Inoka Widanagamage Joins Geological Engineering

Newest assistant professor brings teaching excellence, research expertise to department

Inoka Widanagamage conducting geological research in the Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago. Submitted photo

Inoka Widanagamage has been fascinated by geology as long as she can remember and wanted to share her fascination with others interested in the subject. As the newest faculty member in the University of Mississippi’s Department of Geology and Geological Engineering, she is fulfilling her passion by teaching class and conducting research.

“I found this position through the higher education website,” Widanagamage said. “Because of my interest of teaching geology, I thought that this position is a good fit for my interest and expertise. So I decided to apply.”

Widanagamage’s educational background extends from pure geology (e.g., Precambrian geology, structural geology, mineralogy, petrology, high-temperature geochemistry) to applied geology (e.g., environmental geochemistry, low-temperature geochemistry). She has the ability to teach courses in a wide spectrum.

“I teach Earth Dynamics, Environmental Geology, Economic Geology, Geology and Geological Engineering seminar, Physical Geology, Historical Geology and co-teach Mineralogy and Petrology,” she said. “During the summer, I also teach a geological field camp in Ada, Oklahoma. I enjoy sharing my teaching and research experiences with students in a classroom setting to develop their theoretical and practical knowledge.”

Her research interests are stable isotope geochemistry, environmental mineralogy, structural geology and tectonics.

“I mainly focus on the trace metal (stable isotope) distribution in biogeochemical cycles,” Widanagamage said. “I approach my research goals via three major components: studying the natural environment, designing and performing laboratory experiments, and modeling.”

Widanagamage said her short-term plan is to establish a strong teaching profile by teaching a variety of geology courses according to the departmental requirements. Her long-term plan is to develop new upper-level courses related to her research background.

“Also as a long-term plan, I expect to work with senior undergraduate geology students to continue my research projects that I initiated during my tenure as a postdoctoral associate in Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey,” she said. “I am also working on [a] few external grant proposals, seeking potential collaborations within, as well as outside, of our department.”

Widanagamage is a welcome addition to the Department of Geology and Geological Engineering, said Gregg Davidson, chair and professor.

“She has infectious enthusiasm for teaching, both in the classroom and getting students out into the field,” he said. “We are excited that her position will be reclassified in 2018 as an instructional assistant professor. This will allow us to take greater advantage of her research expertise in isotopes and geochemistry, expanding her impact with Honors College classes, assisting with undergraduate research and teaching graduate-level classes.”

Widanagamage received both the Best Teaching Assistant Award and the Outstanding Ph.D. Student Award in the Department of Geology at Kent State University in 2014. She was also nominated for a University Fellowship Award there the previous year and completed an e-Learning training course with honors at UM.

“These are among my most gratifying professional achievements thus far,” Widanagamage said.

She is married to Waruna Weerasinghe, a mechanical engineering student at the university. The couple has one son, Senidu Weerasinghe. Widanagamage said she enjoys spending time with her family and, of course, exploring the geology of the earth.

By Edwin Smith

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Joe Cerny Enters New Chapter in Life

Successful chemical engineering alumnus retires after a half-century in nuclear science

Joseph ‘Joe’ Cerny, a 1957 UM chemical engineering alumnus, recently retired after a prestigious half-century career at the University of California at Berkeley and Berkeley Lab. Submitted photo

After more than half a century of research and leadership at Berkeley Lab and the University of California at Berkeley, University of Mississippi chemical engineering alumnus Joseph Cerny (ChE 57) has retired.

The former head of the Nuclear Science Division and associate laboratory director at Berkeley Lab, professor of chemistry and former chemistry department chair, graduate division dean, provost and vice chancellor for research, Cerny left with another singular honor to add to a long list: the Berkeley Citation, awarded to those “whose attainments significantly exceed the standards of excellence in their fields” and whose contributions are “above and beyond the call of duty.”

Cerny reflected upon how he came to Ole Miss.

“Even though my parents were from Illinois and Kansas, my father was offered a faculty position in the Ole Miss business school,” Cerny said. “He accepted the job and we moved to Oxford in 1946, where I entered the sixth grade.”

As he finished high school, Cerny decided that he wanted to become a chemical engineer. That decision is what prompted him to enter the university’s School of Engineering.

“I had many classes with Frank Anderson, who was a great teacher,” Cerny said. “Other professors I remember as extremely demanding were C.N. Jones and Samuel Clark.”

Born at the height of the Great Depression, Cerny got his bachelor’s degree from UM with support from the ROTC program. During 1957-58, he attended the University of Manchester in England on a Fulbright Scholarship.

