From the Bottom to the Top
|2002 Black Engineer of the Year Rodney O'Neal|
Take a look at this year's Black Engineer of the Year Award winners, and you'll see a common thread. Most of them, given a chance that approximated the American ideal, rose from very humble beginnings. Some, like Raytheon Electronics CIO Emanuel Brady Jr., started at the very bottom of the employment rung: entry level.
Sure, there always will be those who, like Engineer of the Year Rodney O'Neal, seemed to walk in the corporate door with a leg up: In O'Neal's case it was getting into the General Motors Institute (now Kettering University) at a time when few Blacks were even considered for admission to that fast-track prep school for engineering managers. Or a Rhonda Holt, who was a star almost from the day she first walked into the office at IBM.
Look all the way back to Edward Alexander Bouchet, the first African-American Ph.D. in science (Yale, 1875), and it is clear that there always will be those Blacks who defy the stereotype and blaze a "mainstream" path to success. We wouldn't call it a "stereotype" if we thought it accurately encompassed the Black experience, would we?
But for many of the Black technical professionals out there, the story of an Emanuel Brady working his way through college to become the first in his family to gain a degree echoes like a paradigm. All African Americans started at the bottom of American society -- deep in the well of slavery -- and had to climb out by their own bootstraps.
DaimlerChrysler's Robert Bowers worked his way quietly up from a line production supervisor to become the only African American heading a major foundry in the auto business. Dr. James Hubbard came from a rural Southern background to grow up in a big city, charge through classes at the historically Black Morgan State University and then run into roadblocks at the mainstream institution where he had become the first African-American Ph.D. in mechanical engineering.
It has never been easy for African Americans to get to the top ranks in the science and technology enterprise, no matter where they started. What the stories portrayed here tell you is that, just as with Elijah McCoy and Granville T. Woods in the 19th century, Blacks who get a fair chance at an education will use their skills to do amazing things. Look at the Black Engineer of the Year Award winners as the exemplars they are: shining demonstrations of what happens in American industry when the field of competition is truly leveled and people of talent, drive, and initiative, whatever their racial or ethnic background, are allowed to give their best performances.
The stories they have to tell are inspiring, for the young and for the older readers still struggling to reach the upper ranks in the technology enterprise. As more than one of them would say, it's not where you start out that counts. It's where you're going, and what you do to get there.
2002 Black Engineer of the Year
Executive Vice President & President of Safety, Thermal
& Electrical Architecture
Delphi Automotive Systems
Serendipity is the word we use when a happy accident comes along and shifts the course of someone's life, at just the right time to make a difference to many other people. Rodney O'Neal's life exemplifies serendipity and then some.
A guidance counselor in O'Neal's all-Black high school thought the young Dayton, Ohio, student needed a different kind of education than he himself envisioned. Why not apply to the General Motors Technical Institute? GMI, now known as Kettering University, was not even on Rodney O'Neal's radar map. Where was it, anyway? What exactly was it, anyway? O'Neal had his sights set on schools farther away than Detroit, schools with bigger names and more polished images.
But the counselor kept pushing. When O'Neal showed little interest, she filled out the GMI application herself, then pushed O'Neal to sign it. O'Neal promptly forgot about it and was surprised to hear from GMI when he got ready to pick his college in the spring of 1971. The student body at the institute carrying the name of the world's largest automobile manufacturer was a select group. Successful applicants needed to be sponsored by a division of General Motors, for they would pursue a "Cooperative Education" plan that had them working in the sponsoring division's plants at intervals interspersed between class sessions. Graduates moved onto a fast-track promotion ladder, and few African Americans were expected to turn into the executive barn-burners likely to be found among the Institute's classes.
"I was surprised when I got that acceptance letter," O'Neal says. "I figured if I was accepted, I'd better look it over. I took a look at the materials that came back from GMI and realized I could get paid while going to school. And that clinched it. I'd be taking classes for six weeks, then I'd be out working in the plant. I was sold."
He had the grades and the aptitude for math and science. And O'Neal had two other things: a winning personality and an ability to immerse himself in the subject matter of his studies.
"I had a great time," O'Neal says. "Working on the shop floor then heading back to school really gave me a good exposure to the way manufacturing really worked." Starting out in the Inland Division, a precursor of Delphi, after graduation, O'Neal worked in his hometown of Dayton, then was sent to a dream job in Portugal.
"The plant was not far from Lisbon, and the area where we lived was on the coast, next to the beach where all the movie stars went to relax. It was a beautiful area." A few years later, O'Neal found his next assignment fun, too, but in a different way. Canada was a far cry from sunny Portugal, and the managerial assignments carried weightier responsibilities. Typically, O'Neal was undaunted. "My wife and I really enjoyed Canada," O'Neal says. "We were not citizens of Canada, but we were well accepted. We had a beautiful home and our son was born there. We had a great time."
Moving up the corporate ladder meant moving back to the U.S.A., however. On the way, O'Neal moved his family out to California, to pursue an M.B.A. at Stanford under a General Motors Sloan Fellowship program. When he got back to Detroit, O'Neal helped put together the General Motors Black Executive Forum, which gave African Americans in management a place to sound off, to get help and guidance in the rarefied air of the corporate executive suite, and to hone their skills for the intensely competitive corporate environment.
O'Neal also joined the Executive Leadership Council, an organization that provides African- American executives with a network and a forum that adds perspective to the achievement of excellence in business, economic, and public policy areas for the African-American community. He also is a member of the board of directors of INROADS, Inc., which develops minority youth, helps to get them placed in business and industry, and prepares them for leadership on the job and in the community.
Rising up in executive responsibilities also brings pain, however. As general manager of Delphi Interior and Lighting Systems, O'Neal led the divestiture of the division's $1.2-billion seating business.
"That was the hardest decision of my life," O'Neal says, but the divestiture was seen as a bold, significant business move. O'Neal's personality came directly into play in motivating the 20,000 employees who remained after the deal was done, and Delphi's top management gave him high marks for his performance.
Later, when Delphi itself was spun off to become a stand-alone company, O'Neal assumed the role of "motivator" as a member of the Delphi Strategy Board as it went through the wrenching experience of posting its initial public offering on the stock exchange. Now O'Neal had to reach out to some 200,000 employees world-wide, to get them to buy into the vision of the new, independent Delphi. With all of that, other managers may have put their outreach and mentoring of minority managers on the back burner. Not so with O'Neal, who led the creation of a Delphi African-American Network.
O'Neal, now chief executive of a division with more than 110,000 employees across the globe, heads one of Delphi's three business sectors. He is one of the six top leaders of a company that is the largest automotive supplier in the world. He has led the now-independent Delphi to forge links with Ford Motor Company, and now is a major supplier to Ford as well as to other auto manufacturers.
In May of 2000, two Delphi plants won the 12th annual Shingo Prize for manufacturing excellence. Another Delphi plant had won the award the year before.
"The Shingo Prize recognition represents significant achievements for these plants, the corporation, and especially the people and communities in which they operate," O'Neal says.
It also represents the significant achievements of one Rodney O'Neal, who climbed to the top ranks of the auto world, learning as he climbed, pushing for excellence on the shop floor while retaining the compassion and commitment to help others advance in the company and in the community at large.
Julius L. Longshore
Project Engineer Test and Evaluation & Experimental
Northrop Grumman Corporation
The title on Julius Longshore's curriculum vitae says "Project Engineer Test & Evaluation & Senior Pilot," and he is in fact a very senior flier. On his first carrier tour as an active-duty Naval Reserve officer, Longshore logged so many flying hours off the decks of the USS Forrestal that his naval colleagues picked him for the award for the junior officer with the most carrier landings at the annual Tailhook convention in Las Vegas. It was a first for an E-2 "Hawkeye" early warning and control aircraft pilot.
Since that time, Captain Longshore has logged 6,250 hours in the skies, 5,300 of them in Hawkeyes. The Navy says that probably three flying officers in the world have flown so many hours in an E-2.
At Northrop Grumman, Longshore is manager for Test and Evaluation for the E-2C Integrated Product Team, a key position in the $1.4-billion, multiyear program. He is responsible, as both manager and senior test pilot, for test and evaluation of the E-2C, the Navy's main aerial surveillance and control airplane, as well as for the C-2A and EC-130 "Compass Call," involving engineering development and production.
His job, as he sees it, is to be the bridge between the airborne early warning and electronic warfare community's systems design and development teams and the operators -- the Naval pilots and weapons officers who have to fly the Hawkeye day and night, in often dangerous conditions. "I can tell the designers and developers what's good and what's not so good in engineering terms," Longshore says. "We can help get the engineering change or upgrade in the ballpark, very close to what the final product needs to be."
And that matters a lot. While Longshore was on active duty in the Persian Gulf in 1980, he had a very bad experience aboard a Hawkeye.
"We were landing (aboard the USS Constellation) during a very bad thunderstorm and high seas. We missed the arresting wire, and we bolted. When I added power, one of the E-2C's engines caught fire. We also lost the attitude-reference system due to a gyro problem. We then got the order to eject."
