Media Contact
October 16, 2008

WORCESTER, Mass. – Oct. 15, 2008 – Several Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) alumni received prestigious awards at the Oct. 4 Alumni Recognition Awards Ceremony. These annual awards honor the extraordinary graduates who continue to reflect the character and spirit of WPI.

"Our alumni are among our greatest assets," said Dexter Bailey, WPI’s vice president of development and alumni relations. "We value their commitment to WPI and to our community as much as we value how their innovative and creative spirits are helping to move the world forward. They give us even more reasons to be proud of our wonderful institution."  

This year’s award recipients include: 

  • James M. Welch ’83 received the Robert H. Goddard Award for Outstanding Professional Achievement for his master problem-solving and technological leadership skills. Welch, a resident of Upton, Mass., received a bachelor’s degree in electrical and computer engineering and is vice president of information integration at IBM Corp. in Westborough, Mass.  Before joining IBM, Welch was vice president of product development at Westborough-based Ascential Software Inc. After Ascential was acquired by IBM Software Group in 2005, Welch led the team that built the IBM InfoSphere platform and tools.  This project, which was composed of more than 100 software inventions, created a product that delivers trusted information for business optimization. Early in his career, Welch was a senior systems engineer at Intellution Inc. in Norwood, Mass., where he designed and implemented a new generation of human-machine interface.  The Goddard award is named in honor of WPI alumnus Robert H. Goddard, a pioneer in the field of rocketry. Goddard launched the first liquid-fueled rocket in 1926 in Auburn, Mass.
  • Walter T. Towner Jr. ’83 received the Herbert F. Taylor Alumni Award for Distinguished Service to WPI for his more than 20 years of dedicated volunteerism. Towner’s service began as an undergraduate at WPI, where he received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.   Towner, of Chepachet, R.I., is a partner at TD Corsair, Towner & Company in Greenville, R.I.  He spent two years as a financial advisor at UBS Financial Services Inc. in Providence, R.I., where he worked after serving as president of Thorsen Inc. in Avon, Mass. Towner volunteers as an admissions ambassador, Alumni Association Cabinet member, co-chairman of the Service and Social Division, and sits on the Manufacturing Engineering Program Advisory Board.  He is an adjunct professor in WPI’s Management Department and teaches in the university’s Corporate & Professional Education and Manufacturing Engineering programs.  Towner holds master’s degrees in operations and information technology and manufacturing engineering from WPI. The Taylor award is named in honor of WPI alumnus Herbert Foster Taylor, the first full-time secretary-treasurer of the Alumni Association.
  • Matthew J. Friend ’93, Rebecca Hoffman Bach ’98, Seth A. Popinchalk ’98, and John J. West Jr. ’88 received the John Boynton Young Alumni Award for Service to WPI.  The Boynton award is named in honor of John Boynton, a tinware manufacturer who was a founder of WPI:
    • Friend, of Holden, Mass., received a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from WPI and has been a member of the Alumni Class Board of Directors since 1995 and a member of the Annual Fund Board since 2003.  He is principal program manager at The MathWorks Inc. in Natick, Mass.
    • Bach, of New York City, received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from WPI, mentors students, and works on various reunion committees. She is a director of program management at NBC Universal in New York City, where she serves as a member of the GE/WPI Executive Team, which focuses on recruiting the best and brightest WPI graduates to GE.
    • Worcester resident Popinchalk received a bachelor’s degree in physics from WPI. He has served on the Alumni Fund Board, helping the university to fundraise to provide critical support to faculty and students. Popinchalk is a senior applications engineer at The MathWorks Inc. in Natick. 
    • West, who is a Boston resident, received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from WPI. He is chairman of the Management Advisory Council and serves on the President’s Alumni Council, the Young Alumni Advisory Council and the Graduates of the Last Decade Council.  He is an award-winning entrepreneur, who has founded and sold several million-dollar firms.
  • Chrysanthe Demetry ’88 and Samuel Pullara III ’93 received the Ichabod Washburn Young Alumni Award for Professional Achievement.
    • Demetry, of Worcester, is an associate professor of mechanical engineering at WPI and a past winner of the National Science Foundation’s Early Career Development Award and the (WPI) Trustee’s Award for Outstanding Teaching. Demetry received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from WPI.  She has been lauded for her ability to motivate students and generate interest in the materials science field.  In 2000, ASM International awarded Demetry the Bradley Stoughton Award for Young Teachers. Demetry is co-founder of WPI’s Camp Reach, a summer residence program that seeks to cultivate interest in science and engineering among middle school girls.  
    • Pullara, of Los Altos, Calif., is vice president of technology strategy at Yahoo Inc. in Sunnyvale, Calif., and author of the blog.  He previously was vice president of platform at Yahoo, where he focused on grid computing, virtualization, reliable data systems, and implementing Yahoo’s open-platform strategy.  Pullara, who received a bachelor’s degree in physics from WPI, is an entrepreneur who founded a software company, Gauntlet Systems. In 2006, he sold that company to Borland Corp.  In 1996, Pullara became the first server engineer hired at WebLogic Inc., which was acquired by BEA Systems in 1998. At BEA, he was part of the Technology Advancement Group charged with designing and implementing key features in the WebLogic product.