Science, technology, and engineering

These alumni are recognized for their work in science, technology, and engineering.


Joseph T. May

Joseph T. May (electrical engineering 1962), a delegate in the Virginia General Assembly since 1993, was honored in 1996 with the Virginia Lifetime Achievement Award in Industry. In 2000, he received the Governor’s Legislative Leadership Award in Technology, and in 2002 he was named the Virginia Biotechnology Legislator of the Year. The owner of 22 patents and of his own business, EIT, which designs, manufactures, and sells electronic products, May is considered the resident technology expert in the General Assembly.

L. Preston Wade

L. Preston Wade (civil engineering 1955) served as chairman of the board and CEO of Wiley and Wilson for about two decades and was named Virginia Engineer of the Year in 1982.

Joseph H. Vipperman

Joseph H. Vipperman (electrical engineering 1962) served three years as a lieutenant in the strategic air command of the U.S. Air Force and then he returned to Appalachian Power, where he spent a 40-year career in engineering, finance, and various management positions, retiring as executive vice president of American Electric Power Shared Services, the parent company of Appalachian Power. In honor of his achievements, AEP presented $1 million to ICTAS for energy-related research.

Leo A. Vecellio Jr.

Leo A. Vecellio Jr. (civil engineering 1968) serves as the family’s patriarch and has helped to instill a strong sense of philanthropy through the Vecellio Family Foundation. In 2008, Vecellio’s reputation led him to the position of chair of the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA). He worked with ARTBA primarily to press Congress for a significant increase in federal highway and transit investment as part of the reauthorization of the national Surface Transportation Act.

James E. Turner Jr.

James E. Turner Jr. (agricultural engineering 1956) is one of the great all-time leaders of the shipbuilding industry. The first American warship designed solely on computer was achieved under his visionary leadership. He is the retired president and CEO of General Dynamics Corp., a member of the National Academy of Engineering, and served as rector of the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors for five years. He was awarded the university’s Ruffner Medal in 2004.

Hyde C. Tucker

Hyde C. Tucker (electrical engineering 1956) as president and CEO of Bell Atlantic International brokered one of the largest business deals on Wall Street in 1991. He started his career with C& P Telephone Co. and remained with some form of the communications industry for his entire career. He was named the College of Engineering’s distinguished alumnus in 1998 and received its Distinguished Service Award in 2002.

Thomas D. Rust

Thomas D. Rust (civil engineering 1965) has had a successful career as a civil engineer, owning his own company, Patton Harris Rust & Associates, and has been a delegate in the Virginia General Assembly since 2002. In November 2007, Rust received the Tower of Dulles Award, the highest recognition offered by the Committee for Dulles, for his efforts to promote transportation improvements.

Neville Rowland

Neville Rowland (agricultural engineering 1963) started his career at the Trane Co. as a sales engineer in air conditioning. Southern Air had been his best account while he was at Trane, and the company recruited him. He helped grow the company 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.

B. Fielding Rolston

B. Fielding Rolston (industrial engineering 1964) started working at Eastman Chemical upon graduation and stayed with the company for nearly 40 years. His work led to the company receiving the Malcolm Baldrige Award, a highly coveted management honor. In 2003, Rolston retired from Eastman as senior vice president. Since 1998, he has chaired the board of Eastman Credit Union, and currently chairs the Tennessee State Board of Education and the Emory and Henry College Board of Trustees.

W. Thomas Robertson Jr.

W. Thomas Robertson Jr. (agricultural engineering 1952) started his long career with Duke Power Co., today called Duke Energy, in 1955. During his career, Robertson was active in numerous industry groups and government activities, especially those related to procurement and fuels, chairing a number of the efforts.

F.D. "Red" Robertson

F.D. "Red" Robertson (mining engineering 1956) is known as one of the most successful, effective, and innovative coal operators in the country. A mining engineer, an attorney, and a business entrepreneur, Robertson has started a number of businesses, been involved in mergers and acquisitions that have included major international companies, and has served on several boards. He is owner of The Eagle Cos.

Charles W. Pryor Jr.

Charles W. Pryor Jr. (civil engineering 1966, 1968, 1970) is well known and respected throughout the global electric utility industry. After serving as president and CEO of Urenco Inc. and Urenco Investments Inc., he started C W Pryor & Co., a management consulting firm specializing in teaching core values of business leadership. French President Francois Mitterand presented Pryor with a national award for his work in the nuclear power industry in 1991.

Haller G. Prillaman

Haller G. Prillaman (industrial engineering 1955) made numerous contributions to economic development in Martinsville, Va., operating family several businesses. He is president of Prillaman Brothers, an investment firm. Prillaman was named Virginia’s Economic Developer of the Year in 1999.

