Albion Recognizes Five Distinguished Alumni at Homecoming (2013)

Douglas R. Armstrong, ’88

Douglas R. Armstrong, ’88At the age of 13, Doug Armstrong had an unpaid job filing x-rays at Albion Community Hospital because he was too young to join the hospital’s “red vest” volunteers. Since then, he has continued to follow his passions for medicine and service, saving and enriching the lives of thousands of seriously ill people.

Armstrong became a licensed emergency medical technician (EMT) even before he graduated from Albion High School, and during his student days at Albion College, he volunteered for the Albion Area Ambulance Service. While earning his bachelor’s degree in nursing at Wayne State University, he worked for the University of Michigan as a transplant organ perfusionist, flying with surgical teams to collect and transport organs. He helped initiate U-M’s clinical transplant research program and served as the assistant director of transplant clinical research and clinical trials manager, a position he held for 13 years.

As a volunteer during this time, Armstrong helped create Camp Michitanki (Michigan Transplant Kids), but quickly realized that complete success of such a program required a custom-designed facility. In 2007, he left transplant research to found and serve as chief executive officer for North Star Reach, a nonprofit now affiliated with Paul Newman’s SeriousFun Children’s Network. Next year, thanks to his leadership and energetic fundraising, North Star Reach will begin construction of a 105-acre camp near Pinckney, for campers ages 7-15 with chronic and life-threatening health challenges.

Formerly the assistant fire chief for Scio Township Fire Department and a firefighter/paramedic with the Dexter Area Fire Department, he has been honored with a Police and Firefighters Insurance Association Heroes Hall of Fame Award and Washtenaw Area Mutual Aid Association Life Saving Award.

After his Albion graduation, Armstrong spent two years traveling with Up with People. He holds a master’s degree in clinical research design and statistical analysis from the University of Michigan School of Public Health. He is the son of Roberta Armstrong and Robert Armstrong, professor emeritus of chemistry. Armstrong and his wife, Joan Marie, live in Dexter, Michigan with their son, Jackson Douglas.

Martin H. Nesbitt, ’85

Martin H. Nesbitt, ’85He may have grown up in Ohio, but Marty Nesbitt is a true Chicagoan. Beyond meeting his wife and befriending a future U.S. president there, Nesbitt has distinguished himself as both a professional success and an engaged community servant in the Windy City.

Nesbitt moved to Chicago as a General Motors Fellow, to complete an M.B.A. at the University of Chicago. After earning his degree, he joined the real estate investment company LaSalle Partners, where he became an equity vice president within five years.

At LaSalle, Nesbitt recognized the resilience of parking as a real estate asset class even during tough economic cycles and the investment opportunities associated with the way the parking industry was structured. This insight led Nesbitt to develop The Parking Spot, an airport parking company which today has nearly million in annual revenue and 2,000 employees. Earlier this year, Nesbitt launched a new private equity firm, The Vistria Group, which focuses on investing in middle market companies that operate at the nexus of the public and private sectors in the education, health care, and financial services industries.

A friend of Barack Obama for nearly 20 years, Nesbitt served as finance chair for Obama’s Congressional race and served on the Finance Committee for his U.S. Senate campaign before becoming treasurer of Obama’s 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns. These presidential campaigns birthed innovative Web-based efforts that combined with traditional fundraising tactics to break all previous fundraising and citizen-engagement records. Ultimately, they helped elect Nesbitt’s close friend and basketball buddy the first African-American president of the United States.

Despite the professional and political demands on his time, Nesbitt has been devoted to community service. Mayor Richard M. Daley appointed him to the board of the Chicago Housing Authority, where he eventually served as chair. Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed him to an advisory committee weighing the privatization of Midway Airport. Nesbitt is a current trustee of Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art. He also serves on two corporate boards, Jones Lang LaSalle and Norfolk Southern Corporation.

At Albion, Nesbitt served as co-captain of the Briton basketball team and was also a member of Delta Tau Delta fraternity, Mortar Board, Omicron Delta Kappa, and the Professional Management Program. In 2009, he delivered the Stoffer Lecture at Albion’s Opening Convocation and was awarded an honorary doctorate at that time.

Nesbitt and his wife, Dr. Anita Blanchard, are the parents of Alex, Maxine, Roxanne, Xavier, and Xiomara, affectionately known as “Nesbitt Nation” at the White House.

W. Douglas Parker, Jr., ’84

W. Douglas Parker, Jr., ’84Doug Parker became chairman and chief executive officer of US Airways Group following the 2005 merger of US Airways and America West Airlines. The nation’s fifth largest airline, with 32,000 employees, has flourished under Parker’s leadership. US Airways reports revenue growth, operational performance, and profit margin improvements that have outpaced most industry peers. In fiscal year 2012, US Airways set company records in on-time performance and profits, leading all Fortune 500 companies in total shareholder return. It’s no surprise that Parker is the longest-serving current CEO of a U.S. airline.

