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Virginia Tech's highest engineering honors bestowed on eight alumni


BLACKSBURG, Va., May 11, 2005 – Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering bestowed its highest alumni honor on eight of its engineering alumni, inducting them into the college’s Academy of Engineering Excellence.

The recipients were: R. Sidney Barrett, Jr., of Yorktown, Va.,; W. Robert Jebson Jr., of Culpeper, Va.; William C. McAllister of Richmond, Va.; Nicholas M. Mihalas of Charleston, S.C.; E. Towson Moore of Durham, N.C.; C. Howard Robins of Williamsburg, Va.; and Neville Rowland of Lynchburg, Va.

J. Stuart Franklin, Jr., formerly of Roanoke, Va., received the honor posthumously.

Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering and its advisory board started the Academy of Engineering Excellence in 1999. Membership in the academy is awarded to individuals who hold a degree from the engineering college and who have made sustained and meritorious engineering and/or leadership contributions during their careers. Initiates have reached the pinnacle of their professional achievements and will normally have graduated more than 40 years ago.

Barrett, a 1962 graduate in mechanical engineering, is retired from B&H Enterprises, a partnership venture that built and managed commercial property. He also served as the volunteer chair of the Industrial Development Authority of York County, and when he retired from this post, his leadership was credited with contributing “directly to the construction of more than two million square feet of commercial and industrial development” for York County, a 27-mile area from Williamsburg to Hampton. He still holds the title of Chairman Emeritus.

Jebson, a 1956 graduate in metallurgical engineering, is the founder and president of Environmental Systems Services (ESS) of Culpeper. ESS is a professional service company with a supporting environmental laboratory. Since the company was founded in 1973, Jebson has expanded its operations to include four locations, and another division, Country Water Systems. He has received the L.B. Henretty Award for distinguished service to his community, serving on several community bank boards, the local hospital board, the Rotary Club, Chamber of Commerce, and the Presbyterian Church.

McAllister, a 1965 graduate in engineering mechanics, founded the Colonial Mechanical Corp., of Richmond in 1972. For more than 25 years, his company grew to employ almost 800 people and ranked 42nd in size among mechanical contractors in the United States. He funded the McAllister Leadership Scholarship in Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering and the McAllister Emerging Leadership Scholarship in the Corps of Cadets. In Richmond, he serves as a trustee of the Children’s Hospital.

Mihalas, originally from Norfolk, Va., is a 1959 graduate in chemical engineering. An all-American football player while at Virginia Tech, Mihalas went on to become president of Timex in 1977. He reengineered its wristwatch production to compete with the electronic competition that had already been introduced by Far East competitors. His work at Timex earned him the J.L. Lemkuhl Award for superior management and turnaround of the company.

Moore, a 1958 graduate in electrical engineering, is president of his company, Wilmore Electronics of Durham, N.C. In its early years, Wilmore built and developed equipment for a number of scientific satellites, including Pioneer 10, launched in 1972, and which today, at eight billion millions from the earth, is the most distant man-made object in the universe. The company has since become the manufacturer of proprietary products. Moore started a second firm, Energy Dynamics, in Caswell County, N.C., and between the two offices, employs about 100 people. His customer base extends beyond the U.S. to some 20 foreign companies.

Robins, a 1958 graduate in aeronautical engineering who also received a Ph.D. in physics from Virginia Tech, spent some three and a half decades with NASA, He worked on the Scout, Apollo, Skylab, and Viking Projects. He moved up NASA’s chain of command, and in 1991 he was appointed deputy associate administrator for space systems development, responsible for assisting in executive leadership of major system development efforts, including the international space station.

Rowland, a 1963 graduate in agricultural engineering, is a retired partner of Southern Air, Inc. He joined the company in 1970, helping to grow it from a small residential heating, air conditioning, and plumbing contractor in Lynchburg, Va., to a three state mechanical, electrical and service contractor with eight branch offices and more than 700 employees. The sales increased some 15 percent each year, today totaling more than $72 million annually.

A posthumous award was presented to J. Stuart Franklin, Jr., formerly of Roanoke. His wife, Margaret, was present to receive the award. Franklin was a partner with one of Roanoke oldest engineering and architectural firms, today known as SFCS Inc. Among Franklin’s numerous contributions, his imprint is found on downtown’s First national Exchange Bank building and the Roanoke Memorial Hospital and its surrounding facilities. Franklin was a 1950 graduate in the civil engineering program.