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Distinguished graduate gives Lawrence Tech's commencement address

Release Date: May 6, 2014

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. – Successful entrepreneur A. Leon Linton received an honorary degree and gave the commencement address at Lawrence Technological University’s 82nd commencement exercises on May 10.

LTU held indoor ceremonies at the Ultimate Soccer Arenas in Pontiac. The university iawarded more than 850 degrees and certificates this academic year.

This year’s recipients of Lawrence Tech’s Alumni Achievement Award were:

• Judith Curran, a 1983 graduate in electrical engineering, the vehicle line director of Global CD Vehicles at Ford Motor Company.
• Elizabeth Howell, a 1992 electrical engineering graduate, vice president, operations, of ITC Holdings Corp., the nation’s largest independent electric transmission company.
• Gordon Riske, chief executive officer of KION Group AG in Germany, which is the world’s second largest manufacturer of forklift trucks and warehouse technology. He was an electrical engineering student at Lawrence Tech from 1976-81.

Linton will receive an honorary doctor of engineering. He founded Southern Systems, Inc. (SSI) in 1968 to design, manufacture, and install conveyor systems, automation equipment, and electrical controls on a turnkey basis. The company serves manufacturers of heavy trucks, construction equipment, military tanks, oil field pipe, aircraft, furniture and appliances.

Projects at SSI range from small system modifications to multimillion-dollar green-field programs. SSI conveyors are used in the manufacture and processing of small products, weighing only several ounces, to unit loads of over 100,000 pounds, and almost every shape and size in between.

SSI, with two facilities in Memphis, Tennessee, and a branch in Ft. Smith, Arkansas, is also one of only a few companies in the nation capable of slipform continuous pour concrete construction of massive silos and related equipment associated with ethanol production, cement manufacturing, pet food processing, and coal handling and storage.

Linton’s many achievements include pioneering innovations that have become industry standards.

Linton, a 1962 graduate in mechanical engineering, is one of Lawrence Tech’s most generous supporters. In 2008, the University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering was named in his honor, reflecting his outstanding professional contributions and support. He is a member of LTU’s Capital Campaign Steering Committee. He is a previous winner of the Alumni Achievement Award.

Linton attended night classes at Lawrence Tech while working in the millwright trade in construction and installation of conveyor systems, machinery, and automation equipment. While still a student, he joined Jervis B. Webb Company where he expanded his skill set for manufacturing. His evening courses at LTU paid dividends quickly on the job.

He has fond memories of his college instructors. “These teachers took a real interest in helping me, and others, ‘get through school,’ Some professors would stay, even at the end of a late night class, to help me and others understand a particular problem,” he said “This dedication was especially meaningful to young, would-be engineers, as we all needed encouragement.”

Linton’s family had moved from the South when he was 12 and he returned after completing his degree. He opened a one-man office for Webb in Memphis, where he did engineering sales in the region and continued to serve other Webb offices and facilities nationwide. He founded his own company six years later.

Lawrence Technological University, www.ltu.edu, is a private university founded in 1932 that offers more than 100 programs through the doctoral level in its Colleges of Architecture and Design, Arts and Sciences, Engineering, and Management. PayScale lists Lawrence Tech among the nation’s top 100 universities for return on undergraduate tuition investment, and highest in the Detroit metropolitan area. Lawrence Tech is also listed in the top tier of Midwestern universities by U.S. News and World Report and the Princeton Review. Students benefit from small class sizes and experienced faculty who provide a real-world, hands-on, “theory and practice” education with an emphasis on leadership. Activities on Lawrence Tech’s 102-acre campus include over 60 student clubs and organizations and a growing roster of NAIA varsity sports.