Alumni News

Read the latest alumni news from the School of Engineering

Civil engineering alumnus helps build ships for Navy

Civil engineering alumnus helps build ships for Navy

Shipbuilder Wayne Rammell has fond memories of engineering and the University of Mississippi.

"A friend at Christopher Newport College (which at the time was part of the College of William and Mary) talked me into applying to Ole Miss while I was waiting to hear from Virginia Tech," said the 1969 UM civil engineering graduate. "Ole Miss was perfect for me for numerous reasons: small classes, too far to travel home on the weekends, and I knew only two other students when I arrived."

Rammell, assigned to the Virginia-class submarine program at Huntington Ingalls Shipbuilding, lived in the same room in Kincannon Hall his entire time at the university.

"Dr. (Sam) DeLeeuw and Dr. (M.S.) Abdulrahman are the professors that always come to mind when I think back on my time at Ole Miss," Rammell said. "They had an open-door policy and were always willing to take the extra time to help."A transfer student with two years of engineering classes to make up, Rammell had little time for a social life but managed to make time anyway.

"My last two semesters were busy ones, with 18 hours of engineering class followed by 21 hours," he said. "The home football games, great concerts by the Platters, Johnny Cash, Ray Charles and Peter Paul and Mary, and the countless hours playing football on the field, where Kinard Hall is today, to unwind from the world of engineering are just a few of the memories of my time at Ole Miss."

Born in Newport News, Va., and raised in Hampton, Va., Rammell comes from a long line of shipbuilders.

"My grandfather worked at the Newport News Shipbuilding at least two years starting in 1898," he said. "My dad worked here from 1940 to 1974, and most of the men in the area where I grew up worked at the yard. Third- and fourth-generation employees are not uncommon. I worked two summers while in college prior to my full-time employment starting Feb. 3, 1969."

Rammell said his time at Newport News has always been spent on the waterfront, and he wouldn't have had it any other way.

"Being a part of building a ship is very special, be it a commercial vessel or a nuclear-powered ship for the Navy. I've always enjoyed trying to determine if and how to make the work required to build a ship easier, safer and less costly," said Rammell, who has traveled to France, Germany and numerous locations stateside for his job.

"Many of the people that I worked with when I started were at the 'yard' during World War II, which was a great way to start. When you work at the deck-plate level, you have to communicate with other engineers, various levels of management and the production trades."

Rammell said it is very important for an engineer to understand that there is a wealth of knowledge that is not contained in any book but exists among the production trades.

"This knowledge and experience can make your engineering job much easier if you will take the time to ask questions, listen and observe."

Newport News Shipbuilding built all three carriers that were involved at the Battle of Midway and all of the nuclear carriers in the U.S. Navy. During Rammell's career, the company also has built two nuclear vessels named Mississippi (CGN40 and SSN782).

"Newport News shipbuilders built the forward and aft ends of SSN782 and then delivered these hull sections to Electric Boat at Groton, Conn.," Rammell said. "We were owned by Northrop Grumman, but we are now part of Huntington Ingalls Industries."

The Navy commissioned the USS Mississippi (SSN 782), the ninth Virginia-class attack submarine, during a ceremony June 2 in Pascagoula. Built under a unique teaming agreement between General Dynamics Electric Boat and Huntington Ingalls Industries-Newport News, the USS Mississippi was delivered to the Navy in just over 62 months, the fastest delivery yet for a Virginia-class submarine. All Virginia-class submarines under construction are on track for early delivery.

"Mississippi's commissioning is the culmination of a very successful construction process for our Navy/industry shipbuilding team," said Rear Adm. (sel.) Michael Jabaley, Virginia-class program manager and vice commander for Naval Sea Systems Command. "Mississippi was delivered to the fleet a year ahead of her contracted date and was the most combat-ready Virginia-class submarine to date, as determined by the Navy's Board of Inspection and Survey."

Other upcoming major submarine acquisition milestones in 2012 include Pre-Commissioning Unit Indiana's (SSN 789) construction start on Sept. 2 and PCU Minnesota's (SSN 783) christening planned for this fall.

"I work with the riggers," Rammell said. "The riggers are responsible for the scaffolding, docking operations, rigging and crane operations."

"Later this year, the next Virginia-class submarine (Minnesota) will be moved from its build site to the James River. I have recently been involved with future Navy submarine construction, not the design but how to install the ballast in the forward end of the ship."

Rammell and his wife have two sons, a daughter and five grandchildren. He enjoys working in his garden and yard, but weightlifting is his major hobby.

"I have competed in the Raw Powerlifting Federation over the past several years, setting state, national and world records in the bench press and a national and world record in the dead lift," Rammell said. "Weightlifting really goes hand-in-hand with engineering. You really get a deep understanding of stress, strain, body mechanics and sometimes structural failure. Weight training is a great way to stay healthy, and by competing, I have kept my body weight within 5 pounds of my high school weight of 175 pounds."

Virginia-class submarines are designed to dominate the world's littoral and deep waters while conducting anti-submarine; anti-surface ship; strike; special operation forces; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; irregular warfare; and mine warfare missions. Their inherent stealth, endurance, firepower and sensor suite directly enable them to support five of the six maritime strategy core capabilities: sea control, power projection, forward presence, maritime security and deterrence.

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Alumnus learns sky's the limit

Alumnus learns sky's the limit while at Ole Miss

An alumnus said studying engineering at the University of Mississippi forever altered the course of his life.

