Distinguished Achievement Medalists
Karen Krug ’84
Of Counsel, SNR Denton; Owner, Spoiled Dog Vineyard
Karen Krug is an experienced energy negotiator with more than 30 years in the energy industry as both a lawyer and a petroleum engineer. A lawyer with international firm SNR Denton, she was based in Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan) for a number of years. Her practice encompasses all aspects of energy and mining. Prior to working internationally, she was based in Denver, a partner with Welborn, Sullivan, Meck & Tooley.
Prior to her legal practice, Krug was a petroleum engineer (BS, Colorado School of Mines), specializing in enhanced oil recovery projects (steamfloods, waterfloods and polymer floods). She is a registered professional engineer (Colorado).
Krug is former President of the Association of International Petroleum Negotiators AIPN (2009-2010), AIPN VP of Education (2006-2008), Board member (2005-2011) and co-chair of AIPN/Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation (RMMLF) International Short Course and Core Course (2002-present). She is former adjunct professor, DU Law School, LLM, International (1996-2003), a Trustee of Colorado School of Mines (1996-2004) and a Trustee of RMMLF (1996-2002, 2005-2008). Krug is recognized in 2011 Who’s Who International Oil and Gas Lawyers and Who’s Who International Mining Lawyers. Notably, she founded the Sister-to-Sister scholarship focused on assisting women students pursuing any degree at CSM.
Krug and her husband, Jack, own and operate Spoiled Dog Winery located on Whidbey Island, Washington. Their wines are award winning, including double gold for their estate Pinot Noir. Local community activities include Chair of the Board of Whidbey Island Conservation District (2005-2011), NW Regional Director for the Washington Association of Conservation Districts (2006-2011), founder/Chair (2005-2011) of the Whidbey Island Farm Tour.
J. Don Thorson ’55
Partner, Black Hills Bentonite
Don Thorson grew up in the Osage oil field in Wyoming, where his father worked as a superintendent. At the age of six he decided to become a mechanical engineer, and by the age of 14 was working with his father’s bentonite business, mixing concrete during the plant construction and doing field work during the summers’ test drilling, mapping and running equipment.
Thorson graduated from Colorado School of Mines with a degree in geophysics, eventually joined the army (Topo engineers) and then returned home to join his father’s new oil business. He learned to do every job in the field, but particularly enjoyed designing and modifying equipment such as rigs, loggers and trucks. After 30 successful years, the Thorson family sold the oil business but continued to run the bentonite business, which marked its 65th year of operation in 2012.
Thorson served two terms in the Wyoming House of Representatives and was on the board of directors of the Mountain States Legal Foundation for 12 years, where he is still the emeritus director. He has served on numerous Mines reunion, fundraising and geophysics visiting committees. He established the Thorson Engineering Senior Design Endowment Fund, sponsors the annual Student Leadership Summit, and supports the Wyoming Scholarship Fund.
2012 Mines Medalists
Michael S. Nyikos (posthumously)
Former Chair of the Colorado School of Mines Board of Trustees
Michael Nyikos’ passion for, and devotion to, Colorado School of Mines began when he joined the administration as dean of Student Affairs in 1979 and later served as vice president of student affairs and external relations. He was a vocal advocate for the Mines mission and a strong supporter of its students. During his career at the school, he helped secure funding for the renovation of virtually every academic building and the expansion of the school’s athletic facilities.
His unwavering commitment to Mines led to his appointment to the Colorado School of Mines Board of Trustees in 2002, with a subsequent reappointment in 2006. He served as chairman of the Board of Trustees from 2004 until his passing in February 2010, and also as secretary of the Colorado School of Mines Foundation’s Board of Governors. He remained dedicated to help shape and build sustainability in Mines as a highly respected institution of higher learning in the United States.
Nyikos graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree from New Mexico Highlands University, and then earned his master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Michigan. During his 40 years of service to higher education in Colorado, he served as dean of student affairs at Fort Lewis College and as vice president of institutional advancement at Mesa State. In retirement, he served on the President’s Advisory Committee at Mesa State.
Nyikos was equally committed to the communities in which he lived. He was a member of the Colorado Mounted Rangers and chairman of the Seventh Colorado Senatorial District. He served on several Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce committees, the PBS Advisory Committee and the National Junior College World Series Tournament Committee. He was also active in building a strong Mines alumni community in Grand Junction and served as a counselor for many students who had chosen to attend Mines.
His infectious smile and indomitable spirit left an indelible impression on those who knew him.
George Wood ’65
Founder, Wood & Company
Following graduation from Colorado School of Mines with a degree in petroleum and chemical refining, Wood served as a research engineer with Universal Oil Products, where he focused on developing refining and chemical processes. In 1969, Wood earned an MBA from the University of Chicago, and later became a general partner of Stein Roe & Farnham, a leading Chicago-based investment management firm, and also served as portfolio manager for State Farm Insurance. In 1982, he founded Wood & Co., an independent investment management firm based in Denver.
Wood has been a member of the Colorado School of Mines Foundation Investment Committee since 2001, serving as chairman since 2006. He is also a member of the foundation’s Board of Governors, and previously served on the Mines Reunion and Gift Planning Committees. He is a President’s Council Member, Guggenheim Society Member, and Century Society Member.
Wood is active in a variety of community organizations, including the Denver Art Museum, Strings in the Mountains (Steamboat Springs, CO), and The Haven, which serves women with addictions and their infants.
