Society of Innovators at PNW announces 2022 Innovators Awards winners • Northwest Indiana Business Magazine

Society of Innovators at PNW announces 2022 Innovators Awards winners

Sheila Brillson Matias
Sheila Matias

Sheila Matias said, this year's class of Society of Innovators are particularly special because of the challenges the Region faces as it bounces back from the pandemic.

“These are the women and men who think creatively, dream of new solutions and design solutions that add value and solve community challenges,” Matias said.

In a Thursday statement, the Purdue University Northwest organization announced the 2022 Innovators Awards winners. Eight people or teams will be honored at a luncheon Nov. 17 at Avalon Manor Banquet Center in Merrillville. A Lifetime Achievement Award also will honor a Region leader.

The selection committee chose winners based on whether their innovations were new, benefited society and caused “measurable value.” Innovators also had to live or work in the organization's seven-county region.

The Society of Innovators Class of 2022 includes:

Individual inductees:

  • Erica Rios, Griffith — police social worker, Griffith Police Department
  • Michael Wells, Munster — director Midwest region, Cognia

Advocate for Innovation inductee:

  • Chris White, Munster, Ind. — president, Eastern Media Group, Lee Enterprises

Team inductees:

  • Albanese Confectionery, Merrillville — team members: Tess Albanese, Bethany Albanese and Dominique Albanese
  • Cedar Lake Historical Association, Cedar Lake, and Hesston Steam Museum, La Porte — team members: Julie Zasada, Ted Rita and James Kinkaide
  • Michigan City Area Schools (Michigan City, Ind.) and Neo Network Development, Naperville, Illinois — team members: Kevin McGuire, Keith Belzowski, Jeff Williamson and Dave Wojcik
  • Pandemic Parenting, Valparaiso — team members: Amanda Zelechoski, Lindsay Malloy, Jennifer Valentine, Victoria Bruick and Carmen Vincent
  • Patchables, Hobart — team members: Kayla Davis, Isis Fleming, Leandra Kelly and Michael Hathaway

Michigan City Area Schools also was chosen to receive the Richard C. Sussman Prize for Team Innovation. One team is selected each year from the inductees to receive the prize. The award honors the late Richard C. Sussman, former chairman of the Society of Innovators and leader of the Research Laboratory at ArcelorMittal East Chicago.

The Society of Innovators also chose Calvin Bellamy, a retired partner at Krieg DeVault, for its John H. Davies Lifetime Achievement Award.

Bellamy retired from Krieg DeVault in 2019 but continues his legacy of community involvement in numerous organizations. He also was the CEO and chairman of Bank Calumet and Bank Calumet Inc. for more than two decades. He received a law degree from the University of Michigan.

He also was honored with Indiana University Northwest’s Chancellor and Provost Medallion in 2015 and the Bicentennial Medal in 2019.

The 2022 selection committee included:

  • Patrick Barry, club director, Gary, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Northwest Indiana (2020 inductee)
  • Kristin Burton, assistant professor, entrepreneurship, Purdue University Northwest
  • Magesh Chandramouli, professor, computer graphics technology, Purdue Northwest (2020 inductee)
  • Kay Nelson, environmental affairs director, NWI Forum (2008 inductee)
  • Julie Rizzo, founder and CEO, Recycled Granite/Organic Granite (2011 inductee)

Read more about past inductees by clicking on the year: 2021, 2020, 2017, 2016, 2015.


  • Heather Pfundstein

    Heather Pfundstein is the managing editor of Northwest Indiana Business Magazine and She is an award-winning journalist with more than 25 years of experience in Northwest Indiana and northern Illinois newsrooms. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism from Southern Illinois University. She has worked for the magazine since 2018.

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