From the Gridiron to Molten Iron
Former UW-Madison lineman recognized as leader in metal casting industry
(WAUPACA, WISCONSIN) April 28, 2023— A career providing technical guidance in the metals industry started on the gridiron for one UW-Madison engineering graduate. Greg Miskinis, (BS ’81, MS ’83) was awarded the highest honor from the American Foundry Society in recognition of outstanding technical, engineering or managerial contributions to the iron sector of the metal casting industry. The AFS John H. Whiting Gold medal was presented at the organization’s annual Metalcasting Congress on April 25, 2023.
Miskinis began his 40-year career in the foundry industry when he joined the 1977 Badger football team with a full scholarship. At 6’,6” and 262 pounds, the Racine Horlick graduate was recruited to play defensive tackle, but moved to the offensive side of the line. Besides football, Madison was his choice because it was number one in the nation at the time for chemical engineering programs.
“I was a bit of a unicorn on the team,” Miskinis said. “When I entered my freshman year, I took calculus, physics, and advanced chemistry. The reality of taking these classes during the football season required so much more work.”
The time commitment to pursue football and a chemical engineering degree became apparent after his first season and semester. After receiving guidance from engineering department advisors, industry professionals and a fellow teammate, Miskinis changed his major to metallurgical engineering. His original desire to work in the petroleum industry could still be realized with a more manageable program.
For Miskinis, the pursuit of a pro football career was not a consideration. “You have to start looking seriously at a sound plan B” Miskinis said. “Typical of the day, one of every hundred players made the transition to professional football. When looking at potential schools, I made sure they offered the best education options for me.” By 1979, tragedies involving teammates Jay Seiler and Wayne Souza, a previously undiagnosed heart condition revealed during spring football, and the increasing demands of his major studies, Miskinis made the difficult decision to walk away from his scholarship.
“I bristle when someone uses the words ‘he’s got a free ride,’ ” Miskinis said. “A full scholarship is anything but a free ride because people underestimate the time commitment that D1 athletics requires.”
Miskinis credits former UW—Madison professors of Materials Science and Engineering, Carl R. Loper Jr., Richard Heine, and John Perepezko with his decision to plunge headfirst into academics. Through these professors, he learned that Wisconsin was home to many well-respected foundries, one of the reasons the university had a strong metallurgy program. Loper and Heine were involved in the American Foundry Society and both were award recipients of the same high honor. Heine was the 1966 recipient of the William H. McFaden Gold Medal. Loper was the 1972 recipient of the John A. Penton Gold Medal.
Miskinis, started his career at Madison Kipp and Brillion Iron Works before joining Waupaca Foundry in 1989 where he retired in 2020. During his long career, he achieved many accolades:
- A member of AFS since the early 1980s, he chaired the AFS Research Board, among other society activities.
- He was a contributing author to AFS's Casting Defects Handbook and Principles of Metalcasting – Cleaning and Inspection and a frequent presenter at industry events.
- In 2012, he received the Service Citation award for outstanding general service, of a primarily non-technical nature, to AFS, its chapters and the casting industry.
- In 2017 he received the Award of Scientific Merit for major contributions to the metal casting industry through industrial research, mentoring newcomers to the industry, and service to the Northeastern Wisconsin chapter of AFS.
- In 2019, Greg received the Cast Iron Division's Fred Linebarger Teaching Award. The AFS Cast Iron Division Board of Awards recognizes those who are not educators by profession but devote their time to educating and promoting the foundry industry and casting to others.
- In 2021, he was recognized with the Outgoing Chair Award for his service, participation, and dedication as Chairman to the Technical Council at the American Foundry Society. In that role from 2019 to 2021, he provided leadership for the technical divisions which include iron, aluminum, steel, copper, lost foam, melting, additive manufacturing, environmental health and safety, engineering, the research board.
- That same year, Miskinis presented the distinguished annual Hoyt Memorial Lecture at Metalcasting Congress 2021.
As part of his professional legacy, Miskinis with colleagues led “Foundry 101”, which provides basic training on metalcasting principles for casting buyers, suppliers, and students.
“His development and teaching of Foundry 101 helped foster cooperation between customer purchasing and engineering to support casting design that benefitted both the customer and the foundry,” said Mike Nikolai, Waupaca Foundry President, COO and CEO. “Many AFS Casting of the Year cooperative designs share this trademark.”
In the many letters of support for his achievements, nominators cited “I was able to observe Greg’s work ethic, congeniality, and overall team participation in several technical activities, all of which demonstrated his exceptional technical knowledge, leadership ability as well as his wonderful camaraderie with all others involved in those activities,” said Frank Headington, of FC Headington Consulting and a former Peter L. Simpson Gold Medal recipient (2016).
“Greg’s passion to train the current and next generation of metal casters benefited many currently in the industry. He used his passion and position at Waupaca to offer training to many customers,” said Mark Osborne, senior engineer for Wabtec, a GE Transportation company.
As he looked back on a long career that started in cleats and shoulder pads and ended up a metallurgist and making iron castings, Miskinis said “I couldn’t have made a better choice, the experience at UW Madison was fantastic.”