2023 Wolverine Venture Battle Judges
Dan Creston ’81
Mr. Creston graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration. While on campus as a student, Dan interviewed with Borg-Warner Chemicals and was hired for a position in Sales Management, a job he remained at for six years. In 1987, Dan started at Alpha Packaging, Inc. where he became Chief Operating Officer and Partner. He partnered with the CEO to open nine plastic packaging plants and took sales from $400K in 1987 to $230M in 2015. They sold the company twice to private equity firms and Dan remains a shareholder today. Currently Dan is the Founder and Owner of Creston Consulting, LLC (small business mentoring and angel investing), which he started in 2015. He judges start-ups for grants and investment potential with two nonprofits…Arch Grants (www.archgrants.org) and St. Louis Arch Angels (www.stlouisarchangels.com).
Pete Durfee ’80
Mr. Durfee has over 30 years of experience in the pharmaceutical sciences industry. He was formerly employed at Gilead Sciences, Inc. (“Gilead”), a publicly held, research-based biopharmaceutical company that discovers, develops and commercializes innovative medicines in areas of unmet medical need, from 1997 until retiring in 2012. During his tenure, Mr. Durfee served as Senior Director of Corporate Engineering and Facilities Operations (CEFO) which was responsible for the strategic and operational direction of Gilead’s engineering pursuits. While at Gilead, Mr. Durfee was responsible for directing Engineering, Validation, Maintenance/Facilities Operations, Manufacturing/Contract Manufacturing, Environmental Health & Safety, Corporate Real Estate, Site Services and Security. Mr. Durfee received a B.S. degree in Chemical Engineering and completed the required coursework for a Masters in Electrical Engineering at Penn State before moving to California in 1988. Peter and his wife Susan (Peshek ‘81) are retired, live, and play in Montreux, Nevada.
RJ Fryan ’08
Dr. Fryan is a dynamic leader who has spent most of his career in the manufacturing industry. RJ grew up in Canton, Ohio, where he started working in the steel industry while still in college. RJ has served in various functions within the steel industry throughout his career, including operations, marketing, supply chain, and sales. He is the CEO of Kind Special Alloys US and Lake Park Tool and Machine in Youngstown, Ohio. RJ earned his MBA from Anderson University and his DBA from George Fox University. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his wife Laura (Koller ’11) and their three children, Raymond, Emma, and Evelyn.
Matthew W. Gordon
Mr. Gordon earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a focus in Accounting and Finance from Slippery Rock University. While at SRU, Matthew was a starting pitcher for the “ROCK” baseball team. He was selected to the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference first team during his senior season. Upon graduation, Matthew was hired as a Core Associate at F.N.B. Corporation in Pittsburgh. While working for FNB, he completed the requirements for his MBA, also from SRU. In 2020, Matthew joined Davevic Benefit Consultants in Grove City, PA, his family’s business now in its 3rd generation. Davevic is a full- service benefit consulting agency who strives to be on the cutting edge of insurance products, services, and strategies with particular attention to detail when working with clients. Matthew resides in his native town of Grove City where he is a board member on the Chamber of Commerce. In his spare time, he enjoys golfing, attending sporting events for his favorite Pittsburgh sports teams, and spending time with his new wife, Stephanie, his friends, and his family.
Connor Grieb ’18
Connor Grieb ’18 is the founder and president of SEO Vineyard, a digital marketing company established in 2016. Connor launched SEO Vineyard while attending Grove City College and has built over 400 websites and is actively working with 120 businesses in Pittsburgh and throughout the United States. Our goal is to empower businesses to thrive in the ever-evolving landscape of digital marketing and SEO, leveraging cutting-edge strategies to enhance online visibility, drive organic traffic, and achieve business growth. Connor is happily married to his wife Macy and they live in Pittsburgh, PA. When Connor is not behind a computer working, he is with family, friends, or on the golf course.
