Meet this year's ASU Founders' Day honorees


March 15, 2019

The ASU Alumni Association Founders’ Day awards program honors the pioneering spirit of the institution’s founders and celebrates the innovations of alumni, faculty members and supporters of one of the nation’s fastest-growing knowledge enterprises.

This year’s event will take place March 20 at the Frank Lloyd Wright Ballroom in Phoenix. New this year, the event will be available to watch as it happens through ASU’s livestream services. This year’s Founders' Day event will take place March 20 at the Frank Lloyd Wright Ballroom in Phoenix. Download Full Image

Covering a wide range of areas, the awards acknowledge excellence in teaching, research, leadership, philanthropy and service. These honors include the Faculty Research Achievement Award, the Faculty Service Achievement Award, the Faculty Teaching Achievement Award, the Philanthropist of the Year Award, the Young Alumni Achievement Award and the Alumni Achievement Award.

The 2019 awards program will honor two Arizona State University alums who have changed the world, two faculty members who created the nation’s first online biochemistry degree, a nationally acclaimed poet and author, a professor dedicated to fostering diversity in the STEM field and a Valley-based charitable trust.

Here are the honorees of the 2019 Founders’ Day event.

Faculty achievement awards

Faculty Research and Creativity Achievement Award

This year’s Faculty Research and Creativity Achievement Award honors poet Natalie Diaz.

Diaz is a 2018 MacArthur “genius” grantee, the current Maxine and Jonathan Marshall Chair in Modern and Contemporary Poetry, and an associate professor of creative writing in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences' Department of English.

Drawing on her experiences growing up on the Fort Mojave Indian Village in Needles, California, and navigating indigenous, Latinx and queer identities, her poetic works challenge the belief systems of contemporary American culture and have garnered far-reaching acclaim over the last decade.

“Professor Diaz has in fact been succeeding for a long time, composing intricate and radiant poetry with challenge and verve,” said Jeffrey Cohen, dean of humanities at The College. “I knew of her work long before I contemplated coming to ASU myself, and have often turned to her poems for provocation and inspiration.” 

Faculty Service Achievement Award

Erika Camacho’s passionate commitment to fostering diversity has had positive and lasting impacts on the STEM field, its researchers, academia and young students. Camacho, an associate professor in the School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences in the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, works to ensure that the next generation of students have access to a STEM education.

Camacho has received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring and the American Association for the Advancement of Science Mentor Award; and she is an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellow, Ford Foundation Fellow and Mellon Mays Social Science Research Council Fellow.

Faculty Teaching Achievement Award

Anne Jones and Ian Gould of The College’s School of Molecular Sciences will be jointly awarded the Faculty Teaching Achievement Award, for an innovative new approach to pre-med education.

Jones, an associate professor in the school and its associate director of academic affairs, and Gould, a President’s Professor who also serves as the school’s associate director of outreach, online and communications, played a key role in creating a new biochemistry program for ASU Online.

Conducted remotely with the exception of a two-week, in-person lab at the Tempe campus, the program is the only online biochemistry track in the country after which graduates can apply directly to medical, dental or pharmacy school, or pursue further science degrees.

“The new online biochemistry degree has opened the door of opportunity for students seeking advancement in science who are otherwise excluded from the current education model,” said Neal Woodbury, director of the School of Molecular Sciences. “Dr. Jones and Dr. Gould didn't just pull the pieces together and create the innovative components that make the degree work, they are also in the trenches teaching, bringing dedication and innovation to our most deserving new biochemistry students.”

Alumni achievement awards

Young Alumni Achievement Award

Sky Kurtz, founder and CEO of Pure Harvest Smart Farms in Abu Dhabi and a 2004 graduate in finance, is the "farmer" of one of the first hydroponic-growing enterprises in the Middle East. The technology he and his team use has been demonstrated around the world in extreme climates, including Arizona, Texas, Northern Mexico and Australia, and in freezing climates like Russia, Finland and Norway.

Alumni Achievement Award

Denise Resnik, a 1982 graduate in general business administration, is the founder and CEO of DRA Collective, an award-winning public relations, marketing and communications agency she launched in 1986. While leading DRA, she also launched and built sister nonprofits centered on autism research, education, evidence-based treatment and community and real estate development, with the goal of opening doors to more options for living, learning and leading.

In 1997, Resnik co-founded the Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center as a support group for mothers of children with autism. Today, the center is an internationally recognized nonprofit serving children, adults and families in partnership with physicians, educators, professionals and paraprofessionals. She founded First Place AZ in 2012, a residential community developer for special populations, as well as a site for education, training and creative inspiration. She serves as president and CEO of First Place, which offers supportive housing and a residential transition program for adults with autism and other neurodiversities. The first new residential property, First Place – Phoenix, opened in the summer of 2018.

Philanthropists of the Year Award

Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust was established in 1995 by the wife of Motorola founder Paul V. Galvin, Virginia Galvin Piper, who spent nearly 30 years working with local nonprofits across the Valley before her death in 1999.

The foundation continues her philanthropic legacy through a grant program that has invested nearly $430 million into local programs and initiatives spanning community welfare, health care, arts and culture since its inception in 2000, including many at ASU.

In 2018, the trust awarded $15 million to the Knowledge Exchange for Resilience initiative, a multi-pronged project led by The College’s Social Sciences Dean Elizabeth Wentz to identify vulnerabilities and strengthen communities in Maricopa County.

Since 2002, Piper Trust has funded 19 ASU projects for a total of more than $56 million. It was also the funding force behind the creation of the Virginia G. Piper Creative Writing Center

Housed in a historic building on the Tempe campus, the center is the previous home of two ASU presidents and the Alumni Executive Office. Today, it’s a literary hub serving the Phoenix community with events including talks, readings, classes and workshops open to all students and the public.