But E-2Cs do not have ejection seats, so Longshore and his crew put the fire out with the onboard CO2 system, righted the plane and landed safely on the next go-round. Longshore, a 1975 graduate of Clark Atlanta University (double B.Sc., physics and mathematics), won his Naval wings in 1976 after finishing Aviation Reserve Officer Candidate School. He served on active duty until 1981, then joined Northrop Grumman.
In his Naval Reserve duties, Longshore supports engineering changes for various surveillance and fighter aircraft and several helicopter types.
"I meet with different contractors and need to supply totally unbiased input on how their products are performing," Longshore says.
And why not? His life depends on the safety and reliability of performance of all those airplanes when he's on duty.
Career Achievement in Industry Emanuel Brady Jr.
Vice President & Chief Information Officer
Raytheon Electronic Systems
Twenty years or so ago, Emanuel Brady's boss made a brash prediction to his manager: You and I will both be working for this guy one day. Brady, then pursuing a mathematics major at California State University at Los Angeles, had talked his way into a job as a computer operator in the Radar Systems Group at Hughes Aircraft Company, largely on his zeal and a sparkling recommendation from the vice president of the supermarket company then employing him.
Harwood M. Stark, then manager of computing and data processing, says he and the computer operations manager retired before Brady got to be chief information officer, but the prediction was clearly on target.
Stark, who had hired Brady and put him on the late shift so he could finish school, remembers a couple of other interesting facts: Once Brady did get his degree and move into technical support, he was too impatient to wait for assignment to take vendor-prepared courses to improve his skills on the IBM mainframes the division used.
"Rather than doing this, he read manuals to obtain the necessary information [to install an operating system]. IBM manuals have a well-founded reputation as being extremely boring and hard to translate to a specific task. It takes a dedicated individual to become engrossed in an IBM manual. Although Emanuel never asked to go to an IBM school, we decided to reward him and send him to one in Boulder, Colo. After the class was over, IBM told me they taught the first three days of the class and Emanuel taught the last two. It was easy for the instructor to see that Emanuel probably knew more than he did."
Once Brady got going as a computer professional, he really got going. In 1986, he helped lead development of one of the first electronic data interchange setups with the Air Force, speeding payment of invoices. That won kudos from a major general. Next, he ran a multiyear project to consolidate 13 different IBM data centers into one, achieving a $40-million saving. He chopped another million dollars off Radar Systems Group's software expenses by consolidating the MVS operating systems onto one of two processors. Then he came up with new ideas on how to use network printers for graphic output. Rising in the ranks, Brady reached outside his own sphere, negotiating to put an IT applications support program in Derry, Ireland.
Brady left Hughes briefly to work at Sony Pictures Entertainment. His position had been outsourced to Computer Science Corporation, and he felt it was time to move on. A year or so later, he was back again, rehired as Hughes was merging with Raytheon. Along the way, he earned an M.B.A. from the University of Southern California. Today, Brady manages a $280-million budget. Having earned the respect and admiration of his peers as well as his superiors, he is an exemplar of the promise of an open society.
Career Achievement in Industry
Michael L. Fortson
Director, Joint Strike Fighter Affordability &
Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company
Michael L. Fortson has a two-track career. As an engineer who has risen to executive responsibilities in the world's largest manufacturer of warplanes, he is a leader with immense responsibilities and an African-American role model. As an Air Force Academy graduate and former pilot, still serving as an engineering officer in the reserves, he is a warrior. And he has served with distinction in both careers.
Fortson grew up on Air Force bases, since his father was a career serviceman in Air Force blue. He naturally grew up wanting to go to a service academy and be a pilot, and he actually secured congressional appointments to both Annapolis and the Air Force Academy. He chose Colorado Springs, and duly made it into the cockpit of a fighter aircraft before health problems grounded him.
Many another person would have been devastated and stopped there, but Fortson was made of stronger stuff. If he could no longer fly the sleek jet fighters, he could for sure make sure they flew well for others. He could make them the best-engineered products his ingenuity and skill could manage. Fortson left the service in 1987, but he never really left. He just periodically changed uniforms.
The young Air Force reservist joined Lockheed Martin in 1991 and for the next nine years had as his major project the F-22 Raptor, the most advanced fighter plane the world has yet seen. The Raptor is a stealthed, radar-evading aircraft, and its composite structures and coatings had to be made to exact tolerances and compositions. Fortson plunged into the work of making the composites and coatings work the way the plane's designers meant them to, coming up with many innovations along the way.
In the reserves, Fortson became an expert at battle damage repair. He got called up for active-duty service during the Gulf War and during the U.S. aerial campaign over Kosovo, and his Air Force superiors say they were continually impressed with his innovations and in-the-field reorganization of the way aircraft are maintained.
In the F-22 shop, Fortson brought Six Sigma quality controls and instituted lean manufacturing techniques across the board. His innovations there meant a savings of more than $45 million. Next, he was promoted to director of Continuous Improvement, helping to reshape three very distinct organizations with different histories and their own distinct cultures into one strong corporation. Fortson's efforts produced a 30-percent reduction in costs and 40-percent reduction in cycle time during three separate preproduction events.
With all of that frenetic activity, Fortson might be expected to live at work. But not so. He maintains that his first and most important job is to be Dad to his children. Fortson has coached Pop Warner football and is active with a number of community programs. He maintains an active interest in his neighbors and his surrounding community and is a volunteer with Big Brothers of America.
Career Achievement in Government
Senior Reactor Inspector
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Most engineers are measured by the things they can make happen. McKenzie Thomas, a senior reactor inspector for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, is one of those rare individuals whose success comes when things stay calm.
For a look at the things that could happen in Thomas' field, one has only to point across the ocean, to a place called Chernobyl. There, the kind of rigorous inspections, driving diligence in overseeing repair and upgrading of aging facilities, and no-nonsense upholding of standards of engineering excellence that Americans take for granted in nuclear power plants were sorely lacking. The widespread environmental poisoning that came with the collapse of Chernobyl's RBMK-1000 reactor so disillusioned the public that it hastened the demise of the Soviet Union.
To be sure, Americans have had some scares. Three Mile Island is a distant memory now, but that disaster in the Central Pennsylvania countryside resulted in a partial meltdown of the reactor core and a financial disaster for the utility that owned the plant, Metropolitan Edison. Engineers all over the globe studied the Three Mile Island reports, sparking a rethinking of plans for nuclear power systems and redesign of the safety systems keeping the lid on the ones already running.
Less than a decade ago, in 1993, the Sequoyah Nuclear Station suffered a major rupture of its secondary coolant system, requiring quick action to shut the reactor down and stringent inspection and supervision of the repairs and restart of that nuclear facility.
That breakdowns such as these have not resulted in a large-scale release of nuclear materials such as occurred at Chernobyl is testimony to the excellence of American nuclear plant operators, most of whom trained for the job in the military, and to the diligence and drive of inspectors such as McKenzie Thomas.
Thomas, a master's degree holder in nuclear engineering from Howard University, first completed an associate's degree program at Selma University in Alabama. He completed his bachelor's degree with honors in physics and math at Alabama A&M University in 1975, then moved on to Howard.
Beginning as a Nuclear Regulatory Commission intern after graduation, Thomas joined the nuclear fold in 1978, right as the spotlight glared onto the entire industry after the disaster at Three Mile Island. Since that time, he has risen to senior reactor inspector, a position in which he takes charge in the field of all aspects of a power plant's preoperational tests; restart after maintenance or repair, such as at Sequoyah; corrective action program inspections, such as at Watts Bar (1993-1995); and the restart inspections at Crystal River 3 (1996-1997). And he served as lead inspector for the Oconee Management Oversight Group inspection (1998-2000).
It is complex work, requiring careful, step-by-step planning and implementation. The payoff is that problems are kept to a minimum, and the breakdowns that do occur do not turn into the environmental nightmares of a Chernobyl. For that, we all owe McKenzie Thomas thanks.
Career Achievement in Government
LeRoy T. Parker
Senior Engineer, Ground Weapons Directorate
U.S. Marine Corps Systems Command
It used to be said, during the chilliest days of the Cold War, that the best brains in American industry were hidden in the secret folds of the weapons makers' plants. In times when those weapons are actually being used, as in Afghanistan, it is important to remember the reason behind the truism.
LeRoy T. Parker is one of those best brains, working to improve the safety and reduce the environmental damage caused while the military develops the weapons captured on nightly news shows, working deadly efficiencies of scale in the rugged country halfway around the world.
Parker came to his trade by an unusual route. Trained as an architect at Tuskegee University, he first went to work for private industry and the National Park Service. In eight years, Parker rose to become a project supervisor on large Park Service construction projects.
Then, in 1985, Parker joined the Marine Corps' Ground Weapons Directorate. There, he became an expert in electronic environmental effects, or E3. Military systems are exposed to extremes of electromagnetic radiation: radar sweeps pulsing at millions of watts; high-frequency communications transmitters blasting away at close range, reaching for contacts halfway around the globe; electronic countermeasures, sweeping down from hostile aircraft to confuse or shut down sensing arrays, communications, targeting computers. E3 experts set the standards by which military gear is built to surmount those challenges, and then they test rigorously to demonstrate that the selected vendor's products will stand up in the field.
