College of Engineering honors distinguished alumni
Virginia Tech's College of Engineering has honored nine of its most distinguished alumni with induction into its Academy of Engineering, and named its 2008 Outstanding Young Alumnus.
Membership in the academy is reserved in general for individuals holding an engineering degree from Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering and who have made sustained and meritorious engineering and/or leadership contributions during their careers. Only 80 alumni out of the approximately 50,000 living engineering graduates are members of this select group.
The College of Engineering’s Advisory Board, in collaboration with the college administration, created the academy in 1998.
“The academy gives us the opportunity to recognize our alumni who are outstanding contributors to our profession of engineering, and in some cases, to other professions. Our college is very fortunate to have an abundance of highly successful alumni,” said Richard C. Benson, dean of the College of Engineering, who holds the Paul and Dorothea Torgersen Chaired Professorship of Engineering.
“Our outstanding young alumna, Celine Mahieux, was selected from all of our graduates from the past 10 years, so she was competing with more than 10,000 individuals when you include all three degrees,” Benson added.
- The nine academy honorees, in alphabetical order, and the outstanding alumna, and brief biographical information, are:
- The late John Coli of Ashland, N.C., received his undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degrees in chemical engineering in 1941, 1949, and 1949, respectively. He spent most of his career with Allied Chemical, American Enka, and Akzo America. In 1982, he was named Akzo America Inc.’s president and chief executive officer, a position he held until he retired in 1986.When he retired, he immediately became involved with the health care industry, working as the senior executive of Ashland’s St. Joseph’s Health Service Corporation, in a voluntary capacity until his final retirement in 2005. Coli's philanthropic contributions were recognized by the naming of the 14-bed Coli Critical Care Center on the St. Joseph campus of the healthcare center. For his work in the business arena, he received the Virginia Press Association’s Virginian of the Year Award in 1968, and the chair of the American Chemical Society in 1957.
- William G. Grossmann who splits his time between Hampton, Va., and Berlin, Germany, earned his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in aerospace engineering from Virginia Tech in 1958, 1961, and 1964, respectively. He held a number of academic positions and was a senior scientist at Max Plank Institute in Munich, Germany. In 1987, he joined Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC). He became vice president and chief scientist for their applied physics operation in McLean, Va. In 1995 he took a leave of absence from Science Applications and joined ABB, Limited, as a program manager in its Heidelberg, Germany Corporate Research Center. He was continually promoted, leaving the company in 2002 when he was its director of business information technology alignment. In 2002 he returned to Science Applications as a vice president of technology, responsible for developing business opportunities in energy with emphasis on power generation throughout Western Europe and the Middle East. Since June of 2005, Grossman has served as the director of business development for Science Applications International Corporation Services, responsible for its operations in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. Grossmann is also now working with the NASA Langley spin-off organization, the National Institute of Aerospace.
- Ray Martin of Ashland, Va., received his undergraduate and master’s degrees in civil engineering from Virginia Tech in 1964 and in 1968, respectively. He spent most of his career with Schnabel Engineering, a geotechnical firm owned by James Schnabel. When he joined in 1972, it had 12 employees. Two years later Martin opened the first branch office of Schnabel in Richmond, Va., and was named an associate of the firm. In 1984 he became a principal with Schnabel and led the Richmond office until he became president of the firm in 1988. In 1993, he became the chief executive officer. Schnabel opened 14 offices from New Brunswick, N.J. to Atlanta, Ga., and had 300 employees before Martin retired in 2002 with the added title of chairman of the board. Martin is a former president of the Virginia Society of Professional Engineers, which presented him with its Distinguished Service Award in 1982. He has been inducted into Tau Beta Pi and Chi Epsilon, and is a member and a fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers. In recognition of his service to Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering, it presented him with the Distinguished Service Award in 1993 and it’s Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2003. He and his wife Carol own the Henry Clay Inn of Ashland.
- Harold Martin of Kernersville, N.C., earned his doctoral degree in electrical engineering from Virginia Tech in 1980. He took his first tenure track job as a promising new assistant professor of electrical engineering at A&T in 1980. He leapfrogged to tenured status in an amazing four years. His work was in the areas of high-speed computing, integrated circuits, and fault tolerance systems. When he earned his tenure, he also became the electrical engineering department head at A&T. One achievement led to another. Every four or five years, he would successfully compete for a new position at A&T, moving from the department headship into the deanship of the college, and ultimately to Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs. In 1994, he was named the vice chancellor of academic affairs at Winston-Salem State University. In 2000 he was promoted to its chief administrator and chancellor, a position he remained in until 2006 when he became the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at the University of North Carolina, a multi-campus university. At Virginia Tech, Martin has served as chair of both the college and the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering Advisory Boards. Martin and his wife Davida have two children.
- E. George Middleton earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Virginia Tech in 1950. Named after his father who founded in 1920 the family business, E. G. Middleton, Inc. of Norfolk, Va., the junior Middleton started his career at 14 working with a pole line gang, building electrical pole lines. He entered Virginia Tech as a 17-year old freshman in 1944. As soon as his 18th birthday occurred, he enlisted in the U.S. Army to serve in World War II and was as a motor sergeant in Bavaria. He returned to finish his education at Virginia Tech, and then joined his father’s business, acting as an electrician by day and an estimator by night. As his own reputation grew in the Norfolk area, Middleton found himself serving on various boards and volunteer positions. He spent eight years on the Norfolk City School Board at the height of integration, and in 1977, he left that board to become chairman of the Sentara Healthcare Board for 20 years. Middleton has earned three Norfolk city awards: Citation for Outstanding Service in 1977, Business Appreciation Award in 1990, and First Citizen of Norfolk Award in 2002. In 1997, he received Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering Outstanding Service Award. He and his wife of 22 years, Elizabeth, reside in Norfolk.
