Virginia Tech's College of Engineering inducted 10 new members into its Academy of Engineering Excellence, an elite group that now consists of only 90 people out of its more than 50,000 living alumni.
The Academy of Engineering Excellence was founded in 1999 by F. William Stephenson, past dean of the College of Engineering, and the college’s Alumni Advisory Board. This year marked the 10th anniversary of the first induction, and the college produced a book on the first 90 inductees, called In the Land Grant Tradition: Reaching the Pinnacles.
This book “represents another way the College of Engineering has selected to showcase our loyal ambassadors. These alumni all represent people who have lived their lives representing the spirit of Ut Prosim, Virginia Tech’s motto, meaning ‘That I may serve,’ “ said Richard C. Benson, dean of the College of Engineering and the holder of the Paul and Dorothea Torgersen Chair of Engineering.
The 2009 inductees are: Jerry Ballengee of Roanoke, Va.; Stonie Barker of Naples, Fla. and Hendersonville, N.C.; Thomas Cox of Boulder, Colo.; Robert Epperly of Mountainview, Calif.; Satish Kulkarni of Washington D.C.; The Honorable Joe May of Leesburg, Va.; A. Ross Myers of Worcester, Pa.; Don Sage of Midlothian, Va.; Leo Vecellio Jr., of Palm Beach, Fla.; and Joseph Vipperman Jr., also of Roanoke.
Jerry Ballengee grew up in the small rural paper mill town of Covington, Va., the youngest of nine children in his family. A 1962 mechanical engineering graduate of Virginia Tech, Ballengee spent his career with the paper industry retiring as president and chief operating officer of Union Camp Corp., acquired by International Paper Company in 1999. He is currently chairman of the board of Chicago Bridge, a NYSE listed, Dutch company providing engineering, procurement, fabrication and construction services primarily to the oil and gas industry.
Stonie Barker, who earned his bachelor’s degree in mining engineering from Virginia Tech in 1951, is the retired president of Island Creek Coal Company. He was a prominent figure in the coal industry throughout the 1970s, 1980s, and into the 1990s. Time magazine once described him as a critical player in ending a three-and-a-half month national coal strike in the bitterly cold winter of 1978. He was named the Coal Man of the Year in 1985.
Thomas Cox, who earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in metallurgical engineering from Virginia Tech in 1966 and in 1968, respectively, is the retired technical director of General Electric’s Global Research Center, overseeing the technical work of some 1400 scientists. He played a leading role in the establishment of GE research and engineering laboratories in Bangalore, India, and Shanghai, China, in the late 1990s before retiring at the end of 2001. He holds five U.S. patents for the composition of matter and the processing of metallic alloys.
Robert Epperly earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemical engineering from Virginia Tech in 1956 and in 1958, respectively. He spent most of his career with Exxon, finishing as the general manager of Exxon’s corporate research, holding the administrative responsibility for laboratories with an annual budget of $120 million at the time he retired in 1986. Afterwards he went to work for the Fuel Tech Group and was named its CEO in 1989. In 1992 he moved to Catalytica, and within two years was named its president. He retired for the last time in 1997. He holds a total of 38 patents.
Satish Kulkarni, currently of Georgetown University, earned his doctorate in engineering science and mechanics from Virginia Tech in 1973. A native of India, Kulkarni is now a U.S. citizen who recently ended an assignment as counselor for science, technology, environment and health affairs at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, India. Kulkarni played an important behind-the-scenes role in the United States-India Nuclear Cooperation Approval and Non-proliferation Enhancement Act of 2008.
Joe May earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Virginia Tech. He is the president and CEO of Electronic Instrumentation and Technology of Sterling, Va., a 200-plus employee company conducting business in some 30 countries worldwide. In 1993, he ran his first successful campaign for public office and continues to serve in Virginia’s House of Delegates today. He is the current chair of the House Transportation Committee, the past chair of the House Science and Technology Committee, and retains his membership on it. He is also a member of the House Appropriations Committee and chairs the Joint Commission on Technology and Science (JCOTS). He holds 22 patents, lending to his stellar reputation as the resident technology expert in the Virginia General Assembly.
A. Ross Myers, a 1972 civil engineering graduate of Virginia Tech, is the president and CEO of Allan A. Myers Inc., in Pennsylvania and Delaware, and American Infrastructure in Maryland and Virginia. His company consistently ranks in the top half of Engineering News Record’s annual Top 400 U.S. Contractor’s List, the Top 50 Heavy and Highway Contractors, and the Top 200 Environmental Engineering and Construction Companies. Myers is one half of the key financial backers of Virginia Tech’s Myers-Lawson School of Construction.
Don Sage, a 1956 industrial engineering graduate of Virginia Tech, spent his career with the communications industry, joining Western Electric, the manufacturing arm of AT&T, the owners of Bell Labs. He served as the engineering manager of what became the world’s largest manufacturer of printed circuit boards under one roof. In 1984, Fortune magazine described the Virginia operation as one of the ten best managed factories in America. AT&T also recognized Sage in 1990 for producing its best overall college relations program, one that he developed with Virginia Tech.
Leo Vecellio Jr., a 1968 civil engineering graduate of Virginia Tech, is the third generation patriarch of Vecellio and Grogan, Inc. He and his wife Kathyrn, and sons, Christopher and Michael, are the owners of The Vecellio Group, a well-integrated network of companies and divisions with operations in heavy/highway contracting, commercial aggregates mining, petroleum logistics, and more. The group is regularly listed among America’s top 200 contractors and among the top 25 in transportation construction. The Vecellio family has endowed the Construction Engineering and Management Program with a $1 million gift.
Joseph Vipperman received his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1962 from Virginia Tech. His four-decade career with American Electric Power had him serving in a host of positions, including company controller in the turbulent energy crisis in the 1970s. He later spent 16 years in its Columbus, Ohio headquarters where he eventually became vice president. At one point, he was the president of AEP’s Appalachian Power operating subsidiary, based in Roanoke. In honor of Vipperman’s work at AEP, the company made a $1 million gift to Virginia Tech’s Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science.