Engineering Departments

Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering inducts new academy members, honors outstanding young alumnus


Pictured are the new members of the Academy of Engineering Excellence at Virginia Tech and the Outstanding Young Alumni. From left to right, are: Anne Ellis, Dan Dick, Richard Bishop, Doug Juanarena, Regina Dugan, Peter Kurzhals, Sastry Kompella, David Finkleman, and Mike Quillen. At the far right is Richard Benson, dean of the College of Engineering.
Blacksburg, VA , May 03, 2013
Virginia Tech College of Engineering

Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering inducted seven new members into its Academy of Engineering Excellence, an elite group that now consists of only 119 people out of its more than 60,000 living alumni.

The Academy of Engineering Excellence was founded in 1999 by F. William Stephenson, past dean of the college of engineering, and by the college’s advisory board. This year marked the 14th anniversary of the first induction. In 2009, the college produced a book on the first 90 inductees, called "In the Land Grant Tradition: Reaching the Pinnacles,” available at the University Bookstore.

This Academy and the College’s published book “represents another way the College of Engineering has selected to showcase our loyal ambassadors.  These alumni all represent people who have lived their lives representing the spirit of Ut Prosim, Virginia Tech’s motto, meaning that I may serve,” said Richard C. Benson, dean of the College of Engineering and the holder of the Paul and Dorothea Torgersen Chair of Engineering.

The 2013 academy inductees are: Major General Dan Dick, of Keswick, Va., industrial and systems engineering, Class of 1970; Regina Dugan, of Sunnyvale, Calif., mechanical engineering, Class of 1984 and of 1985; Anne Ellis, of Mclean, Va., civil and environmental engineering, Class of 1980; David Finkleman, of Colorado Springs, Colo., aerospace and ocean engineering, Class of 1963; Doug Juanarena, of Blacksburg, Va., electrical and computer engineering, Class of 1975; Peter Kurzhals, of Fountain Valley, Calif., aerospace and ocean engineering, Class of 1960, 1962, and 1966; and Michael Quillen, of Abingdon, Va., civil and environmental engineering, Class of 1970 and 1971.

The 2013 Outstanding Young Alumni Achievement Awards were presented to Richard Bishop, of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, mining and minerals engineering, Class of 2002; and to Sastry Kompella, of Silver Spring, Md., electrical and computer engineering, Class of 2006.

Dick was called into active duty in 1970, and in the following three decades the general and his family would live all over the U.S., Europe, and the South Pacific. He served as: the 13th Air Force commander, responsible for all Air Force operations in a 32-country area in the western Pacific and Indian Oceans; 12th Air Force vice commander, overseeing the operations of 45,000 personnel at 54 installations throughout the western U.S. and Latin America; air combat command director of plans and programs, formulating the combat Air Force’s $18 billion annual budget; and the commander of the Air Force’s largest and most complex composite wing comprised of 8,000 personnel and 150 aircraft in 11 different operating locations in five countries on the Arabian peninsula.

Dugan became the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency’s 19th director in 2009, the agency’s first female director. Under her leadership, DARPA significantly advanced several program areas, including: new manufacturing efforts based on a belief that “to innovate, we must make”; new cybersecurity programs including significant outreach to the “white hat” hacker community; new social media principles, theories and demonstrations; as well as significant contributions to immediate battlefield concerns. The agency was awarded the Joint Meritorious Unit Award by the Secretary of Defense on September 11, 2012 for its efforts in Afghanistan during her tenure. After Google’s acquisition of Motorola Mobility in 2012, Dugan left DARPA and agreed to form and lead its Advanced Technology and Projects group, the skunkworks-inspired team delivering breakthrough innovations to Motorola Mobility.

Ellis is vice president for AECOM, a global provider of professional technical and management support services, and the current president of the American Concrete Institute, the first female professional engineer to hold this leadership position. Serving as AECOM’s vice president for Americas and Government, the Maryland native is responsible for two of its advisory councils: the Government Services Advisory Council and the Global Advisory Board. Comprised of global business and geopolitical leaders, these advisories provide valued insights and advice on entering and growing business in new geographies, business lines and high-growth services, enhancing and sustaining natural, built and social environments. In the past she has served on the Virginia Tech advisory boards for the college, the civil and environmental engineering department, and the Alexandria Research Institute.

