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Near-record 1,125 graduates feted at Lawrence Tech commencement May 17

Release Date: May 12, 2009

Southfield, Mich. - John Rakolta Jr., CEO of Detroit-based Walbridge, one of the country's largest construction firms, will receive an honorary degree and deliver the address when Lawrence Technological University holds its 77th commencement on Sunday, May 17, at 2 p.m. at Cobo Arena in Detroit.

Lawrence Tech will confer degrees on 1,125 new graduates, making this one of the largest commencement classes in the history of the university that was founded in 1932.

Walbridge specializes in the design, building, management, and real estate development of large-scale federal and industry-specific projects. The privately held 3,000-employee firm also serves the commercial, municipal, educational, and housing markets and is a world leader in building complex manufacturing facilities.

Rakolta started with Walbridge in 1971 and became CEO and chairman in 1993. He has overseen the company's growth to 20 times its size and its expansion into over 20 states and several foreign countries.

A third-generation American Romanian, Mr. Rakolta takes great pride in his heritage, especially given that both sets of his grandparents were born in Romania. He was appointed Romania's honorary consul general to the United States in 1996 and has led U.S. Trade Missions there and to Mexico.

Lawrence Tech also will present alumni achievement awards to distinguished graduates Beverly Hannah Jones, David Wilson and Daniel Winey.

Hannah Jones is founder and principal of the Hannah Jones Group, one of only 10 architectural firms in the United States owned and operated by an African American female licensed architect. It provides core professional services, including architectural design, development planning and consulting, master planning, architectural consulting and interior design.

Her projects include Seldom Blues Supper Club in GM's headquarters; Detroit Breakfast House & Grill in Merchants Row; Taft Elementary/Middle School  and Schultz Middle School in Detroit; the water park expansion at Detroit's Chandler Park; Grand City Grill in the Fisher Building; and Tech One at Wayne State University.

Wilson has been chairman of the board of Spartan Motors Inc., based in Charlotte, Mich., since 2002. Spartan, designs, engineers and manufactures custom chassis and vehicles for the fire truck, ambulance, emergency-rescue, recreational vehicle, and specialty vehicle markets.

Spartan employs approximately 1,200 people at facilities in Michigan and three other states and reported sales of $844.4 million in 2008. Last October, the U.S. military recognized Spartan Chassis employees for their critical role in the rapid production and deployment of the military's highest priority, Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles. Spartan has helped produce more mine-resistant vehicles than any other U.S. manufacturer.

Winey is managing principal of the Pacific Northwest and Asia Region of Gensler, a global architecture, design, planning and consulting firm with over 2,500 professionals in 31 offices. He has been instrumental in opening 10 Gensler offices worldwide, including one in his hometown of Detroit.

The firm has designed the world's second tallest building, now under construction in Shanghai, China.

Winey is a strong advocate of sustainable design in expanding markets. He has not only made Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) accreditations a mandatory prerequisite in the U.S. offices he directs, he requires LEED guidelines to be standard practice in all the firm's Asia offices.

Lawrence Technological University, ltu.edu, offers over 80 undergraduate, master's and doctoral degree programs in Colleges of Architecture and Design, Arts and Sciences, Engineering and Management. Founded in 1932, the 4,500-student, private university pioneered evening classes 75 years ago, and today has a growing number of weekend and online programs. Lawrence Tech's 102-acre campus is in Southfield, and programs are also offered in Detroit, Lansing, Livonia, Petoskey and Traverse City. Lawrence Tech also offers programs with partner universities in Mexico, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.