As a unit of The College, the center works closely with the Department of English’s creative writing program to help literary talents thrive on campus.

“Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust has had an immense impact on new generations of writers at ASU,” said Angie Dell, the center’s associate director. “The trust supports and adds meaning to the Piper Center’s work, and emerging writers carry these values forward into the world knowing that their voices are vitally important.”

Find additional information about Founders’ Day or register for the event

Alisa Reznick and Tracy Scott contributed to this report.

Top honor for technology innovator and engineering educator

ASU Professor Michael Kozicki receives the 2019 Jankowski Legacy Award


March 15, 2019

From the laboratory to the marketplace, Michael Kozicki has a passion for translating research in solid-state electronics into viable products for a broad and sustained impact on society.

After nearly 35 years of exemplary performance in use-inspired research at Arizona State University’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, Professor Kozicki is being honored with the 2019 Daniel Jankowski Legacy Award. Michael Kozicki Professor Michael Kozicki in Arizona State University’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering is being honored for 35 years of exemplary performance in education, research and public service. Photo by Jessica Hochreiter/ASU Download Full Image

The award is one of the highest distinctions for engineering faculty in the Fulton Schools, given for unparalleled contributions to education, research and public service alongside a long-standing and demonstrated commitment to advancing the mission and values of the Fulton Schools.

“Michael has continually stood out as a leader in education, research and entrepreneurship,” said nominator Jennifer Blain Christen, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering. “He has always amazed me with his ability to juggle these three endeavors all while exhibiting elegance, passion and a fantastic sense of humor.”

Inventing for sustained societal impact

Kozicki is no stranger to developing innovative technologies with direct societal impact. He’s best known as the inventor of the technology that underpins Conductive Bridging Random Access Memory, or CBRAM, an ultra-low-energy data storage technology for computers being commercialized by several companies. The technology holds promise for the internet of things because it achieves significantly lower energy consumption and enhanced performance compared to current flash memory technologies and standard nonvolatile memories.

Additionally, Kozicki holds 56 U.S. patents and 32 international patents that include inventions ranging from the first cleanroom-compatible wheelchair to bio-inspired anti-counterfeiting technologies. His publications have been cited around 12,000 times, which is in the top tier of engineering researchers.

“Michael exemplifies the prolific spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship at the core of our use-inspired research mission,” said Stephen Phillips, professor and director of the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, one of the six Fulton Schools. “He is driven to use his scientific contributions and inventions to make an impact on the world around us.”

Kozicki’s commitment to improving quality of life, economic development and the welfare of society contributed to him being named a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors in 2014.

More recently, Kozicki has been developing new cybersecurity methods to prevent counterfeiting and corruption of information. He’s also focusing on keeping phony integrated circuit chips and other parts out of critical applications such as aircraft, cars and medical devices.

Kozicki is a founder of two spin-off companies out of ASU. He has been a visiting professor at the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom and an adjunct professor at the Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology in Gwangju, South Korea. For 30 years, he has also held the designation of Chartered Engineer, the United Kingdom and European Union equivalent of the Professional Engineer designation in the United States.

Imparting students with skills to be successful in academia and industry

Daniel Jankowski — the award's namesake — had a profound effect on his students, their education and their future successes. He was a strong advocate of challenging students to reach their fullest potential and pursue meaningful work with effective teaching.

Consistent with Jankowski’s philosophy, Kozicki has demonstrated a strong commitment to education with particular emphasis on student mentorship, quality instruction and program development.

“I have a personal mandate to make sure my students are very marketable in the job space,” Kozicki said. “It’s great to see students get good jobs and be happy in their careers.”

Kozicki has mentored about 70 graduate students, many of whom have attained high positions in industry and academia. His former students include Bhagwat Swaroop, the executive vice president and general manager at Proofpoint, an enterprise cybersecurity company based in Sunnyvale, California; and Minhee Yun, a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Pittsburgh.

“Michael was always very welcoming and encouraging to students. I worked with him for about six years, and he never had anything negative to say,” Yun said. “I learned a lot from him, and I try to emulate his mentoring and teaching philosophy with my own students.”

Kozicki was one of the first people at the university to integrate entrepreneurship and business principles into engineering courses. He always makes it a priority to ensure students understand the economic context surrounding engineering.

Further, Kozicki has developed undergraduate and graduate courses in microelectronics and integrated circuit fabrication — including one of the few courses worldwide on semiconductor facilities, which is now offered online.

He has received a number of awards in recognition of his teaching capabilities, such as the Fulton Schools Teaching Excellence Award, a Golden Key National Honor Society Outstanding Professor Award, the College of Extended Education’s Faculty Award and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Phoenix Section Outstanding Educator Research Award, among others.

Kozicki joins good company in receiving the Jankowski Legacy Award. Previous awardees include distinguished Fulton Schools faculty such as Regents’ Professor Bruce Rittmann, Professor Sandra Houston, Regents’ Professor Dieter Schroder, Associate Dean for Academic and Student Affairs and Professor Jim Collofello, President’s Professor James Adams and Professor Emeritus Joe Palais.

Given every two years, the award was established to honor the distinguished 40-year academic career of Jankowski, who was a professor in ASU’s College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, which would later become the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. He served as associate dean of academic affairs and interim dean before retiring in 2004.

“I’m delighted to receive the Jankowski Legacy Award,” Kozicki said. “The award means quite a lot to me because I know Dan Jankowski well. For me to be associated with his name is quite humbling.”

Amanda Stoneman

Science Writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

480-727-5622