Head of the aircraft engineering department at Al Ain International Aviation Academy in the United Arab Emirates, Beshara I. Sholy (BSEE 83, MS 86) said he learned to "make his way in this world by not following cookie-cutter ideas" about what an engineer should be, something instilled in him at Ole Miss.

"I am proud to say that I received a top-notch engineering education at Ole Miss," Sholy said. "But Ole Miss engineering also provided a quality liberal arts education that made me a more globally minded graduate in many aspects. It was the best of two worlds."

Nationally recognized as a leading avionics educator, Sholy said he joined AAIAA to help students understand the "impact, limitations, benefits and implications of engineering in relation to the global market.

"Without my positive experiences at Ole Miss, I would never have been able to adapt and adopt in this ever-connected world, and I would not be able to share my knowledge with future engineers."

AAIAA is a part of the Institute of Applied Technology in Al Ain, located just south of Dubai. The mission of AAIAA is to encourage Middle Eastern students to pursue careers in aircraft engineering, which is Sholy's passion.

"Companies are looking to hire people with manufacturing, engineering and information technology backgrounds," he said. "There is a shortage of talented engineers, and I feel it is important to guide students towards a field that I love and one that will benefit their future in so many positive ways."

Before joining AAIAA, Sholy served as chairman of the Department of Engineering Technology at Parks College of Engineering, Aviation and Technology at St. Louis University, where he earned his doctoral degree in geophysics. He joined the faculty at Parks College in 1985.

Sholy is also immediate past president of the Association for Avionics Education and is a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and American Society of Engineering Educators.

When not working in Dubai, Sholy and his wife, Carol, reside in St. Louis.

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Roof-Mounted Solar Power Complex

Mississippi's Largest Roof-Mounted Solar Power Complex Operating at UM

OXFORD, Miss. - By 11 a.m. on one recent sunny day, the Center for Manufacturing Excellence at the University of Mississippi had generated 57 kilowatt-hours of electricity, enough power to run the center's administrative offices and classrooms, or to brew 1,986 cups of coffee.

With the installation of more than 400 photovoltaic solar panels complete, the year-old building is the largest roof-mounted solar power complex in the state, said James Vaughan, CME director.

A renewable energy grant from the Mississippi Development Authority helped make the project possible. The $529,395 grant was funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and the CME matched it with $176,465 from university funds. Joule Energy LLC of New Orleans installed multiple types of panels in December.

"The first 392 solar panels produce 245 watts each, and the remaining 39 produce 340 watts apiece, which generates roughly 108 kilowatts of electricity," Vaughan said.

With its advanced construction, the CME is one of six buildings at Ole Miss certified as meeting standards of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, said Jim Morrison, UM director of strategic planning and campus sustainability.

"With half-a-dozen LEED buildings on campus today and three Green Globe buildings under way, we are thrilled to see how these technologically advanced buildings are strengthening our ability to optimize our operational efficiency and to advance our commitment towards a more sustainable campus," Morrison said.

What's more, having a solar-powered building is also an excellent teaching device for CME, which offers a "hands-on education in a traditional style," Vaughan said.

CME faculty and staff have already started monitoring energy usage with an interactive kiosk, which updates stats hourly, daily or monthly. These statistics will be available on the center's website soon, Vaughan said.

The CME program began in fall 2010 with 27 freshmen from nine states. In fall 2011, 36 freshmen enrolled in the program.

For more information, visit the CME website or contact Ryan Miller at 662-915-2632.

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Graduate Earns Ingalls' Rising Star Award

Mechanical engineering graduate earns Ingalls' Rising Star Award

Right after Ines E. "Vivi" Sampayo Rohrer (BSME 07) earned her bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering, the University of Mississippi graduate was already well on her way to a successful career. Starting as an entry-level mechanical engineer at Huntington Ingalls Industries, she has received numerous awards and recognitions for her participation and leadership in engineering initiatives.

Rohrer was promoted to Engineer Mechanical III in the Fleet Sustainment Engineering Department at the Pascagoula facility (formerly Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding). For her achievements, Rohrer received the Technology Rising Star Award at the company's 16th annual Women of Color Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Conference.

"Rising Stars are young women (employed for about one to 22 years) who are helping to shape technology for the future," said Rohrer, who also earned a master's degree in mechanical engineering from the University of South Alabama, later on working as an adjunct instructor in the mechanical engineering department there. "I was not able to attend the conference to receive my award due to the birth of my newborn (Cecilia Sofia) four days prior to the conference. The certificate was mailed to me, and a luncheon was held for us at the company with the engineering VP."

Rohrer's achievements include leading the CG47 Class Aluminum Superstructure Repair Task Force project to investigate cracking and sensitization issues onboard U.S. Navy Aegis ships. The 90-day study involved many organizations within Ingalls Shipbuilding as well as several Navy organizations. This collaboration led to inventive solutions to repair cracks as well as groundbreaking techniques to prevent future cracking.

"I have had the honor of being recognized by the U.S. Navy numerous times for valuable support on this issue, in addition to other highly visible projects," Rohrer said. She also led all structural efforts and system integration for the CG47 Class Electro-Optical Sight System relocation, and has conducted and applied research to planning, design, development and testing for ship systems for CG47 guided missile cruiser and LPD17 surface class ships.

