ChE Alumnus Recalls Good Ole (Miss) Days

C. J. Fayard reflects upon tenure as student, military service and successful career



George Bailey’s not the only man who can claim “It’s been a wonderful life!”

Like the fictional lead character in Frank Capra’s popular Christmas movie, C. J. Fayard (ChE 52) has lived to fulfill the dreams he had as a young man growing up in Bay St. Louis.

“I attended and was valedictorian of St Stanislaus College, a college prep for boys dating back to 1854, and was taught by Sacred Heart brothers,” Fayard said. “After I graduated in 1948, I was awarded a minor scholarship to Loyola University in New Orleans.”

After learning Loyola did not have a chemical engineering department, Fayard looked northward.

“I decided to go to Ole Miss to study chemical engineering,” he said. “My decision was based on my older brother’s advice, as he graduated with a C.E. degree.”

Fayard came to Ole Miss in 1948, excelling as a student and earning many honors, including membership in Phi Eta Sigma engineering society and the Arnold Air Society.

“I thought Ole Miss would be my best choice,” Fayard said. “My favorite subjects were heat transfer, which was taught by Frank Anderson, and calculus.”

After being commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force, Fayard was called to active duty during the Korean conflict. After being indoctrinated at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, he was assigned to the 4925th Test Group, a top-secret entity dealing with atomic weapons.

“My major projects included testing the B-2 trailer, which was used to load H-bombs,” Fayard said. “We also conducted escape maneuvers of aircraft carrying atomic weapons.”

Upon completing his two-year tour of duty, Fayard, by then a first lieutenant, retired from the military. He was employed with Copolymer Corp. in Baton Rouge for a year before being hired by Shell Chemical in Norco, Louisiana.

“After two years, I transferred to Shell Chemical in Houston, Texas,” Fayard said. “I was hired in the computer programming department and later went into training. Some courses I taught were ‘Presentation and Communication Skills,’ ‘Creative Problem Solving’ and ‘Time Management.’”

Fayard was later assigned to Gesimar, Lousiana, to lead the startup of an oxygen plant.

After 33 years with Shell, Fayard retired but he didn’t stop working.

“I formed CJF Seminars,” he said. “I designed many techniques taught by Dr. Anderson into my seminars. I had great respect for him and he was a great influence on my success. I had workshops in all the courses previously mentioned, plus new ones. I traveled all over and was even invited to teach on a 12-day cruise.”

After enountering some health issues, Fayard retired from teaching. He and Shirley, his wife of 52 years, enjoy spending time with their four married children and 12 grandchildren.

“Without question, my years at Ole Miss were some of the best years of my life,” Fayard said. “It’s been quite a ride.”

CE Doctoral Student’s Paper Voted ‘Best’ at Geophysics Conference

Leti Wodajo invited to present this fall in Greece

Leti Wodajo

Leti Wodajo

A University of Mississippi civil engineering doctoral student’s research into the early detection of dam and levee problems has launched him onto the national and global stage.

Leti Wodajo of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, has been conducting research in applications of geophysics and geotechnical engineering since becoming a master’s student at Ole Miss. His academic prowess and scholarly presentation yielded him an invitation to present a paper at the Symposium on the Application of Geophysics and Environmental Engineering Problems meeting in April in Boston.

“We submit our abstract, and session committees will review it and notify us if it is accepted for presentation,” Wodajo said. “Over 200 technical papers were presented, including oral and poster presentations. It was a great opportunity to know what is being done in the world of geophysics and its application. It also gave me a great chance to talk to and to learn from distinguished professors in the field and professionals in the industry.”

A few weeks later, Wodajo received an email informing him that his paper, titled “Enhancement of SRT and ERT Interpretations Using Time-Lapse Measurements and Cross-plot Analysis,” was voted on the evaluation ballots as one of the best delivered at the conference. As a result, the organization has invited Wodajo to attend the Near Surface Geoscience Division of the European Association of Geoscientists and Engineers meeting, set for Sept. 14-18 in Athens, Greece, to deliver his paper.

Wodajo has accepted the invitation and begun preparing to attend.