Finkleman currently serves as senior scientist of the Center for Space Standards and Innovation and as convener of the International Standards Organization Space Operations Working Group. With colleagues, he formed and operates the Space Data Center, the first and only nongovernmental satellite traffic management capability. Finkleman earned the two highest civilian awards: Distinguished Service medals from both the U.S. Navy and the Department of Defense. Previously, Finkleman served for 18 years as Cheyenne Mountain’s chief technical officer and director of analysis for NORAD, and U.S. Space Command (USSPACECOMM), as well as the U.S. Northern Command following the events of Sept. 11, 2001. He was the top civilian in these commands, from 1985 to 2003, trusted advisor to 12 four-star generals, including the U.S. Air Force’s Chuck Horner of Desert Storm fame. He remains the only civilian ever appointed to USSPACECOM’s Battle Staff.

Juanarena started his employment with NASA, and was its lead engineer on the development of an electronic pressure scanner. NASA encouraged him to start his own business with his invention, and he founded Pressure Systems, Inc. in 1978. His pressure scanner became the world standard for wind tunnel, propulsion, and flight-testing, and he held contracts with Boeing, McDonnell Douglas, and Airbus. He later sold this company to Britain’s Roxboro Group but stayed on as CEO for four years until 2000. In 1986, Juanarena started a second company -- Keller-PSI, Inc. His scanner demonstrated much needed improved aviation efficiency, a niche that soon attracted automotive interests. Subsequently, he sold Keller-PSI to a Swiss entity in 1999. Today, he owns GenTek Ventures, LLC, assisting technology companies with strategic planning, and serves as the vice-president of the Blacksburg office of Rackspace Hosting, Inc.

Kurzhals earned his master’s and doctoral degrees at Virginia Tech, and during that time he developed and patented a double-gimbaled Control Moment Gyro system to control the attitude of spacecraft with significant cost savings. After a $50 million advance from NASA headquarters to build a prototype system, Kurzhals and his team traveled to the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), in Huntsville, Ala., to sell the system to flight center management for use on the Skylab space station. His device impressed Wernher von Braun, one of the U.S. space program’s key figures, and he became a mentor to Kurzhals. He moved up through NASA, directing its Space Division, with a $100 million budget and 1,000 employees from 1979 to 1980. From 1981 to 1984, he was assistant director of mission operations at Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, where he managed mission control center upgrades and led the transition to an online information capability to greatly reduce operating costs. In 1984, he left NASA to join Booz Allen, and later McDonnell Douglas, eventually purchased by Boeing. When Boeing purchased McDonnell Douglas in 1995, Kurzhals was named director of Boeing’s product support for the International Space Station, managing a $600 million budget. He retired in 2011.

Quillen, the 2011 Virginia Business Person of the Year, founded the Virginia-based Alpha Natural Resources (ANR) in 2002 after spending 28 years in mining related positions. Quillen’s acumen led the company to its ranking as one of the nation’s largest coal suppliers and the number six coal supplier worldwide within ten years. In spring of 2012, Quillen formally retired as chairman of ANR, a company traded on the N.Y. Stock Exchange, but still based in southwest Virginia – Quillen’s home for 63 years. He currently serves as the rector of Virginia Tech’s Board of Visitors, and he is the past chair of the Virginia Port Authority Board of Commissioners. One of his retirement jobs is the co-chairman of an $8 million capital campaign for the historic Barter Theatre in Abingdon. And he was instrumental in Virginia Tech’s most recent development effort that earned the University status in higher education’s billion dollar endowment club.  His family funded an auditorium in the Signature Engineering Building that will open in 2014.

Bishop has traveled to more than 40 countries and professionally ascended from an entry-level mining engineer to the vice president of a global resource investment firm in the ten years since he graduated from Virginia Tech. Since 2011, Bishop has served as the vice president of investments for Aberdeen International, located in Toronto. Bishop provides portfolio analysis and creates investment ideas for an approximately $100 million resource investment portfolio. He frequently travels the world to scout new mining projects, with recent travels to Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Indonesia, the Philippines, Mongolia, Spain, Portugal, the DRC, and South Africa.

Kompella earned his doctorate, working with Tom Hou, professor of electrical and computer engineering, as part of the National Science Foundation’s Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship program. He now works at the Naval Research Laboratory. He has developed new approaches for pushing performance limits of complex wireless network systems. Kompella remains most excited about his work with cognitive radios, super-smart radios that are aware of their own environment, capabilities, and operating rules, and can adapt to changing scenarios. He is also breaking ground in the field of layerless networking, high-tech network and sensor design, and radio control for the battlefield. Related, he is leading the way in underwater networking communications, for new military tools such as the autonomous robotic jellyfish now under development by the U.S. Department of Defense and Virginia Tech’s Shashank Priya of mechanical engineering.


Lynn Nystrom
(540) 231-4371