A. Ross Myers

A. Ross Myers’ (civil engineering 1972) company, American Infrastructure, consistently ranks in the top half of Engineering News Record’s annual Top 400 U.S. Contractors List, the Top 50 Heavy and Highway Contractors, and the Top 200 Environmental Engineering and Construction Companies. Myers is one of the two key financial backers of Virginia Tech’s Myers-Lawson School of Construction.

E. Towson Moore

E. Towson Moore (electrical engineering 1958) has served as president and CEO of Wilmore Electronics Co. Inc. since its founding. He gradually moved his company and its subsidiary, Energy Dynamics Inc., into manufacturing, employing about 100 people. The companies’ two locations provide state-of-the-art industrial power converters to a wide base of domestic and export customers.

Mary G. Miller

Mary G. Miller (computer science 1985) formed Interactive Design and Development (IDD), an information technology development company and a producer of educational materials, at Virginia Tech and then took it private in 1991. Her clients include such organizations as the American Federation of Teachers, members of the health care industry, and Fortune 500 companies. In 1996, IDD was recognized as one of the Top 100 Multimedia Developers in the United States. For the past 20 years, Miller has also assisted both Democratic and Republican governors of Virginia in technology matters.

Nicholas M. Mihalas

Nicholas M. Mihalas (chemical engineering 1959) first worked for GE and then moved on to Timex, where he was named president in 1977 and was tasked with re-engineering Timex wristwatch production to compete with international companies. Subsequently, he was awarded the J.L. Lemkuhl Award for his superior management and turnaround of Timex. He later established three companies: a real estate investment firm, a consulting engineering firm that specialized in the turnaround of underperforming companies, and an investment and management firm for early stage start-ups.

E. George Middleton

E. George Middleton (mechanical engineering 1950) was one of Norfolk’s leading residents. He chaired the school board, the campaign for South Hampton Roads, and several other groups, receiving numerous awards for his efforts. He also ran E.G. Middleton Inc. Electrical Contractors until his death.

William C. McAllister

William C. McAllister (engineering mechanics 1965) founded Colonial Mechanical Corp. in Richmond, Va., in 1972. Over the next 25 years, the company grew to employ almost 800 people and ranked 42nd in size among mechanical contractors in the United States. He created the McAllister Emerging Leadership Scholarships and the McAllister Leadership Scholarships, and he is founder of the Cotillion Club Alumni Association.

Ray E. Martin

Ray E. Martin (civil engineering 1964, 1968) served as president and CEO of Schnabel Engineering Associates. Upon retiring, he started his own consulting business relating to design and rehabilitation of dams and building foundations. He helped lead the efforts to create Virginia Tech’s Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science. In recognition of his service, the College of Engineering presented Martin with the Distinguished Service Award in 1993 and its Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2003.

Harold L. Martin

Harold L. Martin (electrical engineering 1980) is chancellor of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. Previously, he had been senior vice president for academic affairs for the 16 institutions of higher education that comprise the University of North Carolina system.

Joseph R. Loring

Joseph R. Loring (electrical engineering 1947) started his private practice in 1956, Joseph R. Loring & Associates Inc., and has provided essential engineering services for many of the era’s renowned public and private building projects. They range from high-rise office towers and corporate headquarters to universities, libraries, hospitals, airport terminals, courthouses, and correctional facilities around the world.

John H. Kroehling

John H. Kroehling (ceramic engineering 1948) earned a Purple Heart and a Soldiers Medal serving in World War II. In 1991, he retired from Dupont to start JH Kroehling Associates. He operates the business from his home in Williamsburg, Va., continuing to provide catalyst maintenance services to General Motors, Chrysler, and Toyota assembly plants.

William D. Kilgore Jr.

William D. Kilgore Jr. (mining engineering 1957) is retired from co-ownership of Kanawha Eagle LLC. He also served as chairman and CEO of Anker Coal Group and Anker Energy Group.

Dennis M. Kamber

Dennis M. Kamber (civil engineering 1964) built his own company, Kamber Engineering, into a major local engineering firm practicing in Maryland, Northern Virginia, and West Virginia. During his career, he has managed projects as large as $3.5 billion, and continues to work today as senior vice president of global water management for ARCADIS, a top-five global company focusing on infrastructure, the environment, and buildings.

W. Robert Jebson Jr.

W. Robert Jebson Jr. (metallurgical engineering 1956) developed Environmental Systems Service Ltd. (ESS), a professional service company with a supporting environmental laboratory, in 1973. From its origins with water and wastewater projects to dairy testing, ESS eventually expanded into food analysis. For more than 30 years, the company has remained privately owned.

John Grado

John Grado (industrial engineering and operations research 1951) was selected by Litton Industries as corporate vice president in 1967 when it acquired Fitchburg Paper Co. He built the group into a $300 million operation. After almost two decades, Grado established his own company, Technographics. The John Grado Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering is named for him.

George R. Goodson Jr.