Cerny earned his doctorate in nuclear chemistry from UC Berkeley in 1961 and immediately started work as an assistant professor at the university, simultaneously joining the Nuclear Science Division (then the Nuclear Chemistry Division) at Berkeley Lab (then the Radiation Laboratory, or Rad Lab).

Shortly after the East German government began building the Berlin Wall, Cerny was on active duty as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army. For most of the next 16 months, he was in New Jersey evaluating techniques for studying explosive detonations.

Once back at Berkeley, Cerny wasted no time catching up with nuclear science.

“Russian theorists had suggested some interesting ideas about experiments that could be done to study light nuclei very far from stability,” Cerny said. These were isotopes of elements like carbon whose nuclei had more protons than neutrons; most carbon is stable carbon-12, with six protons and six neutrons.

“For example, we wanted to know the lightest carbon nucleus that could hold together on the order of a hundred milliseconds.”

Cerny had a stellar new instrument to work with. His graduate work had been done with Ernest Lawrence’s 60-inch cyclotron, still operating on campus, but upon his return from the Army in 1963, the Rad Lab’s 88-Inch Cyclotron was up and running. It would be pivotal in Cerny’s research throughout his career.

Using state-of-the-art detectors and electronics developed by Fred Goulding and Don Landis at the lab, Cerny found the answer to the carbon stability question – carbon-9, with six protons and three neutrons, has a half-life of 126 thousandths of a second, whereas the lighter carbon-8 lasts only about 100 septillionths of a second – “a huge dividing line,” he said.

Cerny continued experiments on very proton-rich nuclei while on sabbatical at Oxford University in 1969-70, using a heavy-ion cyclotron at the Harwell Laboratory. He completed these studies at the 88-Inch. The result was the discovery of a new radioactive decay mode, direct proton radioactivity – the first mode of single-step radioactive transmutation to be discovered since alpha decay, beta decay and spontaneous fission.

Cerny received the Ernest Orlando Lawrence Memorial Award of the Atomic Energy Commission (predecessor of the U.S. Department of Energy) in 1974, for his “discovery of proton emission as a mode of radioactive decay, for investigation of the limits of nuclear stability of a number of light elements” – and, significantly – “for ingenious instruments that made these discoveries possible.”

In 1975, Cerny became chair of the UC Berkeley Department of Chemistry. One of his major acts was a first for the department: the appointment of a woman, Judith P. Klinman, as a tenured associate professor of bioorganic and biophysical chemistry. In 1979, Cerny was appointed head of the Nuclear Science Division and an associate lab director at Berkeley Lab, a time when the lab was operating three national accelerator facilities: the 88-Inch Cyclotron, SuperHilac and Bevalac, with a distinct taste for heavy-ion physics.

Cerny and his group continued research on radioactive decay modes, adding another first: beta-delayed two-proton emission, which had been predicted by Russian theorist V. Gol’danskii. Among other honors, Cerny received the American Chemical Society’s Award in Nuclear Chemistry for work leading to the discovery of “two new modes of radioactive decay: proton emission and beta-delayed two-proton emission.”

In 1985, Cerny was appointed dean of UC Berkeley’s Graduate Division, serving in that post until 2000. From 1986 to 1994, he also was provost for research, and from 1994 to 2000 was the university’s vice chancellor for research. And in 1990, Cerny additionally became a nuclear physicist, when the University of Jyväskylä in Finland awarded him an honorary doctorate in physics.

At a festschrift on his 60th birthday in 1996, Cerny presented a proposal for equipping the 88-Inch Cyclotron to handle radioactive beams of light ions. Radioactive isotopes of carbon, nitrogen and oxygen would be made by the cyclotron of the Berkeley Isotope Facility in Building 56, part of the imaging facilities of the Life Sciences Division. The radioactive ions would be transported 350 feet through a capillary down the steep slope of Blackberry Canyon to the 88-Inch.

Dubbed BEARS, for Berkeley Experiments with Accelerated Radioactive Species, the transport system was in operation just three years later, enabling the 88-Inch Cyclotron to produce a world record beam of radioactive carbon-11. That isotope’s 20-minute half-life was easily long enough, once it was created, to mix it with oxygen to make carbon dioxide and send the gas through the pipeline to the 88-Inch, where it was trapped and fed into an ion source at the cyclotron.

Cerny’s research, teaching and service work for DOE, NSF and the UC system are continuing from his base in Berkeley, where he and his family are longtime residents. It’s not unlikely that Cerny will be seen around the 88-Inch, a mainstay of his work since his Berkeley beginnings, for many days to come.

Cerny was married to the late Susan Cerny. He is the father of two sons: Keith, who is the general director of the Dallas (Texas) Opera Company, and Mark, a senior video game consultant with Sony Entertainment.

Cerny’s favorite leisure activities include hiking and worldwide travel.

