2022 CMU Alumni Awards Recipients
Carnegie Mellon University is honored to recognize these alumni for their professional achievements and generous service to the university. Their innovative work, commitment to their industries and passion for the university is an inspiration for all.
Claire and John Bertucci (MM 1965 | ENG 1963; TPR 1965)
Founders Medal for Outstanding Service and Exceptional Achievement
They met as CMU students in the 1960s. Claire graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business from Margaret Morrison Carnegie College while John completed a bachelor’s degree in metallurgical engineering and a master’s degree in industrial administration. After graduation and career experience in semiconductor manufacturing and management consulting, John joined MKS Instruments, a small process control instrumentation company in 1970. After purchasing MKS in 1974, John guided the growth and international expansion of the company as CEO and chairman. MKS became a public company in 1999 (MKSI). John retired as chairman in 2020 and now serves as chairman emeritus.
That success fueled the couple’s passion for giving back. Unassuming philanthropists, they focus their efforts on areas where they can make the greatest impact, specifically education, health care and the arts. At CMU, they funded the Claire and John Bertucci Nanotechnology Laboratory. Thanks to Claire and John’s vision, the “Nanofab” houses more than 100 of the most sophisticated processing and characterization tools, which are maintained by highly qualified technical staff members, and is responsible for more than $10 million each year in cutting-edge research. This gift was inspired in part by Claire’s father, Dr. Arthur C. Ruge, who was a 1925 Carnegie Institute of Technology graduate and a professor of civil engineering at MIT. He invented the bonded wire strain gauge that was instrumental in helping the United States win World War II and forever changed how objects are weighed, stress-tested and designed. The Arthur C. Ruge Atrium in Scott Hall is named in his honor.
In the College of Engineering, they established the Claire and John Bertucci Fellowship in Engineering, which has supported 184 fellows since 2008, and the John and Claire Bertucci Distinguished Professorship in Engineering. They also started the Claire Ruge Bertucci and John R. Bertucci Endowed Presidential Scholarship, a four-year scholarship received by three students since 2017.
At Massachusetts General Hospital, they named the Claire and John Bertucci Center for Genitourinary Cancers, one of the largest, most renowned centers in New England for bladder, kidney, prostate and other genitourinary cancers. They also named an endowed chair in thyroid surgical oncology at Harvard Medical School and another in otolaryngology — head and neck surgery at Mass Eye and Ear. Their investment in health care will fuel research and enrich patients' lives for generations.
John is an emeritus trustee on the CMU Board of Trustees with more than 20 years of service, and he is volunteer leader in the College of Engineering. He currently serves on the College of Engineering Dean’s Advocacy Council. He has served on numerous advisory councils and boards, including the Mechanical Engineering Advisory Board, Materials Science and Engineering Advisory Board, Carnegie Institute of Technology Advisory Board, CIT Boston Advisory Council, and the Institute for Complex Engineered Systems Advisory Board. Claire has served as Boston clan secretary, a reunion volunteer, leading efforts to connect alumni in her class with the university and each other.
Outside of Carnegie Mellon, Claire and John support many organizations in their Massachusetts community. John serves on the boards of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and the Lexington Historical Society while Claire is actively involved in these and has served as treasurer of the Lexington Field and Garden Club and president of the Dartmouth Women's Club of Boston.
Sebastian Ceria (TPR 1990, 1993)
Alumni Achievement Award
Sebastian Ceria’s early experiences as a scholar at Carnegie Mellon helped shape the beliefs that drive him today: That the future is tightly linked to our capacity to produce knowledge. While investment in science and technology is vital, providing equal-opportunity access to education is critical to the optimal execution of that process. His work as an academic, entrepreneur, and business and philanthropic leader has driven key innovations and advancements in the global financial technology field, while staying true to this vision.
He currently serves as chief executive officer of Qontigo, a global provider of innovative index, analytics and risk solutions and an operating unit of the Deutsche Börse Group, an international exchange organization and market infrastructure provider.
Sebastian earned a degree in applied mathematics from the University of Buenos Aires in his native Argentina, but a scholarship to pursue doctoral studies at Carnegie Mellon University proved to be transformative to his career path. In Pittsburgh, he earned his master's degree and Ph.D. from the Tepper School of Business in industrial administration and operations research, before completing an additional year of study as a postdoctoral fellow.
Pursuing a career in academia, Sebastian then joined the Columbia Business School as an associate professor of decision, risk and operations, conducting extensive research on integer programming and its applications that served as the foundation for his future as an entrepreneur and business leader. In 1998, Sebastian launched Axioma, a startup then focused on broad applications of optimization. Over two decades, he grew the company into a leading provider of innovative risk-management, portfolio-optimization and performance-attribution software and solutions for the financial services industry.