Her work responsibilities require using standard engineering techniques, procedures and criteria. Rohrer performs finite element analyses for existing or proposed structural modifications to support equipment integration, combat systems weapons and hull strengthening under shock environment. She also developed a shear bolt sizing design table to help choose bolts for sway braces to sustain equipment and maintain shock requirements and crew safety.

"I mentor new hires and interns to ensure that they acquire the necessary knowledge to perform their work duties and am currently exposed to manager training within the Naval Arc/Structural Engineering group," Rohrer added.

Rohrer's skills and abilities are admired by her colleagues.

"Ines has a very positive, charismatic attitude, which makes it a pleasure for her co-workers to collaborate on projects," said Michael Williams, Manager II of Marine/HVAC Engineering at Ingalls. "This extends into her community service projects, which include Hispanic individuals here in the shipyard and the Society of Women Engineers. During annual Engineering Week, she spoke to high school students who expressed an interest in finding out what engineers do and how they might become one in the future."

Rohrer credits UM mechanical engineering professors Ellen Lackey and James Vaughan with instilling within her a passion and desire to work with materials and material science. Tyrus McCarty, associate engineering professor, provided insights into the concepts of finite element analyses, which has become one of Rohrer's greatest interests.

"My master's thesis focused on 'Dynamic Finite Element Analysis of Stress and Fracture in IM7/8552 Monolithic Composite Laminates under Impact Loading Conditions,' which combines all of the knowledge that I learned from these three individuals," she said.

McCarty, who is also assistant dean of special initiatives in the engineering school, said Rohrer was always an exceptional student with the potential for greatness waiting to be unharnessed.

"Ines was one of our very outstanding students while here at the university who was hardworking and achieved excellence in all that she accomplished while here," McCarty said. "Her recognition is a great indication that we are providing our students with an education that allows them to go out into the real world and make a tremendous impact on society."

Born in Colombia, South America, Rohrer resides in Mobile, Ala. She is married to John Rohrer, a Systems Test II Engineer at Ingalls. Her parents are Cecilia and the late Antonio Sampayo of Jackson.

For more information about the Department of Mechanical Engineering, visit

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Robert O. Shephard

Robert O. Shephard's Career as a Civil Engineer

Robert Owen Shephard graduated with a civil engineering degree from the University of Mississippi in 1935 and had an exemplary career until his retirement in 1972. Last year marked Shephard's 100th birthday. His daughter, Camille S. Yahm, and son, Robert O. Shepard Jr., donated a scholarship fund to the Department of Civil Engineering in memory of their father. Following is the story of Shephard as told by Yahm.

My father, Robert Owen "IKey" Shephard, graduated from Meridian High School in May 1931 and enrolled in the University of Mississippi Department of Civil Engineering in the fall. There he set out on an exemplary career in academics, classroom leadership and athletics. An accomplished athlete, he lettered in track, football and golf; set a record in 1933 for javelin; and was a member of the mile relay team that set records in 1932 and 1934 that were not broken for many years. He was active in Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity and served on the senior cabinet of the YMCA. Over that four-year period, he served as vice president of the senior class of the School of Engineering, president of the junior class and president of the Engineering Club. He distinguished himself by being one of only three classmates who graduated with a degree in engineering in 1935.

Upon graduation he was immediately employed by the State Highway Office in Jackson, where he began the first survey of the Natchez Trace from Port Gibson to Raymond. A little-known and surprising fact evolved from his work with the newly formed Soil Conservation Service. Mississippi suffered from serious erosion problems, and in doing the research to correct it, he discovered that the Japanese had a plant that would help hold soil together. Weekly, he took our family to the experimental station to see how the seedlings were growing. The plant's name is kudzu!

After a two-year stint working as the sanitary engineer with the Meridian City Water Department and helping build the city reservoir, he accepted the position of chief of engineering party for the J. Anderson Co. in July 1941. Then came WWII, and in 1943 he enlisted in the U.S. Army Engineering Corps. He received his officer's training at Camp McCain in North Mississippi, where he was also employed by the War Department. His engineering expertise became a vital part of the water purification program. The program was so successful that it was adopted at other military installations both during and after the war.

While serving as assistant medical inspector in the Surgeon's Division in Atlantic City, N.J., in 1945, he was again rewarded for his expertise and promoted from first lieutenant to captain. He received his honorable discharge in 1947 and smoothly entered civilian life as county engineer on road projects in Alabama and with the Mississippi Highway Department.

In 1950, he joined the Soil Conservation Service in Grenada and embarked on the crowning achievement of his career-and one of which he was justifiably proud-the construction of the Grenada Dam, at the time the largest man-made earth dam in the world. One unforgettable sunny afternoon before the dam was completed, he took my brother and me on the road that ran beneath the soon-to-be spillway and told us that one day we could say that we had ridden on the bottom of the dam!

The final phase of his career began in 1955, when he was hired as street and drainage engineer for the Federal Housing Administration in Atlanta, Ga., and remained there until his retirement in 1972.

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Banquet to Honor Alumni and Students

Engineering Banquet to Honor Outstanding Alumni and Students

OXFORD, Miss. - Two University of Mississippi School of Engineering alumni will be given prestigious awards and six outstanding students will be recognized Friday (April 1) at the annual Excellence in Engineering honors banquet.

Headlining the event is presentation of the Engineer of Distinction award to 1984 master's graduate Thomas Zacharia, deputy director for science and technology at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. This is the highest award given by the school to recognize professional accomplishment.

