Engineering Banquet to Honor Outstanding Alumni and Students

March 2011 By

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."