“I was really excited by the news,” Wodajo said. “My hope is it will be a great learning experience and that I will receive insightful comments to help improve my work.”

For the past several years SAGEEP have been exchanging the “Best Of” papers with the NSG/EAGE Division in Europe. SAGEEP is covering Wodajo’s delegate badge and gala ticket. Airfare, hotel accommodations and meals are his responsibility.

It is an honor and a worthwhile investment in his future success as a scientist, UM engineering faculty members said.

“This is a great platform for us to present our work and also to learn from the European geophysical society,” said Chung Rak Song, associate professor of civil engineering and Wodajo’s academic co-adviser.

Craig Hickey, interim associate director of applied research at the National Center for Physical Acoustics at UM and Wodajo’s research co-adviser, concurs.

“Only four papers out of the 160 oral presentations were selected to attend the Greece meeting,” Hickey said. “So it is a great recognition to the collaborative work we do at the National Center of Physical Acoustics and the civil engineering department and also a validation to what we are contributing.”

Wodajo earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Jimma University in Ethiopia and a master’s degree in civil engineering from UM. His brother, Bikila Wodajo, received his doctoral degree from UM before him.

“That is how I first heard about the university and their civil engineering program,” Wodajo said. “He encouraged me to apply and got me in touch with Dr. Song and Dr. Hickey. I was able to communicate with them and find out the different types of research they do. I was also offered a generous scholarship covering the whole length of my study, which made my decision easy.”

Previous honors and awards include memberships in Phi Kappa Phi, the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Environmental and Engineering Geophysical Society and Mississippi Academy of Science.

After graduation in 2015, Wodajo’s long-term plan is to return to Ethiopia and assume a faculty position, continue doing research and also teach while being involved in the industry as a consultant.

“But in the short term, I would like to be able to stay for a while and do a post-doc and work on different projects,” he said. “This will help me further the work I am doing now and gain experience on the overall aspect of running a research program, starting from proposal preparation to project management and fund allocation.”

Cathy Grace is Amazing!

Geology lecturer recognized for excellence in academic advising of students

Cathy Grace

Cathy Grace

Perhaps the only thing more rewarding than knowing you have done a job well is the acknowledgement that others know it, too.

That’s why when Cathy Grace received word she had been chosen for the Academic Advising Network’s Excellence in Advising Award, she was both surprised and gratified.

“I was very honored and humbled to learn of this award, as I know the level of commitment exhibited by my faculty colleagues,” said the lecturer in the Department of Geology and Geological Engineering at the University of Mississippi. “I look forward to representing the university at these competitions. I also look forward to hearing from the real ‘experts’ in advising on how I might improve interacting with my students, as advising is not my full-time gig.”

Grace’s amazing journey to honor began when she joined the UM community in 1991 as an “over-the-hill” undergraduate student worker for the Mississippi Mineral Resources Institute.

“I teach a lot,” Grace said. “I was instructor of record for over 600 students last semester and there just aren’t enough hours in the day for interactions with all of my students. So, I look forward to learning how the pros do it.”

Those who know her said Grace is truly deserving of her latest accolade.

“It gives me great pleasure to announce the 2014 Academic Advising Network’s Excellence in Advising Award winners,” said Travis Hitchcock, assistant director for advising in UM’s Center for Student Success and First-Year Experience. “Cathy will represent the University of Mississippi for regional and national awards from the National Academic Advising Association.”

A native of Meridian, Grace received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in geology from the university in 1994 and 1996, respectively. Before becoming an instructor in 2008, she was employed as a coordinator of academic and administrative affairs and a project coordinator within the geology department and a marine projects coordinator at MMRI and the Center for Marine Resources and Technology.

Grace is a consulting and registered professional geoscientist with the Texas Board of Professional Geoscientists. Her principal publications include the Geological Society of America and the American Association of University Women.

Previously, Grace received the 2005 Outstanding Staff Award in the UM School of Engineering and was named Best University Professor by votes to Best of Oxford in 2013.

