From gridiron to molten iron
Former lineman recognized as industry leader
A career in metallurgy 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.
Miskinis began his 40-year career in the foundry industry when he joined the 1977 Badger football team with a full scholarship.
At 6-feet-6-inches 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 No. 1 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 and industry professionals, Miskinis changed his major to metallurgical engineering.
He received his bachelor’s degree in 1981 and his master’s degree in 1983.
Walking away from football
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, Miskinis decided to walk away from football after his workout partner, Jay Seiler collapsed during spring football practice and later died.
Additionally, the team doctor discovered Miskinis had an undiagnosed heart condition and at the same time, demands from his studies increased. He says it was a difficult decision to step away, but one he accepted.
“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 Materials Science and Engineering professors, Carl R. Loper Jr., Richard Heine, and John Perepezko with his decision to plunge headfirst into academics. 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 also involved in the American Foundry Society and were also awarded the industry gold medal from the organization in 1972 and 1966 respectively.
Miskinis started his career at Madison Kipp Corporation and Brillion Iron Works before joining Waupaca Foundry in 1989 where he retired in 2020.
Miskinis’ professional 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.
• He received the AFS Service Citation award for outstanding general service in 2012.
• 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.
• Miskinis received the Cast Iron Division’s Fred Linebarger Teaching Award in 2019.
• 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.
• 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.”
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.”