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Claud Erickson Distinguished Alumni Award

2020 - Kevin Conroy

Photo of Kevin ConroyKevin Conroy has clearly distinguished himself as a technical leader, entrepreneur, and innovator in his field. He is chairman and chief executive officer of Exact Sciences Corp., a company that strives to change lives through earlier detection and smarter answers for cancer patients.

During his 11-year tenure as CEO, Exact Sciences collaborated with Mayo Clinic to develop Cologuard, a noninvasive DNA based colorectal cancer screening test, and grew from three employees to more than 4,000. In 2019, Exact Sciences’ acquisition of Genomic Health, Inc., united two of the industry’s strongest brands, Cologuard and Oncotype DX, and established the company’s position as the global leader in advanced cancer diagnostics.

Before joining Exact Sciences, Mr. Conroy served as president and chief executive officer of Third Wave Technologies, a molecular diagnostics company, which developed innovative DNA and RNA analysis products until the company’s acquisition by Hologic, Inc. Mr. Conroy also held leadership positions at GE Healthcare, a global leader in medical imaging and information technology.

Mr. Conroy serves as a director of the biopharmaceutical company Epizyme, Inc. and Adaptive Biotechnology Corporation. He serves as a director of the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce and on the University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor’s Advisory Council. He also has served as chair of The United Way of Dane County’s 2016 annual campaign, board member of Overture Center for the Arts, and Badger Advocates, a non-profit organization that represents the interests of improving and expanding support for the University of Wisconsin.

Among his many awards, he was honored with the 2019 In Business Madison – Person of the Year; the 2018 Wisconsin Biohealth – Business Achievement Award; the 2018 Best in Biz Awards – Large Company Executive of the Year; the 2015 In Business Madison – Large Company Executive of the Year; and in 2014 was presented the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year – Midwest Biotechnology.

In 2016, he and his wife, Sheila Brennan Conroy, established the Senator Joe and Mary Conroy Endowed Scholarship at MSU, in honor of his parents. The scholarship supports engineering students from the Flint area, Kevin’s hometown and the constituency that Senator Conroy represented as a state senator.

Mr. Conroy holds a BS degree in electrical engineering from Michigan State University and earned his juris doctorate from the University of Michigan Law School. All four of his siblings, Colleen, Kelly, Tim and Christine are proud Michigan State graduates.

He and his wife were classmates at the University of Michigan Law School. They live in Madison, Wisconsin, and are the proud parents of Meghan, Grace, and Molly Conroy and share their home with their dog “Izzo.”

About the Award

Dean Lawrence Wayne Von Tersch established the Claud R. Erickson Distinguished Alumni Award in 1982. Claud Erickson, for whom the award was named, was the first recipient. Since then, it has been given annually to a College of Engineering graduate with a minimum of 15 years’ professional experience who has attained the highest level of professional accomplishment; provided distinguished and meritorious service to the College of Engineering and the engineering profession; and engaged in voluntary service at the local, state, national, and/or international level.

Nomination Form (.doc)

Past Recipients

Follow this link to see the complete list of past recipients: https://www.egr.msu.edu/alumni/awards/erickson/recipients

Claud Erickson, born in Manistee, Michigan, lived from 1900 to 1993. He had to help support his family during high school and took a full-time job immediately after graduation. At the urging of work associates who recognized his talents, Claud began college, but it was a constant financial struggle. At times, faculty members chipped in to keep him in school.

Claud ultimately received four engineering degrees from MSU, beginning with a bachelor of science in 1922. He later earned degrees in mechanical (1927), electrical (1933), and civil engineering (1934) and held a consulting professional engineer's license. He also studied law and was qualified to practice before the United States Supreme Court.

Claud was the first member of Lambda Chi Alpha, chartered in 1922 as the second fraternity at MSU; it now has well over 2,200 members.

He became the director and general manager of the Lansing Board of Water and Light and spent more than 50 years making the utility a strong, progressive force in the Lansing area. He was a nationally respected figure in public works, and in 1971 the Board named a new power plant in Delta Township after him.

Community activism was a way of life for Claud. He was the Ingham County chairman of the U.S. Treasury Savings Bond Drive for 50 years, beginning in 1941. He was honored in 1991 at the age of 91 by the U.S. Treasury Department for his 50 years of patriotic volunteer service. He was the only person in the United States known to have directed a local drive continuously since the program began during World War II.

He was a delegate to the Michigan Constitutional Convention, chairman of the Ingham County American Red Cross, and a trustee of St. Lawrence Hospital. He served at various times as president of the Lansing Rotary Club, the City Club of Lansing, the American Public Power Association, the Michigan Engineering Society, and the Greater Lansing Area Safety Council.

He was an avid stamp collector and was considered one of the nation's top authorities on electric-powered vehicles. He admired the simplicity of an electric car. He said, "It has only eight moving parts, and four of those are wheels."

Always maintaining close ties with MSU, Claud served on the MSU Foundation's first board of directors. He was asked by President John A. Hannah to oversee the construction of the Alumni Chapel. He also supervised the completion of 7,000 married-student housing units in just five months to accommodate U.S. servicemen returning to campus after World War II.

Claud always attended the spring commencement exercises of MSU's College of Engineering and the initiation ceremonies of the Chi Epsilon civil engineering honor society, and he kept close tabs on each alumnus who won the Claud R. Erickson Award.

When asked by President Hannah at one point, "Why do MSU alumni come back to campus year after year?" he responded, "Because they love the university that offered them the hand of friendship and the open door of opportunity."