George R. Goodson Jr. (mechanical engineering 1949) is the chairman of Warwick Plumbing and Heating. It is one of the largest mechanical contracting firms in Virginia, grossing upwards of $50 million annually.

Robert C. Gibson

Robert C. Gibson (mechanical engineering 1961) is the chairman of Clark Nexon, one of the nation’s top 500 architecture and engineering design firms. In the past decade alone, the firm has won 11 distinctive design awards under Gibson’s leadership.

Gilbert L. Faison

Gilbert L. Faison (electrical engineering 1947) joined Roache and Mercer in 1959 and within two years became a full partner in the mechanical and electrical engineering consulting firm. He retired from Roache, Mercer, and Faison as president and chair. He was also a founding member of the Advisory Board for Virginia Tech’s Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Fred D. Durham

Fred D. Durham (civil engineering 1922) became president of C. Lee Cook Manufacturing Co. and in 1955 merged it with three other firms to form the Dover Corp. His daughter Eleanor Davenport and her family presented $5 million to the College of Engineering for scholarships and fellowships. Durham Hall is named in his honor.

Nicholas H. DesChamps

Nicholas H. DesChamps (mechanical engineering 1962, 1967) started DesChamps Technologies in 1974. His company developed the Wringer, the first product in the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning industry that allowed the control of humidity inside a building without overcooling it. As a result, the company moved from a $7-million-a-year operation to some $30 million a year. DesChamps sold his business to Munters Corp. and remained as an executive vice president until July 2009.

John T. DeBell

John T. DeBell (civil engineering 1968) started his own business in 1974 with a colleague and called it Bengston and DeBell. The business doubled each year for the next five years, and then he added two partners. By 1987, the business had 300 employees. In the late 1990s, Burgess and Niple Inc. assumed 100 percent of the company’s stock, and DeBell stayed on as an owner and retained his place on its board of directors.

David J. D'Antoni

David J. D'Antoni (chemical engineering 1967) was named the senior vice president of Ashland Inc. in 1988 and the president of Ashland Chemical Co. In 1999, Ashland Inc. named him its senior vice president and group officer and a member of its executive committee. From 2001 until his retirement in 2004, DʼAntoni also headed Valvoline Oil and Ashland Paving and Construction Co., the largest highway paver in the United States.

William S. Cross

William S. Cross (industrial engineering 1941) founded Cross Sales and Engineering Co. in Greensboro, N.C., in 1954. Under his chairmanship, the Cross company grew to become one of the largest distributors of fluid power products in the United States, with branches in eight states. It is also a leader in the use of computer-aided design for the fabrication of hydraulic power units.

William A. Cox

William A. Cox (mechanical engineering 1934) co-founded the Cox-Frank Corporation, a Norfolk, Va., mechanical and general contractors firm. After several years, Cox bought out Frank, and the firm was eventually renamed Cox-Powell in recognition of another Virginia Tech engineering alumnus, J.V. Powell Jr. Powell, a chemical engineering graduate, eventually became a partner.

Joseph H. Collie

Joseph H. Collie (chemical engineering 1950) is a Danville, Va., native who established his own chemical distribution firm, Southchem Inc., in 1969. By the end of 1992, when the entrepreneur was ready to sell his business, sales had reached $58 million. In 1995, he and his wife, Barbara, presented Virginia Tech’s Department of Chemical Engineering with a $1 million gift to establish a chaired professorship dedicated to developing an interdisciplinary program in chemical distribution and marketing.

John A. Brothers

John A. Brothers (chemical engineering 1962, 1966; materials engineering science 1968) spent his career with Ashland Inc., a company with annual sales of $8 billion when he retired as its executive vice president in 1999.

William E. Betts Jr.

William E. Betts Jr. (architectural engineering 1932, 1933) lettered in varsity football and graduated first in his engineering class. As an undergraduate, he was elected to Phi Kappa Phi and Tau Beta Pi and was a member of the German Club and the Monogram Club. In 1938 in Lynchburg, Va., he and his friend, A.P. Montague Jr., founded Montague-Betts Co., a structural steel fabricator for major construction projects, including the World Trade Center. He became chair of the company in 1956, a position he retained for more than 40 years. He was also among the World War II troops that landed on Omaha Beach.

Mary V. Berry

Mary V. Berry (mechanical engineering 1962) had a record of attaining "firsts" for women engineers during her four decades with the Atlantic Research Corp., later Aerojet. Her peers regard her as the definitive expert on the engineering development of the rocket motors for the Multiple Launch Rocket Motor. She was the first woman registered as a professional engineer in Virginia and the first woman appointed to the State Board of Engineers, Land Surveyors, and Landscape Architects. She was the first woman engineer appointed by a Virginia governor to serve on the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors, the first woman to receive Tech’s Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award, and the first woman to serve on the College of Engineering’s Advisory Board.

