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Society of Distinguished Alumni

The Mechanical Engineering Society of Distinguished Alumni

The ME Society of Distinguished Alumni is an honorary society open to qualified graduates, of the ME Department at Virginia Tech (at bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels). The fundamental purpose of the Society is to provide a formal means of recognition of those alumni who have demonstrated extraordinary achievement in their careers. A major objective of the Society is to promote greater interaction between ME Alumni and ME faculty, staff, and students.

Class of 2019

John Blanton

John C. Blanton, Ph.D.

Classes of 1976, 1977, 1981
Gas Turbine Engineering, GE (Retired)
An internationally known and respected leader in the field of gas turbine design and technology, Dr. John Blanton has maintained life-long commitments to the sound fundamental practice of mechanical engineering and to his alma mater, Virginia Tech. Starting as a student and continuing through his lengthy career with GE and now as a consultant, John has excelled at complementing corporate engineering responsibilities with leadership and collaborative volunteer activities with professional engineering societies. John has also shared his experiences with the next generations through extensive formal teaching and mentoring programs. His life-long service to Virginia Tech includes more than 10 years service to the Department Advisory Board.
Dr. William Cousins

William Cousins, Ph.D.

Classes of 1978, 1979, 1997
Fellow, Thermal Fluid Sciences, United Technology Research Center
Dr. Bill Cousins is a recognized international expert in compression system stability and operability. His work and invention of a device for fore-and-aft flow in a surge event in compressions, has become the standard for stall and surge testing in turbine engine compressors. As he continues his ground-breaking research with United Technologies Research Center, Bill recently completed the design and test of the first-ever boundary-layer ingesting distortion tolerant fan under a NASA contract. He shares his knowledge with students at Virginia Tech, as well as maintaining a position as an adjunct faculty member at the University of Hartford. In addition to his role on the Department Advisory Board, Bill also serves as an informal advisor to the governing board of the ASME International Gas Turbine Institute.
Michael Fleming

Michael Fleming

Classes of 2002, 2003
CEO & Co-Founder, Torc Robotics
Michael Fleming is the Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Torc Robotics, a leading provider of self-driving solutions, based in Blacksburg, VA. Beginning operations in 2005 as a Virginia Tech student start-up, Torc developed the self-driving technology for team Victor Tango in the DARPA Urban Challenge. Since its top three finish in this historic self-driving race, Fleming has overseen Torc’s rapid and organic growth to over 100 employees – along with the commercialization of self-driving technology into trucking, mobility, mining, and defense applications through OEM partnerships. In March 2019 Daimler Trucks and Torc announced an agreement for Daimler to acquire a majority ownership in Torc, forming a partnership to commercialize Level 4 self-driving trucks. Under the agreement, Torc retains its name, leadership, facilities, and customers.
Uma Jayaram

Uma Jayaram, Ph.D.

Classes of 1987, 1991
Managing Director and Principal Engineer, Intel Sports
The first woman officially admitted to the Indian Institute of Technology’s Mechanical Engineering program at IIT Kharagpur, Dr. Uma Jayaram completed her master’s degree at Virginia Tech working on hypersonic jet inlets, before going on to complete her Ph.D. in computer-aided design/interactive computer graphics and mathematical geometric surface modeling for aircraft. Since leaving Blacksburg, Uma has started three companies, including Voke, a virtual reality experience company which was bought by Intel in 2016. She currently leads a vibrant engineering team at Intel and has brought her experience and expertise to providing cutting-edge immersive experiences for sporting events and leagues such as the 2018 Winter Olympics, NFL, NBA, NCAA, and MLB.
Edward L. Nelson

Edward L. Nelson, Ph.D.

Classes of 1990, 1992, 1994
Associate Dean, Administration and Chief of Staff, College of Engineering, Virginia Tech
Dr. Ed Nelson earned BS/MS/PhD degrees from Virginia Tech and earned a 4-year undergraduate National Society of Professional Engineers Scholarship. In 1991 Ed worked at NASA Ames Research Center in the area of experimental infrared radiation heat transfer, and from 1996-1999 for a company in the CRC as the PI on a Naval Air Warfare Center contract studying heat flux of solid rocket plumes. From 1999-2005, Ed worked at VT with Continuing and professional Education on over 150 revenue-generating programs. Since 2005, he has served as the Associate Dean for Administration and Chief of Staff of the College of Engineering, responsible for the COE budget, human resources, and facilities assets. Since 2005 the COE has increased tenure-track faculty from 288 to 381 and its undergraduate program from 5,400 to 8,100. Most recently, he has been devoted to planning the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus in Alexandria, VA and the Holden Hall expansion set to begin in 2019.

Class of 2018

Michelle M. Grieshaber. Classes of 1985, 1986, 1991. Chief Marketing Officer, Silicon Labs
* Walter F. O’Brien. Classes of 1960, 1968. J. Bernard Jones Professor, Mechanical Engineering
John F. Sparks. Classes of 1974, 1976, 1981. Director, Program Management, Aerojet Rocketdyne
Keith van Houten. Class of 1991. Manager, ADAS/Autonomous Vehicle Performance Simulation, General Motors
Sarah J. Mayer. Class of 1988. Sr. Director, Architecture, Capabilities & Systems, BDS Operations and Quality, Boeing

Legacy Members

Eligible ME alumni who have distinguished themselves by being named to the College of Engineering Academy of Academic Excellence through 2017, are inducted into the MESoDA as Legacy Members.
Jerry H. Ballengee, 1962, Retired President and CO, Union Camp Corp.
R. Sidney Barrett Jr., 1962, Retired General Partner, B&H Enterprises (deceased)
Edgar Boynton, 1921, Former Partner, Wiley and Wilson (deceased)
David A. Christian, 1976, Executive Vice President and CEO, Dominion Resource
William A. Cox Jr., 1934, Retired, William A. Cox Consulting (deceased)
Nicholas H. Des Champs, Ph.D., 1962, 1967, Founder, Retired President, Des Champs Technologies
Regina E. Dugan, 1984, 1985, Head of Building 8, Facebook
Elmer R. Easton, 1947, President and CEO, Three D Graphics
Robert C. Gibson, 1961, Past Chairman, Clark, Nexsen
George R. Goodson Jr., 1949, Founder, Retired Chairman, Warwick Plumbing and Heating
J.B. Jones, Ph.D.,  1945, Retired, Professor and Department Head 1964-1984 (deceased)
John R. Jones III, 1967, Retired President, American Electric Power Pro Service
Mary “Prim” Jones, 1962, Retired Executive Director of Engineering, Aerojet General Corporation
E. George Middleton Jr., 1950, Retired President, E.G. Middleton, Inc.  (deceased)
Hobart A. Weaver, 1950, Retired Director, Lucent Technologies  (deceased)
William K. Wells, 1966, Former Partner, Kenyon and Kenyon