Rudy Kittlitz Remembers Alma Mater through Generous Donation

Successful chemical engineer becomes major donor to School of Engineering

Donor Rudy Kittlitz Jr. (left) meets with Marni Kendricks, assistant dean for academics in the UM School of Engineering. Submitted photo

Since he graduated from the University of Mississippi half-a-century ago, Rudolf “Rudy” G. Kittlitz Jr. (BSChE 57) has enjoyed a long and prosperous career. Not one to forget where he came from, the retired chemical engineering alumnus has become a major donor to the School of Engineering at his beloved alma mater.

“For the past several years, I’ve provided a gift so that engineering students, who are otherwise not financially able, may attend the engineering banquet in the spring,” Kittlitz said. “To continue supporting Ole Miss, I’ve included the university in my will.”

The funds tentatively will be used for scholarships and lab equipment.

“Rudy Kittlitz has a deep appreciation for the education he received as an Ole Miss student and has been inspired to assist our School of Engineering students for years,” said Dean Dave Puleo. “Now he has committed a thoughtful planned gift that will strengthen the engineering school and transform students’ lives. We are grateful for his generous gift that reflects his great love for the University of Mississippi and his concern for young people.”

Marni Kendricks, the engineering school’s assistant dean for undergraduate academics, agreed.

“I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Rudy in Waco last fall,” she said. “What a fun, memorable lunch, reminiscing about Oxford and the Ole Miss campus and people we both knew and our common affection for Ole Miss Engineering! His warm emails addressed ‘Howdy Marni’ always make my day better.”

Kittlitz’s connection to UM began when he decided to attend its engineering school in 1953. The Waco, Texas, native chose chemical engineering as his major after he read a novel on space travel by Willy Lee.

“I wanted to major in rocket engineering,” he said. “However, at that time it was not possible.”

As a student, Kittlitz recalled that each of his classes had no more than 10 students. Among his favorite professors was the late Frank Anderson, dean emeritus, and chair and professor emeritus of chemical engineering.

“These small classes enabled the students to quickly ask questions and get understandable answers,” Kittlitz said.

Rudy Kittlitz Jr. spends time reading in his backyard. Submitted photo

Following graduation, he began a 43-year career with the DuPont Chemical Co. There he worked with polychemicals research in Wilmington, Delaware, from 1957 to 1960. Kittlitz then moved to the company’s textile fiber divisions in both Seaford, Delaware, and Chattanooga, Tennessee, before switching to the nylon division and eventually becoming a senior research associate and statistical consultant for fibers.

“I taught myself statistics, which eventually became my career at DuPont,” he said. “My new knowledge of statistics and the Delrin plant startup were very beneficial as I began to learn the making of textile fibers.”

A member of the American Society for Quality since 1972, Kittlitz became a fellow in 1981. He served in leadership positions within ASQ including chair, program chair, chemical divisional councilor, founding member of the Delmarva Section, co-developer and instructor of the Quality Engineering Review course for the Delmarva Section, Region 5 director and executive regional director.

“In 1989, I was awarded the second William G. Hunter Award by the statistical division of the ASQ,” he said. “This was recognition of my being chair of a multicompany quality control group. Our people wrote ‘Quality Assurance for the Chemical and Process Industries.’”

He also has held professional memberships in the American Statistical Association and National Association of Parliamentarians. A registered professional engineer from 1984 to 2015, Kittlitz was an adjunct professor at University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, a Citizen Ambassador to Russia and Ukraine, and a Delaware Quality Award judge.

“My attending and then graduating from Ole Miss means very much to me,” Kittlitz said. “I honestly did not know what kind of career I would have had, had I not received the NROTC scholarship to Ole Miss.”

Kittlitz earned his Master of Science in Engineering degree from the University of Alabama in Mobile. He is co-author of several publications and articles in peer-reviewed journals.

The father of three daughters and a son, Kittlitz lives at Lutheran Sunset Ministries, a retirement community in Clifton, Texas. He enjoys reading, traveling and hiking the Big Bend National Park area of Texas.


UM Partners with Vietnamese University for Teaching and Research

Agreement facilitates student, faculty exchange and collaborations between institutions

UM Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter (right) and Pham Duy Hoa, rector at the National University of Civil Engineering in Vietnam, sign a memorandum of agreement between the two institutions. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi has entered into a new international partnership with the National University of Civil Engineering in Vietnam for student and faculty exchanges and research collaborations.

