Founded 1845 | Yale University


Site Map

Distinguished Merit Award

Recognizing Brothers' Professional Achievements

The Fraternity's second oldest award for individual alumni is the Distinguished Merit Award. It may be presented to no more than ten brothers per year in recognition of exceptional achievement and distinction in the brother's profession or vocation. The award was established by the Grand Council in 1950. Nominations for the Distinguished Merit Award are due on April 15 each year. Below is a complete list of the Distinguished Merit Award recipients.

2019 Distinguished Merit Recipient

Name: Thomas J. Wajnert
Chapter Designation: Alpha Xi Chapter
College and Initiation: Illinois Tech '67
Birthplace: Chicago, IL

Tom Wajnert is Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Payroll Transfers, Inc., a privately-owned company headquartered in Tampa, Florida. He retired as Chairman of AT&T Capital Corporation, a global leader in equipment leasing and commercial finance, in December of 1997, having served as the company’s chief executive officer from January 1985 to May 1997. Wajnert is also a director of JLG Industries, Inc., a leading global manufacturer of aerial work platforms (NYSE-JLG) and of CNL Financial Services, an affiliate of the large, privately held CNL Group.

Payroll Transfers, Inc. (PTI) is one of the nation's oldest and largest Professional Employer Organizations (PEO). PEOs like PTI provide their clients with services, payroll administration, risk management, benefits design and administration, and human resource consulting. PTI is not a staffing company and does not provide temporary help, instead it effectively “adopts” its client’s employees, relieving business owners of the aggravation associated with employee administration. PTI serves small to mid-sized businesses throughout the United States.

Tom was the founding officer of AT&T Capital in January 1985. The company was a wholly owned subsidiary of AT&T Corp. until July 28, 1993, when AT&T Capital launched an initial public offering and began trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Almost three years later, the company announced its plan to “go private,” and Tom led the team responsible for completing the ownership transition. On October 1, 1996, the $2.2 billion transaction, one of the five largest management-led buy-outs ever attempted, was finalized. Then, in 1997, the company announced that it would merge with Newcourt Credit Group (NYSE) in a strategic move creating one of the world’s largest commercial finance companies. The transaction closed in January of 1998 at a price premium of almost 80% over the investment value some 15 months earlier.

While at AT&T Capital, Tom built a global enterprise with operations in 22 countries, total owned and managed assets of $13 billion and annual revenues of $2 billion. The company employed approximately 3,000 people and was widely recognized as one of the leading diversified commercial finance and leasing companies in the world. Under his leadership, AT&T Capital more than quadrupled its business volumes over the last decade and served more than 500,000 businesses of all sizes in North America, Latin America, Europe, Australia, and Asia.

Before joining AT&T in November 1984, Tom held various positions during his 17-year tenure with U.S. Leasing International. He was chairman of the Equipment Leasing Association of America (ELA), a 700-member trade organization, from 1995 to 1997. A former director of AT&T’s Universal Card and Transtech subsidiaries, he has a deep background in consumer finance and equipment leasing.

A member of the Board of Directors of the Wharton Center for Financial Services in Philadelphia, Tom also serves as President and a director of the National Corporate Theatre Fund, and as chairman of the Alpha Sigma Phi (ASP) Educational Foundation.

Born in Chicago, Tom graduated from the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago in 1965 with a B.S. degree in Engineering. He received an M.B.A. degree in Finance from Southern Methodist University in Dallas in 1966.

Tom is married to the Rev. Theresa Altmix Wajnert, and resides in Naples, Florida and New York City.

Bio courtesy of Tom Wajnert, June 1998.

Past Distinguished Merit Award Recipients

2018: Charles Scarminach, Buffalo '63
2017: Eugene Miller, Bethany '46
2016: Peter Fuss, Michigan '54
2015: Steven T. Brown, Penn State '55
2014: John Mickowski, Stevens Tech '64
2013: Dr. Robert Gardner, Westminster '54
2012: Michael Halloran, UC-Berkeley '59
2011: Arthur Keys, Bethany '64
2010: George Trubow, Michigan '53
2009: Willard Scott, American '53
2008: Ratan Tata, Cornell '56
2007: Stan Thurston, Iowa State '66
2006: Samuel Bodman, Cornell '57
2005: Frank Wolf, Penn State '60
2004: Thomas Hinkley, Indiana '84
2003: Dr. James Mongan, UC-Berkeley '60
2002: Michael Anthony, Westminster '75
2001: Warren Buffett, Pennsylvania '48
2000: Richard Ross, Iowa State '54
1999: Ronald Dollens, Purdue '65
1998: Horace Kornegay, Wake Forest '42
1997: Fitz Dixon, Widener '73
1996: Robert Wells, Ohio Wesleyan '57
1995: John Kasich, Ohio State '73
1994: John Trutter, Illinois '39
1993: C. Everett Koop, Dartmouth '34
1992: John Kauffman, Purdue '43
1991: John Zamparelli, Tufts '47
1990: Robert Sheehan, Westminster '76
1989: James Caldwell, Rensselaer '55
1988: Hon. Andrew Douglas, Toledo '51
1987: William Hutchinson, Washington '29


 ecipient List

 1985: Ross Swimmer, Oklahoma '62
 1984: John Savage, Toledo '51
 1983: Warren Hanna, Minnesota '18
 1982: Robert Sheen, Lehigh '30
 1981: William Norris, Nebraska '29
 1980: Bradford Corbett, Wagner '58
 1976: Ralph Burns, Ohio Wesleyan '32
 1975: Charles Schaeffer, Penn State '30
 1973: Robert Howsam, Colorado '38
 1972: Howard Reeder, Iowa '26
 1971: James Allen, Alabama '30
 1970: Elliot Ludvigsen, Minnesota '22
 1969: Joseph Lanterman, Illinois '34
 1968: Miles York, UC-Berkeley '19
 1967: Paul Cupp, Pennsylvania '21
 1965: Paul Herbert, Ohio State '09
 1964: Vincent Price, Yale '30
 1963: Charles Beeghly, Ohio Wesleyan '27
 1962: Owen Wangensteen, Minnesota '17
 1961: John Merrill, Wisconsin '15
 1960: Austin Cushman, UC-Berkeley '21
 1959: Dr. Winfred Overholser, Harvard '12
 1957: Paul Davies, UC-Berkeley '17
 1956: Ralph Follis, UC-Berkeley '19
 1955: Dr. Wilbur Cramblet, Yale '12
 1954: James Morrill, Ohio State '11
 1953: William Mullendore, Michigan '12
 1952: Arthur Flemming, Ohio Wesleyan '24
 1951: Robert Wilson, Jr., Harvard '12
 1950: Ralph Damon, Harvard '16

In this section