Alumni honored during annual Salute to Business Achievement

Six UMSL alumni were recognized recently during the 2015 Salute to Business Achievement Awards receptions. Pictured (from left) are Richard C. Bresnahan, Sandra VanTrease, Robert G. Spelbrink III, Tammy L. Hawkins, Chris Gaia and Chris Gaia. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Six UMSL alumni were recognized recently during the 2015 Salute to Business Achievement Awards reception. Pictured (from left) are Richard C. Bresnahan, Sandra Van Trease, Robert G. Spelbrink III, Tammy L. Hawkins, Chris Gaia and Russell Odegard. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Several alumni of the University of Missouri–St. Louis College of Business Administration were recently honored for their outstanding achievements and success.

The 2015 Salute to Business Achievement Awards were presented during a reception at UMSL. Recipients of this year’s awards are Tammy L. Hawkins, Chris Gaia, Russell Odegard, Robert G. Spelbrink III and Richard C. Bresnahan.

In addition, Sandra Van Trease was inducted into the UMSL Accounting Hall of Fame.

The annual event spotlights alumni who have accomplished career and personal achievements. Nominations are made to the college by alumni, friends, businesses and organizations throughout the area. A selection committee chooses award recipients for each of the five categories: Entrepreneurial Spirit, Outstanding Volunteer, Rising Star, Outstanding Leader and Distinguished Career Leader.

Hawkins, who received the Rising Star Award, earned a bachelor’s degree in management in 2005 and an MBA in 2011. She is currently working on a master’s degree in information systems at UMSL. Hawkins is the vice president of Authentication Technologies within Enterprise Security Solutions at MasterCard. Over the course of her career, she has had numerous successes, including working on disruptive biometric authentication technologies and various provisional patent filings.

Gaia, who received the Outstanding Volunteer Award, earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1977 and a master’s degree in business administration in 1980. He is director of marketing at DataServ, a software-as-a-service company providing financial operations automation solutions to companies around the world. He has been a supporter of the Saint Louis Zoo for 25 years, leading his marketing skills and expertise. He has served as a board member and past president, and has fulfilled roles in various strategic planning, conservation, endowment development and guest services initiatives.

Odegard, who received the Entrepreneurial Spirit Award, earned a master’s degree in business administration in 2002. He is the co-founder and a managing partner of DYNALABS LLC, an internationally recognized contract laboratory and quality assurance service supplier. He has held executive level positions in small startups as well as large corporations and successfully launched two companies. Odegard has coordinated the development and commercialization of over 700 products worldwide and received two patents.

Spelbrink, who received the Outstanding Leader Award, earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing in 1993 and a bachelor’s degree in biology in 1994. He has over 10 years of government service with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Spelbrink is a special agent in counterintelligence and counterespionage investigations, currently working as a strategic partnership coordinator. He works with a FBI squad that provides outreach and security training to businesses and universities regarding the threat of economic espionage.

Bresnahan, who received the Distinguished Career Achievement Award, earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1967. He held a cost accountant position with Reynolds Metals Co., but then served in the United States Army from 1968 to 1970. Bresnahan returned to Reynolds Metals Co. in 1970. Over the course of his legal career, he was a city attorney and prosecuting attorney in 10 municipalities from 1975 to 2004. He served as a member of the Missouri Bar Board of Governors, St. Louis County Bar Association and St. Louis Municipal Lawyers Association.

Van Trease, who in 1982 earned her bachelor’s degree in business administration with an emphasis in accounting, was inducted into the UMSL Accounting Hall of Fame. She is group president for BJC HealthCare where she is responsible for overall business and growth strategies for a select group of BJC’s community hospitals. In 2004, Van Trease received an honorary doctoral degree from the UMSL for achieving distinction in her field and for contributing to the betterment of the university and the St. Louis community. She is a certified public accountant and a certified management accountant. She spent 12 years with Price Waterhouse before moving into the health-care area.


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