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Merit Celebrates 50 Years & Member Achievements

Ann Arbor, Mich. – Merit Network recently celebrated its 50th anniversary and honored the outstanding achievements of individuals and Member organizations at the 2016 Merit Member Conference in Ypsilanti. The conference set an attendance record with 401 technology leaders, engineers and innovators attending from across the United States.
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Doug Van Houweling and Steve Wolff discussed Merit’s early days and the NSFNET; Bottom: Joe Sawasky on behalf of Merit Network receives an honor presented by Michigan CIO David Behen from Governor Rick Snyder


50th Anniversary Gala

Merit celebrated 50 years of community and innovation with a gala celebration on May 11th, which included dignitaries, former Merit staff, employees and Merit supporters in attendance.

Merit Network was established in 1966 by Michigan State University, the University of Michigan, and Wayne State University to create a computer network that connected the universities’ mainframe computers to enhance research and collaboration. In the years since, Merit created the nation’s first regional network in Michigan, helped lay the foundation for the internet by leading the groundbreaking NSFNET project during the 1980s and led the construction of 2,287 miles of fiber-optic infrastructure in Michigan with its REACH-3MC project.

During a panel discussion at the gala, Doug Van Houweling from the University of Michigan and Steve Wolff from Internet2 provided a glimpse into the early days of Merit, the complex NSFNET project and how the technology and network protocols created by Merit’s engineers influenced the internet.

David Behen, chief information officer (CIO) for the State of Michigan, presented an honor from Governor Rick Snyder to Joe Sawasky on behalf of Merit Network, recognizing the organization’s historic achievements. Behen also talked about Merit’s Michigan Cyber Range, which has been part of the state’s cybersecurity initiatives.

The gala featured reflections from several technology leaders, including Jen Leisure, president/CEO of The Quilt, and Joanna Young, CIO for Michigan State University and chairman of Merit’s Board of Directors.

Merit Awards

At the conclusion of the conference, Merit’s President/CEO Joe Sawasky presented the Merit Awards to recognize the accomplishments of individuals and Member organizations that have provided leadership in technology and assisted the Merit Community.

“Merit is delighted to recognize Members from our community who have made a real difference. Michigan’s non-profit organizations, our citizens and all the students across the state we serve benefit tremendously from their contributions,” said Sawasky.

To recognize the contributions and leadership of Merit’s first president Eric Aupperle, the Award for Innovation in Networking and Information Technology was renamed to be the Eric Aupperle Innovation in Networking Award. Aupperle was appointed director of Merit in 1974 and served as president from 1988 to 2001. He passed away on April 30, 2015.

The following recipients were nominated by their peers and selected for their outstanding contributions to the Merit Community:

Eric Aupperle Innovation in Networking AwardThe award recognizes organizations and individuals that enhance their work by using networking and related technologies in novel ways.

  • Cheboygan-Otsego-Presque Isle ESDThe district’s technology staff was selected because of their development of a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) hosted from a central ISD data center. The virtual desktops are being used for multiple district computer labs, streamlining configuration and support. Additionally, as an added benefit of the VDI systems a published application service has been developed and utilized to provide the financial software used by six districts to ensure secure access and the reliable backup of district financial data.
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Victor Ibegbu accepts a Merit Award for Detroit Public Library; Bottom: Laura Hendrick from Wayne State University with Merit’s Joe Sawasky and Terry Carew

[/visibility] Community BuildingThe award recognizes organizations and individuals that build communities to help enhance networking, technology and collaboration.

  • Pete Hoffswell, Davenport UniversityHoffswell was selected for his community building in the Grand Rapids area, facilitating a networking group for all of the Merit Members in the region. Pete coordinates a listserv, meeting space and the agenda for the meetings. The Grand Rapids Area Educational Network Operators Group (GRAENOG) holds bi-monthly meetings and provides valuable information sharing among members.

Meritorious Service AwardThe award recognizes individuals who have shown long-term dedication to Merit’s mission through their support and involvement.

  • Detroit Public LibraryDetroit Public Library was selected for their support of Merit’s mission and assisting 23 libraries in the City of Detroit. The Library is a valuable contributor and participant on the Merit Advisory Council, an advisory committee that assists Merit’s Board of Directors and represents a diverse membership.
  • Jim Jones, Jackson CollegeJones was selected for his long-term support of Merit’s initiatives. He is a former Merit Advisory Council member and actively participates on the Michigan Information Technology Executive (MITE) Forum. He often shares his knowledge as a speaker at Merit events. Jackson College has connected all four of its campuses to Merit via fiber and has subscribed to several Merit services.
  • Laura Hendrick, Wayne State UniversityHendrick was selected for her tireless support of Merit and her active involvement in numerous initiatives, committees and community events over the years on behalf of WSU. Laura and her staff are always the first to volunteer when help is needed in organizing a community activity or raising awareness of a new Merit service on the WSU campus. She is a difference-maker within the Merit community.

About Merit Network

Merit Network, Inc. is a nonprofit corporation owned and governed by Michigan’s public universities. Merit owns and operates America’s longest-running regional research and education network. In 1966, Michigan’s public universities created Merit as a shared resource to help meet their common need for networking assistance. Since its formation, Merit Network has remained on the forefront of research and education networking expertise and services. Merit provides high-performance networking and IT solutions to Michigan’s public universities, colleges, K-12 organizations, libraries, state government, healthcare, and other non-profit organizations.

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