Alumni awards recognize the service and impact of extraordinary Michigan Ross alumni, and are chosen based on a vote by their peers each fall.
This year, the alumni award winners are:
- Ed Hightower, MBA '95, received the Bert F. Wertman Alumni Service Award to acknowledge his outstanding service to the school and celebrate how he has contributed to the school through many different outlets.
- John Tozzi, MBA '67, received the David D. Alger Alumni Achievement Award, which recognizes an alumnus or alumna whose attainments in their professional field have brought distinction to themselves, credit to the school, and benefit to their fellow citizens.
- Jack Griffin, BBA '19, received the Young Alumni Award, which is an award created in 2020 to recognize exceptional young alumni who have enhanced the reputation of Ross by their outstanding professional achievements and/or continued engagement and service to the school/university or community.
Hightower is the president of Lordstown Motors Corp., a designer and manufacturer of electric vehicles for the commercial vehicle market. Previously, Hightower served in several new-product development, engineering, marketing, and senior executive roles at Ford Motor Co., BMW, and General Motors Co. He also worked as a hands-on growth, strategy, and operations consultant at AlixPartners LLP and Motoring Ventures LLC, which Hightower founded. Hightower serves on the boards of directors at Tritium Charging, a leading designer and manufacturer of fast-charging systems for electric vehicles; and HEVO Power, a designer and manufacturer of wireless charging systems and software for electric vehicles.
Hightower is a firm believer in the Michigan Ross mission to use business to have a positive impact on the world, as shown through the authorship of his book, Motoring Africa: Sustainable Automotive Industrialization. Building Entrepreneurs, Creating Jobs, and Driving the World's Next Economic Miracle, which was published in 2018. The book highlights his industry experiences in China, India, South Korea, Mexico, and Brazil, and makes the case for, and offers an actionable roadmap to, building sustainable manufacturing businesses in six of the 54 countries in Africa.
Since becoming an alum, Hightower has had an extensive and distinguished record of service to Michigan Ross. His notable contributions include diverse volunteer experience as a guest lecturer, mentor, MBA admission ambassador, and participant in a leadership course which culminated with hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro with Ross students, alumni, and the former dean in 2018.
Hightower has also been honored with the Alumnus of the Year Award from the Michigan Ross Black Business Students Association in 2006 and 2012.
What does being recognized for the Alumni Service Award mean to you?
I am most honored to have been selected for the Alumni Service Award. I have stayed connected to Michigan Ross because I thoroughly enjoyed and received so much from the Michigan Ross MBA program. I feel compelled to give back.
Why do you believe you were selected for the Alumni Service Award?
Having an engaged alumni community is both an asset and priority for Michigan Ross. I believe that my contributions have demonstrated my engagement and encouraged the engagement of other alums. I believe this may have had an impact on my selection.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
One of my earliest contributions back to Michigan Ross as an alum was in 2000 and 2001, when I sponsored internship opportunities in Ghana, West Africa, for Michigan Ross MBA students. My first experience on the African continent was as a Michigan Ross MBA student working for the government of Ghana. In the years since, the African continent has played a significant role in my business career. I was happy to be able to pay that first experience forward.
Tozzi is being recognized for the Alumni Achievement Award for his incredible contributions to business and society.
Tozzi received his MBA from the Ross School of Business, became a Rodney Fellow, and chaired the business school’s finance and investment associations. He currently serves as a Michigan Ross board member.
Among Tozzi's most notable achievements are founding Cambridge Investments LLC, and founding and serving as president, CEO, and chief information officer for Cambridge Investments Limited from 1982 to 2010. He also serves as the president of Pine Canyon Real Estate Development LLC, and is a senior board member at Snow King Mountain LLC. Most recently, he has been elected as a board member for both the American Hospital of Paris Foundation and Certis Oncology Solutions.
In addition to his professional achievements, Tozzi is a former economics and finance instructor at the New York Institute of Finance and a former pro-bono economics and finance instructor at the Branson School. Since founding Cambridge Investments LLC in 1981, Tozzi has also been a featured speaker at various investor conferences, and has been featured in many established media outlets such as CNBC, Forbes, Fortune, USA Today, and The Wall Street Journal.
Griffin is the founder of FoodFinder, a national nonprofit organization whose website and app help families in need find and get help from their closest food pantry. Throughout his four years at Michigan Ross, he helped lead the collection of information on 45,000 food pantries across all 50 U.S. states. Since graduating in 2019, FoodFinder’s food pantry locator has been used by more than one million people nationwide (including nearly 900,000 people served during the pandemic alone).
Griffin has also been honored with other awards from U-M such as the TEDxUofM 2017 Award for Innovation, the 2018 University of Michigan MLK Spirit Award, and the Michigan Ross 2019 BBA Entrepreneur of the Year Award.
What does being recognized for the Young Alumni Award mean to you?
Receiving the Young Alumni Award means so much because I know many incredible students from all walks of life graduate from Ross every year. Especially since I started FoodFinder at a young age, I believe that anyone can leave their mark on the world, regardless of their age or experience. Even among so many amazing friends and peers, it’s an honor to be distinguished by this award.
Why do you believe you were selected for the Young Alumni Award?
I think that my journey with FoodFinder really encapsulates the business school’s ethos that business can be the greatest force for positive change in the world. When I graduated Ross in 2019, I had such high hopes for our impact, but had to create my own salary from scratch and learn to run an organization on the fly. It was never easy and often scary. But because of the groundwork laid over several years, we rose to the unparalleled challenge of COVID-19 and the economic crisis that came with it. And as a result, FoodFinder has connected nearly 1 million Americans to free food assistance since March 2020.
Is there anything else you would like to add? I had extraordinary professors, mentors, and fellow student entrepreneurs to look up to during my time at Ross, so I’d like to thank them for guiding and inspiring me. And, while being a Young Alumni Award recipient is a sincere privilege, I’m just one of countless young leaders who are actively tackling the world’s biggest problems. So many others deserve this award, too, but I can’t wait to see how much more we can all achieve together in the years to come.
For more information about the awards and this year’s recipients, please visit the Michigan Ross Alumni Awards webpage.