Parker is a key player in that environment, also bringing to his work a keen understanding of the process of weapons development. In addition to his technical expertise, Parker has contributed organizational savvy, working to re-engineer the way the Ground Weapons Directorate itself works. According to his Marine Corps superiors, Parker's efforts were cited by the undersecretary of defense as a model for implementing environmental safety and occupational health requirements into the very process of acquisition and lifestyle management of weapons systems. That achievement, in pulling together a team with diverse skills to bring change to an entire organization, is doubly impressive because Parker accomplished it from a line engineering position. The top echelon in the Ground Weapons Directorate and the Systems Command of which it is a part now had guidelines along which to frame their overarching strategy.
As if that were not enough, Parker also excelled in bringing other minorities into the Marine Corps fold. He led an initiative to develop a business alliance with Howard University and Florida A&M University to conduct technical analyses for the command and to provide training and educational courseware for its personnel. Continuing in that vein, Parker was appointed to the Systems Command's Permanent Committee on Historically Black Colleges and Universities/Minority Institutions to help promote co-op programs and internships for minority technology students, bringing them into the pipeline for future hires, completing the circle he began as a young Tuskegee graduate.
Jesse L. Bemley, Ph.D.
U.S. Army Cost & Economic Analysis Center
Ostensibly, Jesse L. Bemley, Ph.D., is a computer programmer for the U.S. Army. His credits show a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Mississippi Valley University (1966) and a master's degree in computer science from American University. And he has done a lot of government work: systems analyst for the District of Columbia Board of Elections, computer specialist for the Drug Enforcement Administration, 16 years as an information technology worker for the Army.
Dr. Bemley's passion is education, however, and he seems to spend every waking hour away from work thinking about how to teach children about computers. It is fair to say he really is an educator.
In 1982, shortly after completing his doctorate in public administration, Dr. Bemley inaugurated something called the Joint Educational Facilities Community Computer Center in an elementary school in Southeast Washington. That center, founded with Dr. Bemley's own resources, is "a nonprofit community-based organization that focuses primarily on junior and senior high-school students and exposes them to advanced computer topics with an emphasis on artificial intelligence. It also identifies and prepares students for admission into the science and engineering pipeline prior to undergraduate studies. Most of these students have not performed well in the traditional educational system. Therefore, JEF provides a supportive educational atmosphere where there is emphasis on vocabulary, reading and oral skills and classes on weekends and evenings throughout the year."
According to one former student, now about to take his Ph.D. in computer science at the University of Virginia, a whole lot more goes on at that Joint Educational Facility. John Haskins Jr., who enrolled in the JEF during the summer after he completed the second grade, says Dr. Bemley became his lifelong teacher and advisor:
"Together Dr. Bemley and I have published papers, presented at conferences and contributed to the knowledge base of the computing sciences.... Our mentor-protégé relationship, spanning nearly two decades, has been the most worthwhile and fruitful of any I have shared with any teacher in the 22 years since I started kindergarten."
Colleagues in the National Technical Association and in the D.C. Metropolitan Organization of Black Scientists point to yet another Bemley operation: the annual D.C. Computer Science Conference for Washington high school students. Larry R. Medsker, associate dean for academic affairs and professor of physics at American University, codeveloper of the conference, says that for 10 years the event has provided a professional-style setting in which students make presentations and publish their work in proceedings. Throughout the year, Dr. Bemley works with D.C. students and teachers to assist in development of their projects. Students from this conference and from the JEF have won awards in the NAACP ACT-SO competition, locally and nationally, and at National Technical Association annual gatherings.
Some 400 students, at all levels, have benefited from Dr. Bemley's avid volunteerism. Many, like Dr.-to-be Haskins, have gone on to careers in computer science careers. If he is not an educator, Benjamin Franklin wasn't one, either.
Corporate Promotion of Education
Rosalind L. Hudnell
Public Affairs Manager, Central Region
Rosalind Hudnell knows the numbers. As a vice president of the Sacramento Urban League, she spent years working with State of Black America reports, poring over U.S. Commerce Department "Digital Divide" reports, and writing grants to do something about the dire predictions contained therein.
She also knew something else: What it looks like when you give a child hope. The Urban League had begun an aggressive program to close the Digital Divide by opening family technology centers all across America, and Hudnell had seen firsthand the results: New growth in education and career opportunities for inner-city youth and new confidence in the possibilities for a better future.
Hudnell, who had worked 15 years in public affairs for cable television and publishing companies, had another advantage: plenty of experience in Corporate America. She knew where the resources were to tackle some of the problems she had seen at the Urban League. So, when Intel tagged her for its Folsom, Calif., office, she knew just what to do.
Richard H. Draper, corporate director of public affairs, got a solid demonstration of Hudnell's savvy four years ago, when both represented Intel at a meeting with community advocates seeking to improve minority opportunities in high-tech.
"Roz spoke from experience and from conviction...around the right things to do. She could have played up to me at the expense of a fair outcome, or tried to impress the advocacy group with criticisms of corporate behavior. Instead, she was an honest broker, helping to clarify the real issues and to move the parties to positive next steps."
One big step was the creation of the Intel Computer Clubhouse Network. The Boston Museum of Science, in cooperation with the MIT Media Lab, had come up with the Computer Clubhouse idea already and had pioneered innovative ways to engage inner-city youths and their families in new learning opportunities. Now Hudnell convinced her superiors not just to replicate that initiative but to take it over and make it a national drive.
First, in Boston, Intel linked up with the Museum of Science to develop a new kind of after-school learning model, providing a safe, creative environment in which youths from underserved communities work closely with volunteer adult mentors to explore their own ideas and develop skills that can become marketable. In San Jose, Intel and its corporate partners Adobe Systems, Macromedia, Inc., Hewlett-Packard, and Autodesk announced a five-year, $30-million plan to develop Computer Clubhouses in 100 locations in the U.S. and across the world.
That's putting your money where your mouth is. Today, some 34 Clubhouses have opened in cities across the U.S. as well as Israel, China, India, the Philippines, and Ireland, and others are on the way.
The Congressional Black Caucus has recognized the Computer Clubhouse Network initiative as an innovative approach to reaching underserved youth, and Intel itself gave Hudnell and her team its highest recognition: the Intel Achievement Award, with citation by CEO Craig Barrett.
Entrepreneur of the Year
Rodney P. Hunt
President and CEO
RS Information Systems, Inc.
Entrepreneurship has often been likened to a roller-coaster ride, but Rodney P. Hunt's experience has been more like a high-altitude balloon trip -- his company just keeps going up, up, and away.
Hunt, an operations research and industrial engineering graduate of Cornell and George Washington Universities, started out with the ambition of becoming a professional baseball player. He actually got drafted out of high school -- with a $750,000 signing bonus -- and told his parents he'd follow his dream instead of taking the academic scholarship Cornell offered.
You know the drill: His parents put their feet down hard, and he took the scholarship.
Hunt did get to play in college and did a three-year stint for a St. Louis Cardinals farm team. Then an injury halted his playing days and showed him the value of having enough education to move on.
Hunt had been business-minded at an early age. At 14, he started a lawn-care business that grew to rake in $125,000, with 100 youngsters working for him. During the off-seasons, Hunt had worked cooperative jobs with IBM and the consulting firm Booz-Allen & Hamilton, which helped him keep his engineering skills fresh. Hunt, who spent a great deal of time preparing and delivering the papers senior consultants wrote for their clients, was struck by how frequently their recommendations went unaddressed after the clients had paid so much money. He decided there was unmet need out there for consultants who not only recommended but implemented, helping client companies re-engineer their business processes and put into play the technology solutions that would supercharge their activities.
After conversations with his supervisor at Booz-Allen, Hunt went to work for a small information technology contractor and found he and the proprietor, Scott Amey, were a solid fit, even though each brought an entirely different background and outlook to the work. The two partnered to form RS Information Systems in 1992, and quickly discovered that the small and disadvantaged business contracting officers at government agencies such as NASA could teach them a lot about winning federal contracts.
The intrepid entrepreneurs started out with $5,000 capital in 1993, and quickly brought in $53,000 worth of work. By 2001, their firm had become one of the Black Enterprise "Top 10 Growth Companies," weighing in at No. 9 by going from $40 million in sales in 1999 to $82 million in 2000.
Today, RSIS employs some 1,200 scientists and technical professionals across the nation. Some 60 percent of RSIS employees are members of minority groups, women, or disabled veterans, and their loyalty is just shy of fanatic. Hunt's 2001 revenues are expected to exceed $134 million, and this year he thinks he can top $200 million. He's on track, too. The firm started out as a Small Business Administration 8(a) set-aside contractor but now does 70 percent of its business outside the 8(a) program, competing against much larger players as a prime contractor. Hunt is truly an American success story.
James E. Hubbard, Ph.D.
Founder and Chief Technical Officer
Dr. James E. Hubbard has known amazing success but also has faced daunting obstacles. His favorite saying is "it doesn't matter where you came from, only where you are going," and that pretty much sums up his life.
Hubbard was born in Danville, Va., but grew up in Baltimore, Md., where he attended one of the city's magnet schools in science. The young Hubbard had his sights set on being a marine engineer and completed a three-year course at a local maritime institute. He was duly licensed as a Merchant Marine officer, just in time to go to Vietnam ferrying troops and equipment to the war in Southeast Asia.