Stonie Barker Jr.

Stonie Barker Jr. (mining engineering 1951) became the president of Island Creek Coal Co. in 1970 when it was the fourth-largest producer of bituminous in the United States. Time magazine described him as a critical player in ending a three-and-a-half month national coal strike in the winter of 1978. He retired in 1984 as chairman of the board.

Jerry H. Ballengee

Jerry H. Ballengee (mechanical engineering 1962) became the president and chief operating officer of Union Camp, a Fortune 250 company. The Covington, Va., native retired in June 1999 when International Paper Co. acquired Union Camp.

Kelso S. Baker

Kelso S. Baker (civil engineering 1955) began his engineering career with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on a runway expansion project at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia. After several positions with engineering firms, he established his own manufacturer’s agency in 1963. Baker Process Equipment Co. Inc. represents a number of companies that manufacture heat-transfer equipment, vacuum jet equipment, and analytical gas analyzers.

Betty Chao

Betty Chao (industrial engineering and operations Ph.D. 1983) is founder and CEO of Westech International Inc., a 320-employee company that works on various U.S. Department of Energy and Department of Defense contracts. She has been honored as DOC National Minority Female Entrepreneur of the Year, 2001; SBA Region VI Minority Small Business Person of the Year, 2002; and Minority Business and Professionals Network Fifty Influential Minorities in Business, 2004.

Brian Keith Fulton

Brian Keith Fulton (urban affairs 1989) is president of Verizon West Virginia. Previously, he was vice president of AOL Time-Warner Foundation and former associate director of the National Urban League. He was recognized by Ebony magazine in 1991 as one of the "30 Leaders of the Future" and by the Discovery Channel in 1996 as a "Contemporary Leader." He received a Computerworld Smithsonian Award for technology innovation, the highest information technology honor for a civilian.

Sidney C. Smith Jr.

Dr. Sidney C. Smith Jr. (chemical engineering 1963) is a former president of the American Heart Association (AHA) and the first person to hold the title of AHA’s chief science officer (2001-03). He’s met in the Oval Office with two sitting presidents and with national leaders on such topics as the standards of cardiac care that should be provided nationally. He is also prominent in world health matters, serving as chair of the World Heart and Stroke Forum and as a member of the executive committee of the World Heart Federation. In 2003 he returned to the University of North Carolina to serve as director of the Center for Cardiovascular Science and Medicine.

Robert C. Richardson

Robert C. Richardson (physics 1958, M.S. 1960) won the 1996 Nobel Prize in Physics for discovering how helium-3 can transform itself into a liquid that flows without friction at temperatures near absolute zero.

James M. Smith Jr.

Dr. James M. Smith Jr. (M.S. chemistry 1936) and his colleagues developed methotrexate as a cancer chemotherapeutic agent. He received at least 22 patents for his inventions and co-inventions.

Howard S. Avery

Howard S. Avery (mining engineering 1927) was internationally known in the field of metallurgy. He conducted pioneering work in the areas of precise creep-rupture testing, thermal fatigue evaluation, and carburizing behavior. Two of his technical papers garnered Lincoln Gold Medal awards, and he received the first ever Award of the New York Chapter of the American Society of Metals. In 1995, he donated professional alloy samples, their photomicrographs, and related files to a special collection at Virginia Tech. At the time, the collection was independently appraised at more $400,000.

Oren Austin Oliver

Oren Austin Oliver (electrical engineering 1909) pioneered orthodontic techniques that revolutionized the science, achieving international recognition in orthodontia by developing the lingual and labial arch technique. According to Town & Country Review, a magazine published in London, "The results in slowly guiding irregularity into regularity ... are so remarkable and so successful as to appear magical to the uninitiated." Among his numerous national and international awards were a congressional citation and medal for his work in securing dentists to examine selective service inductees during World War II and the first certificate ever bestowed by the International Dental Society.

Daniel E. Wright

Daniel E. Wright (civil engineering 1904) was a member of both the first party of young engineers to work on the Panama Canal and the group making the first trip through the canal from ocean to ocean. He was also the municipal engineer for the entire Isthmus of Panama. The Rockefeller Foundation later appointed him to a special staff of its international health division for an assignment in Greece, where he helped the country start a 15-year program of modern municipal improvements. In 1951, the Greek government awarded him a citation and King Paul elected him into the order of Golden Phoenix in appreciation for his work in eliminating malaria in that area from 1944-48. He did sanitation work in 52 countries.

David Tucker "Towhead" Brown

David Tucker "Towhead" Brown (agricultural engineering 1902) was commissioned by President Herbert Hoover in 1930 to go to Panama to work on the Inter-American Highway and was subsequently placed in charge of the work. Examining 190,000 square miles of territory, he completed the survey of the most practical route from Mexico to Panama City. (Did not graduate.)