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Clarkson University Bestows Top Award for Young Alumni

Jason R. Currie of Etobicoke, Ontario, Daegan A. Gonyer of Madrid, N.Y., Michael Sarafin of Houston, Texas, and Allison Piper Wall of Katy, Texas, have all received the Woodstock Award from their alma mater, Clarkson University.

Left to right: Clarkson University President Tony Collins; award winners Jason R. Currie, Michael Sarafin and Daegan Gonyer; and Associate Vice President for Alumni Relations Steve Newkofsky. Not present for photo: Allison Piper Wall.Given each year during Reunion Weekend, the Woodstock Award honors young alumni who have demonstrated outstanding loyalty and service to Clarkson and the Alumni Association and who have used their Clarkson experience to make a notable contribution to their careers.

Jason R. Currie

Jason R. Currie, managing director at Conundrum Capital of Toronto, received a bachelor of science degree in finance from Clarkson in 1994 and a master of business administration degree from Cornell University in 1997.

While at Clarkson, Currie was a goalie on the men’s hockey team from 1990 to 1994. He was one of the top netminders in the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC). He was a part of two ECAC Tournament championships and three NCAA Tournament showings, including a Frozen Four berth in 1991. He was an ECAC All-Star and Academic All-American. Currie was selected as a Hartford Whalers draft choice in 1991. His overall record was 44-25-10, including four shutouts.  

Upon graduation, Currie began his career in private equity as a member of Deutsche Banc Alex Brown’s Private Equity Funds Group, placing fund interests with U.S. and Canadian institutional clients. He moved on to executive director with CIBC World Markets where he helped manage CIBC’s portfolio of externally managed private equity partnerships and was also responsible for CIBC Oppenheimer’s $125 million Private Equity Fund of Funds.

Currie then worked as a partner with the Private Funds Group of Bear Stearns (formerly Crane Capital) with responsibility for placing fund interests with institutional investors across Canada and the eastern United States. Currently, he is a managing director at Conundrum Capital, a real estate focused private equity firm based in Toronto where he is responsible for fundraising and serves as president of Conundrum’s industrial division, Bartley Commercial Real Estate.

Currie has been a loyal supporter of Clarkson and has assisted in various fundraising efforts for the hockey program. Most recently, he organized and chaired the Hockey Pride Fund, which resulted in the highly successful “Take a Locker” project. In May 2008, Currie was elected to the Clarkson board of trustees, where he serves on the external affairs and investment committees.     

Currie resides in Etobicoke, Ontario, with his wife, Victoria, and three sons, Nick, Jack and Tommy.
Daegan A. Gonyer

Daegan A. Gonyer, chief executive officer of Blue Sphere Industries and Illusion ATC of Potsdam, N.Y., received his bachelor of science degree in physics from Clarkson in 2009. He is currently working on a master’s in engineering science, an MBA and a Ph.D. in electrochemical physics, all at Clarkson. While an undergraduate, Gonyer earned the Clarkson Commendable Leadership award and was a member of Phalanx.

Since graduating, he has been involved in numerous endeavors. He is a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow. In this role, Gonyer studies lithium-ion and liquid sodium batteries. He is also a Shipley Business Fellow at Clarkson’s Shipley Center for Innovation.

Gonyer has been a founding member of four start-ups and has served in an executive role in three of those firms. He is currently the chief executive officer of Blue Sphere Industries and Illusion ATC.  

Blue Sphere Industries has developed a sustainable, modular aeroponic growth system designed for use in a controlled environment, so that it can operate year-round in any climate. Aeroponics allows plants to grow without soil and with very little water. Blue Sphere’s techniques grow plants 20 percent faster than traditional farming, regardless of season. Gonyer is the lead grant writer for the company and oversees the day-to-day operations.  

Illusion ATC is a rapid prototyping firm, with specialists in polymer matrix composites, polymer processing, electronic interfacing and automation, and general machining and fabrication.

In 2012, Gonyer was named the SNT High Technology Entrepreneur of the Year. He was also featured as one of the Top Twenty Under 40 Emerging Leaders by NNY Business Magazine.  

Gonyer’s passion for improving farming techniques and entrepreneurship have kept him closely tied to Clarkson. He continues to oversee the technical aspects of Clarkson’s greenhouse and mentors aspiring entrepreneurs through the Shipley Center for Innovation.