A formal memorandum of agreement between the two institutions was signed Thursday (May 10) in the chancellor’s office in the Lyceum. This partnership is NUCE’s first with an institution of higher learning in the United States.

“The University of Mississippi is pleased to collaborate with other universities and external partners to foster academic opportunities and enhance excellence,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “We expect outstanding outcomes from this agreement with NUCE, including new curriculum, faculty exchanges and research synergies.

“This partnership also contributes to our universitywide strategic goal of educating and engaging global citizens.”

The university’s global reputation for rigorous academics, innovative research and increasing diversity all influenced NUCE officials’ decision to partner with UM.

“I understood that the University of Mississippi is widely respected and very well known in the United States and beyond,” said NUCE Rector Pham Duy Hoa. “As we seek to expand our global collaborations, we found that the goals and activities of this institution were very compatible with ours.”

Noel Wilkin, UM provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs; Blair McElroy, senior international officer; and Kurt Smith, global engagement project coordinator, also were on hand for the signing.

Other NUCE delegates included Pham Quang Dung, vice rector; Nguyen Binh Ha, dean of the graduate school; Nguyen Hoang Giang, director of the International Cooperation Department; Ta Quynh Hoa, dean of faculty of international education; Cao Tuan Anh, director of the Office of Investment Management; and Tran Hong Hai, lecturer of building and industrial engineering.

Following the memorandum signing, NUCE officials interacted with Ole Miss faculty, discussed programming and toured various facilities.

NUCE proposes to establish a 2+2 transfer agreement in which students in an engineering bachelor’s degree program complete two years at one institution and transfer to finish it at the other. Other points of the agreement allow for faculty exchange, research collaborations, English as a Second Language instruction and continued development of the partnership.

“I am pleased with the interest that international institutions have in our outstanding academic programs,” Wilkin said. “Our School of Engineering faculty have worked hard to ensure that students who spend their first two years at fine international universities can have a seamless transition to our programs.

“Further, this will open the door for research collaborations that have international significance.”

The agreement will further enhance goals in the Department of Civil Engineering to increase internationalization, diversity and inclusion, said Yacoub “Jacob” Najjar, professor and chair of the department.

“We are happy to see that our curriculum will be emulated by similar program in Vietnam,” he said. “We are looking forward to such collaborations.”

Joining with NUCE provides opportunities for Ole Miss computer and information science majors to gain experience interacting with international students, said Dawn Wilkins, chair and professor of the department. “It will expose them to new working relationships and potentially lifelong friendships.”

Negotiations leading to the agreement began unofficially in January 2017. Smith and Tracy Koslowski, associate director of the UM Intensive English Program, traveled to Vietnam and Thailand to establish new international partnerships for academic exchange and collaborations.

Through the university’s Vietnamese Student Association, a connection was made with Pham Quan, second son of Pham Duy Hoa. Pham received his Bachelor of Business Administration in banking and finance from UM during Saturday’s (May 12) Commencement ceremonies.

“My son told me that he has had a wonderful educational experience at the University of Mississippi,” Hoa said. “It is certainly my desire that many more Vietnamese students have the opportunity to come to the University of Mississippi and have experiences similar to his.”

Established in 1966 as Ha Noi University of Civil Engineering, NUCE is one of Vietnam’s leading universities. With the main campus in Hai Ba Trung District of Hanoi, the institution is accredited by the Ministry of Education and Training in Vietnam. NUCE admits more than 3,000 undergraduate students and 150 graduate students annually.

Graduates work in research institutions, engineering firms, construction companies and management agencies across Southeast Asia and worldwide.

For more information about NUCE, visit

Infrastructure Experts Talk Resilience during UM Workshop

Meeting brings together state, national infrastructure leaders

David Pittman, director of the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center in Vicksburg, addresses the audience at the Infrastructure Objective Resilience Workshop held at the University of Mississippi. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Experts from around the country recently gathered at the University of Mississippi for a two-day conference on infrastructure resilience.

Hosted by UM and the UM School of Engineering, the Infrastructure Objective Resilience Workshop included university and federal experts in engineering, materials science, physical acoustics, geology, journalism, computer science, construction, psychology and hydroscience.

More than 80 stakeholders of the nation’s infrastructure sectors discussed the latest progress in objective resilience and talked about the need for transformative research that could lead to improving the nation’s infrastructure resilience against natural and man-made disasters.