Deutsche Börse acquired Axioma in 2019 and merged it with its DAX and STOXX indexing businesses to create Qontigo, which delivers sophisticated and targeted solutions at scale to meet the investment objectives of investors, traders and asset owners.
In 2021, he was elected to the National Academy of Engineering. He has also earned the National Science Foundation’s Career Award for Operations Research and the RAICES prize from Argentina’s Ministry of Science and Technology.
Sebastian is the founder and president of Fundar, a nonprofit think tank promoting inclusive, sustainable development for Argentina. He serves on the board of New York’s Neighborhood Trust Financial Partners, a nonprofit that builds alternative financial products for workers who traditionally are at risk of falling into unsustainable debt. Sebastian continues to give back to the CMU community by sitting on the Master of Science in Computational Finance Advisory Board and is a significant contributor to the Egon Balas Ph.D. Fellowship Fund.
Peyman Givi (ENG 1982, 1984)
Alumni Achievement Award
A modern-day rocket scientist, Peyman is widely recognized as a world leader for his work in computational simulation and mathematical modeling of reactive systems of importance in propulsion. He is equally lauded as a uniquely talented researcher, scholar and mentor.
His education began at Youngstown State University where he received his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering before earning a master’s degree and Ph.D. from CMU’s College of Engineering. Over the span of his career, he has been credited as one of the original developers of direct numerical simulation of turbulent reacting flows and is currently developing new techniques for large eddy simulation of such flows. Peyman has significantly influenced NASA's advanced propulsion programs and impacted private industry, where engine companies have used his concepts in their design codes for turbojet engine development and design. Peyman currently serves as the Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh where his work focuses on investigating the potential of quantum computing for solving problems in aerospace science and engineering.
In recognition of considerable contributions to his field, he has received numerous honors including NASA’s highest civilian award, the Public Service Medal, and the Presidential Faculty Fellowship, which he received at the White House. He is the first and only member of the University of Pittsburgh faculty to have been elected as a Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, an honor he shares with Neil Armstrong and Wernher von Braun. Additionally, he is also achieved Fellow status in every prime professional society for his field.
Peyman generously gives his time and services to the scientific community, serving as a mentor to Ph.D. students, many of whom have gone on to become successful researchers, scientists, engineers and distinguished educators themselves. He helps to organize large conferences and workshops in the United States and abroad, delivers numerous lectures throughout the year and serves on editorial boards of several top ranked journals.
Leonard L. Haynes, III (DC 1969)
Alumni Achievement Award
Leonard L. Haynes, III is passionate about education and its transformative power. He has dedicated five decades of his career as a leader, advocate and nationally recognized expert on historically Black colleges and universities (HBCU).
A graduate of Southern University in 1968, Leonard traded Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for Pittsburgh to continue his studies at Carnegie Mellon’s Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences. Upon completing his master’s degree in history in 1969, he went on to earn his doctorate in higher education administration from The Ohio State University.
During his academic career, Leonard has served as professor, acting president of Grambling State University and executive vice president of the Southern University System. His government service spanned many important roles. He was the first African American appointed by a U.S. president to be assistant secretary of postsecondary education in 1989; he was confirmed unanimously by the Senate. He was senior director with the U.S. Department of Education and former executive director of the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity through Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Leonard oversaw the Fulbright U.S. Student Program and was responsible for the discretionary grant programs appropriated by Congress for the Office of Postsecondary Education. As director of academic programs for the United States Information Agency, he led the delegation to the North American Higher Education Talks with Canada and Mexico. As the director of the Department of Education’s Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education, he played a key role in developing groundbreaking academic mobility programs involving the United States, Europe, Brazil, Mexico and Canada.
In 2018, he received the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities Distinguished Service Award, which is now known as the Leonard L. Haynes III Distinguished Service Award. In 2020, he was appointed by the president to sit on the initiative’s President’s Board of Advisors. Leonard was one of seven former HBCU presidents invited to join the Strada HBCU Advisory Council, which guided the use of a $25 million fund that supported students, their families and their communities across 28 HBCUs. He also is a renowned author.
The recipient of 14 honorary degrees and the Servant Leader Award from the United Methodist Church, Leonard is widely recognized for his dedicated work to ensure an excellent and equitable education for future generations. In 2022, the governor of Virginia appointed him to the Virgina State University Board of Visitors.