"The Engineer of Distinction award is given to a graduate who has reached a pinnacle in their career," said Dean Alex Cheng. "The list of previous winners is impressive and includes former university chancellors, CEOs and senior executives of Fortune 100 companies, in addition to leaders in aerospace and aviation, construction management, computer science, law, medicine and research."

For the first time, an Engineer of Service Award will be given at the banquet. The dean and the Engineering Alumni Chapter created this award to honor an individual who has gone beyond the call of duty for the School of Engineering and made a mark in their career. David W. Arnold of Yazoo City, a 1958 chemical engineering bachelor's graduate, was chosen to receive the inaugural award.

"The Engineer of Service award is given to an alumnus based on service, commitment and dedication to the School of Engineering," said Stephen Edge, chair of the School of Engineering Advisory Board. "David Arnold is an excellent example of someone who is committed to serving the School based on his many years of service and dedication and rightly deserves the inaugural award. He has been a leader among his peers and a mentor to younger alumni who have shown an interest in service to the School of Engineering."

Also this year, six outstanding seniors are to be recognized. The awards were based on the students' academic records, along with their involvement in service and their leadership qualities.

They are Maria Theresa Brown, a geological engineering major from Brandon; Hannie Quay Parker Capps, a civil engineering major from Sunflower; Anna Kathryn Hailey, a chemical engineering major from Muscle Shoals, Ala.; Chiedozie Tony-Jude Ibekwe, an electrical engineering major from Lagos, Nigeria; Jonathan David Jones, a chemical engineering major from Long Beach; and Mark Wesley Phillips, a civil engineering major from Madison.

This year's banquet is part of the daylong celebration of the School of Engineering's 110th anniversary, which also includes the dedication of Brevard Hall. The building, formerly known as Old Chemistry, is being renamed for 1943 civil engineering graduate and longtime supporter Henry Brevard and his family.

Upon learning he had been chosen as the 2011 Engineer of Distinction, Zacharia said, "I was pleasantly surprised and honored to learn that I was named the Engineer of Distinction. There are a number of distinguished alumni from the Ole Miss School of Engineering and it means a lot to me that I was selected to receive this recognition this year. I feel fortunate to have attended a school with such a terrific program that prepared me well for my continuing education and my career. It was my first exposure to the United States and I could not have picked a better school or a better community to live. The faculty, staff and students were very friendly and supportive."

Zacharia, whose UM master's degree is in materials science and engineering, also holds a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from Regional Technical College in Karnataka, India, and a doctorate in engineering science from Clarkson University in Potsdam, N.Y. He holds two U.S. patents and is author or co-author of more than 100 publications on high-performance computing for manufacturing processes.

He joined the ORNL in 1987 and oversees one of the nation's largest research and development programs, with annual expenditures of $1.3 billion in materials and physical sciences, energy and engineering sciences, computing and computational sciences, life and environmental sciences, neutron sciences and national security. Before his present appointment, he served ORNL as associate laboratory director for computing and computational sciences from 2001 to 2009. He is a professor in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department at the University of Tennessee.

Zacharia is on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Science Advisory Board, the NSF's Advisory Committee for Cyberinfrastructure and the High Performance Computing Advisory Board of the Council on Competitiveness. He also is a member of the advisory board for the Forschungszentrum Jülich research center at Julich, Germany, and of the High End Computing steering committee of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council in the United Kingdom.

Arnold said he had no idea an Engineer of Service award was being considered, and he was surprised to discover he was the winner.

"I was very humbled and pleased to be selected," Arnold said. "I certainly enjoyed my years as an Ole Miss student. Not only was it a great place to be, but a great place to get an education. The chemical engineering faculty was outstanding and the education we received was top-notch."

In addition to his UM degree, Arnold holds master's and doctoral degrees in chemical engineering from Iowa State University. He was named the UM Engineer of Distinction in 1989 and received a Professional Achievement Citation in Engineering from Iowa State University in 1994. He was inducted into the UM Alumni Hall of Fame in 1995 and received the inaugural Alumni Service Award in 2002.

A Tunica County native and U.S. Navy veteran, Arnold retired in 2001 as senior vice president of the Technical Group at Mississippi Chemical Corp., one of Mississippi's largest industries. He was responsible for the company's research and development, engineering, construction and environmental programs. During his career at Mississippi Chemical, Arnold directed engineering and construction of more than $900 million in new plants and facilities, primarily in Mississippi.

Arnold said Ole Miss prepared him for graduate school as well as his professional career. "I met my wife, Barbara, there, so it's very special to me."

"I'm very excited about the great progress being made in the School of Engineering today with the Center for Manufacturing Excellence and the recent increase in funded research activity. The School of Engineering is in the best position it's ever been in to grow and prosper."

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Alum, Retired Chair Maintain Contact

Mechanical Engineering Alum, Retired Department Chair Maintain Contact Over Years

Though almost 40 years have passed since Robert Johnson graduated from the University of Mississippi School of Engineering, the retired mechanical engineer says he will never forget his mentor and the life-changing experiences he had as a undergraduate student.

"My life as I now know it started there with Dr. F. Douglas Shields, an Ole Miss physics professor who cared enough about me, as a person, to not only share the gospel of Jesus with me, but studied the Bible with me and later baptized me," said Johnson, who lives in Cambodia with his wife, Jeanie. "I began practicing the biblical concepts of integrity, honor, sacrifice, your neighbor more important than yourself there in my everyday life, and now in my service in Cambodia."

