Skip to main content

2016​ Alumni Achievement Awards

Anna Apanel

Anna Apanel
Alumni Achievement Award

Anna Apanel never doubted that she would pursue a career in science, especially with both of her parents in the medical field. After receiving such strong encouragement from her family and teachers, she chose to attend Washington University where her brother, George Apanel, graduated in 1973.

As a commuter student traveling from Alton, Illinois, she holds fond memories of the beautiful surroundings and historic hilltop buildings on campus. As an undergraduate, Apanel held a position in Buford D. Smith’s Thermodynamics Research Laboratory collecting physical property data. In her junior year, Apanel was elected to the national engineering honor society Tau Beta Pi for engineering students who have shown a history of academic achievement as well as a commitment to personal and professional integrity.

Apanel has always been intrigued by computer modeling. In her case, it extended to modeling of oil flow through rock miles beneath the Earth’s surface. She began her career with ExxonMobil in the production research department as a reservoir engineer, estimating quantities of oil in fields, planning drill-well locations and forecasting production rates.

Apanel’s role expanded from modeling into oil-field evaluation, economics and leadership. Being selected as a technical field studies consultant, she advised ExxonMobil affiliates worldwide on projects and studies, traveling to far parts of the world including Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Africa.

While Apanel thoroughly enjoyed the cultural and strategic aspects of influencing management of supergiant oil fields, she retired after 35 years with ExxonMobil. Apanel stays active in her Houston community and recently served as an executive co-chair for the Washington University 35th class reunion celebration.

Apanel and her husband, Mark, a fellow classmate at Washington University, are Eliot Society members and have endowed an engineering scholarship in memory of their daughter, Teresa, to remember her cherished, enthusiastic spirit.

Apanel earned a bachelor of science degree in chemical engineering from Washington University in 1980.


Alex Gray

Alex Gray
Alumni Achievement Award

Advancing innovation, leading operations, providing great customer service and delivering excellence have been embedded into Alex Gray’s background. Throughout his career, he has executed many technology strategies and managed innovative projects that make significant impacts.

While earning his master’s degree, Gray worked for the Washington University School of Medicine in the Biomedical Computer Lab where he developed complex experimental automated and computerized biomedical instruments. Building on this experience, Hewlett-Packard hired Gray to develop robotic electronics assembly systems for manufacturing facilities. He designed a robot system that utilized computer vision, tactile sensing and sophisticated software to assemble circuit boards faster, cheaper and with higher quality. In 1987, Steve Jobs recruited Gray to lead NeXT Computer’s growing information technology operations.

At the intersection of business and technology, Gray joined Juniper Networks in 2008. He is the senior vice president of the customer services and support organization, which contributes to a quarter of its annual revenue. In this role he is responsible for Juniper’s technical assistance centers, its advanced and professional services portfolio, educational services and service supply chain.

With Juniper’s direct customer-facing responsibilities, Gray’s team provides the assistance that enables partners to maximize their networks with reliable and efficient operation. Under Gray’s leadership, Juniper Networks was awarded the Technology Services Industry Association STAR Award for innovation in enabling customer success in automated support services in 2014.

Gray continues his involvement with the university by serving on the Engineering and the San Francisco Campaign Committees and is a dedicated advocate for the Langsdorf Fellowship Program. He and his wife, Pat, are members of the Eliot Society Danforth Circle and support an annual scholarship for the Engineering Langsdorf Fellowship Program. They also volunteer at a local food bank and reside in Mountain View, California. Their son, Ian, is a financing advisor with startup BlueVine.

Gray earned a bachelor of science degree in 1979 and a master’s degree in 1981, both in electrical engineering from Washington University.


Steven Kramer

Steven Kramer
Alumni Achievement Award

With more than 30 years of experience, Steven Kramer has combined his technical and business background to lead diverse groups and develop strategies to successfully and profitably grow organizations serving the infrastructure industry.

As AECOM’s vice president and tunneling business director, Kramer oversees the development and growth of the tunneling and trenchless practice in transportation, water and energy. Kramer has led the design, management and construction of more than 50 underground projects ranging in construction values up to $775 million for municipalities, utilities and transportation authorities in North America, Europe and Asia.

Following the attacks on the Pentagon of Sept. 11, Kramer led a team on a mission critical project to construct a tunnel delivering water to the Pentagon heating and cooling plant. Kramer also served as principal for the 2003 Trenchless Technology Project of the Year, the Potomac Yard Sanitary Sewer Outfall.

In 2004, Kramer was selected as the Trenchless Technology Person of the Year for his leadership and contributions to the trenchless and underground industry. In addition to co-authoring a book on trenchless technologies, Kramer has written more than 90 technical and management papers, is a professional engineer in several states and is a Fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Continuing his devotion to Washington University, Kramer serves as a member of the Washington, D.C. Regional Cabinet, a class reunion chair and a member of the Alumni Board of Governors. Kramer and his wife, Jill, a Washington University Arts & Sciences alumna, are Eliot Society Benefactors supporting an engineering scholarship in memory of his parents. Their son, Michael, is a sophomore majoring in business at Washington University. They reside in Kensington, Maryland, with their younger son, David, who is a junior in high school.

After earning bachelor of science degrees in both engineering and public policy and civil engineering at Washington University in 1982, Kramer earned a master’s degree in management from Northwestern University.


John Zook

John Zook
Alumni Achievement Award

John Zook has a passion for finding unique insights as a data-focused engineering executive. This strong sense of identity evolved naturally at Washington University while he was an undergraduate serving as an engineering teaching assistant, engineering orientation leader and treasurer for the Engineering Student Council.