Curiosity overcame the young man, and he left the maritime service after a year to enroll at Morgan State University, majoring in physics. Hubbard was an immediate star at Morgan, excelling in his science and math courses, and he enthusiastically followed an advisor's suggestion that he needed a bigger challenge. When Hubbard, through the advisor's intervention, met Clarence G. Williams, a newly minted assistant dean at MIT, the chase was on.
Hubbard enrolled in mechanical engineering when there were very few Blacks at MIT, and he was surprised initially at the level of academic competition at a school that routinely selects the best and brightest students and researchers from everywhere. He found that few of his Morgan State credits were accepted, and he did not do well in advanced math and science courses.
Hubbard was undaunted, however. He persisted, supported by Williams and Dr. Wesley Harris, whose research area was aeronautics. Hubbard went on to excel, completing his bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering, his M.Sc. degree, and in 1977 became the first Black to receive the Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at MIT.
Hubbard rapidly gained attention as a researcher and teacher and was voted by the students as the Goodwin Medal winner for Conspicuously Effective Teaching. But that did not deter the MIT faculty from denying him tenure, and Hubbard wound up leaving for a high-tech incubator laboratory at Boston University.
Hubbard had patented an adaptive sensor, also called Smart Skin, a technology that could be used to sense the size, weight, and attitude of a person sitting on it and to report to an automotive computer whether to deploy an air bag. Hubbard and his partners since have refined Smart Skin to power a new set of products: sensor pads for hospital beds, so that medical personnel can monitor the patient's position, activity, and vital signs in nonintrusive ways. Hubbard founded his company, iProvica, to capitalize on this invention, based on three patents Hubbard owns, and looks forward to seeing Smart Skin deployed in everything from athletic shoes to bedsheets.
Hubbard has eight pages of technical publications and scientific journal articles, and he is a member of a civilian technology board advising the Chief of Naval Operations, as well as an internationally recognized member of the Society of Professional Optical Engineers.
Most Promising Scientist
Roychelle S. Ingram-Ogunwumi, Ph.D.
Roychelle Ingram-Ogunwumi is a chemist who understands poly-hetero-Greek-letter-functionalized alkanethiolate-stabilized gold cluster compounds. She's also a knowledgeable observer of the microelectrode voltammetry of poly-ferrocene/anthraquinone mixed clusters. Got that?
In English, class, she is an ace polymer chemist whose original research has won publication in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, in Langmuir, the ACS Journal of Surfaces and Colloids, and Science.
Five years out of Ph.D. school, Dr. Ingram-Ogunwumi is a senior scientist at Corning's Sullivan Park facility, doing real-world research on how and why lead-acid storage batteries fail and on what happens inside the diesel particulate filter on your foreign automobile. In case you don't think that's complicated enough, she also is an expert in metal deposition of thin and thick films on glass by evaporation, with side excursions in the preparation of chemisorbed organized organic monolayer films on metal surfaces.
Dr. Ingram-Ogunwumi first wanted to become a schoolteacher. In high school, in Greensboro, N.C., she held numerous student leadership positions and was a member of the National Honor Society. In 1988, she was a Congressional Scholar.
Just to keep her hands busy, the young researcher-to-be also performed annually in regional piano competitions. A member of the Homecoming Court, she won the Alpha Kappa Alpha Cotillion Scholarship in 1988 and went on to matriculate at North Carolina State University, where she received her B.Sc., aiming herself at becoming a chemistry teacher. On the way, she made the dean's list every year and joined three honor societies. She also tutored other students, served as a peer mentor for underclassmen, and had a rewarding experience as a student-teacher at Fuquay-Varina High School before moving on to the serious pursuit of chemistry.
In 1992, she won the Patricia Roberts Harris Fellowship to study analytical chemistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and she never looked back. By the time Dr. Ingram-Ogunwumi graduated, she had published her report on gold-cluster compounds in Science and had presented the work at the 213th American Chemical Society National Meeting, where she also won the poster contest in the Division of Colloid and Surface Chemistry.
And then she went to work, in 1997, for Corning, racing through the storage-battery project and moving on to launch a project to study catalytic activity in a combinatorial fashion. She led a small group to design a detection system that could screen multiple catalysts simultaneously -- very bottom-line oriented work.
Next, she tackled hot gas filters, another high-profile Corning product. With government environmental controls challenging the efficiency of diesel engines more than ever, the business of getting particulate filters to work right on commercially sold vehicles is hot stuff indeed, and Dr. Ingram-Ogunwumi traveled to Europe to discuss failure mode analysis findings and support manufacturers' diesel engine programs. What she'll do next, with a few years of high-level industrial product research under her belt, is anybody's guess. But stay tuned. She clearly gets better as she goes.
Most Promising Engineer
Jason C. Bunn
Associate Professional Staff
The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
It is not often that a candidate walks unsolicited through the door bearing the qualifications to become a star of the first rank. Jason Bunn came to the Applied Physics Laboratory in March 2000 with his bachelor's and master's degrees in aeronautics and astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and three years' work experience at Lockheed Martin in tow, just in time to help build and manage a NASA cometary explorer.
Even more interestingly, Bunn had done internships at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory while completing his degree work. Serving as a subsystem test engineer, Bunn participated in the testing of the attitude and articulation control system for the Cassini spacecraft, now on its way to Saturn. He had developed a software model for the reaction wheel assembly, which was used post-launch to evaluate the effectiveness of the subsystem in flight. In actual testing, Bunn developed seven testing procedures for the Value Drive Electronics and flight software.
APL also had won the competition to build the Comet Nucleus Tour (CONTOUR) vehicle, which is slated to be launched into space in July. Bunn wrote the attitude-estimation algorithms to keep the spacecraft oriented to the comet for taking close-up pictures, and toward Earth for transmission of the acquired data.
Another APL spacecraft will benefit from Bunn's programming artistry. The MESSENGER orbiter is scheduled to travel to Mercury, taking images of the entire planet and collecting detailed information about its crust. Bunn's superiors at APL quickly realized his innovative algorithms could be used to control MESSENGER as well.
Bunn presented a coauthored paper on his CONTOUR designs at the 16th International Symposium on Space Flight Dynamics last December. He completed another high-profile project in 2000: Simulation of wind effects on the tether of a very high-altitude balloon project. Bunn used his programming skills to build a system that actually allowed faster-than-real-time simulation of the balloon's flight, permitting mission analysts to explore many issues without sacrificing so much time.
Bunn is back in school again, too. He's carrying a 3.75 G.P.A. as he works toward a master of science degree in computer science at Johns Hopkins' main campus in Baltimore. His superiors say that his orbit is tracking well to make him the lead engineer for future space missions. Watch out for this busy young man.
Most Promising Engineer
Terry P. Lewis
Senior Systems Engineer II
Color Terry P. Lewis tenacious. He started out in the New York City schools determined to become an engineer and a pilot, but his teachers thought he couldn't make it. From elementary and middle school, they sent Lewis to the elite Thomas Edison Vocational High School, where very few African Americans were enrolled in technology tracks. At Edison, the young engineer-to-be took a wrong turn, falling in with a crowd that did not value excellence in school.
That cost Lewis a grade, but he talked the principal into allowing him to stay with his class. By grit and determination, Lewis completed extra classes to make up for having failed the ninth grade, and he graduated on time.
Money was a problem, however, so the young scholar worked at a fast-food restaurant to save enough for his tuition. He also became an entrepreneur, starting two companies in his spare time. Lewis also joined the Air Force Reserve and enrolled at New York City Technical College. Poor counseling sent him on another wrong turn, however, into the engineering technology curriculum instead of the full-fledged engineering track.
Lewis found out he could not serve as a pilot because he had the Sickle Cell trait, which often give aviators the "bends." But he doggedly served on, becoming an aircraft mechanic and serving in the Gulf War.
And Lewis kept pursuing his dream: He could not be a pilot, but he could become an engineer. At Queensborough Junior College, Lewis learned the error of his earlier enrollment and, undaunted, started out all over again as a freshman engineering student. He completed that associate's degree program and transferred to the City College of New York. He graduated with a low G.P.A. and found to his consternation that he was unemployable.
Lewis then determined he'd need a master's degree. His low undergraduate grades -- earned while he ran a woodworking business and a custom home-building firm -- almost kept him out of the master's degree program at CCNY, but Lewis persevered, taking enough graduate courses as an unmatriculated student that he impressed the faculty and was accepted. He graduated CCNY with a 3.71 G.P.A. and a master's degree in electrical engineering, and got hired by a firm that had turned him down earlier.
At Hughes Aircraft, in a division later purchased by Raytheon, Lewis became an expert in data and communications security. Today, five years after he came on board, Lewis is the leader on "spread spectrum" orthagonal frequency division multiplex security. Working on Future Communications System concepts for the Defense Department, Lewis has come up with a new type of radio signal that Raytheon is promoting for a patent.
Lewis' superiors at Raytheon have named him a Raytheon Doctoral Fellow. He is on track to finish a doctoral degree in engineering at the University of Southern California next year.
And, today, Lewis serves often as a speaker to middle- and high-school youths, giving young beginners the guidance he lacked so many years ago. He's also joined the Naval Reserve, following an engineering duty officer track, just to keep busy. Raytheon's senior managers say Lewis will become a Raytheon officer one day, completing his determined climb. Color him tenacious, all right. He just never stops.