The Johnsons came to Cambodia in October 2008 to work as volunteers on a medical ship that offers free medical, pharmacy and dental services to residents living along the banks of the Mekong River. His job as the ship's engineer was to oversee the normal operation of the ship and to take the vessel into dry dock. While in dry dock, he would manage the contractors for the repairs, upgrades and modifications to the entire vessel, getting it back up to safe operating condition.

Through a series of events, the couple found themselves leasing a house and inviting foreigners and tourists passing through to stay with them. They began a home church and started getting involved in the community, teaching English in a public school as the volunteer "native speaker," helping with a sub-culture in the salt fields where sea salt is reclaimed from the Gulf of Thailand, and being good neighbors and friends to those with whom they come in contact.

John Fox, chair emeritus and professor emeritus of mechanical engineering, fondly recalled his student and a few of the events they shared during his tenure.

"Robert always was a very interesting guy," Fox said. "He worked hard on everything he did as a student. And whatever he did, he did thoroughly."

Johnson, who was a research engineering technician with BF Goodrich Aerospace, said he came to the Ole Miss engineering school with a desire, determination and a quest for the technical skills necessary to become successful as a person and as an engineer.

"My learned professors were not only my teachers, but valuable resources for the challenges that lay before me, and I knew that," he said. "My approach to problem-solving became analytical rather than emotional, which was just the beginning of changes in my professional as well as my personal life. I became the engineer Dean (Karl) Brenkert envisioned in body, mind and spirit."

Since graduation, Johnson sat on the board of directors for the University Christian Student Center (which Shields started) for nearly 20 years. During those returns for board meetings, and later the graduation of both his daughters from UM, he always made it a point to renew acquaintances with engineering faculty and friends.

"I was always warmly received, and since Dr. Fox was chairman of my engineering discipline and my wife's boss (she was his secretary), there was more time spent with him," Johnson added.

As a Vietnam War veteran on the G.I. Bill and assigned to a "work study program" directed by Fox, Johnson co-taught two engineering labs and helped complete both a sub-sonic and supersonic wind tunnel for Fox. "These items were my work study assignments. I just had fun while pursuing my heart's desire to become an Ole Miss engineer," he said.

"It was a very interesting time," said Fox, who designed nine such tunnels in various locations over the course of his 48-year teaching career. "Robert got into small computers early on. He would buy the pieces and actually build them from scratch."

Johnson recently handled the logistical and planning preparations for a medical team from Mercer University in Macon, Ga., to come to Kampot Province for three weeks and hold clinics in remote villages and communes. The team arrived in late May with lodging, food and an agenda in place for a busy time of free medical clinics.

"The time was well spent," Johnson said. "Over 1,200 patients were seen and I'm doing a follow-up with patients that still need medical attention and assistance. Things went so well that Mercer Medical School is considering making this an annual event for interested fourth-year medical students, as well as pharmacy and nursing students and faculty."

Johnson said he praises God for the great good that is still at the forefront of Ole Miss engineering.

"The slogan 'I see the engineer in you' is very appropriate to the school's apparent goals of creating graduates with the traits that make a good engineer and a person capable of making our world a better place to live life," he said.

"You become an engineer through life's experiences and exposures and certainly challenges. Having the engineering tools taught at UM by a great administration, I have learned the value of objective thought and critical analytical objective thinking."

Fox concurred with Johnson's assessment.

"Teaching has been very rewarding for me, especially considering it was something I never aspired to do," he said. "The field has allowed me to further my own education and meet a lot of interesting people, such as Robert Johnson."

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Petroleum Geology Classroom

Alumnus brings industry knowledge to petroleum geology classroom

For many graduates, giving back to their alma mater generally involves little more than writing a check or arranging to fund a pledge with a credit card. But UM engineering graduate Walter Guidroz decided to go further, offering his time and professional experiences to better prepare future graduates for the job market.

Guidroz, who earned his master's degree in engineering science in 1981, has returned to campus every other week this spring to teach Special Topics in Petroleum Geology (Engr 591)."I've always been interested in giving something back to the university," said Guidroz, who also holds a bachelor's degree from Nicholls State University and a doctorate in oceanography from LSU. "Also, teaching is something that I've always been interested in, and this is a great way to assess whether I'd like to go further in that direction. I feel that because I've been in the business world and done a lot of things in geology, I can show my students that there's a lot of ways you can use your training and knowledge. That can be very valuable."

Guidroz worked for Amoco from 1981 until the company merged with BP in 1999. He was laid off after the merger and took the opportunity to go back to school, earning an MBA from the University of Texas. In 2001, he was offered a job as a staff geologist back at BP and has been with the company since.

His class has proven quite popular with students, said Joel Kuszmaul, chair of geology and geological engineering.

"The students are flocking to his classes and loving the real-world experience and teaching they are getting," Kuszmaul said. Guidroz's industry-specific knowledge and experiences have been very enlightening, said Scott Peacock, a senior geological engineering major from Madison.

"He'll bring things to class and say, 'Here's something that I came across on a project. I want you to interpret it and tell me what you see in it.'" Peacock said. "And then he'll tell us what he saw in it and how he used it in his real job. It's those kinds of things that make this class more geared toward petroleum engineering than a lot of our other classes, which are more general."

The extra time Guidroz has spent working with his students has helped Peacock prepare to enter the job market after graduation in May, he said.