- Helen Reed of College Station, Texas earned her master’s and doctoral degrees in engineering mechanics from Virginia Tech in 1980 and 1981, respectively. She attended Goucher College, summer interned at NASA Langley Research Center, and graduated in 1977 with honors in mathematics in three years. She moved to the Blacksburg campus in 1978 to work with Professor Ali Nayfeh, one of the world’s leading experts in perturbation methods. Stanford University was quick to note a qualified woman on a fast career track, and hired her as an assistant professor of mechanical engineering in 1982. When President Ronald Reagan signed the authorization for the first year of National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigator (NSF PYI) awards, her name was on the list of the inaugural recipients. She used the award money to start building her own program in stability and transition. In 1985 Arizona State University persuaded her to cross the state line, awarding her the title of associate professor, with tenure coming three years later. By 1992 she was promoted to full professor. In 2004, she assumed the aerospace department head’s position at Texas A&M. It has a top 10 ranking. She and her husband, William Saric, also a professor of aerospace engineering at Texas A&M and a former member of the Virginia Tech engineering faculty, manage a 92-acre farm dedicated to agricultural use.
- B. Fielding Rolston of Kingsport, Tenn., earned his undergraduate degree in industrial engineering from Virginia Tech in 1964. He went to work for Eastman Chemical, a decision that paved his professional career for almost 40 years. In 1977 Rolston was asked to lead Eastman’s corporate staff of industrial engineers. As a result of his work the company received a highly coveted management award, the Malcolm Baldrige Award, in 1993. He became the Vice President of Human Resources, Health, Safety, Environment and Security, and later Vice President of Human Resources and Quality. His focus was to ensure Eastman Chemical had the right people in the right jobs with the right training and motivation. In 2003, Rolston retired from Eastman as senior vice president of human resources and communications. Since 1998 he has chaired the Board of Eastman Credit Union, currently chairs the Tennessee State Board of Education and the Emory and Henry College Board of Trustees, all volunteer positions. He remains a member of the board of the Wellmont Health System, which he chaired from 1996 until 2000. Rolston’s wife, Joyce, a nurse whom he met in high school, holds her degree from the Medical College of Virginia.
- Tom Rust earned his undergraduate degree in civil engineering from Virginia Tech in 1965 and started work with Fairfax County’s Department of Public Works, serving as a design engineer, assistant chief engineer, and chief of the design branch. In 1969, he joined the independent firm of Patton Harris and Ford, a professional engineering and land surveying operation with about 25 employees. He was tasked with a number of challenging projects, and when Ford stepped down, the principals asked him to become a partner. As he was helping to build the firm, he also enrolled first at George Washington University to earn his master’s in public works engineering in 1978, and then his master’s of planning in urban and environmental planning from the University of Virginia, in 1989. In the almost 40 years that Rust has now worked at the Chantilly-based firm, the name has changed to Patton Harris Rust and Associates, It grew to a corporation with about 40 stockholders, and 400 employees in 18 offices throughout the mid-Atlantic region. Rust has also distinguished himself as a dedicated public servant, beginning as a member of the Herndon Planning Commission and its Town Council in 1971, moving on to its mayor in 1976 for an eight-year term, followed by another 11 years from 1990 until 2001 when he was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates. Rust and his wife Ann reside in Herndon.
- Edgar Starke Jr., earned his undergraduate degree in metallurgical engineering from Virginia Tech in 1960. He pursued his master’s degree, again in metallurgical engineering, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne, earning it in a mere ten months. After a brief stint at the Savannah River Laboratory, he was off to the University of Florida where he again made record academic speed, earning his Ph.D. in metallurgical engineering in two years. In 1968 he accepted his first academic position at Georgia Tech as an assistant professor, becoming a full professor in an amazingly short four years. In 1978 Starke assumed the directorship of the University’s Fracture and Fatigue Research Laboratory, a position he held until he moved to the University of Virginia, in 1983. Thomas Jefferson University recruited him as its Earnest Oglesby Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and as a member of its Center for Advanced Studies. After a year he was asked to be the Dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Virginia. Starke’s fundraising prowess allowed him to renovate all of their engineering buildings and add two new ones, a major accomplishment in the short span of ten years. His also started a program for minorities, providing financial aid and tutoring. A member of the National Academy of Engineering, he and his wife Donna reside in Charlottesville.
- Also honored during the Academy of Engineering Excellence induction dinner was Celine Mahieux, selected as Virginia Tech’s Outstanding Young Engineering Alum for 2008. After earning her undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from the Universite of Technologie of Compiegne, France, she enrolled as a graduate student at Virginia Tech, receiving a master’s degree in materials science and engineering in 1996, and a Ph.D. in materials engineering science in 1999. She returned to Europe, joining the ABB Corporation to lead its structural composite activities, mainly in the design of flexible risers for off-shore oil production and other industrial products. In 2000 she switched to Alstom where she started working in the hydrogenerator technology center, leading the development activities related to non-metallic materials. After four years, she was placed in her current position with Alstom’s power systems sector, a 20,000-employee group. She is in charge of forming the corporate response to new developments in technology and market shifts, to multi-business projects sponsored by the sector. She was one of four individuals or teams nominated for the 2005 French Engineer of the Year award in the industry category. The holder of four patents, Mahieux met her fellow Hokie husband, Jon Medding, while they were both at Virginia Tech. He received his undergraduate and graduate degrees in mechanical engineering in 1994 and in 1996, respectively, and they are residing in Birmenstorf, Switzerland.