2012 CSMAA Melville F. Coolbaugh Award
Jim Emme ’81
Executive Vice President, Endeavour International Corporation
Jim Emme received his master’s degree at Mines in geology under the guidance of Robert J. Weimer. Emme has more 32 years of experience in the oil and gas industry, and has worked in various technical exploration and senior management roles, including 23 years with Anadarko Petroleum. His exploration journey has included domestic onshore and offshore basins in North America, ranging from the Lower 48 to Canada to Alaska, and some notable international experiences, including Algeria, North Africa. He is currently overseeing U.S. operations in unconventional resource plays for Endeavour International in Denver as executive vice president, North America. He is blessed by 32-plus years of marriage to his wife, Kathy, and has two grown and adventurous sons, Chris and Dave. Emme mentors for Denver Kids, Inc. and currently serves on the Visiting Committee and the Enhancement Committee for the Department of Geology and Geological Engineering at Mines. He has also worked as an advisor with Tom Davis and his graduate students in the Reservoir Characterization Project in the Department of Geophysics. He has an ongoing passion for all things outdoors and geological.
2012 CSMAA Outstanding Alumna Award
Catherine Mencin ’83
CSMAA Volunteer and former CSMAA Employee
Cathy Mencin earned her bachelor’s degree in chemical and petroleum refining engineering from Mines, and went on to help form ACM Incorporated, a firm that specialized in custom IT solutions. The solutions ranged from single offices to networks spanning multiple locations for a variety of clients and industries. She then decided to move into the area of accounting. She received a certificate of accounting from Metro State College of Denver in 2008 while working part-time as the financial assistant for the Mines alumni association. As the financial assistant, she developed the financial procedures for the alumni association and improved the ability to financially manage the organization. Mencin is a strong supporter of women at Mines. She helped coordinate the Caldwell Celebration in 1998 and also worked on the committee to establish and endow the Sister-to-Sister scholarship supporting Mines alumnae.
2012 CSMAA Young Alumnus Award
Kelly Taga ’00
Director of Applications, MDC Holdings, Inc.; CSMAA Volunteer
Kelly Taga graduated with honors from Mines with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, and then accepted a position with Accenture. Taga remained a business consultant within its communication and high tech industry, as well as supply chain global service line for four years. He then embarked upon his career in homebuilding, spending two and a half years with Pulte and the past four and a half years with MDC Holdings (also known as Richmond American Homes). Taga was recently promoted to vice president of information technology at MDC. He served on the CSMAA Board of Directors from 2006-2010, and is a lifetime member of the alumni association.
2012 CSMAA Alumnus of the Future Award
Oliver Dewey ’12
Oliver Dewey graduated with a degree in chemical and biochemical engineering and also received a minor in public affairs through the McBride Honors program; in the summer of 2011 he traveled to South Africa as part of that program. Though he was born in Houston and is a resident of Port Orchard, Washington, he intends to stay in Colorado for as long as possible. At Mines, Oliver has worked for the alumni association and Mines magazine. He was actively involved in student life: He was president of the Mines Activities Council, treasurer of ASCSM (Associated Students of the Colorado School of Mines), and a member of Student Government and Tau Beta Pi. He will be joining Anheuser-Busch as a group manager at the Fort Collins brewery in June.
2012 CSMAA Honorary Members
Executive Director, Golden Civic Foundation
Carol Chapman served Colorado School of Mines for 12 years, working first in the provost’s office and then in the president’s office. As special assistant to the president, she managed the president’s office, undertook a variety of special projects, and provided support to the school’s Board of Trustees. Following her retirement from Mines in 2011, she accepted the position of executive director of the Golden Civic Foundation. Previously, she worked for the City of Aurora, first as its grants coordinator and subsequently as the administrator in charge of programs for senior citizens, disadvantaged youth and people with disabilities. Earlier in her career, she served as the manager of facilities analysis and use at the Auraria Higher Education Center and ran several volunteer programs for the City of Denver.
Chapman has been an active volunteer all her life, including service as a VISTA volunteer to start an educational program for young people with severe disabilities at a Denver non-profit organization. She has served on the boards of the Legal Center for People with Disabilities, the CU-Denver Alumni Association, the Friends of Auraria Library, and the Administrative Faculty Council at Mines. Chapman has been heavily involved in the Golden community as a volunteer and was particularly active in supporting the Golden High School debate, basketball and baseball teams.
She received her BA from Wells College and her MPA from the University of Colorado at Denver. Chapman and her husband, Randy, and their sons, Connor and Sean, have lived in the Golden community for almost 20 years. Connor graduated from Mines in May 2012 with a degree in chemical and biochemical engineering. Sean is a freshman at CU-Boulder.
Chief Administration Officer, United States Olympic Committee
Kirsten Volpi is the chief administrative officer for the U.S. Olympic Committee, which she joined in September 2011. In this role, Volpi oversees all business and administrative functions of the USOC, including audit, diversity and inclusion, facilities, finance, human resources, information technology, legal counsel, National Governing Bodies organizational development, security, sports medicine and strategic planning.
Prior to joining the USOC, Volpi served as the senior vice president for finance and administration as well as chief financial officer and treasurer for Colorado School of Mines since August 2005. Her areas of responsibility covered a wide array of business functions, including financial services, budget and financial planning, facilities management, capital planning and construction, environmental health and safety, business operations, research administration and internal audit.
Volpi has also held executive-level positions at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the University of Colorado Foundation. A certified public accountant licensed in Colorado, she is also a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Colorado Society for Certified Public Accountants.
She graduated from the University of Colorado with a bachelor’s degree in accounting.
Volpi and her husband, Danny, live in Monument, Colo., with four of their children, while their oldest, Christina, lives in Arvada and graduated from Mines in May 2012 with a BS in geological engineering.