"He used his own time to set up mock interviews for us one weekend," Peacock said. "He showed us what a BP interview would feel like, and he gave all of us feedback on how we did and even gave us some questions that we can ask prospective employers to get a better feel for whether a job is right for us."

The students, on the other hand, have helped give their teacher new insights and energy about his field.

"They're very energetic," Guidroz said. "I marvel at the energy level and also the dedication they have to explore things and complete projects. They definitely take their work seriously."

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Alumni Association to Honor Seven at Homecoming

Alumni Association to Honor Seven at Homecoming for Achievement, Service

OXFORD, Miss. - The University of Mississippi Alumni Association honors seven alumni with its highest annual recognition during Homecoming weekend Nov. 5-6.

Inductees into the Alumni Hall of Fame are John H. Geary of Jackson, Jennifer Gillom of Phoenix, Trent Lott of Washington, Ray Mabus of Ridgeland and Debra L. Starnes of Spicewood, Texas. William L. Freeman Jr. of Flowood is to receive the Alumni Service Award for service to the university and the Alumni Association, and Maj. Sheldon Morris of Killeen, Texas, will receive the Outstanding Young Alumni Award.

The Alumni Association hosts a reception for the honorees at 6 p.m. Nov. 5 in the Gertrude C. Ford Ballroom at The Inn at Ole Miss. A dinner for the awards recipients follows the reception, and tickets with advance registration by Oct. 22 are required.

Tickets are $50 per person or $450 for a table of 10. Call 662-915-7375.

The honorees will be introduced Nov. 6 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium before the Homecoming game kickoff against the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

Geary, a Vicksburg native, is a 1952 graduate of the UM School of Business Administration. As a student, he was president of the student body and Kappa Alpha Order, and was inducted into Omicron Delta Kappa and the student Hall of Fame. A former president of the UM Alumni Association and the UM Foundation, Geary also co-chaired the university's first major gifts campaign in 1984 and served on the Joint Committee on University Investments and the business school's advisory board.

After two years as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force, he worked for Mississippi Power & Light Co. in Jackson, then joined Equitable Securities Corp., where he was a director and senior vice president. He opened the Southeast's first Paine Webber office, and in 1978 he opened his own firm, which merged with Morgan Keegan in 1998. He retired as a managing director of Morgan Keegan.

An officer and director of several business, political, educational and religious organizations, Geary helped reorganize and revitalize the Mississippi Republican Party in the late 1950s and early '60s. He also was the founding president of the Catholic Foundation of the Diocese of Jackson and was a member of its executive and investment committees for more than 30 years. He and his wife, Shirley, have four children and 12 grandchildren.

Gillom is head coach of the Los Angeles Sparks and was inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame on her 45th birthday in 2009. She was an assistant coach for the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx during the 2008 season and was named interim head coach three days before the 2009 season began. She began her coaching career in 2004 at Xavier College Preparatory in Phoenix. As head coach there, she compiled a 130-25 record in six years.

Gillom played seven seasons in the WNBA, six with the Phoenix Mercury and her last with the Sparks. She led the Mercury to playoff berths in 1997, 1998 and 2000, and played in the 1998 WNBA Finals. In 2003, she retired from the WNBA with career averages of 13.4 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. Recipient of the WNBA's 2002 Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award, Gillom was named to the 1999 All-Star team, the 1997 All-WNBA first team and 1998 All-WNBA second team. She collected six gold medals, including one at the 1988 Olympics, and one silver medal as a member of USA Basketball, and was named one of Arizona's top athletes of the 20th century.

While playing for Ole Miss, Gillom was the 1986 Southeastern Conference Female Athlete of the Year and a Kodak All-American. A four-time All-SEC first-team selection, she led the Lady Rebels in scoring her last three seasons and finished as UM's second all-time leading scorer (2,186 points), behind her sister Peggie. The UM Gillom Sports Center is named for her and her sister.

After graduating from the UM School of Law in 1967, Lott returned to his hometown of Pascagoula to practice law. A year later, he went to Washington to work for U.S. Rep. William M. Colmer. In 1972, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served eight of 16 years as the Republican whip. In 1988, he was elected to the U.S. Senate, where he was twice elected Republican whip. Lott is the only person to be Republican whip in both houses of Congress.

In 1999, Lott helped raise funds to create the UM Lott Leadership Institute, an accredited degree-granting program in leadership and public policy that promotes leadership skills in high school and college students. After retiring from the Senate in 2007, he and former Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) founded the Breaux Lott Leadership Group, a strategic consulting and lobbying firm combining nearly 70 years of congressional experience from two parties.

As a UM student, Lott was president of Sigma Nu fraternity and a Rebel cheerleader. He and his wife, Patrica, have two children and four grandchildren.

As the 75th U.S. Secretary of the Navy, Mabus oversees a $150 billion annual budget and almost 900,000 people. He is responsible for all U.S. Navy and Marine Corps affairs, such as recruiting, training, equipping and mobilizing staff. He also oversees the construction, outfitting and repair of naval ships and facilities, and is responsible for formulating and implementing policies and programs consistent with the president's and secretary of defense's national security objectives.

Elected Mississippi governor in 1988, Mabus signed one of the nation's most comprehensive education reform acts and was named one of Fortune Magazine's top 10 education governors. He was appointed ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by President Bill Clinton in 1994. The former Foamex CEO also served as a naval officer aboard the cruiser USS Little Rock and state auditor.