Outstanding Technical Contribution in Government
Georgette B. Gaskin
Materials Engineer/Program Manager
Naval Air Systems Command
During World War II, posters admonished defense aviation workers to "Keep 'em Flying." Georgette B. Gaskin is an engineer who does exactly that.
Gaskin, a 1990 graduate of The Johns Hopkins University with a double major in biomedical engineering and materials science engineering, won such early notice with her attack on the problem of producing environmentally benign adhesives that five years into her career, she was named Most Promising Engineer at the 1995 Black Engineer of the Year Awards.
Seven years later, Gaskin has gained national and international recognition in the aerospace industry as the key Navy specialist in structural bonding and adhesive issues. Working with a cross-service team, she has led investigation of surface preparations and bonding agents that do not involve use of toxic, volatile organic compounds that contribute to greenhouse gases and endanger maintenance personnel.
In one line of approach, Gaskin is supporting the improvement of the troubled V-22 Osprey program, by solving a pesky problem with bonded studs that had been disbonding far ahead of expectations, affecting reliability.
Gaskin's superiors say she is the focal point for adhesive bonding and sealant technology in the Naval Air Systems Command, which includes facilities in California, North Carolina, and Maryland. As principal investigator for a four-year, $5-million Navy, Army, and Air Force program to develop better and environmentally safer bonding processes for military aircraft, Gaskin's reach has broadened to the degree that even the manufacturers of military aircraft are affected. The bonding initiative at first focused on the repair and maintenance of aircraft, but the new techniques are proving so sound that airplane builders are investigating incorporating them into the construction of planes.
Through a cooperative agreement between the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, Gaskin's exploits in keeping airframes together have reached world- wide attention. She is a regular presenter at the Society for the Advancement of Materials Process and Engineering and has received kudos from her coinvestigators in the Air Force and Army. She also has seen her work recognized by the Coast Guard, which is implementing her bonding techniques in the repair of helicopters.
Never resting on her laurels, Gaskin has submitted a proposal recently to qualify her bonding techniques for use on the F/A-18 strike fighter, another $5-million job. The contractors working to build the new, multi-service Joint Strike fighter also have been influenced by her work.
With such a full plate, it is surprising that Gaskin also finds time to address the human needs of others. She has served as the local chapter president of Women in Science and Engineering, volunteered with Big Brothers and Sisters of America, been active with the National Society of Black Engineers, and served as team leader for the Avon Breast Cancer 3-Day Walk in Southern Maryland.
Outstanding Technical Contribution in Government
Kelvin M. Manning
Lead Vehicle Manager OV-104 "Atlantis"
NASA John F. Kennedy Space Center
Kelvin M. Manning is a manager whose impact is literally out of this world. As lead vehicle manager, he not only manages the preparation, modification, and upgrading of the Space Shuttle Atlantis, he manages the managers of the other four shuttles. That is, Manning is the top manager of the entire shuttle fleet, and his work directly impacts whether the shuttle even flies.
Manning's superiors at NASA say he has saved the agency millions of dollars while maintaining the margins of safety that get astronauts and cosmonauts up to the International Space Station and back, able to extend the exploration of space and the discoveries shaking up earth science. That is a feat worthy of calling him a spaceman, even though he himself never flies in space.
Manning, a 1981 graduate of the Air Force Academy and a master's degree candidate at the University of Central Florida, has worked his entire career in aerospace. At Eglin Air Force Base, his first posting out of Colorado Springs, Manning was responsible for maintaining a catalog of all earth-orbiting objects in the Alternate Space Surveillance Center of the North American Air Defense Command. There, he watched foreign launches, satellite maneuvers and deorbits, and tracked the predictions of ground impacts.
At Cheyenne Mountain, NORAD's headquarters, he ran a team of orbital analysts calculating satellite orbits and providing NASA with Space Shuttle collision-avoidance data. He also reported the team's predictions for external tank impacts and provided critical support for the recovery of lost satellites.
In civilian life, he worked for General Electric Aerospace in Springfield, Va., testing and evaluating government systems. A move to McDonnell Douglas Space Systems brought him again into contact with the shuttle organization. Preparing pre- and post-mission reports for senior NASA managers, assisting in the development of the Office of Space Flight Shuttle Contingency Action Plans, and compiling an Agency Assured Microgravity Aircraft Capability Study prepared Manning for the job he holds now.
Switching over to NASA's Johnson Space Flight Center in Houston, Manning worked in the Space Shuttle Program Development Office, involved in planning, budget, engineering development, testing, requirements control, integration and evaluation of shuttle upgrades.
Manning, whose excellence became legendary, moved steadily up the ranks to vehicle manager, then acting chief of engineering for shuttle upgrades, then finally to lead vehicle manager, handling the entire shuttle fleet.
The vehicle managers and engineers in NASA's control centers are only fleetingly pictured on television during the tense moments of a space shuttle launch or recovery. But what engineers such as Kelvin Manning contribute is critical to the success of the enterprise. Without a superior performance by him, things could become very scary out above the atmosphere.
Outstanding Technical Contribution in Industry
Vincent M. McNeil, Ph.D.
Japan Manager, Imaging Business Unit
Texas Instruments Incorporated
Vincent McNeil is the embodiment of the proposition that engineers create value on which the wealth of society is built.
Dr. McNeil, a three-time alumnus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (B.Sc., electrical engineering and computer science, 1985; M.Sc., electrical engineering, 1988; Ph.D., electrical engineering, 1994), studied Japanese as well as engineering. He specialized in the invention of smaller, faster microchips, but on the way he retained his sense of the human interactions which make all businesses succeed. He holds four U.S. patents and one Japanese patent, with three additional disclosures submitted to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, but as his superiors at Texas Instruments put it, he is a research engineer who has turned into an entrepreneurial businessman.
His current temporary assignment, as regional manager for TI's imaging business in Japan, is a particular example. Dr. McNeil manages a business unit bringing in more than $13 million in revenues, and he is expected to raise that to $20 million in a year. His superiors believe he is on target to get there, too.
A spate of news reports from technology watchers says that Dr. McNeil already has pulled off a major coup: Persuading Panasonic's managers to switch their commercial security camera product from VHS videotape to a solid-state controlled, digital Winchester disk solution. That hard drive setup allows faster frame rates, digital notation of alarm events and time-date stamping of particular sequences when the recording should be examined by human watchers. The new camera, which uses TI's patented digital hard-disk controller, will allow users to monitor their premises by remote dial-up, even sending an e-mail to alert them to suspicious activity.
But as Dr. McNeil and his TI cohorts move brusquely ahead in digital imaging, both still digital and video cameras will change. Already, his group has mastered the art of including multiple standards of video compression in the command sets of their digital signal processors. Their technology pushed computer modems to new heights just as the Internet was taking off, and the application of DSPs to digital cameras and other image-handling gear promises to make the imaging business a $100-million enterprise. Now, he's busy convincing camera makers such as Sony, Sanyo, Kodak Japan, Konica, Canon, and Olympus to design products around the TI DSPs, as Panasonic already has.
Dr. McNeil is a member of TI's Group Technical Staff and for several years held a Cooperative Research Fellowship at AT&T Bell Laboratories. He also studied in Japan under a Monbusho Research Scholarship, awarded by the Japanese Ministry for Science and Education. He has been an invited participant in the National Academy of Engineering symposium, "Frontiers in Engineering." In addition, he is a frequent panelist for the Science and Technology Braintrust at a Dallas-based science magnet school, and he sits on the board of directors of the Dallas chapter of the Sickle Cell Anemia Association.
Outstanding Technical Contribution in Industry
John D. Terry, Ph.D.
Senior Research Engineer
Nokia Research Center
Radio propagation may not be the No. 1 topic in the digital-computer dominated engineering education programs these days, but it should be. That is because, as John Terry knows, wireless applications promise to be the new wave of product excellence in computers.
Or as Anthony Reid, another Ph.D. working at Nokia, puts it, Dr. Terry's research achievements in broadband radio transmission of data sets "will shape the near-foreseeable future of wireless Internet access for laptops, desktops, and other communications devices that will have data rates up to 100 Mbps.... This wireless Internet access will be as pervasive in our daily lives as cell phones are today."
It is a testament to the magnitude of Dr. Terry's work that other researchers are busy singing his praises. Behnaam Aazhang, J.S. Abercrombie Professor and director of Rice University's Center for Multimedia Communications, cites Dr. Terry's recent development of spherical space-time coding for wireless local area networks. The work, to be published in the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers Communication Letters, will, in Professor Aazhang's view, "show a significant improvement over the traditional space-time codes developed at AT&T Research Laboratory and allow Nokia to develop a transmission scheme with possibly a 4-fold increase in data rate."
For all the chemistry majors out there, the fourfold increase in data rate is the key discovery. That means that as the U.S. government gives up radio spectrum allocations previously reserved for the military, the bandwidth opened up for civilian uses will be handled in very efficient ways. Result: Not only will high-speed transmission of long documents and real-time instant messaging over wireless LANs be possible, but real-time videoconferencing, game playing, and TV watching. Everything from home computing, to game machines and personal digital assistants, to flexible office wireless applications will be pushed up to a new level of interactivity.
