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Choate, Conver, Fishbaugh, Seekins ’74 receive highest honor presented by UM Alumni Association
The outstanding accomplishments of four UM alumni are being recognized with the University’s 2016 Distinguished Alumni Award.
Darrel Choate ’65, M.A. ’67; Timothy Conver ’66; Arlynn Fishbaugh ’74; and Tom Seekins ’74 will be honored at a Sept. 30 ceremony during Homecoming. The Distinguished Alumni Award is the highest honor presented by the UM Alumni Association.
Choate was instrumental in coordinating Boeing’s efforts in the Strategic Defense Initiative – also known as Star Wars – for which he performed sensitive trade studies and analyses that influenced the current U.S. ballistic missile defense architecture. He also served as the systems engineering manager for Sea Launch, a system that now has launched more than 30 satellites, including some that provide XM Radio. Choate’s inclusion in Boeing’s Technical Fellowship program placed him among the top 1 percent of the company’s engineers. Upon retirement, he adapted his technical and personal skills to assist the development of infrastructure in Mexico, Honduras and Haiti, and made significant contributions to the Japan International Project, a tsunami rebuilding effort.
Conver is the chairman and former CEO of AeroVironment, which designs, produces and operates Unmanned Aircraft Systems – commonly known as drones – and other electric transportation solutions, including energy-efficient systems for electric vehicles. AV is the largest supplier of drones to the U.S. Department of Defense, accounting for about 85 percent of all drones flown by American defense forces. The company currently is developing missile-like air vehicles that can eliminate potential collateral damage in its use, thus saving innocent civilians in a combat environment. AV also developed the bio-inspired Nano Hummingbird, a remote-controlled aircraft designed to resemble and fly like a hummingbird, which was featured on the cover of TIME as one of the “50 Best Inventions of 2011.”
One of the most prominent arts administrators in the country, Fishbaugh will retire in September as executive director of the Montana Arts Council, a role she’s held since 1992. Under her leadership, the agency excelled at promoting the arts in Montana by encouraging commerce and business development for artists and art organizations and providing greater access to the arts across the state. Fishbaugh inspired agency staff to forge new partnerships with legislators and other state decision-makers who previously opposed public funding of the arts. The council’s initiatives have served as models for other state arts councils, regional service organizations and the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies. Fishbaugh often is invited to share her knowledge and insight at arts conferences across the nation.
Seekins is a professor of psychology and director of the Research and Training Center on Disability in Rural Communities at UM. He is one of the leading social scientists in the country working to improve the lives of people with disabilities. The community-based participator research methods he helped develop have led to nationally implemented social programs. Seekins has published more than 120 journal articles and book chapters that have helped shape the science of disability and community living. He has mentored nearly 50 students and secured more than $30 million in grant funds to conduct research and develop programs for health promotion, self-employment, economic development, community participation, housing, transportation, civic leadership and American Indian disability issues.