A native of Ackerman, Mabus received a master's degree from Johns Hopkins University and a law degree from Harvard. His honors include the U.S. Department of Defense Distinguished Public Service Award, U.S. Army's Distinguished Civilian Service Award, Martin Luther King Social Responsibility Award, National Wildlife Federation Conservation Achievement Award, King Abdul Aziz Award from Saudi Arabia, and Mississippi Association of Educators' Friend of Education Award.

Starnes majored in chemical engineering at Ole Miss and was active in AIChE and Tau Beta Pi. After earning her bachelor's degree in 1975, she became a process engineer at Atlantic Richfield in Houston, Texas. She earned an MBA from Southern Illinois University and became the aromatics business manager for Lyondell Petrochemical Co., a division of ARCO. She was promoted and transferred to Los Angeles as ARCO's strategic planning manager for its integrated oil production, transportation and refining businesses.

She returned to Houston in 1989 to join Lyondell Chemical, a spin-off company holding ARCO's commodity chemical and refining assets. Before retiring from Lyondell in 2001, she served in various strategic planning, business management and merger/acquisition roles and had led a companywide business reorganization.

Starnes represented the chemical industry on the MTBE Blue Ribbon Panel, which was created to advise and counsel the Environmental Protection Agency on policy issues. She is on the board of Parker Hannifin Corp., and Envera, and was a member of UM's Engineering Advisory Board. She and her husband, David Lindsay, have one daughter and two grandchildren.

As adjutant general for Mississippi, Freeman is commanding general of the Mississippi Army and Air National Guard. Following completion of Officer Candidate School at the Mississippi Military Academy, he was commissioned in 1969 as an artillery officer. Having commanded on battalion and brigade levels, he was promoted to brigadier general in 1996 and appointed adjutant general by Gov. Haley R. Barbour in 2008.

With almost 40 years in the banking industry, Freeman retired in 2008 as senior vice president and COO of Newton County Bank. He was mayor of Newton for more than seven years and an alderman for three years.

Freeman's numerous military honors include the Legion of Merit for exceptionally meritorious service and achievements. The former East Mississippi Ole Miss Alumni Club president has been a board member and treasurer of the Newton County chapter for many years and was a key contact for the Alumni Association for over a decade. He and his wife, Karen, have two children and six grandchildren.

Morris is assistant operation officer for the 1st Cavalry Division's 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team. The Jacksonville, Fla., native was a wide receiver at Ole Miss for three years, two while on an ROTC scholarship and another on a football scholarship. He was a member of Phi Beta Sigma fraternity.

Morris attended Infantry Officer Basic Course, Airborne School, Bradley Leaders Course and Ranger School at Fort Benning, Ga., before moving to Fort Hood, Texas, where he was assigned to 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team. He served as a rifle platoon leader, scout platoon leader and company executive officer before being deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom II. He deployed to Iraq for his second tour in 2006, and his third tour in December 2008. Stationed at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas for schooling, he plans to return to Fort Hood before his next deployment to Afghanistan.

In 2000, Morris was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the infantry. His military honors include a Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Valorous Unit Award and Meritorious Unit Citation. He and his wife, Chelsea, have one daughter.

For assistance related to a disability, call 662-915-7375.

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Stephen Edge

Dear Alumni and Friends,

I'd like to tell you about who we are and what we do. The Engineering Advisory Board consists of 25 elected members and three dean's appointees, most of whom are Ole Miss engineering alumni. Our purpose is to advise and provide support to Dean Cheng and his staff on a variety of issues. Our members range from industry experts and corporate vice presidents to recent graduates. The tie among all of us is an understanding that high quality engineering graduates are needed as leaders in industry, government and academia.

The board meets for two days every spring and fall. Topics for the meeting include student affairs, industry and government relations, and alumni affairs. Board members meet with groups of undergraduate students, graduate students and faculty across the multiple engineering disciplines. Also, board members meet with individual departments to review items such as ABET accreditation, lab improvements, curricula and undergraduate recruiting efforts.

This meeting, we had the opportunity to hear from UM Provost Morris Stocks and Associate Provost Noel Wilkin. Stocks spoke of the surge in undergraduate enrollment this fall semester, which stands at a 24.8 percent increase over fall 2009. This led to many discussions and recommendations concerning this magnitude of growth and how to sustain such gains while maintaining the close student-to-faculty relationships from which our students benefit. Wilkin spoke about the Engineering Vision Council that met for the first time in early September. The Engineering Vision Council was developed to answer the question, "What does it mean to be an Ole Miss engineer in the 21st century?" The Engineering Advisory Board is looking forward to working with the Vision Council.

Lastly, I would like to speak about the changes in the school in which the board was instrumental in driving. Some issues, such as increasing hours for computer lab access for undergrads, may seem trivial but make a significant impact on our students' ability to learn. Other important issues include planning and fundraising support for many of the renovations underway, including Old Chemistry and Carrier Hall, and the expansion of the Bachelor of Engineering degree to include emphasis areas such as pre-med, public policy and ROTC.

Ole Miss Engineering is celebrating its 110th anniversary this year. You will be seeing more information about this soon. I hope you are as excited about the School of Engineering and the direction it is heading as I am. If you have not been on campus to meet Dean Cheng or his staff members recently, you should come back to campus this fall to enjoy a football game or visit in the spring for the annual Excellence in Engineering banquet.