Leonard continues his commitment to service through work with organizations such as New Orlean's Whitney Plantation Museum, where he serves on the Board of Directors, Southern University Alumni Association, United Methodist Church, Greater Washington Urban League, Big Brothers Big Sisters and Rotary International.
Tamara Tunie (CFA 1981)
Alumni Achievement Award
There are many ways to describe College of Fine Arts graduate Tamara Tunie — actor, singer, performer, director, producer, coach, writer — but her favorite is “working.” From big Broadway musicals to independent films, she has built a more than 30-year entertainment career with preparation, persistence and perseverance.
Many people recognize Tamara from her 23 seasons on NBC’s long-running “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” as medical examiner Melinda Warner. Other television credits include “Cowboy Bebop,” “Dietland” and “Black Earth Rising.” A Pittsburgh native, Tamara built her critically acclaimed career portraying remarkable characters in films such as “The Devil’s Advocate” and “Flight” and on stage in “American Son,” “The Tempest” and in the London premiere of “The 47th.” One of her earliest roles was portraying Jessica Griffin on the CBS daytime drama “As the World Turns,” where she was nominated for two NAACP Image Awards.
As she expanded her career, Tamara stepped behind the camera to become producer and director for the feature film "See You in September.” As a stage producer, Tamara was part of the team who brought forth the Tony Award-winning musical “Spring Awakening.” She also produced the Tony-Award nominated “Radio Golf,” penned by famed Pittsburgh playwright August Wilson, and “Magic/Bird.”
Along with her busy career, Tamara is committed to giving back. She is a founder of Black Theatre United and chair emerita of the Board of Directors of Figure Skating in Harlem, a nonprofit organization that supports academic excellence and instills life skills to girls in the Harlem community through the art and discipline of figure skating. She also serves on the Board of Directors of Harlem Stage and Pittsburgh’s City Theatre Company as well as the advisory board of Hearts of Gold, a nonprofit that supports New York City women and their children as they transition from the shelter system to permanent homes. In 2020, she was unanimously invited to join the CMU Board of Trustees.
In 2005, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg awarded Tamara the Made in New York Award honoring her support and commitment to film, television and theater in Manhattan.
Siddha Ganju (SCS 2016)
Outstanding Recent Alumni Award
Since completing her master’s degree in computational data science and analytics at Carnegie Mellon University, she has made significant contributions to her field of artificial intelligence research with a specialization in the data-intensive computing task of interpreting visual data. This has included publishing “Practical Deep Learning for Cloud, Mobile and Edge,” an examination of real-world AI and computer vision projects. The book was translated into five languages less than a year after publication and inspired a team of students to build, qualify and compete as Team USA at Roborace, the autonomous car racing championship. Although her work at DeepVision as a data scientist working on object recognition algorithms has certainly been important, it was her volunteer work at the time that further stands out.
Siddha was tapped to join NASA’s Frontier Development Lab, an AI accelerator, to mentor deep-learning researchers, work on deep-learning tools and help develop an automated meteor detection pipeline for the NASA Cameras for Allsky Meteor Surveillance (CAMS) project. Her work ultimately led to the discovery of multiple meteor showers and the first instrumental evidence of the Grigg-Mellish comet. Due to her impact, she was inducted as the youngest AI steering committee member of the NASA Frontier Development Lab at age 23.
Currently, Siddha leads teams at the computer systems design service company Nvidia that develop neural networks to create safer autonomous vehicles and enable life sciences companies to condense workflows from a week to a day, resulting in quicker breakthroughs for life-saving medical research. Siddha was honored by Forbes magazine with a 30 under 30 listing in 2019 for her work with artificial intelligence development and autonomous vehicle systems.
Siddha advocates for diversity and inclusion in technology, particularly supporting women in technology. She participates in the Women@SCS mentoring program, which partners current students with Carnegie Mellon alumnae working in similar fields to help navigate career challenges. She cofounded the citizen science SpaceML program and regularly mentors school students to nurture the next generation of interdisciplinary technologists from all backgrounds.
Susheel Khetarpal (MCS 2017) and Alex Pomerantz (MCS 2017, DC 2017)
Outstanding Recent Alumni Award
Friends from their years at CMU, Susheel Khetarpal and Alex Pomerantz drew upon their common experiences as undergraduates navigating the uncertain, stressful waters of applying to medical school to create an alumni-based mentoring program for Carnegie Mellon students pursuing health professions.
