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Speakers and Program

Friday, March 31, 2017

Michael A. Ritter

Assistant Director, USDA Forest Service

Forest Products Laboratory

Madison, Wisconsin

Michael Ritter is the Assistant Director for Wood Products Research at the USDA Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory, in Madison, Wisconsin.  In this position, Mike provides program leadership and oversight for several units conducting research in the areas of wood anatomy, wood engineering and properties, biodeterioration of wood, protection from decay, fire engineering, building sciences, statistics and the evaluation of life cycle assessments and the economics of wood utilization.  Mike attended California Polytechnic State University, the University of Alaska and the University of Wisconsin, and is a registered Professional Engineer in the states of Alaska and Wisconsin.


Saturday, April 1, 2017

Erik W. Farrington, P.E. (MA, CT, NY, RI)

Senior Project Manager                             

Simpson Gumpertz & Heger

Boston, Massachusetts


Erik Farrington is a Senior Project Manager at Simpson Gumpertz & Heger in Waltham, MA.  He is a P.E. with over 20 years of experience in the structural design of new construction and the repair and rehabilitation of numerous buildings.  He has been involved in renovation design projects for buildings ranging from nineteenth-century masonry buildings to twentieth-century concrete and steel buildings.  He has been involved with the design of stair structures constructed of wood, steel, glass, and concrete for use in both renovation and new construction of single family residences and commercial buildings. 


“Tread Carefully: An Engineering Perspective on Stair Design”


Monumental Stairs are eye catching structures that can make an impactful design statement on a new project.  As such, stair design and construction is always pushing the limits of both materials and structural configurations.  This talk will present fundamental engineering aspects of stair design, and how they apply to more complex stair framing configurations and materials. 


 Rick Watkins


Rick Watkins Financial Services

Evansville, Indiana Boston, Massachusetts

Rick Watkins, principal of Rick Watkins Financial Services, LLC, is in his fourth decade of helping individuals and businesses with their financial needs.  Rick specializes in financial planning and wealth management, with a focus on business and estate planning.  Unique knowledge and innovative tax-planning techniques, in combination with creative plan designs and products help Rick provide solutions to assist his clients achieve their financial objectives.  He takes pride in not making “cookie cutter” recommendations as he realizes everyone’s situation and objectives are distinctive.

Joelle Ward

Events and Marketing Manager

Stairbuilders and Manufacturers Association

Colorado Springs, CO


Joelle Ward handles the planning of SMA events and the marketing of SMA’s programs and projects. With over 20 years in the nonprofit sector, Joelle brings a wealth of knowledge in all areas of association management.  Joelle is also an associate with ConferenceDirect, a Los Angeles-based meeting solutions company, where she helps organizations find the perfect venues for their events and negotiate the venue contracts.  Throughout her career, she planned meetings and conferences ranging from senior-level board meetings and retreats to conventions for up to 5,000 attendees.  

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