Currently, he is spearheading the pending merger between American Airlines and US Airways. He is slated to become the CEO of the combined airline, to be headquartered in Dallas.

Parker got his start as a financial analyst at American Airlines and held a number of other financial management positions in his five years there. He spent four years as vice president and assistant treasurer at Northwest Airlines before becoming senior vice president and later chief financial officer of America West Airlines. Parker was appointed America West’s CEO on September 1, 2001, just 10 days before what would become the second industry-wide transformation of his career.

As a civic leader in his adopted state of Arizona, Parker has chaired the board for Valley of the Sun United Way, New Day Homeless Center, and the Committee to End Homelessness in Phoenix.

Parker gave the Commencement address to Albion’s Class of 2010. He continues to be supportive of Albion College’s Alumni Association, and he maintains his connections with fellow Sigma Nu alumni.

Parker holds an M.B.A. from the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University. At Albion, he was a member of the Student Senate and of the 1980 and 1981 football teams. He and his wife, Gwen, have three children, Eliza, Jackson, and Lucas.

Norma J. Taber, ’78

Norma J. Taber, ’78Airline passengers today fly with fewer delays, thanks to the air traffic management systems Norma Taber has helped design. Norma Taber has spent 30 years with the MITRE Corporation, a not-for-profit research and development organization trusted for its impartiality in working with the Federal Aviation Administration, current air traffic management operations, and academic researchers. As a lead systems engineer, working with various government, industry, and academic researchers, Taber has contributed to improvements in air traffic operations including tools for assessing the impact of changing a flight’s route or altitude, planning air traffic flows, and collaborative decision-making for rerouting or delaying flights. Currently, Taber is working with a research team developing concepts and algorithms for what will be the next generation of departure flow management systems.

Throughout her professional career, Taber has taken a special interest in encouraging women to pursue careers in engineering. Just four years after graduating from Albion, Taber established the Norma J. Taber Scholarship for Women in Pre-Engineering at Albion College, which has supported alumnae who are now working in environmental engineering, astrophysics, petrophysics, and other science-related fields. She has also supports a similar scholarship to encourage students at liberal arts schools to pursue dual degrees at her engineering alma mater. Less directly, she also supports female engineering students through her long-term affiliations with the Society of Women Engineers and the Association of American University Women.

Taber has been an active member of the United Methodist Church (UMC) at both local and conference levels. Through the UMC’s Volunteers in Mission program, she has traveled twice to Zimbabwe; she crochets blankets and clothing distributed to children and cancer patients via local and international charities.

Along with her Albion degree in mathematics, Taber completed B.S. and M.S. degrees in systems engineering at Washington University in St. Louis. She was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, a liberal arts honor society, and Tau Beta Pi, an engineering honor society. She served as an officer for five years in the Baltimore Alumni Chapter of Tau Beta Pi. Taber lives in Maryland near Washington, D.C.

Dennis W. Wahr, ’74

Dennis W. Wahr, ’74After ending the 20th century as a highly regarded cardiologist, Dennis Wahr is beginning the 21st century as an equally successful entrepreneur. Currently, his expertise in medical device development, the management of multicenter international clinical studies, and product commercialization is evident in his current role as president and chief executive officer of his third medical device company, Holaira, Inc. Holaira is dedicated to the development of products to treat lung diseases. The company’s first product in development is a novel catheter-based system that may improve lung function, exercise capacity, and quality of life for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

In 2001, Wahr became co-founder, president, and CEO of Velocimed, which developed and clinically tested three innovative products to treat cardiovascular disease prior to the company being acquired and commercialized by St. Jude Medical in 2005. Wahr then co-founded and served as president and CEO of Lutonix, which developed a unique drug-coated balloon angioplasty technology for the treatment and prevention of vascular stenosis (narrowing) caused by atherosclerosis. Wahr sold the company after four years to leading medical device manufacturer C.R. Bard, Inc. The Lutonix device has been approved for sale in Europe and is expected to be available soon to U.S. patients.

Wahr’s desire to serve patients through improving technology grew from his 15 years working as an interventional cardiologist. He also was director of interventional cardiology and chief of cardiology at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor. He is a graduate of Wayne State University’s School of Medicine.

An Athletic Hall of Fame inductee for individual and team achievement, league medalist Wahr led the Britons to a 1972 MIAA golf championship. He was also an honorable mention All-MIAA basketball selection and the team’s Most Valuable Player during the 1973-74 season. Wahr was a member of Sigma Nu fraternity at Albion College.

He and his wife, Joyce, live in Hopkins, Minnesota, and are the parents of Alexa, Christine, and Jennifer.