CARY, N.C. — William Kernan checked his pulse. Yes, he was still breathing.

Kernan, who goes by “Buck” to his friends, has seen combat at all levels of combat and therefore is used to reacting under stress. But the retired U.S. Army general conceded he didn’t quite know how to react when he was told that the North Carolina Technology Association had selected him for its 2006 “Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award.”

“I immediately went to get a physical,” Kernan, a two-time Bronze Star medal winner — one for valor, another accompanied by a purple heart – told the crowd at the NCTA’s “21 Awards” banquet Thursday night. “I wasn’t sure how much time I had remaining.”

The NCTA’s 12th annual awards program drew more finalists than ever before. More than 60 companies were considered for awards in 18 separate categories. Individual honors were handed out in three more.

The event drew a record crowd of more than 550 people.

Kernan, who is now vice president and general manager for international operations at Level 3 Communications subsidiary MPRI, was cited by the NCTA for his military service as well as economic development efforts in the state.

Charlene Grunwaldt, publisher of The Triangle Business Journal, noted that Kernan helped convince the committee overseeing the realignment of U.S. military forces to move thousands more personnel as well as military commands to Fort Bragg. Kernan has also been an avid supporter of the Defense and Science Technology Accelerator, a new business incubator that recently opened its doors in Fayetteville.

Kernan, who lives in Pinehurst, said North Carolina has been his home state many times.

“I’m very proud of this state,” he said. His Army tours included four stops at Fort Bragg. During his 35-year Army career, he rose steadily through the ranks from a platoon leader in Vietnam to command positions Grenada and Panama. He also served as Commander in Chief of U.S. Joint Forces Command and as Supreme Allied Commander, Atlantic.

NCTA also acknowledged Joe Freddoso, one of its former chairmen, as volunteer of the year. Freddoso, an executive with Cisco Systems, recently transferred to Cisco’s California headquarters.

Its Public Leadership in Technology award went to George Bakolia, the chief information officer for the state of North Carolina.

NCTA and Grant Thornton put on the event, which NCTA titled as “Renaissance: Invention to Opportunity.”

“The 2006 NCTA 21 Awards have been our most competitive with an outstanding list of finalists and a group of award recipients who distinguished themselves through remarkable achievement and superior performance,” said Joan Myers, NCTA’s chief executive officer. “The NCTA 21 awards have a 12-year history of honoring our state’s best and brightest. However, the program and last night’s event wasn’t only about the awards, it was about the more than 550 business leaders who came out to celebrate our state’s technology industry — a strong and growing community that is impacting the global economy with next generation thinking, leadership, innovation and entrepreneurship.”

Awards were presented in five categories: technology industry awards, stage of development awards, functional awards, leadership awards and excellence awards. Grant Thornton managed the selection process along with former NCTA chairpersons.

The winners were:

  • Software of the Year: A4 Health Systems (now part of AllScripts)
  • Healthcare/Pharmaceutical Company of the Year: Salix Pharmaceuticals
  • Electronics Company of the Year: Integrian
  • Communications Company of the Year: Tekelec
  • Consumer Technology Company of the Year: Lenovo
  • Early Stage Company of the Year: Affinergy
  • Mid-Size Company of the Year: Arsenal Digital
  • Large Company of the Year: Parata Systems
  • Top Customer Service Company: Peak 10
  • Top Growth Company: Titan Technology Partners
  • Top Venture Company: Biolex
  • Top Government/Not-for-Profit Technology of the Year: e-NC Authority
  • Corporate Citizenship: GlaxoSmithKline
  • NCTA Volunteer: Joe Freddoso, a former NCTA chairman and an executive with Cisco Systems
  • Media Award: WRAL Local Tech Wire
  • IT Support Services Company: Square 1 Bank
  • Corporate Education: SAS
  • Public Leadership: George Bakolia, chief information officer, State of North Carolina
  • Private Company of the Year: Constella Group
  • Public Company of the Year: SPX Corporation
  • Outstanding Achievement: Retired General W.F. “Buck” Kernan, now senior vice president and general manager for international operations at MPRI, a wholly owned subsidiary of L-3 Communications.
  • Winning companies and individuals were profiled in the Nov. 11 edition of The Triangle Business Journal.