The meeting included such federal agencies as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Insurance & Mitigation Administration, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

“The workshop gathered the nation’s leaders in infrastructure resilience and was aimed at fostering collaboration between the University of Mississippi, government agencies, government labs, industries and other academic institutions in an area of national importance,” said Ahmed Al-Ostaz, UM civil engineering professor and workshop coordinator.

“It was our hope that the workshop would be an important step towards unlocking the combined disaster resilience potentials and emphasize the role of the University of Mississippi and the state of Mississippi as the leader in addressing an issue of regional and national concern,” he said.

In his welcoming address, Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter said the importance of the workshop and the work of its attendees could not be overstated.

He also noted how the workshop tied into the university’s Flagship Constellations initiative, which includes multidisciplinary teams of faculty, staff and students creating solutions to challenges in the areas of big data, brain wellness, community well-being and disaster resilience.

“The University of Mississippi places tremendous value and importance on the work that you are addressing today,” he told attendees. “We have a strong foundation in this area, and our disaster resilience constellation marries insight and research from environmental and legal disciplines with materials science, information technology … along with a variety of disciplines.

“We’re focused on developing technologies, tools and policies to mitigate disasters and increase the resilience, security and sustainability of our communities.”

The workshop started March 27 with a keynote session by Eric Letvin, deputy associate administrator, mitigation directorate, Federal Insurance & Mitigation Administration, which is part of FEMA.

Letvin said during his address that FEMA’s 2018-2022 Strategic Plan includes building a culture of preparedness, readying the nation for catastrophic disasters and reducing the complexity of FEMA.

Mississippi’s geographical location makes it prone to disasters, including tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, heat waves and earthquakes. Reducing the impact of these disasters on local communities through increasing the resilience and sustainability of communities is one of the aims of the Disaster Resilience Flagship Constellation.

“Striving toward infrastructure resilience is of keen interest to the state of Mississippi, and as the state’s flagship university, the University of Mississippi is committed to advancing that goal,” Josh Gladden, UM interim vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs, told attendees. “The constellations bring together a diverse set of faculty from diverse disciplines that help address very large and complex problems.

“With engineers, scientists, legal and policy experts, medical professionals, communications specialists and social scientists all under one roof, I believe that universities are uniquely suited to build the kinds of teams that are needed to address such multidimensional problems and are obligated to do so.”

Other speakers were Jason Averill, chief of the Materials and Structural Systems Division of the Engineering Laboratory at the National Institute of Standards and Technology; Amar Chaker, director of the Engineering Mechanics Institute of the American Society of Civil Engineers; Ryan Colker, vice president of the National Institute of Building Sciences; Norma Jean Mattei, 2017 president of the American Society of Civil Engineers; David Pittman, director of the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center; and David Wulf, deputy assistant secretary for infrastructure protection (acting), U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Development Officer for School of Engineering Sought

Job is posted on two websites

Electrical engineering students Bridget Roal (foreground, left), Eli Carson and Haithem Mahmoud discuss theory during a microprocessing lab. Development officers help raise funds for lab equipment and other needs of the engineering school. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

The University of Mississippi Foundation is seeking to fill an opening for a School of Engineering development officer.

For more information or to apply, visit:



New School of Engineering Recruitment Video on YouTube

Students describe close community, experiential learning

Dear Friends,
Please see below for Ole Miss Engineering’s latest video, which focuses on the school’s unique liberal arts-anchored and experiential-learning-enhanced programs, as described by its students.
If you agree with the school’s education philosophy and like the video, please share it with prospective students and their families by forwarding the link, tweeting and/or posting it on Facebook and other social media.

Please contact Ryan Upshaw, assistant dean, if you have or know of students who are interested in pursuing a degree in engineering here at the university. He can be contacted via phone at 662-915-7007 or email at


Mustafa Altinakar Multiplies UM Assets

NCCHE director generates abundance of research and funding

Mustafa Altinakar is the second director of the National Center for Computational Hydroscience and Engineering. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

The University of Mississippi’s National Center for Computational Hydroscience and Engineering already was renowned for its expertise in modeling water flow, sediment transport and erosion when Mustafa Altinakar became its director in 2010. But instead of being content with that reputation, Altinakar has pushed the center’s scientists and programs to even greater heights each year.

Altinakar joined the NCCHE in 2002 as a research professor and was promoted to director after Sam Shu-Yi Wang, the center’s founder-director and F.A.P. Barnard Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Mechanical Engineering, retired.

