On Thursday, Nov. 19 the Society of Innovators at Purdue Northwest presented its 2020 Innovators Awards. The annual event recognizes individuals and teams from around the Region for producing innovations that benefit society and create measurable value by inducting them into the Society of Innovators.
This year, the Innovators Awards celebrated the achievements of 28 individuals and team members in a virtual ceremony. Their many innovations ranged from virtual reality programs to creative banking solutions – each educating, enriching, or otherwise improving the lives of people not just in Northwest Indiana, but around the country. The ceremony acknowledged each honoree as a leader in their field.
“Leadership and innovation go hand-in-hand; you can’t have one without the other,” said Sheila Matias, executive director of the Society of Innovators. “The leaders we’re recognizing this year might come from different parts of the Region and different backgrounds, but they all share common traits of an innovator. These are the men and women who embrace possibility, thirst for knowledge, and are always looking for a better way forward.”
Jake Miller, owner of JEM Custom Shoes in Michigan City, was one of the evening’s honorees, and represented that creative leadership and drive. He is a self-taught expert in high-end sneaker restoration and customization and started his business six years ago at the age of 16. He also rescues shoes from landfills and refurbishes them for sale, and he adapted his business for COVID-19 by creating a sanitizing lightbox.
“I wish more people recognized that there’s a lot of potential here in Northwest Indiana,” Miller said. “Anything you can do anywhere else, you can do here and be successful.”
Northwest Indiana’s national reputation is often reduced to stories about corn, or the impact of the decline of heavy manufacturing. One of the goals of the Society of Innovators is to showcase the breadth of creative leadership that thrives within the Region.
“There’s a lot of innovation, a lot of creativity that is still happening right in our backyard,” said Jason Williams, managing director of the Society of Innovators. “This is our opportunity to shine a spotlight on all of that creativity and leadership. This is still a place where people are innovating and showing leadership in so many different fields. We want to help spread these honoree’s stories.”
Thomas L. Keon, Chancellor of Purdue Northwest, noted how important that spotlight is this year in particular.
“We’re in the middle of a pandemic, and there are many things that have had to change in our world, be it the way we deliver a class or spend time with friends,” he said. “This is an extraordinarily different time, and those different times bring out innovation. We’re at a point in time where people are understanding that for Northwest Indiana to go forward and become a strong economic entity, we must have more innovation.”
The Society of Innovators Class of 2020 includes:
Ken Barry: Executive Director, City Life Center (Gary, Ind.)
Magesh Chandramouli: Associate Professor of Computer Graphics Technology, Purdue University Northwest (Hammond and Westville, Ind.)
Emily Edwards: Founder, Emily’s Foods / Paradise Icing (Schererville, Ind.)
Jamie Fankhauser: Owner, Bun’s Soapbox (Valparaiso, Ind.)
Matthew Hanson: Clinical Assistant Professor of Marketing, Purdue University Northwest (Hammond and Westville, Ind.)
Jake Miller: Owner, JEM Custom Shoes (Michigan City, Ind.)
Jared Riddle: Professor of English, Department Chair, Ivy Tech Community College (East Chicago, Ind.)
Daniel Schultz: Teacher, Hobart High School (Hobart, Ind.)
ArcelorMittal, team led by Richard Clausius (East Chicago, Ind.)
Centier Bank, team led by Chris Campbell (Merrillville, Ind.)
Economic Development Corporation Michigan City w/ Michigan City Area Schools, team led by Clarence Hulse (Michigan City, Ind.)
Tonn and Blank Construction, team led by Jon Gilmore (Michigan City, Ind.)
Top Flight Hockey, team lead by Quinton Oster and Dan Mikrut (St. John, Ind.)
To learn more about the Society of Innovators, visit https://www.pnw.edu/society-of-innovators/