GCC Foundation to hold 19th recognition banquet Thursday


IRONWOOD — Three more individuals and a local organization will be honored Thursday for their commitment to Gogebic Community College and the community at the 19th annual “Celebration of Achievements” banquet, hosted by the GCC Foundation.

This year’s honorees include distinguished alumnus Robert Baima, class of 1971, and Walter Prosek, class of 1940. Distinguished faculty member Roy Contratto, will also be honored, and the Ironwood Kiwanis Club will be deemed Honorary Friends of the College.


Baima, a Hurley native, graduated from GCC in 1971 and later went to receive his doctorate of dental surgery from Marquette University School of Dentistry in Milwaukee.

He also completed a specialty residency of periodontology program at the Medical College of Virginia and graduated with an advanced degree in the specialty of periodontics.

In addition, he completed advanced training in prosthodontics and dental implants at the UCLA Medical Center and Veterans Administration Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Outside of his private practice career, Baima has spent 25 years participating in the academic world of dentistry as a diplomat on the American Board of Periodontology and the American Board of Prosthodontics. He has peer reviewed several academic articles published in scholarly journals, given more than 250 academic lectures and one life experience lecture entitled “Life as a Hostage During Iraq’s Occupation of Kuwait,” where Baima was held hostage.

He has also held several academic appointments at universities across the country.

Baima is married to Catherine Baumann. They have two children, Marie and Alexander, and enjoy traveling.


Prosek, also a Hurley native, graduated from Gogebic Junior College in 1940 with an associate in arts degree then continued his education at the University of Michigan where he earned a bachelor of science in engineering.

Prosek has held positions with Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company in West Allis, Wis., Hydrocarbon Research in New York City, and California Oil Company (now known as Chevron) where he spent 32 years until retiring in 1982.

While at Chevron, he held several positions including designs engineer, lead engineer, operations supervisor, maintenance planner, machinist supervisor and specialist and shops supervisor.

He also supervised the construction of a large pipeline to offload sea-going crude oil tankers at the Chevron Asphalt Plant, at Curtis Bay, Brooklyn Park, MD.

His final service with Chevron was in the marketing operations department.

In 1998 he created the Walter F. Prosek Scholarship at GCC awarded each year to two qualifying Hurley school graduates who receive a $1,000 scholarship from Prosek and the Chevron Humankind Matching Gift Program.

Prosek was a Board of Education chairperson when a K-8 school in Fords, NY was contemplated, financed and constructed. He’s also held various offices at his local Lutheran church.

Prosek married his wife, Edith, in 1948, and together they have raised three children, Earl, Jon and Marilen. Prosek is retired in Florida and recently celebrated his 95th birthday.


Contratto was born in Wakefield and has been a lifelong resident of Bessemer. He graduated from A.D. Johnston High School in 1960 and later worked as assistant office manager for Thorp Finance Corp. throughout northern Wisconsin.

He resigned in 1965 to become a police officer for the city of Bessemer, which he held for three years. During that time, he attended GCC and received an associate of business degree in 1968.

Contratto then moved to Marquette and attended Northern Michigan University while working for the First National Bank & Trust of Marquette. He earned a bachelor of science in education in 1970 and then a master’s degree in education in 1978, both from NMU.

Contratto began his career at GCC in 1970 teaching basic business and office occupations courses, and later specializing in supervisory management, sales and business math courses.

In 1976, he and his wife, Kathleen “Bella,” established and operated one of the first self-service gas station convenience stores in the area, the Country Corner, on U.S. 2 near the Ramsay crossing. The store served as a place of part-time employment and training experience for many former GCC students until closing in 1999.

While at GCC, Contratto held positions on the curriculum committee and with the GCC Chapter of the Michigan Association of Higher Education. He also played an active part in the planning and designing of the Solin Business Center.

Contratto also facilitated numerous seminars and presentations on management, leadership and communication topics for many corporations and organizations.

He retired from GCC in June 2000.

Contratto was instrumental in establishing an adult activity center and a group home in Wakefield for disabled individuals. He is a former member of the Gogebic County Mental Health Committee and the Gogebic County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority.

He and his wife have three children: Michael, an Air Force colonel stationed at Eglin AFB in Florida; Gina, who owns and operates a financial advisement firm with her husband, Tony, in England; and Angela, who works at Highline Corporation in Hurley.

Ironwood Kiwanis

This year’s Honorary Friends of the College, the Ironwood Kiwanis Club, was granted a charter on Nov. 3, 1925 as a local unit of the Wisconsin-Upper Michigan District of Kiwanis International.

The clubs look to change the world by serving children, one child and one community at a time.

The local club has sponsored or assisted in a number of projects over the years, including: scholarships for local high school seniors attending GCC, establishment of a Key Club at Bessemer High School, erected and maintain the Norrie Park pavilion, support Special Olympics, the Depot Park project and many more.

Over the years the Ironwood Kiwanis Club has been very active members in the community and supported many youth sports activities and camps for baseball, basketball, hockey, track, swimming, volleyball, tennis and others.

The major fundraisers for the Kiwanis Club are Pancake Day, Peanut Day and the holiday Nut Sales, which raise money used to support the local projects.

The “Celebration of Achievements” banquet will be held Thursday in the Lindquist Student Center. A reception will take place from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. in the student lounge with a catered dinner to be served at 6:30 p.m. and the awards program to follow.

The public is welcome. Tickets can be purchased from any GCC Foundation Board member or by calling the foundation office at 906-932-4231 ext. 201 or 202.


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