“Our center has a wide range of research interests, which encompasses free surface flows and hydrodynamics in rivers and coastal areas, soil erosion, sediment transport and morphodynamics changes, contaminant transport and fate, and water quality,” he said.

“A couple of years ago, we also constructed two experimental facilities at the laboratories of NSL (National Sedimentation Laboratory). One is a general-purpose dam-break and flood-simulation facility, which is currently being used for research in dam-break flows of granular materials.

“The other is a wave flume in which we have been studying wave attenuation by vegetation and bank erosion in agricultural ponds due to waves. The physical data collected have been invaluable for improving and validating our situational models. During the last two years, our researchers also designed field studies of boat-wave erosion in rivers.”

Altinakar also works to strengthen the center’s ties with federal and state agencies and private engineering companies to provide technology transfer and expertise. In addition, he oversees UM’s graduate program (M.S. and Ph.D.) in computational hydroscience and engineering, which is unique among SEC universities, and teaches various graduate courses.

“In recent years, the numerical modeling has gained wider acceptance and use in water resources management, conservation of water and land resources, environmental protection, prediction and prevention of water-related disasters due to its cost effectiveness in funds and time,” he said.

“We are very proud to be educating the next generation workforce that will carry on the future developments in computational hydroscience and engineering. An important part of my job is also to make sure that our research team, staff and students enjoy a stable, harmonious and friendly environment conducive to creative research and development work.”

Altinakar said he has found Ole Miss to be a tight-knit, encouraging community.

Mustafa Altinakar (second from left) discusses disaster and emergency management data with Nezih Altay, Haibo Wang and Dave Benway. Photo by Robert Jordan/University Communications

“NCCHE researchers, staff and students enjoy the small family atmosphere that stimulates open discussion and close collaboration,” he said. “I also enjoy the close collaboration we have with the School of Engineering and the UM Office of Research, who have been very supportive and attentive to our problems, which encourages us to work harder for achieving higher level of success.

“I particularly enjoy the close relationship and multidisciplinary collaborative research we have with several faculty and researchers in other departments in the School of Engineering and in the University of Mississippi as a whole.”

Before December 2002, Altinakar worked in Switzerland as the acting director of the Environmental Hydraulics Laboratory (formerly Hydraulic Research Laboratory) at the Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne). His decision to leave that post and become a research professor at NCCHE was motivated by his belief that he could help raise the center’s success to a higher level.

“I had first met Dr. Wang at the International Association for Hydro-Environment (Engineering and Research) conference in Tokyo, Japan, in 1993,” Altinakar said. “In 2000, he invited professor Walter Graf, my Ph.D. thesis supervisor, and myself to teach a short course in fluvial hydraulics here at NCCHE. At the end of the short course, he asked me to join NCCHE as a research professor and a potential candidate for the directorship at his retirement.”

Altinakar’s proven track record and visionary leadership are what prompted the offer, Wang said.

“Dr. Altinakar has tremendous ability to handle all kinds of things required to effectively hold his position,” Wang said. “Not only that, he is very personable, a great conversationalist who is able to make friends at almost first meeting.

“He is the perfect person for persuading people to adopt the computational modeling technology. The university was very fortunate he decided to accept the position here.”

Upon his return to Lausanne, Altinakar kept in touch with Wang, and they discussed how the former might contribute to the future of NCCHE. During his visit at Ole Miss, Altinakar had met his future colleagues and established a strong affinity due to their common research interests.

“What finally attracted me to NCCHE was not only the opportunity to work with a strong team of researchers at the forefront (of) numerical modeling technology, but also the fact that the modeling technologies were being transferred to federal and state agencies to solve real-life scientific and engineering problems,” he said.

“Organic research ties with the National Sedimentation Laboratory, Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the interaction with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Engineer Research and Development Center in Vicksburg were also important factors in making the decision to come to NCCHE. I felt that the research triangle formed by NCCHE, NSL and ERDC could be a good basis for pushing the frontiers of the state-of-the-art numerical modeling and making it available in scientific and engineering practice.”

After eight years as a research professor, Altinakar became NCCHE director in July 2010, following Wang’s retirement. In this role, he is responsible for bringing in funded research projects to sustain NCCHE as a leading research center in computational hydroscience and engineering. Since its establishment in 1983, NCCHE has succeeded in remaining a self-sustaining unit through funded research projects.

