Sam Russ ’24, BS in Computer Science, Receives ROTC Distinguished Graduate Award

Sam Russ ’24 BS in Computer Science

Sam Russ ’24 BS in Computer Science, has received the Air Force ROTC (AFROTC) Distinguished Graduate Award, which is awarded to the top 10% of Air Force ROTC graduates from all universities nationwide. A second AFROTC graduate, Nicholas Drechsler BS in Mechanical Engineering, also received the Distinguished Graduate Award this spring.

The Distinguished Graduate (DG) Award is the highest award a graduating cadet can receive upon commissioning as an officer in the Air Force. It is the only ROTC award that remains in an officer’s permanent record for their entire career.

“It is very rare for our detachment at Michigan Tech to award two DGs in one academic year,” says Lt. Col. Ben P. Zuniga, commander of AFROTC Detachment 400 at Michigan Tech. “We were fortunate to have two very talented individuals this year who competed very well across the nation!”

Russ, who earned minors in in aerospace studies and business information technology solutions, graduated Summa Cum Laude. He was a prominent member of the Air Force ROTC program at Michigan Tech.

“Cadet Russ demonstrated a strong work ethic, a keen intellect, and a genuine passion for learning,” says Zuniga. “His academic achievements are impressive, with a perfect academic record that showcases his commitment to academic excellence.”

As the AFROTC’s wing inspector general, one of the highest cadet leadership positions, Russ led 50 cadets, overseeing 75 hours of professional military training. He also revamped the program’s attendance system and, as mission support group deputy commander, developed a new task tracking system that optimized efficiency for AFROTC at Michigan Tech.

Russ was also elected as the national director of financial management for Arnold Air Society, the Air Force’s premier professional and community service organization.

“Samuel Russ’s dedication to making a positive impact on the world is admirable, and I am confident that he will continue to do so throughout his academic and professional career,” says Zuniga.

“I’m extremely proud of Sam,” says Zhenlin Wang, chair of the Department of Computer Science. “This is well-deserved recognition of his academic excellence and leadership.”

Russ always wanted to pursue a military career, both to honor those who served before him and to give back to his country. “AFROTC was the best way for me to do that because it allowed me to get a college degree while training to lead in the military,” he says.

He is extremely proud of his perfect GPA. “It might not be very significant in the long run, but it is one of the first goals I set for myself when I started my undergraduate degree,” he says. “There were many times when I contemplated if the extra work was worth a little number, but I stuck to it, and that made it all the more rewarding.”

This summer, Russ will start his first assignment as an operations analyst at the Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, where he’ll work on testing and data analysis for the B-2 bomber.

“Working on the data side of airframes and weapons systems is exactly what I hoped to be doing, so I am very excited,” says Russ of his new assignment.

In the longer term, Russ’s goal is to use his computing skills to create meaning from data to facilitate smarter decisions, whether he is wearing the uniform or working in the civilian world.

Russ thanks his parents, who motivated him to always do his best. “They taught me to use my God-given talents and abilities to the fullest by pushing the limits of what I think I am capable of accomplishing,” he says.

The Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC) is an in-college, officer-commissioning program that adds a layer of military training to an undergraduate education. Upon successful completion of the AFROTC training program and a bachelor’s degree, students are commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Air Force.

Spring 2024 AFROTC Graduating Seniors

  • Seth Aho, BS in Environmental Engineering
  • Kyle DeNeef, BS in Mechanical Engineering (Cum Laude)
  • Nicholas Drechsler, BS in Mechanical Engineering (Summa Cum Laude)
  • Eliya Huebner, BS in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (Magna Cum Laude)
  • Mitchell Krueger, BS in Electrical Engineering
  • John Lacina, BS in Mechanical Engineering
  • Garrett Quante, BS in Mechanical Engineering
  • Samuel Russ, BS in Computer Science (Summa Cum Laude)
  • Nicholas Sabotchick, BS in Chemistry
  • Madeline Auricchio, BS in Civil Engineering
  • Casey Zampaloni, BS in Civil Engineering

Spring 2024 Army ROTC Graduating Seniors

  • Nicolas Abbott, BS in Mechanical Engineering (Cum Laude)
  • Jillian Pixley BS in Chemical Engineering
  • Maxx Tartamella, BS in Mining Engineering (Cum Laude)
  • Stuart Tolsma, BS in Forestry (Summa Cum Laude)
  • Daniel VerMulm, BS in Computer Science (Cum Laude)