Continuing his exploration of data, Zook received a summer internship at Amazon as a software development engineer, which led to a permanent position after graduation. He held several key roles at Amazon, designing systems for efficiently visualizing vast sums of data to drive time-critical decisions. Zook led the recovery-oriented computing group that delivered automated fault response for Amazon’s service-oriented architecture.

In 2011, Zook and a group of coworkers left Amazon to build a small media analytics company called TrackSimple, which later was acquired by BlueKai. Zook served as the vice president of engineering at BlueKai through its acquisition by Oracle in 2014.

Now Zook can quench his thirst for data as the vice president of engineering for Socrata, a startup developing cloud-based solutions for government agencies. The team at Socrata delivers data-driven innovation and cost savings for public sector leaders and millions of their constituents around the world. Hundreds of governments and government agencies utilize the Socrata platform including The White House, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the State of Missouri.

He stands out as an alumnus beyond his professional achievements. Since 2006, he has served as the chair of the Seattle region Alumni and Parents Admission Program, hosted WU Club events, served as a panelist for the Business and Technology ASK event and is a member of the Seattle Regional Cabinet. He and his wife, Suzi, are Eliot Society Benefactors and sponsor an annual engineering scholarship. They reside in Seattle with their two daughters.

Zook earned a bachelor of science degree in computer science with a minor in business management in 2004 from Washington University.


David Karandish David Karandish and Chris Sims

David Karandish & Chris Sims
Alumni Achievement Award

The entrepreneurial journey for David Karandish and Chris Sims began in a high school physics class and flourished during their college years. From networking to business risks and mentoring to investing, they have experienced all stages in the entrepreneurial cycle.

As undergraduates, Karandish and Sims dove headfirst into Internet marketing with search engine optimization consulting. They worked on many business ventures together, and while some would be deemed failures by traditional metrics, the experiences helped develop a tenacity that would continue through the rest of their careers. Ultimately, the combination of computer science and entrepreneurial studies, paired with dedicated faculty and advisers, was a recipe for success.

In 2003, Karandish and Sims launched Expo Group, an online resource in the consumer financial services industry. After selling the company they developed a relationship with Yahoo to launch findstuff.com. With global markets facing headwinds, Karandish and Sims diverged into other categories through parent company Announce Media/AFCV Holdings, a portfolio company of growth equity investors which eventually acquired Answers.com in 2011.

As chief executive officer of Answers.com, Karandish leads Answers’ corporate development and drives revenue partnerships. Sims leads traffic acquisition and team management as chief strategy officer. Answers.com empowers consumers with trustworthy information and offers marketers one-stop solutions for integrated media.

In 2014, global private equity firm Apax Partners acquired Answers for approximately $950 million. This acquisition validated Karandish and Sims’ continued leadership, transformative approach and track record for positive results. Since its acquisition, Answers.com has expanded from a Q&A website to a multifaceted online platform bringing value to the consumer and brand. The company has headquarters in the Delmar Loop and a dozen offices globally and employs more than 500 people. Answers continues a close partnership with Washington University by hiring student interns and graduates from multiple disciplines each year.

In addition, Karandish and Sims serve on the board of Varsity Tutors, an online tutoring platform that provides help with academic subjects and test preparation. Karandish and Sims also add their creative ideas as council members for the Skandalaris Center for Interdisciplinary Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

In 2014, Karandish received a Gold Prize from CEO World Awards, Silver Stevie for Executive of the Year from American Business Awards. In 2012, he was named to the St. Louis Business Journal’s class of 40 under 40. Karandish and his wife, Erin, are Eliot Society members and reside in St. Louis with their three daughters.

As an active investor in St. Louis startups, Sims recently funded The Lead School, a local special education school that provides an intensive academic program within a safe, supportive environment. Sims and his wife, Sherrie, are Eliot Society members and reside in Clayton, Missouri, with their two sons.

Karandish and Sims earned bachelor of science degrees in computer science with minors in entrepreneurial studies at Washington University in 2005.


Ralph Quatrano

Ralph Quatrano
Alumni Achievement Award

Ralph Quatrano came to Washington University in 1998 as chair of the Department of Biology and the Spencer T. Olin Professor. He also was director of the Division of Biology and Biomedical Sciences from 2005-2007, a university-wide program for doctoral students in the medical and engineering fields. He was named interim dean of the faculty of Arts & Sciences in 2008.

Internationally known for his research in plant science, Quatrano applied the tools of molecular biology toward understanding the genetic regulatory mechanisms in plants. He is a Fellow of the American Association of Science, the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB), and the Academy of Science-St. Louis.

As president of ASPB, he became the first chair of the public affairs committee, testifying regularly before Congress to promote funding of plant science. As a result, he was awarded the prestigious Gude Award for his outstanding contributions to plant science.

In 2010, Chancellor Mark Wrighton appointed Quatrano as dean of the School of Engineering & Applied Science. Quatrano set out to implement the school’s ambitious strategic plan. He led the hiring of one-third of the present faculty, including two new department chairs, and was a passionate proponent of interdisciplinary programs while overseeing the construction of two new engineering buildings. In 2015, Quatrano was honored with the Leadership Award by the Academy of Science–St. Louis as an outstanding scientist and for his leadership abilities over his career.

Quatrano and his wife, Lee Anne, are Eliot Society Life Members and support annual and endowed engineering scholarships. The University established the Dean Ralph S. and Mrs. Lee Anne Quatrano endowed scholarship in their honor. They reside in St. Louis.

Quatrano earned a bachelor of science degree in plant biology with honors from Colgate University in 1962, a master’s degree in plant biology from Ohio University in 1964 and a doctorate in biology from Yale University in 1968.