Stephanie Leonardos, president and CEO of Amerikam, Inc., a company with a long history of collaboration with Ferris State University, has been appointed to The Ferris Foundation Board of Directors.
Leonardos’ commitment to partnerships between business and education made her an obvious choice for inclusion on the board.
“The collaboration between business and industry, and the educational community is key to preparing a job-ready workforce,” said Leonardos, who received an honorary doctorate from Ferris in 2009. “We see that as our duty.”
Leonardos joined Amerikam in 1991 and has served as president since 1997. The Grand Rapids-based company designs and manufactures patented flow control products for industries as diverse as medical, plumbing and defense. It was recognized by the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce as its World Class Manufacturer of the Year.
Under her leadership, Amerikam has built on its 25-year association with Ferris.
“The educational model at Ferris has a strong connection to the real world and continues to be one that other universities seek to emulate,” Leonardos said. “The Amerikam/Ferris Project represents that model.”
Each year, Amerikam provides a part or product for a Manufacturing Engineering Technology class to develop a manufacturing process for. Students present their process at Amerikam and get feedback from engineers and manufacturers.
“This includes the extraordinary effort of faculty to provide a meaningful educational experience through critical thinking, creativity and problem-solving,” Leonardos said. “The result is a model that prepares a job-ready workforce for Michigan and the world.”
Amerikam works with Ferris faculty to evaluate each year’s project for relevancy and practical experience for the global marketplace, she said.
“I believe it is critical for the university to incorporate these educational initiatives through all disciplines to prepare students for their careers and graduate studies, knowing that the combination of strong fundamentals with creative design thinking that President (David) Eisler has stated, opens the door of opportunity in areas that have not even been invented as yet.”
Amerikam also engaged in a product-development experience with the Industrial Design program at Ferris’ Kendall College of Art and Design and with Ferris’ Manufacturing Engineering Technology program.
“The successful result was the hallmark of a real work-life experience, with two disciplines of design and manufacturing working together to meet a goal,” said Leonardos, who also participated in a Leadership Series that celebrated Kendall’s 75th anniversary in 2009.
“I have always felt privileged and proud to be associated with Ferris and believe, now more than ever, in the relevancy and importance of the direction of the university to provide opportunity and access for the ‘Ferris experience.’”
Leonardos said she looks forward to being of service on the board “to continue to build a strong network of support and commitment to provide the ‘opportunity’ founder Woodbridge N. Ferris envisioned.”
“Dr. Leonardos has been a long-time friend of Ferris State University,” said Carla Miller, executive director of The Ferris Foundation. “We cherish her industry leadership and outreach efforts, and look forward to her input and guidance in shaping the foundation for the future.”
Leonardos has significant board experience and currently serves or has served on the boards of the Grand Rapids Symphony, Plumbing Manufacturer’s International Chicago, Community Board of Chemical Bank, Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services, Ferris State University’s Commission for the Future and Manufacturing Engineering Technology Advisory Board, Economic Club of Grand Rapids, Wyoming Community Foundation and the International Center for Entrepreneurial Excellence focusing on Women and Minority Entrepreneurs.
Her most recent board appointments include the executive board of Talent 2025 and the Family Business Alliance.
Leonardos, who earned a bachelor’s degree from Mount Union College and a master’s degree from Kent State University, showcased her commitment to the educational and business worlds during her studies at Mount Union. Along with nationally-renowned Judge John A. Thomas, she developed and taught a practical work experience course for business, psychology and law majors. The course was recognized by the Graduate School of Business at Kent State as a program model for universities throughout the country. She continued that commitment throughout her business career at North American Philips Corporation, AMCA International and now at Amerikam.
Leonardos and her husband, George, reside in Ada and have three adult children and seven grandchildren.
The Ferris Board of Trustees approved Leonardos’ appointment during its regular meeting in November. The board also appointed Michael R. Bigford, of Big Rapids, president and CEO of Utility Supply and Construction Company; and Karl Linebaugh, also of Big Rapids, North Region president for Chemical Bank.
Since it was established in 1991 to address the need for a long-range fundraising program to provide opportunities for students, The Ferris Foundation has increased endowment funds to more than $35 million. It is governed by the board of directors, whose members are appointed for three-year terms.
“Karl Linebaugh and Michael Bigford will help us continue our emphasis on maintaining and furthering our connections to the Big Rapids and Reed City communities,” said board chair Kevin Cross. “Both men have substantial ties to these areas and years of strong leadership in both the banking and construction industries, respectively. We are excited to have them on the board.
“Stephanie Leonardos is a true pioneer in the Grand Rapids business and philanthropic communities. Under her leadership, Amerikam has become one of the top manufacturers and innovators in Michigan,” Cross continued. “She also makes time to give back to her community and continues to support Ferris students annually with the Amerikam scholarship. We welcome her experience as we build our foundation in Grand Rapids.”