Virginia Tech's College of Engineering recently inducted six new members at its 17th annual Academy of Engineering Excellence. The academy consists of 141 alumni out of Virginia Tech's more than 65,000 living engineering alumni who have achieved exceptional career successes.

“This alumni group represents some of our most dedicated ambassadors,” said Richard C. Benson, dean of the College of Engineering and the Paul and Dorothea Torgersen Chair of Engineering. “The inducted alumni epitomize the spirit of Ut Prosim to the fullest extent.”

The academy inductees are: Randy Albert of Bluefield, West Virginia; Ken Anderson of Blacksburg, Virginia; Keith Englander of Alexandria, Virginia; John Lemons of Cupertino, California; Lynn Nystrom of Christiansburg, Virginia; and Kirk Spitzer of Richmond, Virginia.

At the ceremony, the college also presented its Outstanding Young Alumni Achievement Award to Frank King of Mount Laurel, New Jersey.

The academy was founded in 1999 by F. William Stephenson, former dean of the College of Engineering, and by the college's advisory board.

2016 Academy of Engineering Excellence inductees

Randall M. Albert
Bachelor’s degree, mining engineering
Class of 1980

Immediately following graduation, Randy Albert went to work for CONSOL, now known as CONSOL Energy. One of his first tasks to figure out how to degasify the Pocahontas number three coal seam ahead of mining to reduce the amount of combustible methane, which Albert described as “gassiest bituminous coal bed in the world.” Albert and his team came up with the idea of hydraulically fracturing the coal seam to allow the methane to escape. Traditional engineers worried the fracturing process would destabilize the mine roof and make the coal impossible to mine, but in 1985 Albert was successful and was charged to lead the company's coal bed methane gas operation in Southern Appalachia. Albert retired as chief operations officer of CONSOL’s CNX Gas Company in 2013 after an eventful 34-year career. He has served on the board of directors of the Virginia Oil and Gas Association, the Coalfield Water Development fund, and the Virginia Tech mining engineering advisory board. Currently, Albert is helping Virginia Tech’s department of mining and minerals to develop their natural gas engineering program.

S. Kendall Anderson
Bachelor’s degree in civil engineering
Master’s in environmental engineering
Classes of 1962 and 1970

After graduation and receiving his commission as a second lieutenant, Ken Anderson joined the U.S. Army as a Corps of Engineers officer. He served for two years in post-war Germany as a combat engineer. Upon return, Anderson went to work as a design engineer with J.K. Timmons and Associates in Richmond, Virginia. Simultaneously, while working on his master’s in what was then called sanitary engineering, Anderson launched Anderson and Associates at age 30. The company became recognized as a leader in technological innovations, improving engineering practice.  Anderson runs his company with open-book management and all employees work on an hourly wage system. In 2005, his employees gained ownership of the company when Anderson made stock available at no extra cost. Today, Anderson serves as chief executive officer, but has plans to step down in the near future. Anderson has served on the advisory board of the Center for Transportation Research and the Economic Development advisory committee. He is a member of the college’s Committee of 100 and was a chair of the college’s advisory board in 2005-06 during Richard Benson’s first year as dean of the college.

Keith L. Englander
Bachelor's degree, aerospace and ocean engineering
Class of 1975

After graduation, Keith Englander went to work for the Navy as a civilian supervisory mechanical engineer. Shortly after the Challenger space shuttle disaster in 1986, he was selected by the Navy as leader of the team that would determine the feasibility of devising an escape system for shuttle flights. Later, with the Department of Defense, Englander worked on the National Missile Defense Program as a systems engineering director for the Brilliant Pebbles space-based weapon program. He was eventually promoted to technical director for the program. In 2001, Englander was promoted to director of system engineering and integration of the Missile Defense Agency where he led a 500-person technical staff, managed a $300 million annual budget, coordinated missile defense efforts with foreign nations, and incorporated technological advances from the academic community into the missile defense program. Named director of engineering in 2005, Englander continues in the role today where he is responsible for recruitment, training and retention of 2,000 engineers and scientists, and serves as the technical spokesperson for the agency with the Department of Defense, State Department, Congress, and the international community.