A native of Pittsburgh, founding member CMU’s classical Indian dance team CMU Payal and an Andrew Carnegie Scholar, Dr. Susheel Khetarpal graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with a degree in biological sciences. He earned his Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) and Master of Science (M.S.) in clinical research from the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Medicine, where he developed a passion for working with underserved, adolescent populations who struggle with access to care and resources. He is currently a pediatric resident physician at Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital, Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City.
A native of New Jersey, varsity golfer and member of Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, Dr. Alex Pomerantz graduated from Carnegie Mellon with a double major in biological sciences and international relations and politics. He went on to Harvard University where he earned his Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) and a master’s degree in public policy (MPP). His academic work is focused on increasing equity in and access to insurance design as well as improving firearm safety. He is currently a pediatric resident physician in the Boston Combined Residency Program at Boston Children’s Hospital and Boston Medical Center.
During their first year in medical school, Susheel and Alex were struck by an idea when their medical school programs reached out to ask for volunteer mentors for undergraduate students. It was then that the Carnegie Mellon Medical Student Alumni Mentorship Program (MSAMP) was born, offering the duo an impactful way to give back to the CMU community. With the support of the university's Health Professions Program, MSAMP pairs CMU students and alumni who are looking to pursue a medical career such as physician or dentist with a CMU alumnus in the field. The program provides mentorship and offers a framework to navigate the application, testing and selection process for medical school.
A valuable resource for students who now have a guide for questions, interview preparation and selection strategies, MSAMP also aims to reduce students’ anxieties throughout the process and allow alumni to give back to their alma mater through their lived experiences. Now in its fifth year, the program has more than 130 alumni and has been replicated by two other universities.
Bryon Krug (ENG 1998)
Alumni Service Award
Bryon Krug possesses an entrepreneurial spirit and a selfless desire to serve. As a first-generation college graduate and scholarship recipient, he is keen to carve out opportunities for others in similar circumstances through his energy, commitment and expertise.
While at Carnegie Mellon, Bryon majored in electrical and computer engineering and engineering and public policy. After receiving an MBA from Harvard University, he went on to become a successful business leader and entrepreneur. He created an e-publishing firm and a vending machine business and helped to launch a number of other companies.
Bryon shifted his career focus to developing market-based solutions to achieve environmental, social and equity objectives. In 2008, he co-founded CEG Solutions (formerly Clark Energy Group). As CEG president, he helps to deliver comprehensive solutions that improve energy and water efficiency, reduce carbon and increase resiliency.
Bryon’s love for the CMU community is described as truly authentic and selfless. He spends considerable time and energy mentoring students, serving on volunteer boards, supporting initiatives and giving feedback to leaders. Bryon has served as the president of the Andrew Carnegie Society and as an ex-officio member of CMU’s Board of Trustees. During his tenure with ACS, Bryon was instrumental in leading the effort to modernize the society, including increasing the minimum annual gift for membership. He helped rally his fellow board members to donate $154,000 in matching funds to encourage long-time donors to increase their support of CMU. With his help, the society has grown in membership with more than 500 new members joining in the past four years.
Bryon is a member of the board of directors for the National Association of Energy Service Companies and previously served on the boards of the GOLD Youth Leadership Foundation and River City Youth Foundation. His work also extends abroad with efforts to improve access to education and sustainable agriculture in rural Haiti. A former Eagle Scout, Bryon has enjoyed reconnecting with his scouting past by serving on the leadership team for his son’s Cub Scout pack.
Leah Lizarondo (HNZ 2003)
Alumni Service Award
Leah Lizarondo had a vision of technology, logistics and civic engagement coming together to combat food waste, promote sustainability and fight hunger in low-income communities. And she made it happen.
The Philippines native and Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy graduate with a master’s degree in public policy and technology viewed hunger as a distribution issue. In 2015, she co-founded 412 Food Rescue, which quickly became one of the fastest-growing food recovery organizations in the country. Today, she is CEO and founder of Food Rescue Hero, which won Fast Company's World Changing Ideas Award in 2020. In the same year, it was recognized as a CES Innovation Honoree.
Using technology to mobilize a network of 35,000 volunteer drivers in 25 cities, the Food Rescue Hero platform has facilitated the recovery of more than 100 million pounds of good food that might otherwise be discarded, which equates to more than 90 million meals, since 2015. The app works by pushing notifications to volunteers who can make deliveries near them with little disruption to their regular daily schedules — and helping to remove good food from the waste stream and getting it to people who are at most risk of hunger. The Food Rescue Hero technology platform aims to expand to 100 cities by 2030. Leah’s work at 412 Food Rescue has garnered national media from NPR, Martha Stewart Living and Food & Wine.
