Virginia Tech's College of Engineering inducted four new members at its 20th annual Academy of Engineering Excellence. The academy consists of 156 alumni out of Virginia Tech's approximately 68,000 living engineering alumni who have achieved exceptional career successes.

“We look forward to inducting new members every year because it’s a chance to honor alumni who have made their mark in their respective careers,” said Julia M. Ross, the Paul and Dorothea Torgersen Dean of Engineering in the Virginia Tech College of Engineering. “The Academy induction represents a celebration of the heights our alumni can reach propelled by an education at Virginia Tech.”​

The academy inductees are: William A. Aden of Blacksburg, Virginia; Betty P. Chao of Albuquerque, New Mexico; Kevin S. Crutchfield of Bristol, Virginia; and John F. Sparks of Warrenton, Virginia.

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

2019 Academy of Engineering Excellence inductees

Two people pose for a photo.
Bill and Nancy Aden.

William A. Aden

B.S., civil engineering, and M.S., civil and environmental engineering

Class of 1967 and 1972

After receiving both his bachelor’s and master’s degree from Virginia Tech, William Aden worked for a small engineering firm in Blacksburg, Virginia, during what he says was the 1970s boom for the university and town. From that experience, Aden went on to found his own full-service consulting firm, Draper Aden Associates, where he worked as founder, CEO, and chairman of the board for over 40 years. To date, the firm has a staff of 300, with locations in Virginia and North Carolina and clients across the Mid-Atlantic region. Aden is still heavily involved with Virginia Tech as a current member of the Virginia Tech College of Engineering Committee of 100 and the Virginia Tech Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering Advisory Board. He also also served on the Virginia Tech College of Engineering Advisory Board and the Board of Directors for the Virginia Tech Alumni Association. Aden is an active member of the local community as well, serving currently on the boards of directors for: the Blacksburg Museum and Cultural Foundation, the Blacksburg Partnership, the Carilion New River Valley Medical Center, the New River Community College’s foundation, Mountain Lake Lodge Resort, and the Blacksburg Museum and Cultural Foundation. He previously served on the Board of Directors for the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce.

Two people pose for a photo.
Richard Renn and Betty Chao.

Betty P. Chao

Ph.D., industrial and systems engineering

Class of 1983

Betty Chao went to University of Michigan for her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, both in industrial engineering and operations research. During her graduate studies, she noticed a stiff competition between Michigan’s industrial and systems engineering and human factors department and Virginia Tech’s. “Since I had already received two degrees from Michigan, I decided to pursue my Ph.D. with Virginia Tech, so I would get the best education that human factors academia had to offer at that time,” Chao said. After receiving her Ph.D. in industrial and systems engineering from Virginia Tech, Chao went to work as a member of the technical staff at Sandia National Laboratories, which later led to her own consulting work. This required frequent travel, which put her in touch with professionals from large government contracting companies at airports and in airplanes, who often advised Chao to visit the U.S. Small Business Administration to start her own government contracting business. Chao took the advice, which led her to start her own company, Westech International, Inc., where she currently serves as president and CEO. Since being established in 1995, Westech's revenues and staff have consistently grown. Its staff of 150 employees performs on various Department of Energy and Department of Defense contracts at 15 locations in 11 states. Chao has also served on several boards and advisory councils, including the U.S. Pan Asian Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, and the Board Member for the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra.

Two people pose for a photo while holding a glass award.
College of Engineering Dean Julia Ross presents Kevin Crutchfield's award to Erik Westman, head of the Department of Mining and Minerals Engineering at Virginia Tech. Westman accepted on behalf of Crutchfield, who was unable to attend.

Kevin S. Crutchfield

B.S., mining and minerals engineering

Class of 1986

After earning his bachelor's degree in mining and minerals engineering from Virginia Tech in 1986, Kevin Crutchfield worked for Pittston Coal Company in various operating and executive management positions including vice president operations from 1986 to 1995. Over the course of his career, he would go on to serve in various executive roles, including multiple leadership roles within Alpha Natural Resources, Inc. In July 2016, he became CEO and director of Contura Energy. He also served as chairman of the Board’s Safety, Health and Environmental Committee. As of May 7, Crutchfield will become president and CEO and serve as a member of the board of directors of Compass Minerals, a producer of minerals and plant nutrition products. Crutchfield is currently the director and past chairman of the National Mining Association, director of the Coeur d'Alene Mines Corporation, a member of the board of advisors for the Electro Mechanical Corporation, and an advisory board member for the Virginia Tech Department of Mining and Minerals Engineering. He has previously served extensively on numerous coal and energy boards, like the Coal Industry Advisory Board International Energy Agency and as director for Rice Energy, Inc.

A family of four pose together for a photo.
Michael, Maryanne, John, and Andrew Sparks.

John F. Sparks

B.S., M.S., and and Ph.D., mechanical engineering

Class of 1974, 1976, and 1981

After completing all three of his degrees at Virginia Tech, John Sparks went on to work for Atlantic Research Corporation as manager, chief engineer, then senior engineer. He then became director of Aerojet Rocketdyne (of which the predecessor companies were Aerojet and Atlantic Research Corporation), before being appointed senior director, which he currently serves as. Sparks is the former chair of the Virginia Tech College of Engineering Advisory Board and is a current member of the Virginia Tech Mechanical Engineering Department Advisory Board, the legislative committee of the Virginia Tech College of Engineering Advisory Board, and the Virginia Tech College of Engineering Committee of 100.

Written by Erica Corder

Four people pose for a photo in front of a gray Hokie stone backdrop.
Betty Chao, John Sparks, College of Engineering Dean Julie Ross, and William Aden. Not pictured: Kevin Crutchfield.