John Lemons

Bachelor's degree, electrical engineering

Class of 1960

After completing a three-year commitment in the ROTC as a lieutenant in the Air Force, John Lemons went to work for Motorola as a product line manager for its transistors and integrated circuit products. Seven years later, Silicon Valley was the next stop in his career as the director of engineering for American Microsystems. There, Lemons pioneered very large integrated circuits, one of which was the Hewlett Packard-35 engineering calculator. At age 39, Teledyne Corporation provided Lemons his greatest career challenge as it was losing $3 million annually. He took the challenge head on. As president of the semiconductor company, Lemons restructured it into a technology growth enterprise with more than $50 million per year with high profitability. He then led Faraday Electronics, a startup company, into becoming the first supplier for Michael Dell’s company and the first to license Microsoft’s disk operating system from Bill Gates for a board level computer. In 1988, Lemons transitioned to the presidency of Portola Packaging, this time growing annual sales from $22 million to $150 million within eight years. Upon retiring at age 57, Lemons has volunteered with SCORE, the nation’s largest network of free, expert business mentors. He is the director for the Hogue Family Foundation that aids families in crisis and has volunteered as director for the non-profit Potter’s Clay. Most recently, Lemons agreed to endow a $100,000 gift to Virginia Tech’s Services for Students with Disabilities in the Division of Student Affairs. The John Lemons Enrichment Fund is intended to support current students who suffer speech impairment, including stuttering and stammering – a difficulty Lemons himself was challenged with while growing up.

Lynn A. Nystrom
Director of news and external services"Honorary alumna, posthumously

The late Lynn Nystrom, director of news and external services for the College of Engineering, was inducted posthumously as an honorary alumna. A member of Virginia Tech’s professional community since 1977 until her death in December 2015, Nystrom joined the college under the late Paul E. Torgersen, president emeritus and former dean of the college, as its first dedicated news director. She served under four successive deans: Wayne Clough, Bill Stephenson, Hassan Aref, and Richard Benson. Nystrom wrote thousands of stories promoting the research, discoveries, breakthroughs, and profiles of faculty, staff, alumni, and students. Nystrom promoted the early work of Stefan Duma in rating football helmets for safety and covered work by Marc Edwards, 10 years prior to the current Flint, Michigan water crisis, when he revealed malfeasance among water authorities in Washington, D.C. In between, she found time to take course work towards a master’s degree in science and technology studies at Virginia Tech. Nystrom also kept an open door for students coming to her for advice and support as she served as advisor to the Collegiate Times for 36 years, the Engineers’ Forum for more than a decade, and the Student Engineer’s Council. A supporter of all things local, Nystrom was an active member of the New River Land Trust, a local nonprofit dedicated to preserving farmland, forests, open spaces, and historical sites across Southwest Virginia. Nystrom held a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Radford University.

Kirk E. Spitzer
Bachelor’s of industrial engineering
Class of 1967

In 1963, service the corps of cadets was mandatory, and Kirk Spitzer dove right into the military mode when he arrived at Virginia Tech. When he graduated, Spitzer was able to defer his service briefly to enroll in a Firestone training program in Akron, Ohio. Spitzer spent the final months at Firestone supporting the radial tire development program, which was gaining traction in the U.S. tire market. The Army called Spitzer to active duty and he was sent to Vietnam to serve the 4th Infantry Division. He returned as a first lieutenant with a Bronze Star for Meritorious Achievement. Spitzer spent the next 13 years in the air pollution prevention industry, beginning with American Air Filter, a Kentucky company that was a pioneer in industrial filtration. When Alfa Laval, a world leader within the key technology areas of heat transfer, liquids/solids separation, and fluid handling, offered Spitzer a job, he accepted. In 2000, Spitzer was promoted to president and chief executive officer for all of Alfa Laval’s USA operations. When he started in 1983, the company had sales of approximately $100 million globally. Some 15 years later, sales approached $1.4 billion globally. Spitzer retired from Alfa in 2005. In 2002, the department of industrial and systems engineering inducted Spitzer into its Academy of Distinguished Alumni and in 2014 awarded him its Marvin H. Agee Distinguished Service Award. In 2007 he received the College’s Distinguished Service Award. Spitzer is member of the College of Engineering’s Committee of 100 and the University’s Ut Prosim Society.

2016 Outstanding Young Alumni Achievement Award

Frank N. King
Bachelor’s of mining and minerals engineering
Class of 2005

In 2005, King’s first job after graduation was at Rinker Materials in Phoenix, Arizona. King initially thought he would concentrate on the mining aspect, but instead found himself drawn into ready mix concrete due to the technical aspect of quality control and the intrigue of science. A year later, King was promoted to plant manager of one of Rinker’s ready mix concrete plants and within a few months he was promoted to regional manager, overseeing all sales and operations for Rinker’s concrete operations. When Cemex Inc., acquired Rinker, King stayed on and helped combine the two largest concrete operations in Phoenix. In 2011 the Silvi Group, a large concrete supplier; cement, salt, and gypsum importer; and hard-rock mining company headquartered in Philadelphia, hired King as an operations manager. Currently, King serves as vice president of operations for the company and currently oversees all 11 of Silvi’s concrete plants.


Past Academy of Engineering Excellence inductees and guests
Past Academy of Engineering Excellence inductees and guests enjoy the reception prior to the induction ceremony at the Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Center. From left, Norris Mitchell, a 2012 inductee; Wendy Mitchell, Judy Grossmann, Lana Digges, Pat Robins, and Howard Robins, a 2005 inductee.
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