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October 15, 2012
By Megan Akers
The Nevada Alumni Association held their annual Homecoming Gala in October, celebrating Alumnus of the Year Rick Sontag, along with 27 other outstanding award recipients.
Sontag received a bachelor's degree in physics from Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, Calif., a master's degree in physics from the University of Nevada, Reno and an MBA from Harvard Business School. He has worked in a variety of sales and marketing positions for companies in the scientific, medical and industrial fields. At age 36, he became the founder of Union Industries, which grew from 65 employees to nearly 1,500 employees over the course of 20 years and became a market leader in aviation engine components. In 2002, Sontag sold the company to General Electric.
Sontag and his wife, Susan, have also been heavily involved with various philanthropic and community-outreach projects. The two created the Sontag Foundation, through which they support medical research and self-help organizations. The Sontag Entrepreneurship Competition was also established through a $1 million endowment fund created by the Sontags. The competition awards $50,000 each spring to a student or student team that demonstrates performance potential and innovative spirit.
Sontag is a trustee emeritus of Harvey Mudd College, president of the Spring Bay Companies and the president of the Sontag Foundation.
Northern Nevada Children's Cancer Foundation project manager Elizabeth "Lizzie" Dalton was also recognized at the gala, honored as the Association's Outstanding Young Alumnus for 2012. Dalton has worked with hundreds of local families facing childhood cancer and traveled to our nation's capital five times in recent years to meet with lawmakers to discuss cancer research legislation and the issues facing families affected by cancer.
In 2006, she was hired as the executive director for the Keaton Raphael Memorial in Reno, where she served as a childhood cancer advocate, focusing on family support and fundraising for financial assistance and research funds. Three years later, the charity merged with the Angel Kiss Foundation to become the Northern Nevada Children's Cancer Foundation, where Dalton helps oversee the logistics for the foundation's fundraising events.
During her tenure with the charities, she helped to raise $1.2 million for childhood cancer research through the foundation's annual St. Baldrick's head-shaving events.
Deanna LeBlanc and Michael McDowell were also awarded the Outstanding Young Alumnus Award and the Young Alumni Chapter was recognized as the chapter of the year.
The Nevada Alumni Association honored the following college-specific award recipients:
The Nevada Alumni Association honored the following Professional Achievement award recipients:
The Nevada Alumni Association honored the following University Service award recipients:
The Nevada Alumni Association honored the following Alumni Association Service award recipients:
Additionally, The Nevada Alumni Association's council officially welcomed five new board members who were approved at an Oct. 5 Homecoming meeting: Gary Aldax ('09, journalism), Reynolds School of Journalism, director of outreach operations, Community Health Alliance; Chrissy Lane ('86, criminal justice), College of Liberal Arts, manager of corporate social responsibility, IGT; Kris Layman ('93, marketing), College of Business, realtor, RE/MAX Realty Affiliates; Mike McDowell ('03, journalism), Reynolds School of Journalism, director of web and digital marketing, KPS3 Marketing; and Amy Ozuna ('08, accounting), College of Business, manager, Kafoury, Armstrong & Company.
Megan Akers is a student writer for University Media Relations.