SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. – Iron Mountain’s William C. Verrette, owner/director of Champion Inc. will receive an honorary doctorate and speak to nearly 500 graduates during Lake Superior State University’s graduation ceremony on Saturday.
LSSU’s 51st commencement exercise begins at 11 a.m. in the Norris Center's Taffy Abel Arena. The ceremony, which will be available live online through www.lssu.edu, includes announcement of this year's Distinguished Teaching Award and remarks from student respondent Tracy Merony, a criminal justice major from Harrison Twp., Mich.
Graduates will be ushered in to the Abel Arena by the bagpipes and drums of the Duncan Family of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. The family has been part of every LSSU graduation ceremony for the past 51 years. In addition, the LSSU chorus will sing the Canadian and U.S. national anthems, and native drumming group Aabizii of Brimley, Mich., will perform an Honor Song as new graduates file out of the arena at the conclusion of the ceremony.
LSSU President Tony McLain said Verrette is being honored at this year's ceremony for his longtime service to the community -- from one end of the Upper Peninsula to the other -- for his family’s connection to LSSU, and for his accomplishments through his work at Champion Inc. over the years.
“Bill has not only been a good friend to LSSU, but he has been instrumental in the economic development of the Upper Peninsula,” said McLain. “It is our privilege to honor him in this way.”
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Verrette is owner/director of Champion Inc. of Iron Mountain. Champion and its affiliates provide construction services, general construction, heavy construction and project management throughout the Midwest, and on-site production of ready-mix concrete throughout the country. They supply mechanical equipment for the mining and paper industries in Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, Wyoming and Montana, and electrical equipment to the utilities throughout Michigan. Together, the companies owned by Verrette employ about 1,000 people.
Verrette’s service to LSSU extends to the university’s beginnings. His father, Louis, was on the board of control for Michigan College of Mining and Technology when LSSU was a branch campus. As a board member, Louis encouraged and assisted with the move to establish autonomy for Lake Superior State College in 1970. From there, both Louis and Bill Verrette worked with LSSC President Kenneth J. Shouldice on many campus projects, including 11 campus buildings. They helped place what is now known as the Alumni Anchor on the grounds of the campus. Verrette has continued his relationship with LSSU through the years, and has been a lifelong contributor to the LSSU Foundation.
Verrette’s connections to the Eastern U.P. go beyond LSSU. In the 1950s, he spent his summers in Chippewa County with his family as Champion completed more than 10 projects at Kincheloe Air Force Base. The company worked on the base until 1973, shortly before it closed, and was then involved with the construction of the state prison on the former base.
Through the years, Verrette and his company have completed projects for the Sault Radar Base, Raco Missile Facility, Sault Tribe housing projects, Chippewa County Courthouse, Bayliss Public Library, International Bridge, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-Soo Locks, and public school projects in Sault Ste. Marie, Rudyard and Cedarville.
Verrette has always placed an importance on education, and has been recognized for his volunteer service with Northern Michigan University, Michigan Technological University, Iron Mountain Public Schools and more.
Born in Iron Mountain, Verrette has four grown children -- Tom, Steve, Cynthia and Paula -- and 10 grandchildren. He and his wife, Wilma, reside in the Iron Mountain area.
Student respondent Tracy Merony is receiving a criminal justice degree with honors at Saturday’s ceremony. Her degree includes concentrations in criminalistics, law enforcement and Homeland Security, with minors in chemistry and psychology. Along with her studies, she packed in an impressive number of extracurricular activities.
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“I enjoyed joining as many organizations as possible, playing for the Lady Lakers hockey team, and doing pretty much anything that kept me involved on campus and busy -- extremely busy,” she said.
She was a member of LSSU Student Government for the past year, and has been on the Activities Board since 2009. She played for LSSU’s Division 1 American Collegiate Hockey Association women’s club hockey team, serving as captain last season, and she tutored students in criminal justice and psychology courses through the LSSU Learning Center. She was active in many other groups, and member of a variety of honor societies.
“My professors really helped me with building communication skills and professionalism, and my involvement with student organizations also developed my ability to open up to people and talk to them,” Tracy said. “Before I came to LSSU, I was quiet and shy. I was not one to stand out in a crowd.”
She stands out now. Tracy is the first female commander in the history of LSSU’s Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES) police academy program, which LSSU criminal justice students may choose to take as part of their course of study. She and the other members of the MCOLES command staff helped guide 17 cadets through this year’s program, which started in the fall with physical fitness tests and written entrance exams and concludes with eight weeks of intensive training in the next two months.
Tracy is the daughter of Ken and Sue Merony of Harrison Twp. She has one brother, Nick.
For more information about LSSU graduation, visit www.lssu.edu/commencement. A link to streaming video of Saturday’s ceremony will be available on the LSSU home page, lssu.edu, on Saturday. --LSSU—
Contacts: John Shibley, 906-635-2314, (e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org); Tom Pink, 635-2315, (email@example.com)