Blitz, Hanson, Vigmostad Earn Finkbine Dinner Honors

Saturday, April 26, 2014

An Engineering student, distinguished alumnus, and faculty member received some of the University of Iowa's highest honors Thursday, April 24, at the 97th annual Finkbine Dinner.

Sophia Blitz received a Distinguished Student Leader certificate, Thomas Hanson earned a Hancher-Finkbine Alumni Medallion, and Sarah Vigmostad received the James N. Murray Faculty Award.

Blitz is a senior from Fairfield, Iowa. She is majoring in industrial engineering with a minor in computer science. Blitz has served as a teaching assistant for the past five semesters, and is team manager for the Hawkeye Ballroom Dance Company.

She is also a member of Tau Beta Pi, and has served as spring formal committee chairwoman for the Society of Women Engineers for two years. In all her leadership roles, nominators say she is “effective and enthusiastic, never afraid to go the extra mile.”

Blitz has interned at FAST Enterprises American Profol, Inc. and Bellwether, where she served as a programmer and developer. Most recently, she was part of a team from the student organization Women in Informatics and Computer Science that developed an application chosen as a finalist in a New York City Dept. of Education challenge that encouraged software developers to create apps enhancing math education.

Hanson received his degree in mechanical engineering in 1960. Two decades later he founded Chicago based Thermal Air Systems, which later became Fleming Hanson Sales—the largest agency of its kind in Illinois.

Inspired by his own career and educational experiences, Hanson then endowed the Hanson Center for Technical Communication in the UI College of Engineering, along with his wife.  Through this center engineering students have a comprehensive resource for developing excellent communication skills.

The Hansons have made contributions in support of the Seamans Center, the Hydraulics Laboratory, and other UI entities. Hanson is a current UI Foundation board member and a co-chair of the For Iowa Forever More campaign.

Vigmostad is an assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. Prior to joining the faculty, she received her doctorate, master of science and bachelor of science in biomedical engineering from the University of Iowa.

According to nominators, her teaching innovations “have had a huge impact on how engineering is taught.” Vigmostad uses inquiry-based learning to encourage students to ask challenging questions and engage in the process of discovering solutions.

She actively mentors both graduate and undergraduate students through a variety of groups and programs, including the UI chapter of the Society of Women Engineers. Vigmostad is a past recipient of the College of Engineering Outstanding Teacher Award.

In 1917, William Finkbine and Carl Kuhnle hosted the first awards dinner for UI men. In 1921, Finkbine’s daughter Dorothy Finkbine Sauers and her aunts introduced a similar dinner for women. The events were combined in 1972, and to this day are supported by an endowment established by W. Finkbine, as well as other alumni, friends, and the UI Foundation.