Originally from Groveton, N.H., Gonyer now resides in Madrid, N.Y.

Michael Sarafin

Michael Sarafin, a NASA flight director, received a bachelor of science degree in mechanical and aeronautical engineering from Clarkson in 1994. While at Clarkson, Sarafin was active in both the rugby and archery club. He was also a member of the Aeronautics and Astronomy Society.  

Sarafin joined the ranks at NASA in 1994, as a space shuttle software engineer, and continues to play a key role within the organization today. He is one of 83 individuals who have led human spaceflight operations as a NASA flight director. In that role, he has overall responsibility for safety and success of the mission. He represents the United States government and its human spaceflight program to partners around the globe while overseeing all aspects of operations from within Mission Control, located in Houston, Texas.

His experience to date includes 43 Space Shuttle missions and 20International Space Station Expeditions of American, Canadian, European, Japanese and Russian astronauts and cosmonauts. In 2010, Sarafin sent a green and gold Clarkson flag to space, on board the space shuttle Atlantis during its final trip then returned it in person to Clarkson University.

Sarafin is presently tasked as a NASA flight director for two different programs. Since 2008, he has supported the International Space Station (ISS) as an ISS Flight Director. In that role, he oversees daily operations of the 16 partner nations that comprise the ISS team and the astronauts and cosmonauts flying onboard.

He is also leading the highly anticipated flight of NASA’s Orion capsule, scheduled to fly this fall. The Orion program began in 2005, after national policy allowed NASA again to pursue exploration of deep space. As the first Orion Flight Director, he is enabling humans to explore deep space by testing an unmanned version of the spacecraft. Exploration Flight Test one will challenge Orion’s ability to survive the harsh environment of space and gather data essential to the safe return of astronauts on future deep space missions.  

Sarafin makes frequent visits to Clarkson to encourage students to pursue engineering. He was in the first class to graduate from the aeronautical program because it was a new program and he is a strong believer that the engineering program established the foundation for everything he needed to learn in his career. He has also been a guest speaker at an AIAA Regional competition hosted at Clarkson.

Originally from Herkimer, N.Y., Sarafin currently resides in Houston, Texas, with his wife, Angela.

Allison Piper Wall

Allison Piper Wall received her bachelor of science degree in industrial hygiene and environmental toxicology from Clarkson in 1994. She is also a graduate of the Clarkson School, Clarkson’s early college entrance program.

While at Clarkson, Wall was a founding member of the Clarkson University student section of the American Industrial Hygiene Association. She was a member of Sigma Gamma Phi sorority and served as treasurer. Wall earned a master of science degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1996.  

Upon graduation, she opened the New Orleans office of an industrial hygiene consulting firm with headquarters in Houston, Texas. Wall provided environmental and occupational health consulting to chemical, petroleum refining and manufacturing companies.

Wall attended business school on a full scholarship, earning an MBA degree from Tulane University in 2000, during which she changed careers to the electricity industry.

Wall has worked in the restructured retail electricity and natural gas industry for 15 years. She moved into management positions at Reliant Energy and then served as vice president at Gexa Energy and as vice president, residential at Champion Energy Services.

In 2010, Wall served as chief operating officer for StarTex Power, a retail electricity provider based in Houston. Wall then joined Spark Energy, a national retail energy company active in both electricity and natural gas competitive markets, as its Chief Operating Officer. She continues to serve in this role and is responsible for overseeing the company’s operations.

Wall is active in several volunteer roles. She is on the board of directors of the Gulf Coast Power Association and is a founding member of their emPOWERing Women program. She also assists with Clarkson alumni events in Houston and is working to start a new alumni chapter. She also serves on the board of directors of her homeowner’s association and volunteers time in the public school system.

Originally from Katy, Texas, Wall still resides there with her husband and daughter.

Clarkson University launches leaders into the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as a CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. Located just outside the Adirondack Park in Potsdam, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university for undergraduates with select graduate programs in signature areas of academic excellence directed toward the world’s pressing issues. Through 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, sciences and health sciences, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and engineering innovation with enterprise.

Photo caption: Four Clarkson University Alumni have received the Woodstock Award from their alma mater. Left to right: Clarkson University President Tony Collins; award winners Jason R. Currie, Michael Sarafin and Daegan Gonyer; and Associate Vice President for Alumni Relations Steve Newkofsky. Not present for photo: Allison Piper Wall.

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