College of Engineering inducts new academy members, honors outstanding young alumnus
April 16, 2012
Virginia Tech's College of Engineering inducted seven new members into its Academy of Engineering Excellence, an elite group that now consists of only 112 people out of its more than 58,000 living alumni.
The Academy of Engineering Excellence was founded in 1999 by F. William Stephenson, past dean of the college of engineering, and by the college's advisory board. This year marked the 13th anniversary of the first induction. In 2009, the college produced a book on the first 90 inductees, called In the Land Grant Tradition: Reaching the Pinnacles, that is available at the University Bookstore.
This Academy and the college's published 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 2012 academy inductees are: Raymond G. Curry Jr., of Alexandria, Va., civil engineering, Class of 1954; Thomas G. Digges Jr., of Fredericksburg, Va., metallurgical engineering, Class of 1960; Marvin L. Johnson, of Huntington Beach, Calif., electrical engineering, Class of 1964; Larry R. Marshall, of Chesterfield, Va., aerospace engineering, Class of 1966, and engineering science and mechanics, Class of 1974; Norris Mitchell, of McLean, Va., aerospace engineering, Class of 1958; Samuel E. Shrader of Punta Gorda, Fla., mining engineering, Class of 1963; and Hobart A. Weaver, of Glen Allen, Va., mechanical engineering, Class of 1950.
The 2012 Outstanding Young Alumni Achievement Award was presented to Maurizio Porfiri, of Brooklyn, N.Y., engineering mechanics, master's degree, Class of 2000, and doctorate, Class of 2006.
In 1970 Curry started his own company, SMC Concrete Construction Inc. Curry also formed Curry Development Inc., during the 1980s, focusing on the office and apartment sectors, townhouses, single-family houses, retail centers, and an industrial park. The entrepreneur then jumped into banking in the 1990s with Bank of Alexandria, first as a stockholder and buyer, then president and chairman of the board. Curry grew the bank, and then sold it to F&M Bank. His career-favorite project is the 1-million-square-foot Market Square in Washington, D.C., and he was also involved with the building of Tyson's Corner Shopping Mall in Falls Church, Va.
Digges worked at Newport News Shipbuilding, the Naval Research Laboratory, and at Texas Instruments before starting his own company with the help of his wife, Lana, and brother, Robert. Called Virginia Semiconductor, based in Fredericksburg, Va., the company's averaged growth rate increased at more than 20 percent per year from 1986 to 1996. In 1991, Virginia Semiconductor won the "Photonic Spectra Circle of Excellence" award for the introduction of the two to four micron thick wafer, judged as one of the year's 25 most significant technical developments in the photonics field. Digges remains as chief executive officer and his son is now president.
Johnson began his career with General Motors, but joined a small business, Lawless Detroit Diesel, in 1973. Six years later, Johnson joined Associated Diesel and in 1995 he was named president. Johnson's early decisions in how to move the company forward proved fortuitous, and he is credited by the publication Construction Equipment Distribution with the "ability to adapt to changing business conditions enabling Associated Power to thrive for more than 40 years." The successful businessman now maintains a large fleet of rental equipment, with sales around the entire United States, Canada, Mexico, and overseas.
Marshall spent some three decades with the chemical company DuPont and retired as one of its Fellows, one of only about a dozen out of the approximately 60,000 employees worldwide. He has a track record of inventions, holding 14 patents, and he was a member of the DuPont team that developed the revenue-producing process to manufacture Tyvek, used in construction. After his retirement from DuPont, he teamed with venture capitalists interested in nanotechnology. With their support he soon started Verdex Technologies of Richmond, Va., and now serves as its chief executive officer.
Mitchell was hired by Douglas Aircraft (later called McDonnell Douglas) upon graduation and he started working on aircraft development and then moved to its space division. Two years later he was conducting classified work, serving as chief of the aerodynamics program. During the Cold War-era, Mitchell became one of about 25 scientists and engineers engaged in a think tank with the Research Analysis Corporation, performing weapon system analysis studies for the U.S. Army. Eventually, a private company acquired the Research Analysis Corporation, and Mitchell relocated to Science Applications International Corporation, today called SAIC. In 1974, he changed careers completely, and moved his brainpower to his own entrepreneurial effort, forming MG Apartments, a real estate business.
Shrader sustained a 30-year career with Consol in 1963 and by 1970 was promoted to regional industrial engineer. Four years later, he was named vice president of operations for Bishop Coal Co., a partnership between Consol and Inland Steel Co. In 1975 he was named vice president of Consol's Tazewell County operations. In 1981, he was asked to serve as assistant to Bobby Brown, then the executive vice president of operations for all of Consol. In 1984, Shrader became senior vice president of the Eastern Region, overseeing dozens of projects and hundreds of employees. During his 10 years in this position, Shrader saw production nearly triple from 9 million to 25 million tons and profits went from $1 to over $10 per ton.
During the first six years of his professional career, from 1950 to 1956, Weaver was a manufacturing engineer with Western Electric in Greensboro, N.C., part of AT&T. From 1957 through 1962, he participated in Project Nike to develop a line-of-sight anti-aircraft missile system. He was promoted to plant manager in 1971, starting in Greensboro, N.C., and then moving to the Richmond, Va., facility. In 1978, AT&T transferred Weaver to Winston-Salem, N.C., to manage three of its plants. He retired from AT&T in the early 1980s, and soon became vice president of marketing and sales for Methode Electronics. From 1986 to 1992, Weaver led his company's crew to a dramatic sales increase, from $45 million a year to an astounding $400 million annually. He retired again in 1992.
Porfiri, an associate professor with tenure at the Polytechnic Institute of New York, was named by Popular Science in 2012 as one of its Brilliant 10, calling him the "Water Wizard." This accolade was based in part on his work as a National Science Foundation CAREER award recipient that allowed him to study the problem of designing robots that could engage fish shoals and regulate their collective behavior. In 2011, the National Academy of Engineering asked him to join its Frontiers of Engineering program, and in 2008 he received the Honors Center of Italian Universities medal in 2008 for his outstanding scientific and engineering contributions. In addition to his Ph.D. from Virginia Tech, he has doctorates in theoretical and applied mechanics from the dual-degree program at the University of Rome and at the University of Toulon, both with the Class of 2005.