Grace Hovis ’19
Grace Hovis is a part of the third generation to come into her family’s business, Hovis Auto & Truck Supply, Inc., a 17-location automotive parts warehouse distributor in Western Pennsylvania. A graduate of Grove City College with a B.S. in Entrepreneurship and a former Wolverine Venture Battle competitor, Grace currently directs all marketing and training initiatives for all Hovis locations as well as works closely with their 25-person sales team. Seeing the importance of industry involvement and the need to build up future generations to lead the aftermarket, she currently serves as Vice-chair of the Young Auto Care Network Group (YANG), a 1,700 member national automotive under 40 networking group, and holds a position on the Auto Care Association’s Education Committee, an organization that represents the entire automotive aftermarket. This past year, Grace was named one of Aftermarket News’ 2022 Women at the Wheel and received the Auto Care Association’s “4 for the Future: Impact Award”.
Josh Newton ’09
Josh Newton ’09 is a developer, marketer, designer, trainer, assessment expert, consultant, photographer, husband, and father from Claysville, PA. He has a BS in Computer Information Systems from Grove City College and enjoys bringing ideas to life through web design and web app development. He currently works as the Director of Technology for the Newton Institute, a family owned and operated business, in the greater Pittsburgh area. Along with being responsible for the technical needs of the company, he works with clients who want to better align their employees’ natural abilities and talents with their work. He loves watching people flourish through self-awareness and authenticity to achieve the purpose of their organization. Josh loves spending time with his wife and six kids. They are the motivation behind everything he does.
Paul Passaro’s career began on Wall Street at the municipal bond firm Roosevelt & Cross, Inc., and he has subsequently served as the Chief Financial Officer or Chief Operating Officer of a number of enterprises with as many as 1,400 employees, including Pine Needles and Mid Pines Resorts, Corporate Realty Advisors (now part of Jones Lang LaSalle), 9Marks, The Gospel Coalition, DunnWell (now a part of Cintas Corporation), and East West Partners Club Management. Paul’s management responsibilities have included leading finance, operations, strategic planning, human resources, and business development. In addition to three years of full-time mission work in South Africa, Paul has helped plant churches and has served on the boards of privately-held businesses and non-profits in the US and overseas, including Thrive Farmers International. He is a cum laude graduate of Williams College with an MBA from UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School.
Paul and his wife, Kristi, are the parents of three children (including Annie ’22 and Charlie ’27) and reside in Chapel Hill, NC, where they are members of Christ Community Church (PCA).
Mark Pentz ’81
Mark Pentz earned a BA in Business Administration and is the owner and president of Calvin Group Inc, a used asphalt paving equipment dealer in Windsor, Colorado that reaches customers around the world. Mark’s passion for paving equipment started when he was a young boy in Pennsylvania when he went to work for his father, who ran an equipment dealership. Mark founded Calvin Group in 1996 and the company has since expanded to selling paving equipment around the world. He lives in Colorado with his wife, Cheri (’79), and two dogs. He has three adult children and five grandchildren.
Michael Pentz ’06
Michael Pentz earned a BS in Business Management and is the vice president of Calvin Group Inc, a used asphalt paving equipment dealer in Windsor, CO that reaches customers around the world. He joined his father in the company in 2009 to manage the day-to-day activities of the company. Prior to that Michael worked in marketing and product development for startups, nonprofits, and brands such as LG, Apple, and Specialized. Michael lives in Colorado with his wife, Yvonne (’06), and three children.
Brad Schake is the Director of Field Operations for Armstrong, where he is responsible for leading, coordinating, and serving 500 field operations employees across 13 systems in 6 states as well as leading Armstrong’s “Top Ops” high potential leadership development program. Armstrong is a family-owned company located in Butler, Pennsylvania that is focused on delivering an unmatched fiber network to the communities in the northeast that we call home. Brad earned a BS in Education from Clarion University of Pennsylvania in 2003 and served over 10 years in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, first as an enlisted Soldier and later as a commissioned officer in the Signal Corps, where he first learned to love leadership, technology, and operations. Outside of work, Brad loves spending time with his wife, Amy, and their three children as well as cheering on the Grove City College Wolverines Football team #BrickByBrick. Brad also serves as an elder, worship leader, and life group leader at Community Alliance Church in Butler, Pennsylvania.