community Bank, a nationally recognized $100 million start-up community bank in Madison. Hecht led the formation, organization and leadership of the start-up, a wholly owned subsidiary of WPS Health Insurance. In 2014 the Independent Community Bankers of America recognized WPS Community Bank as one of the top 100 industry U.S. loan producers. The bank earned the No. 3 ranking of the more than 250 banks in Wisconsin. In spring 2015, Starion Financial bought WPS Community Bank, which then took on Starion’s name.
Hecht also serves or has served on the boards of several professional and non-profit organizations, including as treasurer of the Aldo Leopold Nature Center board and as president of the boards of the Monona Chamber of Commerce and the Madison chapter of Financial Executives International.
Lifetime Excellence Award
The Lifetime Excellence Award is presented to UW-Eau Claire alumni who have demonstrated longtime and successful commitment to their careers and communities. These individuals have made a positive and dramatic impact through enthusiastic dedication to service and living their lives as a testimony to UW-Eau Claire’s motto, “Excellence.”
Mary Jo Quinn ‘77, bachelor’s degree in special education
Mary Jo Quinn has taken an unexpected track to becoming a successful investment attorney, with a theme of service to others remaining a constant along the way.
Her career began as one would expect following her UW-Eau Claire graduation with a special education degree, when for seven years she was a special education teacher at public schools in Loyal, Wisconsin, and Littleton, Colorado. She then decided to attend law school, hoping to eventually lobby for disability issues when working as an investment attorney. After receiving her juris doctor degree from the University of California Hastings College of the Law, she worked at firms in Washington, D.C., and Chicago for eight years before joining Allstate Insurance in 1996.
At Allstate, Quinn has held several leadership positions in various divisions. Now, as vice president and assistant general counsel in Allstate’s Investments and Business Transactions Law Division, she leads a team of lawyers providing legal services to Allstate’s portfolio of over $80 billion.
Quinn also volunteers as Allstate’s relationship manager with Cabrini Green Legal Aid. In that role, she organized the training of more than 65 Allstate lawyers to join her in volunteering with CGLA, which gives low-income clients a second chance through expungement and clemency. She arranged for donations of more than $100,000 from Allstate to support the effort, and she has recruited other corporations to join them in their work.
Charles Szews ‘78, bachelor’s degree in accounting
Charles Szews retired in December after 20 years in leadership roles at Oshkosh Corporation, a global manufacturer and marketer of specialty vehicles and vehicle bodies. Szews served over time in the positions of executive vice president, chief financial officer, chief operating officer, company president and chief executive officer. He had served as Oshkosh’s CEO for five years at the time of his retirement, and he had been a member of the company’s board of directors since 2007.
Szews helped lead the growth of Oshkosh Corporation from an unprofitable company with $400 million in sales and under $75 million in market equity in 1996 to a global industrial company with sales over $6 billion, strong margins and $3 billion in market equity in 2015. The evolution of the Oshkosh Corporation culture under Szews’ leadership resulted in the company being one of only 131 companies across 21 countries named by the Ethisphere Institute as a World's Most Ethical Company.
Highlights during Szews’ career at Oshkosh Corporation included two major U.S. Defense Department contracts: (1) the Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected All-Terrain Vehicle (or M-ATV) in 2009, which saved thousands of American and coalition troop lives from mine blasts in Afghanistan; and (2) the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (or JLTV) in 2015, which replaces the HMMWV (commonly known as the Humvee).
Before joining Oshkosh Corporation, Szews spent eight years with Fort Howard Corporation working in a series of positions, most recently as vice president and controller. He also received his certified public accountant certification in 1980 and has 10 years of independent auditing experience with Ernst & Young.