Alumnus Establishes Scholarship Fund for Mechanical Engineering

Mike Nash creates endowment to memorialize former department chair James R. MacDonald

Mechanical engineering alumnus Mike Nash of Maryland made the initial donation to establish the James R. MacDonald Scholarship Fund. Submitted photo

As an undergraduate mechanical engineering student at the University of Mississippi, Jonathon M. “Mike” Nash greatly admired and appreciated James R. MacDonald, then chair and professor of the department.

Recently, Nash established the Dr. James R. MacDonald Scholarship Fund at his alma mater as a lasting tribute to his mentor and lifelong friend.

“Much of the valuable guidance I received was based on his industrial experience,” said Nash, who lives in Frederick, Maryland. “Dr. MacDonald would often emphasize that real-world engineering challenges were rarely solved by one person.

“At the end of the day, your professional knowledge and contributions would only be as effective as your ability to coordinate with others.”

Recipients will be full-time students majoring in mechanical engineering as selected by the School of Engineering Scholarship Committee.

“I express my great appreciation to Dr. Nash for setting up this scholarship to commemorate one of the school’s legendary professors and former mechanical engineering department chair, Dr. James MacDonald,” said Alex Cheng, UM engineering dean. “The scholarship will assists students to meet their financial need and to fulfill their education goals.”

Nash earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and his master’s and doctoral degrees in engineering science from Ole Miss. With more than 40 years’ experience in the aerospace industry, he manages an independent consulting company that provides aviation market analysis and strategic business support for international clients.

Administrators in the Department of Mechanical Engineering expressed appreciation for Nash’s benevolence in honor of MacDonald.

“Dr. MacDonald was instrumental for setting up all undergraduate laboratories initially,” said Arunachalam Rajendran, chair and professor. “It is nostalgic to realize how the efforts initiated by Dr. MacDonald as chair during 1957-1967 have today enabled the ME department to become the largest department in terms of undergraduate enrollment within the School of Engineering.

“I am indeed excited about the scholarship opportunity for full-time students majoring in mechanical engineering through the Dr. James R. MacDonald Scholarship Endowment.”

Nash began his professional career with IBM in the late 1960s as an engineer scientist at the company’s federal systems division in Huntsville, Alabama.

Commissioned through the Ole Miss Army ROTC program, he served on active duty in 1968-70 as a combat engineering officer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Upon returning from Vietnam in 1970, Nash continued graduate studies leading to his doctorate.

He rejoined IBM in 1973, holding technical and management positions supporting NASA, U.S. Army and Department of Energy programs. Nash’s later responsibilities included serving as strategic planning manager for IBM’s Gaithersburg, Maryland, facility and program manager for the Federal Aviation Administration and International Air Traffic Management programs. He continued in the latter position during the sale of IBM’s Federal Systems Division to the Loral Corp., and the subsequent acquisition of Loral by Lockheed Martin.

Following his retirement from Lockheed Martin in 2004, Nash served for a year as assistant dean for corporate relations in the School of Engineering before establishing his consulting company. A member of the engineering school’s advisory board, he was honored as UM’s Engineer of Distinction in 1996.

MacDonald received his bachelor’s degree from Colorado State University in 1927 and his doctorate from the University of Chicago in 1936. He worked as a research engineer with Hotpoint Inc., as a process engineer with Boeing Aircraft Co., and as a materials and process engineer with North American Aviation Co. His academic career began as an assistant professor of chemical engineering at West Virginia University and later at the University of Denver.

MacDonald joined the Ole Miss faculty in 1953 as an associate professor of chemical and mechanical engineering. Three year later, he was named professor of mechanical engineering and chair of the mechanical engineering department.

MacDonald was believed to be the state’s first metallurgist. While a member of the Ole Miss faculty, he held summer positions at Oak Ridge National Laboratories, U.S. Naval Mine Defense Laboratory, U.S. Naval Ordnance Laboratory and the Redstone Arsenal.

He was co-author of “Metallurgy for Engineers” (1957).

MacDonald’s professional memberships included the American Society of Metals, American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the American Society for Engineering Education. Before his retirement in 1969, he was also elected to Sigma Xi scientific research honorary. MacDonald died in 1988.

Chemical Engineering Graduates Admitted to Medical, Dental Schools

Cary Roy and David Langford headed to UMMC and Columbia University, respectively

Cary Roy has been accepted into the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Submitted photo

As the spring semester ended, many University of Mississippi engineering students began working at various companies throughout the country. Others anticipated pursuing graduate school. And some students, including Cary Roy and David Langford, have chosen to take their problem-solving skills into the field of medicine.

Roy, of Moss Point, and Langford, of Atlanta, have been accepted into medical school and dental school, respectively. Both completed their chemical engineering degrees in May.