Dr. Terry has multiple patents pending and a book coming out on "orthagonal frequency diversity multiplexing," or discrete multi-tone signaling, as applied to wireless systems. It's sure to be read by product developers looking to come up with the next Palm Pilot.
Dr. Terry took his B.Sc. in electrical engineering at Old Dominion University in 1988, then went to work for NASA, working on satellite communications. After seven years, he left to help Texas Instruments develop a new business area in military satellite systems. From there, he made his way to Nokia, where he is leading the company to new standards in broadband wireless data transmission. He worked full time while a graduate student, completing an M.Sc. degree in digital communications and controls at Cleveland State University, then a Ph.D. in electrical engineering at Georgia Tech. He kept on inventing as he went, resulting in the patent applications. The rest is history still to come. We'll see the results soon enough.
Professional Achievement in Government
Jesse W. McCurdy
Director, Test and Evaluation Engineering Department
Naval Air Systems Command
In the late 1930s, when militarists in Imperial Japan went to war to further their aims in the Western Pacific, the United States was the principal obstacle in their path. Admiral Yamamoto, their senior naval commander, had studied in the U.S., and he knew the Americans were not the pushovers his cohorts expected. He told his Japanese superiors what they did not want to hear: that American industrial might would overwhelm them. Do not be deceived by the Great Depression, Adm. Yamamoto said. The Americans have strength they haven't begun to use.
The admiral, who did not survive the ensuing global conflict, was dead on target. Had he lived, he could have told the commissars of the old Soviet empire the same story. Jesse W. McCurdy, a civilian weaponeer in the Naval Air Systems Command, is one of the reasons why America's industrial might continues to produce weapons that keep potential enemies off balance.
McCurdy, raised in rural Alabama, received his bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Howard University in 1966, and started a climb that became a march through the catalogue of modern warfare tools. He worked 10 years for private industry, even doing a stint in Cleveland, Ohio, developing computerized point-of-sale systems for fast-food restaurants.
His heart was in the forge, however, and his most significant work came in building and testing weapons. At Emerson Electric Co. in St. Louis, McCurdy designed hardware and software for the General Purpose Test System, a multimillion-dollar system used to test aircraft electronics and flight systems for the Air Force. He quickly won promotion to lead the team demonstrating the system for formal Air Force acceptance. At Vitro Laboratories in Silver Spring, Md., McCurdy developed system-level tests for the Terrier guided missile fire control system, checking the readiness and suitability for shipboard mounting. At Veda, Inc., Arlington, Va., McCurdy was responsible for design changes to improve the fire-control radar for the F-14 Tomcat. Here he worked closely with the denizens of the Naval Air Systems Command and ultimately joined them.
Donald McErlean, executive director of the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division, calls McCurdy "an engineer's engineer" who has worked on nearly every air-launched weapon flown by the Navy and Marine Corps. That includes Sidewinder heat-seeking missiles, Tomahawk cruise missiles, the F/A-18 Hornet, the EA6-B Prowler antiradar aircraft, the V-22 Osprey, and unmanned aerial vehicles, such as those used in the Gulf War and the ones now prowling Afghanistan.
McCurdy has won a boatload of awards from the Navy for his prowess, including the Meritorious Civilian Service Award, Superior Civilian Service Award (twice), and the Naval Air Systems Commander's Award. Cited for outstanding performance for 10 years, McCurdy, a member of the Senior Executive Service, now commands a division with 600 engineers and scientists, managing more than 72 geographically dispersed teams with an annual budget of some $450 million. With people like him on duty, America's enemies had better watch out.
Professional Achievement in Industry
Rhonda D. Holt
Vice President, Storage Systems Engineering
Sun Microsystems, Inc.
Rhonda D. Holt started out thinking she would pursue a career in the arts, or in history, but she wound up falling in love with computers.
Holt, the daughter of an Army Command sergeant major, excelled in the schools she attended, moving around the country, as well as overseas, as her father changed assignments. She ended up in Florida, where she graduated with straight "A"s from high school and won two scholarship offers to go to the University of Florida. A part-time job at the U.S. Agriculture Department during the summer of her junior year changed her priorities permanently. Working for a research scientist, collecting field research data and entering it into the office computers for the summer got her fascinated with the machines.
Holt struggled with that fascination during her first two years of college, but in the end she succumbed and majored in computer science. She began working for IBM in Boca Raton, Fla., as a summer intern, and at graduation in 1986 she was hired as an associate programmer. Soon she was working on operating systems and became an expert in OS/390 and IBM's Unix variant, AIX.
Holt rose rapidly at IBM, and she enjoyed the work. Six years after she began her career, she was promoted to manager and moved to product development teams. Holt moved to California in 1994 and began developing fault-tolerant storage arrays, just as the Internet Revolution was sweeping the nation and driving more and more companies to rush to put vast archives of data online.
Holt won an Outstanding Technical Achievement award for delivery of IBM's 9340 Array product. Then, on a whim, she followed up on an interesting advertisement for Sun Microsystems, a company she knew nothing about. When the director of Sun's Solaris operation called, saying "come to work for me and you can decide what project you want to work on," it was an offer she couldn't refuse.
Joining Sun in 1996 as a senior program manager, Holt and her boss finally settled on Holt's taking over as manager of the Solaris cluster product. Here she dug into software products, where before she had been a hardware engineer. In five years, Holt expanded her team of 20 professionals to 160, managing a budget of $25 million and growing the revenues from $5 million in 1997 to $60 million by the year 2000. Holt led the development of the next-generation Sun Cluster 3.0 from concept to product delivery, and the product became the company's most successful software product.
That brought a new challenge: Taking over Sun's Network Storage Division, at age 36, as vice president of Storage Systems Engineering, one year ago, in February 2001. Holt now is one of the youngest top executives at Sun, and her superiors think she'll go much higher before she's done.
Professional Achievement in Industry
Jimmy Williams Jr., Ph.D.
Director, Manufacturing Process Improvements
The Boeing Company
Dr. Jimmy Williams Jr. is that rare kind of individual whose close focus on excellence in the task at hand, strengthening his own company, creates such waves it affects companies and individuals far from his locus of operations.
A mechanical engineer trained at Texas A&M University, Williams has carved out an area of expertise that affects many industries, using technologies far removed from the military aircraft on which he puts his stamp. Monolithic machined parts are causing a revolution in aircraft manufacturing. Not only does the use of rapid machining of such parts drastically cut the number of pieces to be assembled into an airplane, it also chops weight and cuts costs.
One estimate of Williams' performance in bringing in automated assembly, virtual manufacturing, and low-cost, composite production technologies has Boeing cutting its costs by nearly $800 million.
By one account, consumer electronics firms have adopted the rapid-machining techniques pioneered by Williams' teams to the production of chassis on which to mount their circuit boards. In another, Williams' innovations in lean manufacturing and use of monolithic machined parts shaved so much off the F/A-18-E/F strike fighter that although the aircraft grew by 30 percent in overall size, its weight remained close to that of the earlier, smaller C and D versions of the aircraft.
It goes further: In England, which provides some 38 percent of Boeing's subcontractor-supplied parts, Williams appeared before Parliament to argue for the construction of a new high-tech research park in Sheffield, an area famed for its production of steel products, but brought low by offshore competition. Williams not only secured promises of regional and national government financing for the project, leveraging Boeing's commitment, his initiative and leadership helped secure funding from the European Community's development arm. To cap it off, Williams also lectured so persuasively on advanced manufacturing and development that he was offered a visiting professorship at Sheffield University, a center of manufacturing excellence in Britain.
That tracks with his work as an adjunct professor of manufacturing engineering at St. Louis' Washington University. While still completing his own Ph.D. studies in engineering management, Williams spearheaded the development of the first-ever joint engineering program between a private institution and the public University of Missouri at St. Louis. The program opens opportunities for nontraditional, place-bound students to pursue engineering studies. Williams, a longtime promoter of increased opportunities for African Americans in engineering education, also helped to push their numbers up to double the national average for Black enrollment.
Testimony to Williams' zeal for mentoring comes from just about everyone with whom he has come into contact, and faculty at Washington University say they stood in awe of Williams on a recruiting occasion, watching prospective students crowd around him for an hour after all of them had made presentations. They thanked their stars he was on their side.
As F/A-18s course through the skies over Afghanistan and the Middle East, many a pilot should be thankful, too.
Technical Sales & Marketing
Cheryl L. Richardson
Worldwide Account Manager
Texas Instruments Incorporated
In Corporate America, the buck stops at the bottom line. It's all very well to talk about the intangible values such as adding to the diversity of a work force, but the moment of truth comes when the managers put profit-and-loss responsibility in the candidate's hands.
Cheryl L. Richardson is one of those rare individuals who can make the bottom line rise.
A career Silicon Valley technical professional, she took her B.Sc. in electrical engineering from Texas A&M University in 1986 and headed out to the technology wars. She began as an intern at Xerox during the early 1980s, working her way to progressively challenging assignments to become a subassembly design engineer within the product development organization. She developed liquid crystal displays for office machines, dug into the guts of manufacturing to ensure that her products would be well-made, and learned a lot about customer concerns with quality, reliability, and cost.