She applies this same innovative vision and expertise to her efforts to empower and uplift others. She is a Rockefeller Foundation/Acumen Fellow and served as entrepreneur in residence at CMU’s Block Center for Technology and Society, engaging with students as a mentor and teacher.
Leah also has won numerous awards for her work including Grist 50 in 2022, the Vital Voices' Global Leadership Award in 2020 and WE Empower UN SDG challenge in 2019, a global award for women social entrepreneurs.
Benjamin Matzke (ENG 2011)
Alumni Service Award
Through his work on the Buggy Alumni Association, Ben has inspired alumni to re-engage with the university every year at Carnival and made race day an exciting and memorable event for students. He has pushed Buggy forward with his entire heart through meaningful programming, collaborative relationships between alumni and students, and increased visibility for this beloved tradition.
When Ben came to CMU, he joined the Kiltie Band, playing trombone, and got involved in Buggy through the Carnegie Involvement Association (CIA). Over time, he became a leader in both groups: cheermaster for two consecutive years and vice president of marching for the Kiltie Band and chairman of CIA. He led CIA to its first-ever design competition win and its return to the finals after many years. As a graduate student, he spearheaded the creation of the first all-organization Buggy orientation event.
After graduation, he took on writing and coordinating weekly rolls reports for the alumni community. He eventually assumed the mantle of Buggy Alumni Association (BAA) president, revitalizing the group to the point that it was honored as Large Network of the Year in 2016 and 2020 by the CMU Alumni Association. Ben initiated and led a Buggy 100 Planning Committee, resulting in a cross-collaborative group that created programming for Buggy’s milestone celebration. His passion didn’t waver when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the centennial celebration of Buggy to extend through two virtual Carnivals.
Ben has also donated his time to the Alumni Association Board, serving a four-year term as co-chair for the Networks, Awards and Alumni Engagement committees. While serving on the board, he continued his efforts with the BAA, finishing out six years as president and a three-year stint as Centennial Committee Chair.
In his professional career, Ben has spent time in the Pittsburgh startup community working in product development before starting his own product development consulting company. His company joined with Lexicon Design, an industrial design firm that offers end-to-end product design, development and manufacturing services to startups and established companies across the country. In late 2021, Ben joined Lutron's window systems department as a senior design and development engineer, where he leads the development of high-end motorized and automated shades, drapes, blinds and other window coverings.
*0.84 miles is the length of the Buggy course.
Michael B. Thomas (ENG 1975)
Alumni Service Award
Michael B. Thomas has built a legacy at Carnegie Mellon University through his support of students, student organizations and mentorship initiatives. His deliberate, compassionate manner and words of encouragement have supported many students, and the thoughtful insight he offers university leadership helps to shape CMU diversity and equity efforts.
Michael’s experiences as a young man from Cleveland, Ohio, at CMU in the 1970s left an indelible mark on him. While a student, Michael reached out to the Carnegie Mellon Action Project (CMAP) to receive additional academic and counseling support and advising to deal with the rigors of studying engineering and transitioning to life at CMU. With this help, he was able to maintain his focus and resolve to pursue his goals while honing his interpersonal skills by working with a diverse range of students, staff and faculty.
Michael earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the College of Engineering in 1975. He spent 13 years with U.S. Steel before joining engineering firm CH2M Hill. His experience at CH2M Hill gave him the opportunity to work as a project manager on large, technology-specialized projects that often required extensive, overseas travel.
Michael devoted himself to service through the support of community organizations such as Hill House Association, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity and Carnegie Mellon. As a Hill House Association board member for 14 years, he engaged with the association’s community organizations providing human services that ranged from preschool to senior programs and supported the construction of a neighborhood grocery store and county health center in Pittsburgh’s Hill District neighborhood. As a 50-year fraternity member, he has been involved with community fundraising, implementing service projects and mentoring college and high school students. He is a founding and active board member of the Kappa Scholarship Endowment Fund of Western Pennsylvania, which has awarded scholarships totaling more than $3.2 million to more than 200 high school students.
In 1984, the Carnegie Mellon Black Alumni Association (CMBAA) was established to encourage Black alumni to return to campus to help improve current student experiences on campus. Michael has been active CMBAA board member for more than 38 years, director of finance for 13 years, a founding board member of the CMBAA Endowment Fund and student organization coordinator for the past five years. To recognize his efforts with students, CMBAA established the Michael Thomas Emergency Fund to help students experiencing financial hardships find the means to stabilize their situations. He has contributed his time and expertise to the Alumni Association Board, multiple reunion committees, College of Engineering Dean's Advocacy Council and the Andrew Carnegie Society.