The NMU Alumni Association Board of Directors has announced the 2017 alumni award recipients who will be recognized during Homecoming festivities Sept. 22-23. The honorees have attained significant achievements in their field, made substantial contributions to society and demonstrated exceptional leadership and civic qualities. Recipients and their awards are: Paul Blemberg (’72 BS) and Todd Holmstrom (’90 BA), Distinguished Alumni; Kevin Chandler (’00 BS, ’03 MPA) and Ron Fonger (’86 BS), Alumni Achievement; Jim Jenkin, ’81 BS, ’84 MBA), Alumni Service; and Joshua Ewalt (’08 BS) and Lee Francisco (’02 BS and ’05 MS), Outstanding Young Alumni.
Blemberg was born and raised in south Marquette and holds a psychology degree from NMU. He is in his 34th year of federal service, first with the U.S. Marine Corps and more recently with the Department of Homeland Security. His military deployments included Japan, the Philippines, South Korea, the Mediterranean aboard the USS Saratoga and the Persian Gulf aboard the MidEast Force flagship. Blemberg was selected to serve as an instructor at Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One, specializing in flying while using night-vision goggles, extreme low-level flying and helicopter air-to-air tactics. After retiring from the Marine Corps, he returned to the Persian Gulf for two years, flying and developing a tactics program for the Royal Saudi Navy. He joined the Department of Homeland Security after the 9-11 attacks and has traveled to six continents to work with government security and military personnel in support of DHS security programs.
Holmstrom is Director of Israel and Palestinian Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. His previous roles included U.S. Consul General in Jeddah and Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) in N’Djamena, Chad. Holmstrom spent three years in Damascus, Syria, where he served as economic counselor, counselor for political and economic affairs, and as acting DCM in his final year at the Embassy. Other overseas postings included political/economic counselor in Tunis, a consular officer in Ottawa, and a political/economic officer in Paramaribo, Suriname. Holmstrom is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service in the Department of State. Prior to joining the Foreign Service in November 1995, he served in the U.S. Army. He speaks Arabic and French. In addition to his history degree from NMU, he holds a master’s degree from the National War College.
Chandler earned two NMU degrees: a bachelor’s in public relations and master of public administration. He has worked in higher education for nearly 16 years and currently serves as dean of university relations at Macomb Community College. In 2016, he was named to Crain’s Business class of “40 Under 40” in Michigan. His community service and economic development experience includes co-founding a bipartisan military affairs committee that seeks to protect and grow the military footprint in Macomb County. He was part of a small delegation that traveled to Washington, D.C., to lobby Congress not to retire the fleet of A-10 fighter jets, which would have eliminated hundreds of jobs at Selfridge Air National Guard Base. Chandler also founded NextGen Macomb, a nonprofit for young professionals designed to provide opportunities for networking, stewardship, volunteering and professional development.
Fonger was hired by The Flint Journal in 1995, after working at other newspapers in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio. He has written more than 250 articles on the water crisis in his hometown and is credited for exposing it before it became an international story. His extensive coverage garnered awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and Michigan Press Association. Fonger appeared on national TV news programs to discuss developments in the water crisis and was named Journalist of the Year by the Detroit Chapter of the SPJ. He was a political science major at NMU, but also cultivated an interest in journalism and served as editor in chief for The North Wind student newspaper.
Jenkin is an Ishpeming native who had a 20-year career with Kimberly-Clark Corporation. He served 20 years in various roles in procurement and sales at the corporate headquarters and other operating locations, supporting personal care products. He also led supply-chain optimization teams and coordinated global procurement efforts. In 2004, Jenkin joined the newly formed American Fiber Services based in Atlanta and continues to work for the company. He has developed alternative applications for fibers used in products ranging from tissue and toweling to building products and other proprietary applications. Service to his alma mater has included being a member and president of the NMU Alumni Association Board of Directors, presenter at the NMU Celebration of Entrepreneurship Conference and a frequent volunteer with the College of Business. Jenkin assists with recruiting initiatives in northeastern Wisconsin and continues to be a resource to NMU Alumni Relations staff by hosting events, securing volunteers and finding information about prominent alumni. He earned a bachelor’s in marketing and management and an MBA from Northern.
Ewalt, who studied speech communication at NMU before entering grad school, is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Utah. His courses teach the importance of public discussion regarding contemporary topics, analyzing operations of power, applying communication theory to practical situations, and learning ways of enacting and negotiating differences of identity in communicative contexts. He was previously employed as an assistant professor in the School of Communication Studies at James Madison University. Ewalt was selected to participate in the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Summer Institute on Space, Place and the Humanities this summer at Northeastern University. He is the author of 12 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters and has given more than 20 presentations at regional and national conferences.
Francisco founded 906 Technologies in Marquette at age 26 and serves as its CEO. The company specializes in high-quality home and business IT services and computer repair, website design, custom software and mobile app development. It now boasts more than 28 employees and nearly 300 clients and was named one of “Michigan’s 50 companies to watch” in 2013. Francisco has hired numerous NMU alumni and has spoken at and participated in various NMU events. He holds a bachelor’s in information systems and a master’s in training, development and human performance from NMU.