The Society of Innovators at Purdue Northwest has announced winners of the 2022 Innovators Awards. Winners will be inducted into the Society during the group’s annual luncheon on Thursday, Nov. 17 at the Avalon Manor Banquet Center in Merrillville, IN from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. CST.

The Society of Innovators at Purdue Northwest (PNW) aims to contribute to economic and community development throughout the region as the champion of innovation in Northwest Indiana.

“As our region bounces back from the pandemic and the challenges of the times, it is both powerful and inspiring to honor the ingenuity of innovators from across the seven-county region of Northwest Indiana,” said Sheila Matias, executive director of the Society of Innovators. “These are the women and men who think creatively, dream of new solutions and design solutions that add value and solve community challenges.”

The selection committee examined and analyzed the innovation(s) each individual and team nominee was responsible for in order to guide final decision-making. An innovation needed to provide a new solution, benefit society and create measurable value. New this year, the Advocate for Innovation category recognizes individuals who embody the mission of the Society of Innovators at Purdue Northwest. To be eligible for induction, innovators must live or work in Northwest Indiana.

 Each winner will be officially recognized and inducted into the Society of Innovators during the annual luncheon on Nov. 17. Registration is open for the 2022 Innovators Awards Luncheon. Individual tickets are $49 and tables of 8 may be purchased for $400. For more information and to register, please visit or by reaching out to Jason Williams at

 The Society of Innovators Class of 2022 includes:

 Individual Inductees

  • Erica Rios (Griffith, Ind.) – Police Social Worker, Griffith Police Department
  • Michael Wells (Munster, Ind.) – Director Midwest Region, Cognia™

 Advocate for Innovation Inductee

  • Chris White (Munster, Ind.) – President, Eastern Media Group, Lee Enterprises

 Team Inductees

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

 Richard C. Sussman Prize for Team Innovation

One team may be selected annually from among Team Inductees to receive the Richard C. Sussman Prize for Team Innovation. The Sussman Prize is dedicated to promoting 21st century innovation in the private, public, not-for-profit and government sectors. The award was created to honor the late Richard C. Sussman, Ph.D., former chairman for the Society of Innovators and head of the Research Laboratory at ArcelorMittal East Chicago.

  • Michigan City Area Schools (Michigan City, Ind.)

 John H. Davies Lifetime Achievement Award

This award is the Society of Innovators’ highest honor for an individual leader. Not only must the Lifetime Achievement Award winner demonstrate significant innovation, but that the work was sustained over a significant amount of time and their success was not limited to just one role, company or sector. The award was renamed to honor John H. Davies who was recognized as the Society’s inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award recipient in 2019. As the founder and retired managing director of the Society of Innovators, he successfully led the organization from its inception in 2005 until 2018.

  • Calvin Bellamy (Munster, Ind.)

 The 2022 Selection Committee included:

  • (Ken) Patrick Barry: Club Director, Gary, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Northwest Indiana (2020 Inductee)
  • Kristin Burton: Assistant Professor, Entrepreneurship, Purdue Northwest
  • Magesh Chandramouli: Professor, Computer Graphics Technology, Purdue Northwest (2020 Inductee)
  • Kay Nelson: Environmental Affairs Director, NWI Forum (2008 Inductee)
  • Julie Rizzo: Founder & CEO, Recycled Granite™/Organic Granite™ (2011 Inductee)

 For more information about the Society of Innovators, visit