In 1989, Richardson hopped over to Hewlett-Packard as a marketing engineer. Managing a world-wide optocoupler portfolio producing $70 million in annual revenue, Richardson immediately began working on a supply-channel plan to boost market share even higher. Richardson implemented a "Value-Based Pricing Model" and built a cross-divisional team to develop software productivity tools, while providing sales support for accounts such as Motorola, Ericsson, and Texas Instruments. During this period, Richardson also headed off to England to coordinate the building of a European marketing center for communications products, demonstrating her versatility. Texas Instruments stole her away in 1995. Her work as a technical sales representative included working with channel partners to develop market stimulation initiatives and managing an assigned account base to drive increased sales and design-in of TI circuit products.
Working with the manufacturers that used Texas Instruments circuitry in their products, Richardson helped drive more than 500-percent growth in design activity in a three-year period. She managed new business development activities through product distribution, developed a training program for customer and company personnel, and coordinated customer seminars on how to better use Texas Instruments' products. She also developed a program to improve the effectiveness of "distributor advocates" who help close sales, and secured design-ins of digital and analog circuit devices into the products of several important clients.
Richardson's effectiveness brought attention from the higher-ups, and with this came promotion. She now is a WorldWide Account manager, responsible for developing and driving sales strategies. In less than two years, she has secured digital and analog device design-ins worth $105 million. She increased sales to $62 million in fiscal 2000 alone, improving Texas Instruments' supplier scorecard from 82 percent to 89 percent over three quarters. Recalling her own early experience as a manufacturing design engineer, Richardson works closely with factory personnel to drive new product developments that address the customers' needs rapidly and efficiently. In any sales enterprise, that is the bottom line.
Technical Sales & Marketing
John L. Seaton
Systems Engineer III
Cisco Systems, Inc.
John Seaton is the personification of the tenet that engineers are the producers of value in the economy. He began his career at the interface of finance and technology at New York's Manufacturers Hanover Trust Company while still an electrical engineering major at Polytechnic University, helping to develop and maintain the corporate data network for the money movers. After graduation in 1988, he hopped across town to Columbia University, where he completed a master's degree in electrical engineering while making another transition, to a network architecture planner at AT&T Bell Laboratories.
At Bell Labs, Seaton plunged into the rapidly breaking wave of technological change, moving through various assignments on the technical staff as the telephone system digitized its operations. In one assignment, he performed land line network designs for cellular phone systems. There, he worked directly with account executives and the customers themselves -- the cellular phone operators -- supporting the business unit in responding to customer requests for proposals and backing up the sales team. He also began getting international exposure, working with clients building GSM wireless networks.
This exposure to the selling regime became contagious. In his next assignment, in 1995, as an applications engineer for the Business Carrier Access Offer, Atlantic/Canadian Customer Business Unit, he helped Southern New England Telephone and BellSouth jack up bandwidth, designing Synchronous Optical Network data rings in response to customer RFPs and demonstrating the TEC-2000 network design tool.
Next, Seaton became a data network consultant for AT&T Business Communications Services, providing data networking expertise to the account executives servicing the largest AT&T clients. Here, working against tough competition, he defined network solutions to satisfy customers who themselves were facing increasing pressures to cut costs, speed communication, and react to rapidly changing market conditions. The entire economy was undergoing a radical change from older ways of doing business, and these front-rank companies used Seaton's solutions to stay nimble.
Seaton's dedication on the job, his creative approaches to problem-solving, and his combination of business and technical acumen helped his team grow their business by more than 22 percent in one year. His work ethic was so pronounced, his former manager considered him the driving technical force in their large-account sales.
That conscientiousness, drive, and acumen got him snatched away from AT&T in 1998, when his manager took a new job with Cisco Systems. Now responsible for providing data and voice networking expertise to blue-chip enterprises as well as the State of New Jersey, Seaton handles pre-sales technical support, customer and account team training, RFP response development, customer presentations, and support of customer trials.
And just to keep busy, Seaton also served four years as a volunteer teacher and mentor in the Program for Acceleration of Careers in Engineering (P.A.C.E.), developing a curriculum and helping students learn to build a digital clock and a calculator and then move on to developing their own Web pages with Hypertext Markup Language.
Calvin Mackie, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Mechanical Engineering Department
Dr. Calvin Mackie, now six years into a college teaching career that is by all accounts stellar, had entered Morehouse College as an undergraduate under a cloud. His personal biography tells the story:
"After graduating from McDonogh No. 35 High School in New Orleans, LA in 1985, Calvin Mackie was conditionally accepted into Morehouse College where he began his college career in remedial reading after scoring a weak 800 on the SAT college entrance examination. Over the next 11 years, Mackie embarked on an unbelievable journey of academic and personal achievement that no man-made test could have predicted."
An educator who knew Mackie during his undergraduate years noted that the college environment was a challenge for a young man who was the first in his family to go to college.
"I have been teaching and advising for 26 years," wrote Dr. Thomas J. Blocker, senior dean and director of the Office of Health Professions, "and to date I can think of few students who fall in the unique category of Calvin Mackie. I can truly say that in the case of Calvin...every difficulty has become an opportunity. An opportunity to earn four degrees with top honors, given neither parent had a college degree. Even more important is the fact that his peers at Morehouse and Georgia Tech credit him with taking time to motivate and encourage them to stay in school and pursue careers in engineering."
And this from one of his students: "In 1998, Dr. Mackie directly impacted my life when he presented me with the ChannelZerO Student Incentive Award at the Atlanta University Center's Dual Degree Banquet," said former Clark Atlanta student Cyntressa R. Dickey. "I had recently transferred to Georgia Institute of Technology, and my performance, academically, was very discouraging. I began to doubt my self-worth and potential as a chemical engineer, but I bless God daily for Dr. Calvin Mackie.
"He gave me advice on prioritizing and time management. He also presented me with $500 in stock and provided me with information on companies in which I should invest. His encouragement served as a catalyst in my life, and as a result, I graduated from Clark Atlanta University with a degree in chemistry and Georgia Tech with a degree in chemical engineering. The net worth of my stock also tripled in value. Through his influence, I not only grew academically, but financially as well."
The students in the College of Engineering at Tulane University voted him the Pi Tau Sigma Teacher of the Year in 2000. And so it goes.
Dr. Mackie holds a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Morehouse and bachelor's, master's, and Ph.D. degrees in mechanical engineering from Georgia Tech. He has won nearly $660,000 in research grants and contracts to date, and his ChannelZerO consulting firm and streaming-video Web site specializes in motivating young people to succeed. He is a teacher's teacher.
Bevlee A. Watford, Ph.D., P.E.
Associate Dean for Academic Affairs; Director of
Minority Engineering Programs
Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University
Dr. Bevlee Watford is the founding director of Virginia Tech's Office of Minority Engineering Programs. She walked in the door in 1992 and set up a tutoring center. Open to all Virginia Tech engineering students, it has provided several thousand tutoring sessions to date.
A three-time Virginia Tech alumna who majored in mining engineering, operations research, and industrial engineering, Dr. Watford excels in setting up programs to increase diversity and boost retention of minority engineering students. A few examples:
* ASPIRE is a five-week summer "bridge" program offering mathematics, chemistry, and engineering classes to incoming African-American and Hispanic freshmen. An associated Industrial Mentoring program provides each ASPIRE participant with a mentor from industry.
* C-Tech2 is a four-week summer computer technology camp for Virginia high-school girls.
* Imagination '01 is an annual summer camp that teaches basic engineering principles to middle-school students from the New River and Roanoke valleys and Martinsville, Va.
* The Pre-College Initiative program assists minority high school students in preparing for college.
* The Learning Community for Women in Engineering is a residentially based academic community designed to enhance the success of first-year women at Virginia Tech.
* The Virginia Tech-GE Fund Scholars program provides opportunities for underrepresented students at the undergraduate and graduate levels to pursue research under the direction of a faculty member.
* The Manufacturing Program for Young Scholars, established with National Science Foundation funding, introduced high school students to manufacturing engineering from 1991 to 1997.
* Focus Groups help Virginia Tech better understand the issues of concern for women, African-American, and Hispanic engineering students.
All that activity brought notice from outside the campus. Dr. Watford, a National Society of Black Engineers advisor, spearheaded the initiation of a chapter of the Society for Hispanic Professional Engineers on campus. In 1994, the General Electric Foundation awarded a grant of $305,000 to fund expansion of Dr. Watford's programs to recruit and retain minority students. In 1999, the foundation made a second grant of $150,000 to support the Virginia Tech-GE Fund Scholars program.
Dr. Watford's first goal was to boost enrollment and retention of African-American students, and she succeeded in raising the total from 1990's 40 to 72 in 2001. <retention
Over the 10 years of her tenure, Dr. Watford has won more than $1 million in funding for minority engineering programs.
Promotion of Higher Education
Kevin T. Kornegay, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, School of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Dr. Kevin T. Kornegay has been teaching for less than 10 years, but he already has made a giant splash. At Purdue University, where he taught from 1994 to 1997, he shepherded three students to Ph.D.s and two to master's degrees in computer engineering, on the way leading a team that developed the first complementary metal-oxide semiconductor integrated circuits in silicon carbide, a material that can withstand extremes of temperature and pressure. These "wide bandgap" semiconductors will see duty in aerospace and in harsh factory environments.