Increasingly, engineering students are seeking careers in medicine as the medical field becomes increasingly driven by technology. The addition of a biomedical engineering degree at Ole Miss likely will continue the trend of students seeking engineering degrees as a pathway to medical careers.

“I would have considered pursuing the newly created biomedical engineering degree if it had been available when I chose to enroll here from the Mississippi School of Math and Science four years ago,” Roy said. “I believe that the new program will benefit future students considering careers in medicine.”

But the pre-medicine track offered through chemical engineering worked best for Langford, who was admitted to Columbia University’s College of Dental Medicine. He plans to pursue a doctorate in dental surgery.

His interest in following a path to medical school was a result of his interest in both chemistry and mathematics. Chemical engineering allowed Langford to study both concepts.

“Being raised with parents and grandparents who worked in health care, I wanted a degree that would allow me to explore all of my interests,” he said. “I found an intriguing parallel between the fields of dentistry and engineering during my undergraduate studies.”

Roy was admitted to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson. He, too, felt that a chemical engineering degree seemed like the perfect combination of challenge and interest.

Roy developed an interest in attending medical school to find a career path that allowed him to help others.

David Langford has been accepted into the Doctor of Dental Surgery program at Columbia University. Submitted photo

“My engineering background greatly benefits me as I prepare to attend medical school in the fall,” he said. “It has given me a unique set of skills that are flexible and useful in a variety of areas, including medicine.”

Both Langford and Roy are graduates of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and completed research towards a senior thesis.

Langford’s thesis focused on “Development of Standard Operating Procedure: Admicellar Polymerization of Polystyrene Thin Film (AIBN) on Polysciences 30-50µm Glass Beads Using Cetyltrimethyl-Ammonium Bromide Surfactant.” He worked with Adam Smith, assistant professor of chemical engineering, and John O’Haver, professor and chair of chemical engineering, to complete his project.

Roy worked with Wei-Yei Chen, professor of chemical engineering, to conduct his research on “The Effects of Ultrasonic and Photochemical Pretreatment on Heating Value and Carbon Capturing Ability of Fast Pyrolysis-Derived Biochars.”

Besides Roy’s work on an Honors thesis, he completed a clinical shadowing program at UMMC that allowed him to observe and shadow physicians working in the anesthesiology and family medicine departments. For Roy, this experience was important in his commitment to the medical field.

“This up-close-and-personal experience with medicine strengthened my desire to attend medical school as it showed me how doctors practice their craft and use their skills to help those in need,” he said. “I also believe that the experience proved to be valuable on my medical school applications.”

Similarly, Langford believes that two summer internships with the U.S. Olympic Committee enhanced his applications for dental school. During his internship in Colorado, he worked with USOC physicians, clinicians, physical therapists and other staff in a variety of medical treatments that the Olympic and Paralympic athletes required.

Outside the classroom, both Roy and Langford were involved in a variety of activities. Langford was a member of Delta Psi fraternity, Engineering Ambassadors and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. He also was selected for membership in Omicron Delta Kappa society, Tau Beta Pi and Phi Kappa Phi.

Roy was a member of Tau Beta Pi, AIChE and Engineering Ambassadors. He also served on the Engineering Student Body Leadership Council and was an officer in the American Medical Student Association.

In the future, Roy hopes to work in a public hospital in Mississippi and open a free clinic to provide basic medical services to underprivileged and underserved people. Langford’s plans include postdoctoral residencies in orthodontics, maxillofacial surgery or general dentistry.

Edward Woo Wows at Work

Alumnus acts as pharmacy-information technology liaison at Vanderbilt Medical Center

Edward Woo

Edward Woo specializes in the practice of creating, storing, finding, manipulating and sharing information, otherwise known as informatics, within the field of pharmacy.

The University of Mississippi electrical engineering and pharmacy alumnus (BSEE 03, BSPh 05, PharmD 07) began his informatics and pharmacy career shortly after earning his electrical engineering degree. He started as a floater pharmacist at Walgreens, became staff pharmacist, then quickly was promoted to pharmacy manager of numerous 24-hour locations throughout South Carolina and Tennessee.

After moving to Nashville, Woo took a job at Vanderbilt University Medical Center as a principal domain specialist and now serves as manager of pharmacy informatics. The Sumner native also co-created Medalogix, a Nashville-based health care technology company that analyzes home health care companies’ clinical data to identify patient risk and then helps them act to improve outcomes.

“These have been two of my more notable recent achievements,” Woo said. “Being associated with these two organizations has allowed me to provide patient care from an informatics or technology standpoint. Instead of helping one person at a time, by using informatics or IT, I am able to make decisions that could affect an entire population at a single time.”

