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Distinguished Alumni Awards announced

April 21, 2000

This year’s Distinguished Alumni Awards will go to the commissioner of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, an international journalist and two influential businesspeople.

If you want to attend the Distinguished Alumni Awards program and reception starting at 5 p.m. at Memorial Union Theater, call 262-9647 for reservations. Dinner tickets: $35.

The Wisconsin Alumni Association will bestow its most prestigious honor Friday, May 12, at 5:45 p.m. in the Memorial Union Theater. Here are details on this year’s recipients:

Doris Meissner Doris Meissner received a bachelor’s degree in history (1963) and a master’s in education (1969) from UW–Madison. She was sworn in as commissioner of the INS in 1993, following the U.S. Senate’s unanimous confirmation of her appointment. President Clinton, who nominated her for the position, described her contribution to the agency as “a unique combination of management and policy experience” in immigration affairs.

During her tenure, the INS has cut the time required to process citizenship requests from 28 to 12 months. Meissner has also been a focus of the news lately when she ruled that a Cuban shipwreck survivor, the child Elian Gonzalez, should be reunited with his father in Cuba.

Meissner began her career as UW–Madison assistant director of student financial aid for four years after her graduation.

Pongshak Payakvichien Pongsak Payakvichien has almost single-handedly brought about Thai journalism’s coming-of-age. After graduating from the UW in 1971 with a master’s degree in journalism, he pursued a career in his native country, eventually becoming assistant executive editor for the Daily News, the second-largest circulation Thai newspaper. In 1973, he joined the daily newspaper, Prachathipatai (Democracy), as managing editor, and turned the conventional afternoon “sensation” newspaper into Thailand’s first active “hard news” morning publication. The publication became a prototype for quality newspapers in Thailand.

He later co-founded Ruam Prachachart Company Ltd., and worked as the editor and publisher of a radical newspaper that was shut down after a 1976 coup d’etat. He has been involved in many other publications as well.

Pongsak, who received a Distinguished Alumni Award from the School of Journalism in 1988, has vigorously promoted journalistic ethics and education in Thailand. He serves as president of WAA’s Thai Alumni chapter.

Thomas Pyle Thomas Pyle, who received his MBA in 1963, is chairman of The Pyle Group and the former CEO and principal owner of the Rayovac Corporation. He began his career with management positions at Bristol Meyers and Procter & Gamble, and then became president of the Butterick Fashion Marketing Company, a home sewing supplier.

Although Rayovac was struggling when acquired, Pyle has been credited with returning the company to profitability and substantially expanding its sales. In 1996, he formed The Pyle Group, a Madison-based financial services and investment company.

Tom Pyle and his wife, Judith, gave $2 million for the Pyle Center, the university’s newly remodeled home for distance education. The Pyles have also endowed a named professorship at the School of Business, as well as supporting the School of Human Ecology, the Athletic Department and many other initiatives.

A member of the Bascom Hill Society, Pyle has served on the UW Foundation. He also serves on the board of trustees for the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation and the University Research Park, and is a past WAA board member and past chair of the UW School of Business board of visitors.

Peter Tong Peter Tong, a native of Shanghai, China, Tong came to the U.S. in 1959. A year after earning his master’s degree from the UW in 1965 in electrical engineering, Tong and a fellow graduate student, Richard Thomas, started T&T Technology, which designed a first-generation patient digital thermometer. After Tong purchased controlling interest in the company, he devised data acquisition systems for clinical laboratories and merged T&T into Technicon, a leading clinical lab equipment supplier. Throughout his career, Tong has been involved in creating businesses in medical technology and has led several highly profitable mergers.

In an ongoing commitment to the College of Engineering, Tong has helped establish the UW Technology Enterprise Cooperative, an organization that fosters entrepreneurial relationships between faculty, students and industry. He also helped to initiate Vision 2000, the College of Engineering’s Fund Drive for the 21st Century. And he has funded the new Tong Prototype Prize and Loan Program, which gives seed money and awards prizes for the best prototype of student inventions. He is a member of the UW Foundation board.