Foundation’s Woltosz among Auburn Alumni Association’s 2016 Lifetime Achievement honorees

By October 2, 2015Alumni
Walter "Walt" Woltosz

Walter “Walt” Woltosz ’69

Walter Stanley “Walt” Woltosz ’69, a member of the Auburn University Foundation board of directors, is among the four honorees to receive the Auburn Alumni Association’s 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award, the organization’s highest honor. The association will present the awards at a dinner and induction ceremony on March 12, 2016, at The Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center.

Woltosz, who earned a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering in 1969, has served as a foundation director since 2014. Early in his career in the aerospace industry, Woltosz managed the development of innovative simulation and modeling software for key space and military systems. In 1980, when his mother-in-law was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease), he turned his attention to developing augmentative communication systems for persons with severe communications disabilities. That first iteration, which is still on display at the Smithsonian Institute two decades later, led him and his wife Ginger in 1981 to establish Words+, a company that offered many firsts for communication needs for the severely disabled. When renowned astrophysicist Sir Stephen Hawking’s ability to communicate was compromised by ALS, it was Woltosz’s technology that allowed him to complete A Brief History of Time in 1988. In 1996, Walt turned his inventor’s eye to developing simulation and modeling software for drug discovery and development after founding Simulations Plus, Inc. (NASDAQ: SLP) with wife Ginger. Today, his products are used to analyze new products by more than 200 pharmaceutical firms, including the world’s top 15 pharmaceutical firms.

In addition to his service on the Auburn University Foundation Board, Woltosz serves on the Auburn Alumni Engineering Council and chairs its Research Committee. His philanthropic giving to Auburn’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering includes support for graduate fellowships, faculty professorships, and research programs and facilities. In recognition of his support, Auburn University named the College of Engineering’s newest building — its central research center — the Woltosz Engineering Research Laboratory. As a result of his and Ginger’s charitable support, they are members of the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering’s Keystone Society, Ginn Society, and Engineering Eagles Society; the Tigers Unlimited Foundation’s All-American Society; and Auburn’s Petrie Society and 1856 Society. He is also a life member of the Auburn Alumni Association. He and Ginger split their time between residences in Auburn and California.

The association’s additional honorees also are well-known for their philanthropic support of Auburn and include:

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Dr. Jane B. Moore

Dr. Jane B. Moore made significant professional contributions during her 28-year career on the faculty of Auburn’s College of Education and its then-Department of Health and Human Performance (now School of Kinesiology). Before retiring as a professor emerita in 1996, Moore collaborated with other researchers within Auburn’s Motor Behavior Laboratory, making scholarly contributions to advance the understanding of how children move and learn to move. She was the first woman to serve on the Auburn’s Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics, and in 2003, became the first woman at Auburn to have an athletic facility named solely in her honor when the Auburn Softball Complex was renamed Jane B. Moore Field. This naming, in recognition of her dedication and service to Auburn athletics, places her in a group with Cliff Hare and James Martin as the third academician to be honored with a named Auburn sports facility. Known for her tireless service both to the university and her community, Auburn has previously recognized her with the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award and the Pamela Wells Sheffield Award, which honors Auburn women exemplifying grace, character, and a community-minded spirit. She is an annual member of the Auburn Alumni Association, and in recognition of her philanthropic support, is a member of the College of Education’s Patrons of the Keystone/Dean’s Circle and its 1915 Society, as well as Auburn’s James E. Foy Loyalty Society, Petrie Society, and Samford Society.

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Edward Lee “Ed Lee” Spencer ’52

Edward Lee “Ed Lee” Spencer ’52, chairman of the AuburnBank (NASDAQ: AUBN) board of directors, was the university’s first Fulbright Scholarship recipient. After completing his studies in business administration, he worked at Spencer Lumber Co., then expanded his interest in construction by establishing Lee Electrical Supply, Spencer Heating and Air, and Auburn Millwork. In 1975, Spencer joined AuburnBank’s Board of Directors, became chairman of the board in 1985, and appointed president and CEO in 1990. Under his leadership, the bank added branches in other Alabama cities and grew its total assets from $25 million to more than $668 million by the end of 2007. In 1991, S. Banker magazine named AuburnBank among the nation’s top 200 community banks — the only Alabama bank to receive this recognition. In 2011, Spencer was inducted into the Alabama Business Hall of Fame. Active in community service, where he has been a longtime advocate of affordable housing for moderate-income families, Spencer and his wife, the former Ruth Priester, have three grown children. He is a life member of the Auburn Alumni Association, and in recognition of his charitable giving to Auburn, he is a member of Auburn’s James E. Foy Loyalty Society and 1856 Society.

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Dr. James Shelton “Jim” Voss ’72

Dr. James Shelton “Jim” Voss ’72 is an aerospace engineering graduate and retired NASA astronaut. Voss went to work at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in 1984 and was selected as an astronaut in 1987, training for space shuttle flights as well as training in Russia as a backup crew member to the Mir Space Station. Beginning in 1991, Voss began 10 years of shuttle space flights, including 163 days as a member of the Expedition 2 crew on the International Space Station. Following his retirement from NASA in 2003, Voss has served as a professor and associate dean of engineering at Auburn, vice president for space exploration systems at the Transformational Space Corp., vice president of engineering for SpaceDev, and director of advanced programs at Sierra Nevada Corp. In 2009, Voss joined the faculty of the University of Colorado Boulder as a full-time scholar-in-residence. He was inducted into the Alabama Aviation Hall of Fame in 2001 and the Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame in 2002. Voss is married to the former Suzan Curry ’71, a member of the Dean’s Leadership Council in the Auburn College of Science and Mathematics. The couple has one daughter. Jim and Suzan are joint life members of the Auburn Alumni Association, and in recognition of their philanthropic investments in Auburn, they are members of the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering’s Ginn Society, as well as Auburn’s James E. Foy Loyalty Society and Samford Society.

The association’s Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes recipients for outstanding achievements in their professional lives, personal integrity and stature, and service to the university. It was established in 2001 to honor extraordinary accomplishments by members of the Auburn family. Recipients of Lifetime Achievement Awards are selected by a committee of Auburn administrators, trustees, faculty, and alumni. Proceeds from the event support student- and alumni-focused programs of the Auburn Alumni Association, a member-based nonprofit organization funded by membership contributions, individual donations and corporate sponsorships. The mission of the Auburn Alumni Association is to foster and strengthen the relationship between Auburn University and its alumni and friends; to preserve and promote the university’s traditions, purposes, growth and alumni; and to keep alive the spirit of affection and reverence for Auburn University.

Current, emeritus, and past foundation directors previously honored as Lifetime Achievement Award recipients include Melissa Herkt ’77 (2015), John Brown ’57 (2014), Sally Jones Hill ’63 (2013), Dr. Earl H. “Buddy” Weaver ’62 (2007), Albert Smith Jr. ’47 (2006), and Dr. Don Logan ’66 (2005).

For more information about the Lifetime Achievement Awards or registering to attend the 2016 awards ceremony, contact Jessica King, director of alumni communications and marketing, at (334) 844-2960 or jessicaking@auburn.edu.

Learn more about past Lifetime Achievement Award receipients