Auburn Alumni Association honors lifetime achievers

Published: March 17, 2015
Updated: March 20, 2015
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AUBURN UNIVERSITY – The Auburn Alumni Association has awarded four Auburn University graduates its highest honor, the Lifetime Achievement Award. They are: Samuel L. "Sam" Ginn, class of 1959, president and retired CEO of AirTouch, now Vodafone; Melissa Brown Herkt, class of 1977, retired president of Process Systems and Solutions, a division of Emerson Process Management; David E. Housel, class of 1969, Auburn University athletic director emeritus; and W. Michael "Mike" Warren, class of 1968, president and CEO of Children's of Alabama. J. Benjamin "Ben" Chappell, class of 2003, owner and principal of Interior Elements, is the recipient of the Young Alumni Achievement Award, which recognizes extraordinary accomplishments of a member of the Auburn Family, age 40 and under.

The 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.

Ginn graduated from Auburn in 1959 with a degree in industrial management and began his career in 1960 with AT&T as a student engineer. He later became founder, chair and CEO of AirTouch Communications, which merged with Vodafone to become the world's largest wireless communications company. Ginn made a gift of $25 million to Auburn University to establish an undergraduate degree program in wireless engineering, the first accredited wireless engineering degree program in the country. The College of Engineering was named the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering in his honor. He served on the Board of Trustees for the university from 2005-2013 and was named to the Wireless Hall of Fame Class of 2014 by the Wireless History Foundation.

Herkt earned a degree in civil engineering from Auburn in 1977. Following graduation, she was hired by Exxon where she became the first female engineer posted overseas and later was appointed the first female construction manager for Exxon. She served as president of Process Systems and Solutions – Americas, a division of Emerson Process Management, one of the largest and most respected engineering companies in the world.

Housel first came to Auburn University in 1965 and earned a bachelor's degree in journalism four years later. After leaving Auburn for a brief stint as news editor at The Huntsville News, he returned and began a career with Auburn Athletics. Housel spent two years in the ticket office before teaching journalism at Auburn from 1972-80. He rejoined the athletic department as an assistant sports information director, was named sports information director in 1981 and assistant athletic director in 1985. Housel became athletic director in 1994 and served in that capacity until his retirement in 2005. His honors include being awarded membership in the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.

After graduating from Auburn with a degree in history and attending law school at Duke University, Warren began his career practicing law with the Birmingham firm of Bradley, Arant, Rose and White. He joined Alabama Gas Corporation in 1983 and became president of Alagasco in 1984. He was named president and CEO of Energen in 1997, and chair in 1998. Under Warren's leadership, Alagasco was named one of the 100 best companies to work for in America. In 2001, Warren was named Alabama CEO of the year by The Birmingham News and in 2008, he was named president and CEO of Children's of Alabama, the state's only free-standing pediatric medical facility.

Ben Chappell, who earned a degree of business administration in 2003, is the owner and principal of Interior Elements, a contract furniture dealership based in Jackson, Mississippi, which represents elite manufactures Knoll, DIRTT, Kimball, and KI. Chappell has formed one of the largest contract furniture dealerships in the Southeast with IE's four-state footprint. Chappell sits on the Advisory Board for the Auburn University Interior Design program, which has been recognized as one of the top five interior design programs in the nation. Most recently Chappell has graduated from Auburn University in May 2014 with an Executive MBA.

Ginn, Herkt, Housel, Warren and Chappell were honored at a dinner and induction ceremony March 14 at The Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center.

For more complete information about the award winners, go to For more information about the Lifetime Achievement Awards, contact director of alumni communications and marketing, Jessica King at (334) 844-2960 or

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