Woo said that Ole Miss is in his blood. Both his parents and most of his family also graduated from the university.

“All my professors were my favorite,” he said. “I think that Dr. (Atef) Elsherbeni stood out because I worked with him closely on the electrical engineering website and various other projects. My favorite course was Digital Systems because it taught me to think logically or in binary terms about all possible outcomes to a problem.”

In his present position, Woo oversees outpatient pharmacy applications in terms of upgrades, implementation and sometimes development. He works with the clinical pharmacist to help develop workflows and informatics solutions that can be incorporated into various applications.

“I see myself as a liaison between the pharmacy field and the IT side,” Woo said. “I am able to translate both IT talk and pharmacy talk between the two parties.”

Woo said that being able to look at issues or problems from a technical perspective, a skill he developed while at UM, is needed in his profession.

“Engineering taught me how to solve problems rationally and sometimes using different perspectives,” he said. “With my current position, I have to anticipate the needs of pharmacy applications from a pharmacist and technician perspective. I also have to look at it from a perspective of ‘does it make sense?’ and ‘does it make sense financially?’ Electrical engineering also gave me the background IT knowledge in computers and development along with rationale thinking to be successful in my current position.”

Kevin Gardner, development officer for the UM School of Engineering, said Woo is an example of what graduates of the school can accomplish.

“Edward follows a long line of family members who are Rebel entrepreneurs,” he said. “Combining electrical engineering with pharmacy degrees has created a unique approach for bridging the gap of medicinal science and technology at Vanderbilt Medical Center. It is evident that Edward is playing a significant role in improving the health and lives for those who come in and out of Tennessee.”

Woo and his wife, Susan, have a son, Nolan, and a daughter, Merritt. In his leisure, he enjoys playing with anything electronic.

“My favorite electronic toy is probably my Raspberry Pi,” Woo said. “I also like to play golf and tennis, watch sports and hang out with the family.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Memoriam: Mark David Harrison

Electrical engineering alumnus lent expertise to defense agencies, companies in Huntsville

One of the University of Mississippi School of Engineering’s electrical engineering alumni, Mark David Harrison (BBA 83, BSEE 85) of Huntsville, Alabama, died April 1, 2017 at age 57.

Harrison was born to Louie Vardaman Harrison Jr. and Mary Ann (Pegues) Harrison in Winona, Mississippi, on Oct. 12, 1959. He grew up in Winona and graduated from Winona High School, where he played both offensive and defensive positions on the football team. As a young boy he played baseball, which he continued through junior high, high school and Holmes Junior College in Goodman, Mississippi.

Besides graduating from Ole Miss, Harrison also attended classes at the University of California, Los Angeles. He started the publication of Ole Miss Engineer and was recognized for accomplishments within the Department of Engineering. His expertise in the field of electromagnetic propagation theory within zinc compounds led him to achieve his first of many positions at Nichols Research in 1985 and positions at Coleman Research, both in Huntsville.

Harrison was the seeker subject matter expert for the Theater High Altitude Area Defense system, which continues today to be a system within our nation’s defense for the Missile Defense Agency. He contributed to efforts within missile defense, which included engineering expertise support within the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command, various Program Executive offices and throughout the Department of Defense.

He extended his career knowledge by joining Miltec Corp., and while contributing to many programs and proposals, helped to lead a team to form and support the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon program. Within the last decade, he was employed by two companies, including one in 2009, which was started in collaboration with a group of colleagues, Harrison Research Corp., a system engineering company; and OTG/OPS Inc. (Over-the-Garage Operations), a software security company to support enterprise technology advanced security and operations/maintenance.

Harrison also supported and was a member of many defense and commercial organizations within the Huntsville area, such as the Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers, National Defense Industrial Association and Information Systems Security Association.

He enjoyed many activities outside of work including playing golf and shooting pool in the American Poolplayers Association league, and composing and playing music. He is survived by his wife, Elizabeth Anne (Cooley) Harrison; his sisters and brothers, Pam Hoover and her husband, Steve, of Mississippi; Kitty Stallings and her husband, Neil, of California; Dr. Louie Vardaman Harrison III and his wife, Sonya, of Mississippi; and Lee Harrison and his wife, Patty, of Texas, and many nieces and nephews.

Harrison had many friends and colleagues who remember his passion for his work, compassion and love of animals, as well as his intellect, ability to tell a great joke and dedication to the Ole Miss Rebels.

The family extends thanks to the dedicated medical staff at Crestwood Medical Intensive Care Unit in Huntsville and to Harrison’s personal physicians. Harrison was memorialized April 3, 2017 with a visitation at Laughlin Service Funeral Home in Huntsville. In his honor and remembering his love for animals, donations can be made to A New Leash on Life at anewleash.org or Tender Loving Care at TLCPaws.org.

