LEWISBURG, Pa. – A busy day of athletics festivities and events got started Saturday morning with the presentation of the Bucknell Alumni Achievement Awards to Ron Benjamin ’67 (football) and Daniela Faas ’04 (swimming). These former Bison student-athletes have gone on to achieve tremendous professional success, and they were recognized and spoke before a roomful of current student-athletes representing the Bucknell Athletics Leadership Institute. They were honored again at halftime of the men’s basketball team’s victory over Navy later in the day.
The Bucknell Alumni Achievement Award is awarded annually to one male student-athlete alumnus and one female student-athlete alumna who have earned distinction in their professional careers. The award recognizes alumni for their leadership aptitude and contributions to their professions, while upholding the highest values of Bucknell Athletics. The recipients of this award represent the best of our alumni and become role models for current Bison student-athletes.
Here is a closer look at the careers of Ron Benjamin and Daniela Faas.
Ron Benjamin ‘67
Born and raised in Northeastern Pennsylvania, Ron Benjamin played football at Bucknell. Ron graduated in 1967 with a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering and went on to receive a master’s in business administration from Harvard University in 1969.
Ron’s business career began in 1970 as the Chief Administrative Officer for the Community Blood Center, which is a non-profit that supplies blood to hospitals in metropolitan Kansas City. From 1972-76, Ron co-founded and owned his first business, BioTec, Inc. The business purchased human plasma from hospitals that were previously discarding the material and recycled it to the pharmaceutical industry for use in diagnostic test kits. Bio Tec was extremely successful and grew to become the largest shipper of salvage plasma in the U.S.
In 1976, Ron sold the business and became the Owner and CEO of One Hour Martinizing. Simultaneously, Ron and an investor group purchased an off-line ATM company called Electronic Funds Transfer Systems Inc. They reinvented the company to become an independent online electronic banking network supporting ATMs and point-of-sale devices. He successfully sold both businesses in 1983, and in 1984 he became the co-owner of I Can’t Believe It’s Yogurt in Kansas City, which opened seven retail yogurt stores in 30 months.
In 1985 Ron and a partner formed a full-service direct mail agency called the Resource and Development Group. As Co-Owner and CEO, Ron ran the company to assist nonprofit organizations with their fundraising efforts. The company grew from two employees to 125 employees and become one of the largest mailers for the Salvation Army. The company was recognized by INC Magazine in 1991 as one of the nation’s fastest-growing companies.
In 1988 Ron and a partner acquired Robinson Potato Supply from the Robinson family, and two short years later he became co-owner and president of Dot Drug Stores, which was a chain of retail discount drug stores from Walmart. The chain was liquidated in 1992, as five of the largest stores were targeted for adjacent sales by Phar-Mor. Inc.
Ron’s current position is co-owner and managing director of GreenEarth Cleaning LLC. The business aims to provide the dry cleaning industry with a patented and branded environmentally safe cleaning system through the licensing of its intellectual property. General Electric and Proctor and Gamble have both invested as minority shareholders and serve on the board.
In addition to his success as an entrepreneur, Ron continues to give back to his local community. He helped to form the Blue Valley Recreation Commission in 1985 in response to needs for playing fields for youth in the area. During his time as Chair of the Commission, Ron successfully negotiated the purchase of the 58-acre Millers Woods Sports Complex for $4 million. Ron also coached AAU basketball for 13 years and served as the director of the Blue Valley Junior Athletic Association and President of its Basketball Club.
Ron also created Project Graduation at his oldest son’s school, which is now an annual event to provide an alcohol and drug free graduation party for senior students. He was a founding member of both the Blue Valley Education Foundation and the City of Leawood Foundation. He is an original member of the Church of Nativity’s building committee and founding member of the Men of Nativity. He is the Chairman of the Santa Marta Retirement Center, which he helped to develop, and he serves on the board for the Villa St. Francis Nursing Home and Midwest Bioethics Center. Ron also served on the initial steering committee for the Council of Growing Companies, and he served in the Divisional Headquarters for the Missouri/Kansas Division of the Salvation Army. Ron also continues to give back to Bucknell as a critical member of our Board of Trustees since 1995. He has chaired the compensation, audit, and finance committees on the board.
Daniela Faas ‘04
Dr. Daniela Faas graduated from Bucknell with a BS/BA in mechanical engineering and international relations, and an MS in mechanical engineering. While at Bucknell, Daniela competed in both water polo and swimming. She was a swimming Academic All-American and set school records in the 500, 1000, and 1650-yard freestyle, and 400 individual medley and 800 free relay events during her four years at Bucknell. She was a four-time First Team All-Patriot League selection, claiming gold medals in the mile in 2002, the 400 individual medley in 2004, and the 800 free relay in 2001, 2003 and 2004. She was a part of two Patriot League championship swimming and diving teams and two others that were runner-up in the league. Daniela won the Margaret L. Bryan Award as the top two-sport athlete in the Class of 2004, and the Kathy Frazier-Margaret Grunow Award for Outstanding Femal Swimmer in 2002.
During her summers at Bucknell, Daniela interned in her native Germany at Tyco Electronics, BASF, and Darmstadt University of Technology.
After graduation, Daniela went on to Iowa State University, where she earned a PhD in Mechanical Engineering, Human-Computer Interaction. Daniela’s areas of interest include computer-aided design with a focus on virtual reality, design methodology, and engineering education.
She began her career at Iowa State, where she taught engineering graphics and introductory design and was a guest lecturer in thermodynamics and mass transfer for chemical engineers. After Iowa State, Daniela moved on to the Mechanical Engineering Department at MIT, teaching courses on instrumentation and measurement, and design and manufacturing.
Her successful teaching career then took her to Harvard University, where she was a Senior Preceptor in Design Instruction at the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. In this role, she developed the design engineering component of the curriculum and taught the senior design capstone course for all engineering majors. She also served as an instructor in the summer programs in Hong Kong and Harvard and was a mentor to undergraduates, including serving as a freshmen adviser. While at Harvard, Daniela was also the principal instructor for a computer-aided machine design which she designed from the ground up to teach a holistic approach to the fundamentals of mechanical engineering.
Daniela currently serves as a senior lecturer in mechanical engineering and director of design and fabrication operations at the prestigious Olin College of Engineering, where she is leading the effort to re-imagine fabrication and making as a core component of a hands-on design curriculum. She currently teaches mechanical prototyping this semester.
Daniela’s list of accolades is extremely impressive. In 2010, she was awarded a post-doctoral fellowship at MIT and received the Spot Award for outstanding service to the Mechanical Engineering Department in the Spring of 2012.
Her work has been published in a range of publications and proceedings including Artificial Intelligence for Engineering Design, Analysis and Manufacturing (AIEDAM) and Developmental Dynamics. She continues to give back to the engineering community by serving as an advisor and mentor for countless students at her respective universities and is a member of multiple engineering design and adviser committees.
In her “spare” time, Daniela serves as a peer-reviewer for multiple conferences, is the co-chair of the SWE Women in Academia Committee, and the program chair for the Conference on Design Education at the 2017 International Design Engineering Technology conference, and has served on the Board of Visitors for Worcester Academy, her high school. She is a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Member of the Society of Women Engineers, and a member of the American Society of Engineering Education. When she’s not changing the world one engineer at a time, she loves to scuba dive the world.