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Justin Lonis, B.A., communication and accounting, 2014
Justin Lonis didn’t start his college education at Hiram College, but the first time he visited campus — to watch a basketball game with a friend — he realized that Hiram was where he belonged.
“It just felt like the right fit,” he says, and he transferred to Hiram as a sophomore the following year.
What kind of student “fits” at Hiram? If Lonis is any indication, it’s a well-rounded, motivated and intellectually curious one. As an undergraduate, he earned five varsity letters (four as forward for the Terriers’ basketball team and one in baseball) and completed the rigorous academic curriculum of a double major in accounting and communication, with a minor in entrepreneurship. And over the course of his senior year, he developed a device that won awards at two collegiate business competitions.
As a testament to his entrepreneurial nature, the inspiration for Lonis’s winning business concept was a potential problem — an ankle injury he sustained while training to play overseas for a national team in Europe — transformed into an opportunity.
Lonis says he’s always asking himself, “Is there a better way to do this?” After injuring his ankle, he did just that. His answer, the “Advanced Balance Board,” a device to improve the diagnosis and treatment of ankle injuries and concussions, became his award-winning senior project. Lonis’ Advanced Balance Board tied for first place at Hiram College’s ideabuild! contest, and the device went on to win third place at ideaLabs, a regional competition that vets top-rated business concepts from 11 schools.
Although the idea was his, Lonis is quick to point out how Hiram supported him in making it a reality. He credits his success to the staff and resources of Hiram’s Center for Integrated Entrepreneurship, the financial support of the RW & TE Lingafelter Scholarship and the great mentor he found in Bonnie Warren, founder of the scholarship.
Warren established the Lingafelter Scholarship in honor of her brothers, Ronald and Thomas, both graduates of Hiram and entrepreneurs. While Warren didn’t attend Hiram herself, she’s very much an alumna in spirit.
“I’m a wannabe,” she says.
She’s also an entrepreneur in her own right, as founder and owner of Warren Family Enterprises, which owns three Comfort Keepers franchises, senior care business that enabled her, with family and friends, to endow the Lingafelter Scholarship.
Her work with the scholarship, the first to support Hiram’s Center for Integrated Entrepreneurship, drew Warren into becoming more personally involved with students, including traveling to support Lonis at the
ideaLabs competition. As is often the case with benefactors, Warren feels she has gotten as much out of her work as she has given.
“Some of what’s happening in the world today can be very discouraging,” she says. “Being around Justin and the other students at Hiram, who are smart, willing to listen and who genuinely care about their fellow man, helps me maintain a positive outlook.”
Since completing his degree in May, Lonis has continued developing his Advanced Balance Board, and he’s been approached by potential investors for a commercial venture based on the product. He is also working with local hospitals to do research, clinical trials and testing, and with local manufacturers to get his idea to market. In a fitting tribute to the Lingafelter family, Lonis is poised to follow in the successful entrepreneurial footsteps of alumni Ronald and Thomas, and Hiram’s own “wannabe,” Bonnie Warren. n
For more information about Hiram’s Center for Integrated Entrepreneurship, see www.hiram.edu/entrepreneurship.