Information for this article came from The Birmingham News and The Huntsville Times.

Bennetts Benefit from Ole Miss Engineering

Alumni couple finds love, marriage and careers while earning degrees

Arledia Bennett likes spending time with her Chihuahua, Sadie.

David and Arledia Bennett, like many other couples before and after them, found love and happiness through their connections to Ole Miss engineering.

“They have an interesting story to tell,” said Kevin Gardner, development officer for the UM School of Engineering.

Their tale began when David Bennett (BA 74, BE 83) came from Ripley to the university on a football scholarship. Arledia Bush (BA 75, BSCS 83) came from Jackson to campus to study journalism. As fate would have it, the two met each other in their senior year through a mutual friend. Following graduation, Bennett married Bush, and they began pursuing careers in Oxford.

The rest, as they say, is history.

David Bennett initially earned his bachelor’s degree in general science with an emphasis in biology and chemistry. He later returned to the university after he was hired by the City of Oxford.

“I realized that I needed to further my studies in general engineering, so I went back to school for my engineering degree,” he said. “I served for 15 years until my retirement. My engineering degree enabled me to enjoy a professional career, serving the public in a work environment that I truly loved with the City of Oxford.”

Although Arledia Bennett earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, when her husband went back to engineering school, she decided to do so also.

“That is when I got a B.S. in Computer Science from the School of Engineering,” she said. “I have to admit that I have not used my computer science degree, as I did not change careers after I graduated. I loved what I was doing professionally as director of the Lafayette County Foster Grandparent Program, a volunteer program for seniors working with children with special or exceptional needs.”

The families of both Bennetts have strong ties to the university.

“My family had close ties as Rebels, as both my mom and dad graduated from here,” David Bennett said. “I had many offers for football scholarships, but I had always been a Rebel fan so coming to Ole Miss was an easy choice for me.”

Arledia Bennett’s father earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UM. And her mother was an R.N. and worked on campus at the University Hospital before it was moved to Jackson.

David Bennett enjoys duck hunting.

“My dad always jokingly told me I could go to school anywhere I wanted, but he was only going to pay for me to come to Ole Miss,” she said. “So Ole Miss has always been a special place for both of our families, and I never considered any other school.”

David Bennett said his favorite engineering course was hydraulics. His favorite professors were M.S. Abdulrahman, professor emeritus of civil engineering, and Sam Deleeuw, chair emeritus and professor emeritus of civil engineering. Arledia Bennett said she most enjoyed the classes of Tobin Maginnis, associate professor of computer science.

The Bennetts’ degrees have allowed both of them to pursue careers they have enjoyed and have kept them involved in the Oxford and Lafayette County community.

“Both of us were offered jobs in other places after we graduated from engineering school, but Oxford was home, and we chose to stay here,” he said. “We enjoyed the jobs we already had here.”

The alumni couple makes an annual donation to the School of Engineering, and David Bennett assisted engineering students with senior projects when he worked for the City of Oxford.

“We do it so that other students will have the opportunity to pursue their career in engineering as we did,” Arledia Bennett said. “Giving back has always been important to us and has been an important part of my professional career.”

David Bennett has a son, Bryan; a brother, Dan, who graduated from UM with a degree in mechanical engineering; and a sister, Betty. He enjoys hunting, fishing and working in the yard. 

Arledia Bennett has a brother, Sonny, and a sister, Denise. She enjoys sitting in the sunroom, reading a good book when not at work.

 

 

Elizabeth Brenkert, Widow of Late Engineering Dean Emeritus Karl Brenkert, Dies

Memorials requested to parents' scholarship endowment in the Department of Mechanical Engineering

Elizabeth ‘Betty’ Brenkert was the widow of late UM engineering Dean Emeritus Karl Brenkert Jr. Submitted photo

Elizabeth “Betty” Scott Brenkert of Colorado Springs, Colorado, died peacefully on March 22, 2017, at the age of 93. She is best remembered for her journalistic excellence and service to the communities in which she lived, including Oxford.

Brenkert was born in Detroit on July 8, 1923, to Angus and Lillian Scott. She attended Sophie Newcomb College in New Orleans and earned her journalism degree in 1944 from the University of Michigan, where she was an active member of the Delta Gamma sorority.

She began her journalism career at Sunset magazine in the 1950s and moved to Oxford with her family in 1964. While working as an editor, staff writer and photographer at the Oxford Eagle, Brenkert earned numerous awards from the Mississippi Press Women’s Association and Associated Press.