Her institutional and professional service included reviewing a chapter for “Exploring Geology,” reviewing three chapters in the Laboratory Manual for Physical Geology and being an invited speaker for the 2009 math and science conference at UM’s Tupelo campus.

Since 2004, Grace has delivered multiple presentations regarding geology and geological engineering in Mississippi’s public schools. She has also conducted annual Naturalist in Training seminars and served as a judge for the Lott Leadership Institute’s intra-collegiate debate competition. Grace attended the 2010 National Conference of College Student Women Leaders.

When she’s not spending quality time with her mother in Meridian, Grace enjoys being outdoors.

“I live on a small lake and enjoy fishing and paddling around, either on the little lake or taking my kayak to Sardis and fishing, floating and paddling there,” Grace said. “I also enjoy puttering around on my two acres with flowers, weeds, critters and herbs.”

Jackson Prep Offering Engineering Courses

First dual credit courses scheduled for fall 2014 and spring 2015

Seated from left: Alex Russell and Lila Burton Standing: Camp Geary and Marsha Hobbs

Seated from left: Alex Russell and Lila Burton. Standing: Camp Geary and Marsha Hobbs

The University of Mississippi School of Engineering is offering its pre-engineering curriculum to students at Jackson Preparatory School.

Beginning in August, students will be able to enroll in dual credit courses taught at Jackson Preparatory that can earn them college credit. ENGR 207, a computer graphics course, is available during the fall semester. Introduction to Engineering (ENGR 100) will be taught in spring 2015.

“The purpose of the initiative comes from an effort to stimulate science, technology, engineering and mathematics education in the state of Mississippi and encourage more students to pursue degrees in these fields at the college level,” said Alex Cheng, dean of the UM engineering school.

The courses will be taught by Marsha Hobbs, a Jackson Prep faculty member, in close collaboration with Ole Miss faculty. Additionally, UM faculty will provide guest lectures and students will have opportunities to visit the Oxford campus.

“We are excited about the dual credit course,” Hobbs said. “It will also be our first foray into distance learning, and we will partner with Marni Kendricks in her Engineering 207 course, which teaches AutoCad.

ENGR 207 introduces students to microcomputer-based sketching and drafting, interpretation of graphics, flow and circuit diagrams, graphical representation of data. ENGR 100 provides students with an introduction to the problem-solving methods that engineers use when applying scientific principles for the creation of realistic solutions to everyday technical problems.

Eighteen Jackson Prep students have enrolled in the fall engineering course and are excited about the possibilities of learning new skills.

“I am not sure that I will pursue engineering as part of my career, but I thought it would be beneficial to try it while I can still consider it as a field of study,” said Alex Russell, a senior from Ridgeland. “I enjoy being creative, and to me, engineering sounded like an opportunity to take a science class that embraced this passion.”

Russell said his career plan is to do something in film production, but that he’s still figuring out his options.

“That is why I am going to take this class with an open mind,” he said. “Who knows? I might end up changing my focus onto a more engineering-type career.”

Jackson Prep senior Lila Burton of Brandon echoed Russell’s optimism about the course.

“I enrolled in the course to learn more about engineering because I have gained an interest in what it is,” she said. “I hope to major in political science and have a career in international relations.”

Courses at Prep will mirror the courses at Ole Miss each semester, so that students at both campuses can have the same educational experience, said Ryan Upshaw, assistant dean for student services in the engineering school.

“The courses are meant to give students a better sense and understanding of the opportunities and careers available to them if they earn a degree in engineering or a related field,” Upshaw said. “They will also help them identify if their interests and skills are a good fit for the field.”

Founded in 1900, the UM School of Engineering has been educating engineers for more than 110 years, is accredited by the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology and offers seven degree programs. School officials hope to develop partnerships with more schools throughout the state to continue to expand STEM education in Mississippi.

Founded in 1970, Jackson Preparatory School was the first and continues to be the largest secondary independent school in the Jackson metropolitan area. Established as a premier coeducational college preparatory day school for grades 7-12, it has exhibited more than four decades of excellence in education and has more National Merit semifinalists and finalists than any other school in Mississippi.

For more information, contact the School of Engineering at 662-915-7407.