If you are interested in more information or in serving on the Engineering Advisory Board, you can contact me at or Joshua E. Waggoner, School of Engineering director of development, at

Stephen V. Edge, Chair
Engineering Advisory Board
BSEE 2000

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Ryan Holmes

Dear Alumni and Friends,

As president of your Engineering Alumni Chapter this year, I am excited to share with you our first initiative we are calling "Game Day with the Dean." Starting this weekend on Oct. 2, the dean, leadership of the school and our engineering student ambassadors will be hosting all engineering alumni for two hours prior to kickoff of Ole Miss vs. Kentucky in front of our new home, the Old Chemistry Building. There will be food, fellowship and fun for those in attendance, and all are welcome to participate in these festivities. In addition to this weekend, we will be hosting a tent on Nov. 6 for the ULL game, which is homecoming, and the Nov. 27 game versus Mississippi State.

Our goal this fall is to reconnect with alumni and build new relationships. We want to establish an active alumni chapter that can give back to the School of Engineering. There are so many opportunities for service, some of which include recruiting or mentoring students and assisting with engineering week. By now, you should have received a postcard with this information outlined, and we hope you will stop by and say hello.

We look forward to seeing you this weekend and in the future as we celebrate Game Day with the Dean for your School of Engineering. If you have specific questions or thoughts and would like to get more information about how to get involved with the Ole Miss Engineering Alumni Chapter, contact Joshua E. Waggoner at or 662-915-1601.

I hope to see you soon!

Ryan A. Holmes
President, Engineering Alumni Chapter

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Carl C. Comer

School of Engineering Names Auditorium for Fulton Native, UM Alumnus Carl C. Comer

OXFORD, Miss. - As a student, Carl C. Comer of Fulton spent many hours taking classes in the Old Chemistry Building auditorium at the University of Mississippi. When he returned to his alma mater Saturday, it was to have the classroom dedicated in his honor.

U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) was the keynote speaker for the dedication of the Carl C. Comer Auditorium in the newly renovated facility.

"This day is a source of great pride," Cochran said. "Those of us who were in classes here a long time ago appreciate the chance to witness this special occasion."

Cochran and Chancellor Emeritus Robert Khayat's former classmate, Comer was lauded as "an excellent student and good fellow."

"Everybody liked Carl," Cochran said. "This auditorium is well-named."

Even before the dedication, the auditorium was a special place for Comer.

"There's just something about walking in that building that brings back so many fond memories," he said. "Having the auditorium named after me is such an honor because Old Chemistry signifies tradition and the academic atmosphere that a good university should have."

The building will become the new headquarters for the School of Engineering complex. As the building's centerpiece, Comer Auditorium will be used for lectures, classes, presentations and other events.

These renovations are part of the $25 million Campaign for Engineering, which will help the school strengthen its education, research and service operations in ways that have a far-reaching impact on the school, the university and the state.

"I want to thank the university administration for securing the state and university funds, and for all the alumni and friends who participated in the campaign," said Alex Cheng, engineering school dean. "Their contributions reflect their commitment to Ole Miss and the future of the School of Engineering. We are grateful for their support during this exciting and critical time for our school."

The engineering complex includes the newly renovated Old Chemistry Building, Carrier and Anderson Halls, the Charles E. Smith Engineering Science Building and part of Weir Hall, where the Department of Computer and Information Science is housed. A new building to house the Center for Manufacturing Excellence is taking shape between Carrier Hall and Old Chemistry.

Besides the auditorium, classrooms and laboratory space, Old Chemistry will house the dean's and other administrative offices, offices for graduate students and visiting scholars, a distance learning classroom and student areas, including a student resource center, lounge and engineering society offices. The National Center for Computational Hydroscience and Engineering, the Mississippi Mineral Resources Institute, and parts of the Civil Engineering and Geology and Geological Engineering departments will also be housed in the building.

Comer, who earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry in 1960 and a master's degree in combined sciences in 1965, spent the majority of his career teaching chemistry at then-Itawamba Junior College and as the dean of students, admissions director and registrar at Itawamba Community College. After his retirement in 1994, Comer continued to serve Mississippi as a missionary to Central America, as administrator of a foundation that assists students in Itawamba County and as a leader in his church.

Besides teaching, Comer served on the American College Testing Board of Directors and was a member of the Southern Association of College Registrars and Admissions Officers. He also served as president of both Mississippi Chief Student Personnel Administrators for Universities and Community Colleges and the Mississippi Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers.

Comer's wife, Nannette, earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in English from UM in 1961 and 1967, respectively. Their daughters, Karen Comer Fox, who is president and chief executive officer of Delta Health Alliance, and Mary Margaret Comer Grissom, who is lead pharmacist at St Francis Hospital in Memphis, both received undergraduate degrees from Ole Miss.

"We're an Ole Miss family," Fox said. "We never considered ourselves just students, alumni or fans. Ole Miss is just more a part of us, and we're a part of it - like home."

For more information on the Campaign for Engineering at the University of Mississippi, call Joshua Waggoner at 662-915-1601. To make a gift online through the UM Foundation, visit

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Engineering Advisory Board

Alumni In Action - May 2010

The Ole Miss Engineering Advisory Board held a productive meeting April 8-9. The 25-member board supports the continued development of the School of Engineering, recognizing the desire and need for the school to maintain programs of excellence and a posture of leadership in engineering education. The board meets every spring and fall.

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