While serving on the Oxford Housing Authority, she became Oxford’s first female chairman of a city board. She served more than 20 years with the local chapters of the American Red Cross and United Way and was appointed to the board of directors for both organizations. While raising five children, she was involved in every aspect of their formative years, all while maintaining a loving, supportive home.

Brenkert is preceded in death by her husband of 66 years, Karl Brenkert Jr., two sisters, Leyla Scott Ballman and Clara May Scott, and a grandson. She is survived by her five children, Gail Brenkert of Spokane, Washington; Karl “Buzz” Brenkert III of Cincinnati; Dr. Pamela Reband of Sierra Vista, Arizona; Scott Brenkert of Phoenix; and retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Eric Brenkert of Monument, Colorado; eight grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at Woodlawn Cemetery in Detroit in May. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Elizabeth and Karl Brenkert Scholarship Endowment Fund in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Mississippi, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655, or https://www.umfoundation.com/makeagift/.

 

Former Rebel Kendricks Claims Pole Vault Bronze at Rio Olympics

UM alumnus is third Ole Miss track athlete to medal at Olympic Games

Sam Kendricks successfully pole vaults to victory in Rio Olympics. Photo courtesy of James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

Sam Kendricks successfully pole vaults to a medal in the Rio Olympics. Photo courtesy of James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

RIO DE JANEIRO – It was a special night in Brazil for University of Mississippi alumnus Sam Kendricks, who captured a bronze medal in the men’s pole vault Aug. 15 at the 2016 Olympic Games.

In a dramatic competition that came down to three final vaulters, Kendricks rose to the occasion by clearing 5.85 meters (19-2.25) on his first try. He had three very close attempts at 5.93 m/19-5.5, while Brazil’s Thiago Braz da Silva claimed gold with an Olympic record mark of 6.03 m and defending champion Renaud Lavillenie of France won silver with a clearance at 5.98 m.

Kendricks is the first American man to win an Olympic medal in the pole vault since 2004, and he’s the third Ole Miss track and field representative to medal at the Olympics. Brittney Reese, who was the women’s long jump gold medalist in 2012, won a silver medal at this year’s games. Tony Dees was the silver medalist in the 110-meter hurdles in 1992.

Before the Olympic finals began, Kendricks dedicated his performance to the six Oxford citizens who died in a plane crash and the children and families they left behind. By many accounts, his performance in Rio was a healing balm the town of Oxford needed after such a tragic occurrence.

The hundreds of fans that watched him from the Square in his hometown of Oxford cheered him on with fervor as each bar was raised a bit higher. He is the first Olympian from the small town in which he grew up, graduated from both high school and college, and still lives and trains.

Kendricks was lauded by NBC commentators and across the social media landscape for his great sportsmanship and class, as he was seen congratulating his opponents and cheering for each competitor throughout the night.

“I know that the Olympics is like a high tide, it raises all boats and it brings the best out of all of us,” Kendricks said. “I was so happy to watch my friend Thiago (Braz) set his personal best in his home country in front of his home crowd, and I think that I thrived off of that as well.

“I did not set a personal best but I attempted it. I missed it very close three times, so I cannot be ashamed of my effort. I’m very proud of my bronze medal, what me and my coach (father and Ole Miss alumnus Scott Kendricks) and my family have achieved. This particular competition was a lot of fun for me – I knew all of the competitors by name, they’re all good friends of mine. We’ve traveled together and have competed together many times. We even trade victories very often.”

It’s been an impressive rise to international prominence for Kendricks, who was a two-time NCAA champion and two-time SEC champion in three seasons at Ole Miss. Since turning pro, he has won five U.S. pole vault titles, set a U.S. Olympic Trials record earlier this summer, was ninth at last year’s IAAF World Championships and runner-up at this year’s IAAF World Indoor Championships in March.

Kendricks originally enrolled at Ole Miss as an engineering major but later changed his major and graduated with a Bachelor of General Studies degree.

“Having started out as an engineering major, his twin brother, Tom, having graduated BSME in 2015, and his mom, Marni, also an alumni and assistant dean for undergraduate academics, we fully consider Sam to be part of the Ole Miss engineering family,” Dean Alex Cheng said.

“We proudly posted a ‘Jump Sam Jump’ sign in front of Brevard Hall during the Olympics and have in the past marked his winning pole vault heights with a tape measure in the staircase of the building – a mark that reaches up to the second floor.”

For complete coverage of Ole Miss in the 2016 Olympics, visit http://www.RebsInRio.com.

Crawford Crowned a Queen of Engineering

Alumna's successes at Lockheed Martin earn her a second Black Engineer of the Year Award

Tamara Crawford (right) ins congratulated by Marilyn Hewson, Lockheed Martin chairman/president/CEO.

Tamara Crawford (right) is congratulated by Marilyn Hewson, Lockheed Martin chairman/president/CEO.