That brought him to the attention of the faculty at Cornell University, where Dr. Kornegay already has produced two more master's degree holders, has another one about to graduate, and has 14 Ph.D. candidates in the pipeline.
But that is just the start of things. Newly arrived in Ithaca, with the full teaching load a junior faculty member must carry, Dr. Kornegay joined with another professor, Dr. Michael Spencer, to advance his silicon-carbide products to include micromachined devices (MEMS) that can operate at temperatures that would break down standard silicon devices.
Then Dr. Kornegay decided, on his own initiative, to give Cornell a better facility for teaching and designing high-speed circuits. He quickly enlisted the aid of IBM, Agilent, Cadence, Cascade-Microtech, and Tality Corporations and built the new Cornell Broadband Communications Research Laboratory, with 26 high-performance IBM RS-6000 workstations and design kits to produce silicon-germanium integrated circuits. With this lab, and with other donated equipment he has brought in, Dr. Kornegay is preparing a new generation of radio-frequency circuit designers. The lab focuses in on Bluetooth, the revolutionary new communications standard to allow cell phones, personal digital assistants, and computer peripherals to interact over wireless connections.
Just for fun, Dr. Kornegay decided to join an undergraduate effort to design an autonomous submarine for a student competition. Never mind that he knew nothing about submarines. The students wanted him for their advisor, and advise them he did. In their maiden competition, the students' Big Red Artificial Intelligence Navigator managed several awards for innovative design then performed well enough in the water to place second to eventual winner Rhode Island and tie with MIT, which had won outright two years running.
Dr. Kornegay, whose research has won millions of dollars in financial and donated equipment support, is the faculty advisor for Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honor society, and the college chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers. He and his wife Felicia also spend evenings with students, acting as a surrogate family.
Dr. Kornegay sits on a raft of industry committees and advisory boards and is highly sought for presentations before companies and industry groups. He has 14 articles in refereed journals, has made 28 refereed conference presentations and proceedings, and leads one of the school's largest research groups. He also was the recipient of a White House fellowship for junior faculty. He is clearly a man on the march.
GEM Student Leadership
Leon Pickett Jr.
Iowa State University
George Washington Carver went to Iowa State University, and walking in his footsteps is no easy task. Leon Pickett Jr., a 1991-95 Carver Scholar, is a worthy candidate, however.
Pickett, recruited to the institution out of Renaissance High School in Detroit, learned about college technology studies through the Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program, and had a chance to take classes at Alabama State, Howard, and Michigan State Universities while still in secondary school. When he made his choice to attend the legendary Carver's alma mater, he knew what he was doing. In addition to carrying high grades -- a 3.7 G.P.A. on the 4.0 scale -- Pickett has served as Minority Outreach Coordinator for the engineering school's LEAD program (Leadership through Engineering Academic Diversity) while working toward his degree part time. Receiving a Graduate Degrees for Minorities in Engineering and Science (GEM) fellowship in the spring of 2000 allowed him to become a full-time scholar, and Pickett now is figuring on pursuing a career as a college educator.
There might be other opportunities in the wings, however. Pickett completed regular tours at Dow Corning as an engineering intern under Iowa State's Cooperative Education program, and managers there noted his keen curiosity and creative approaches to problem-solving. Pickett won awards for his performance as an intern, for the managers rated Pickett, then a sophomore, much better than a beginning-level employee.
Pickett also participated in a Dow Corning, Iowa State University College of Education, and Midland Public Schools initiative to develop a partnership for a creative student-teacher program. The man who recruited Pickett, now an Iowa State University professor himself, remembers Pickett's strong communications skills, dedication, and character in dealing with people of diverse backgrounds. Such skills serve well in Corporate America as well.
As a graduate student, Pickett began working in Iowa State's widely regarded Center for Non-Destructive Evaluation, showing early on his curiosity and penchant for quick study. When Pickett got the opportunity to become a GEM Fellow, the professor, Dr. Vinay Dayal, was an enthusiastic supporter. Dr. Dayal engaged Pickett to help complete a project for Siemens Westinghouse, performing tests on a large number of samples, and found Pickett to be exacting and exhaustive in his efforts.
Now doing research work with Ford Motor Company engineers as part of his GEM Fellowship, Pickett has dived again into the task of learning all he can while contributing mightily to the success of the projects on which he works.
Roberto W. Young
University of Memphis
The Boeing Company
Roberto Young is a classic scholar-athlete. His mentors in the School of Engineering say that they first learned of him when the football team began recruiting him. As anyone with a passing familiarity with big-time football knows, Division I football is pretty much a full-time occupation. Young, however, sees it differently. Attending the University of Memphis on a football scholarship, Young maintains a 3.62 average, carrying a double major in electrical engineering and mathematics.
Not only is that the highest grade-point average on his team, Young also is an outstanding student leader on campus. He is president of his Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity chapter, leading the organization to broaden its horizons with joint programs with other Greek-letter organizations and working with a national community service program, Project Alpha, helping young students at St. Louis' Southside Boys and Girls Club. And just to keep busy, Young also has completed four years' activity as an INROADS intern, placed at Boeing's facility in St. Louis, Young's hometown.
The Rev. Dr. Earl Miller, pastor of St. Louis' Second Missionary Baptist Church, apprised of Young's exploits as a student intern at the giant aircraft manufacturer, described him this way:
"Roberto Young [is] a young man of notable Christian character and outstanding accomplishments in the engineering and mathematics fields. Roberto has completed a four-year internship at The Boeing Company:
* Avionics Integration Department
* Training Systems and Support (Configuration Management Branch)
* Integrated Sensors and Signature Facility
* Advanced Manufacturing Research and Development (Automated Assembly Group)"
Senior managers at Boeing also describe Young's contributions as outstanding. Gerald E. Daniels, president and CEO of the Military Aircraft & Missiles division, says that during his four years at Boeing, Young's work cut across several key disciplines, but that, "Roberto's most important contribution has been in Advanced Manufacturing Research and Development...(where he) was heavily involved with testing and development of the Portable Fastener Delivery System. Testing focused on harmonizing the proper fastener -- diameter size, grip length, and tensile strength -- with the catcher's gun. Software was key in this system and Roberto again used his expertise to test the PFDS software and provide useful feedback to the programmers. The end result is that (the system) is being readied for deployment in the first quarter of 2002 in the F/A-18E/F outer wing cell," creating savings that more than cover the costs of development and testing.
High marks indeed. And all while still a student. Young, a senior graduating in May, was honored recently as INROADS' 2001 St. Louis Intern of the Year. He had been freshman Intern of the Year in 1998.
Robert L. Bowers
Robert L. Bowers has spent his entire working life making the automobiles that power America's lifestyle. In 1963, when Bowers joined the General Motors Corporation as a managerial employee, very few African Americans held white-collar positions in the auto business. Very many worked in auto plants, however, especially after Henry Ford's successful recruitment of rural blacks coming North for the Great Migration.
Nineteen sixty-three was a heady time. The postwar era was still winding down, and the civil rights era was in full swing. Demonstrators were marching in the streets demanding a better piece of the American pie, and quiet workers like Bowers, clutching their newly printed baccalaureate degrees, were marching straight into the offices of Corporate America.
Bowers entered the automotive industry when muscle cars ruled America's highways. He was a production supervisor in GM plants then, but one of the muscle cars that turned many a worker's head at competing auto plants was the Chrysler 300-D. Little did he know, back in the exhilarating Sixties, that he'd one day manage the foundry that produced the massive engine blocks that powered such brawny cars. He worked a succession of production management jobs in Detroit, rising to become director of Facilities Engineering in 1999 before moving to DaimlerChrysler Corporation, where he became the sole African American running a foundry in the auto business. The foundry he leads has successfully achieved certification as meeting the ISO 14001 standard for environmental protection. It is one of two foundries in the United States to gain that recognition. Not bad for a guy with a business management degree.
Bowers has led production in seven plants in five different states over four decades of his lifetime. He has seen auto brands disappear from the American market, and he's seen some foreign competitors bark a challenge and then drop back out, come back, and drop back out again.
Bowers, who was not out making headlines during those turbulent years, was quietly making his own mark as a steady performer on the shop floor. In 1974-75 he won major recognition for the fit and finish of exterior trim on a new small-car product in a Delaware plant. In 1981, with offshore products winning consumer plaudits for quality, Bowers won laurels for outstanding performance implementing quality control and efficiency improvements in a Maryland assembly works. Three years later, he was cited for outstanding performance in launching another new car at a Missouri plant. In 1990, he was cited again for the high-quality performance of a major car launch and for the implementation of a new, strict quality control system at a Michigan plant. Two years ago, Bowers was cited for zero downtime and on-time facilities performance during the 2000 model year car launches at GM's Michigan headquarters.
Such achievements rarely make the headlines. But they do make for consumer confidence, as millions of buyers enjoy the products of Bowers' labors. He is an automaker's automaker.
Garland L. Thompson is a freelance writer based in Lansdowne, Pa. He can be reached at GThompson@ccgmag.com.