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Parker tabs new Distinguished Vikings

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staff, Gazette
May 24, 2013

— The latest alumni to be enshrined on plaques at Parker High School have distinguished themselves in the fields of law enforcement, industry and academia.

The three will be honored in a ceremony today at Parker.

According to biographical information supplied by Parker, the new Distinguished Vikings are:

-- Bruce Larson, Class of 1977, whose life’s work has focused on improving public health in Africa.

Larson recalled himself as an average student who felt incompetent in Latin and chemistry classes. He now conducts applied research with the Department of International Health and Center for Global Health and Development at Boston University.

Larson competed in tennis and gymnastics at Parker. He credits his tennis coach/chemistry teacher and other supportive faculty with providing him the analytical skills and confidence to further his education at UW-Rock County and UW-Madison, where he earned his doctorate in agricultural economics.

For the past several years, he has focused on understanding how HIV/AIDS and other illnesses affect households in Sub-Saharan Africa and how better health care could improve their lot.

Throughout his career, Larson has supported young researchers in several countries in the areas of environmental and public health research and policy analysis. He has taught at Boston University, University of Connecticut and Harvard, among others, and has published extensively. He is married to Joy. They have two children, Aidan and Karina.

-- Michael Menz, Class of 1978, who became executive vice president of Riley Gear Corp. in St. Augustine, Fla., last year.

Menz’s interest in mechanical engineering began with Pinewood Derby car racing while in Boy Scouts. He learned to operate machines for woodworking, metals and automotive maintenance in Parker’s industrial arts classes.

Menz continued his education at Blackhawk Technical College, with an emphasis on accounting and data processing. His training led him to jobs at local industries such as Hufcor, General Motors, Beloit Corp., Frito-Lay and United Industries.

Menz moved to Hudson in 2004 to become the president of United Gear and Assembly. At United Gear, he improved safety and converted the plant to cellular manufacturing with robotic automation.

Menz’s role at Riley Gear is to manage day-to-day functions of the corporation, identifying opportunities to expand the business and collaborating with the CFO on budget, finances and strategic planning.

Riley Gear produces gears and gear boxes for use in automotive, defense, aerospace and other industries.

Menz enjoys mentoring the machinists that he employs.

His family includes his wife, Rosalina, daughter Heather and granddaughter Naomi.

-- Robert Spoden, Class of 1981, who rose through the ranks of the Rock County Sheriff’s Office.

Spoden was a member of the men’s choir and homecoming court, and he was vice president of the student council at Parker in 1980-81. He lettered in gymnastics and football.

Spoden helped organize Parker’s first Unity Day and was a Washington Seminar participant in 1980.

Spoden attended Blackhawk Technical College and earned an associate’s degree in police science in 1989 and a bachelor’s degree from Upper Iowa University in public administration in 2000.

Rock County hired Spoden as a jailer in 1995. He was promoted to deputy sheriff in 1989. He was elected sheriff in 2007.

Spoden has served as a DARE instructor, vice president and president of the Rock County Law Enforcement Association and served on the Wisconsin State Council on Offenders and Re-entry. He taught law enforcement at Madison Area Technical College and Blackhawk Technical College from 1999-04. He is a member of the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Executives and serves on the Wisconsin State Supreme Court’s Office of Lawyer Regulation Board.

He and his wife, Grace, are the parents of Jack and Joseph.


 

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