Tamara Crawford knows she’s been blessed. So when she entered her 13th year of employment at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, the University of Mississippi mechanical engineering alumna wasn’t the least bit superstitious about her steady stream of career achievements coming to some unfortunate end.

Crawford’s confidence, creativity, leadership and endurance were recently rewarded when she was honored with Special Recognition for Career Achievement during the 2016 Black Engineer of the Year Awards. She previously won the 2014 Black Engineer of the Year Outstanding Achievement Award-Science Spectrum Trailblazer.

This year is the 30th anniversary of BEYA, a national award regarded as “one of the most prestigious and competitive honors in science, engineering and technology management.” Fewer than 1,000 individuals have achieved the distinction of being a Black Engineer of the Year honoree.

“As a 13-year-old girl from a small Mississippi town, in eighth grade, I decided to become an engineer,” said Crawford, who is a board member of the Texas Alliance for Minorities in Engineering. “My junior year in college, I declared, ‘I’m moving to Texas to work for Lockheed Martin. My parents taught me that all things are possible when you believe in God and yourself.”

She set out with no job, family, interviews or connections and with only $292 in her pocket.

“Fast forward 13 years, and here I am,” Crawford said.

An advanced technical leadership program senior, Crawford is responsible for work product quality, including the assessment of system processes, and product performance for the C-130, C-5, P-3, F-16, F-22 and F-35 fighter programs.

She previously was the lead systems engineer for the F-22 Raptor, the world’s only fifth-generation fighter. When it reached the end of production, Crawford was responsible for overseeing the dismantling of that production line, preserving and storing those production components for future use. With no standard model for doing this, hers will be the blueprint for going forward.

A member of the Ole Miss Alumni Hall of Fame (Outstanding Young Alumni of the Year) and Ole Miss Alumni Association Life Member, Crawford credits her Ole Miss engineering education for her success.

“I knew that an engineering degree earned from the University of Mississippi would be respected globally,” she said. “Ole Miss provides its students an amazing juxtaposition of experiencing a world-class education in your own backyard.”

The partnering of rigorous engineering study in a liberal arts environment has proven immensely beneficial to Crawford and her career, she said.

“Upon graduation, I was prepared as an engineer and a leader,” Crawford said. “Innovation, teamwork and the art of effective communication are key skills I developed as a students and continue to demonstrate as a professional.”

She serves on the Ole Miss Engineering Advisory Board, lectures in Dean Alex Cheng’s Leadership and Professionalism course and maintains a close relationship with UM engineering faculty who taught her.

“(This is) yet another impressive award on your yet young, but abundantly fruitful career,” wrote Jeff Roux, professor of mechanical engineering. “Your public speaking skills are excellent and highly refined. You are our hero and we are proud of you and love you.”

ME professor Ellen Lackey expressed similar sentiments to her former student.

“Congratulations!” she wrote. “I always enjoy receiving emails from you and finding out about your continued success. I hope to see you soon.”

Crawford acknowledged Lackey, Roux and others as having been instrumental to her career success.

“If Dr. Lackey hadn’t assigned my class to read ‘Skunk Works,’ I may not have moved to Texas to work at Lockheed Martin,” she said. “Dr. Roux (and many others) all taught me well. It means a lot to have their love and support.”

Tamara Crawford (second from right) surrounded by (from left) her brother, Kendrick Crawford; mother, Jeanelle Crawford; and father, Archie Crawford.

Tamara Crawford (second from right) surrounded by (from left) her brother, Kendrick Crawford; mother, Jeanelle Crawford; and father, Archie Crawford.

As both a woman and a minority, Crawford has been a trailblazer in the world of professional engineering.

“Service is inextricably woven into the tapestry of my life,” Crawford said. “My joy is inspiring youth through STEM. I must give back. I love witnessing the ‘light bulb’ moments for younger people … the realization they can be creators of technology, not merely consumers of it.”

Crawford was also selected as a member of the Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Advanced Technical Leadership Program. ATLP exists to develop future technical leaders for Lockheed Martin Corp. The purpose of the two-year program is to accelerate the technical, professional and leadership development of selected intermediate career-level individuals through stretch assignments, strategic research projects, training, mentoring and networking.

The program’s four major components are stretch assignments, a strategic research project, community service and training. Additionally, ATLP participants attend periodic learning and networking conferences and participate in a mentoring relationship as a mentee to someone in higher levels of leadership within Lockheed Martin Aeronautics.

Candidates were considered from across the Lockheed Martin Aeronautics locations in Texas, California and Georgia. Only 10 candidates were selected. Crawford’s credentials, nomination and panel interview performance solidified her qualification for this exclusive leadership development opportunity.