Altinakar is particularly proud of NCCHE’s research, which led to the development of dam and levee-break flood modeling and mapping software DSS-WISE™. This ongoing research was funded originally by the Science and Technology Division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security through the Southeast Region Research program.

In 2012, NCCHE developed a web-based version of this software, called DSS-WISE™ Lite, which was provided free to all dam-safety stakeholders through a portal at Argonne National Laboratory. Until the end of 2014, this system handled more than 3,000 simulations of about 900 dams launched by more than 100 users from 41 states.

“In 2015, following the closing of the portal at ANL, many states expressed strongly the need for the continuation of DSS-WISE™ Lite service,” Altinakar said. “The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency signed a five-year ‘sole-source’ contract with NCCHE to develop a stand-alone web portal with DSS-WISE™ Lite capability. This was the first contract FEMA signed with the University of Mississippi. The fact that it is sole source goes to show that FEMA recognizes NCCHE as the only research group that can provide this capability.

“Our small team developed the stand-alone portal for the DSS-WISE™ Lite capability from scratch in less than a year, and FEMA has evaluated our work as ‘exceptional.’ In doing so, our team used primarily open-source technologies to create the web portal and trained several graduate students who are now employed by our center. Our team has now working expertise in this area, which is unique in our university and quite rare even across the other academic institutions in the U.S.”

In the second year of the five-year project, the DSS-WISE™ Lite server at NCCHE is providing web-based, automated dam-break capability to FEMA’s main office, 10 FEMA regional offices, the National Weather Service of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Resources Conservation Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and all state dam safety offices, Altinakar said.

“I dare say that this is a unique capability in the world, which offers automated input data preparation, in addition to an extremely powerful and fast computational engine,” he said. “I am also proud to have introduced the development of GIS and numerical modeling-based decision support tools in inundation mapping and consequence analysis for flood risk analysis, general purpose Graphics Processing Unit, faster than real-time flood modeling.

“We have been closely working with the researchers at NSL to develop a web-based platform called AIMS (Agricultural Integrated Management System) that allows users to simulate any watershed in the conterminous U.S. This system is currently being tested and will soon be available free of charge to conservation engineers, watershed managers and scientists.”

Altinakar and his spouse, Ayse, have lived in Oxford for the past 15 years. She holds a degree in French philology from University of Lausanne in Switzerland. She is also a graduate of UM’s Patterson School of Accountancy. The couple has a son who earned a doctorate in mathematics from the Polytechnique Montréal, and lives and works in Montreal.

“I and Ayse are both book lovers,” Altinakar said. “We have a large library at home containing books in Turkish, French and English. I am an avid reader. I read novels, mystery books, history books, scientific books, etc. One of my favorite leisure activities is playing guitar (mostly classical and flamenco). I also draw and paint.

“I used to be a good tennis and table tennis player, but I cannot find time anymore.”

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.



Farhad Farzbod Joins Mechanical Engineering Faculty

Newest professor brings creativity, energy to students and colleagues

Farhad Farzbad (far right) enjoys some time with his wife, Rosita, and friends at YellowStone National Park.

Farhad Farzbad (far right) enjoys some time with his wife, Rosita, and friends at YellowStone National Park.

As technological advances continue, the imaginary line between fiction and reality is being erased. And that’s one of the reasons Farhad Farzbod is an assistant professor at the University of Mississippi.

“I looked for academic opportunities in the South and I found Ole Miss,” said Farzbod, who joined the Department of Mechanical Engineering faculty last August. “When I visited the campus, I was attracted to the level of collegiality in the department and how helpful everyone was. Not to mention that the campus was much more beautiful than what I had in mind.”

Farzbod, whose research area is mainly actuator design and novel acoustic devices, has taught Dynamics and Mechatronics. He will teach Engineering Systems Analysis and Design and Linear Control next semester.

“My background is in different areas, from laser ultrasound and bio acoustics to mechatronics and sensor design,” Farzbod said. “Currently, I am pursuing a subset of these.”

Farzbod is a welcome addition to the ME department, said Arunachalam Rajendran, chair and professor of mechanical engineering.

“Dr. Farzbod brings incredible multidisciplinary characteristics and capability through his work experience with the Google Inc. and research work at the Idaho National Laboratory,” he said. “The use of micro-electro mechanical systems in mechanical/electronics components and all types of sensors necessitates a need for teaching mechatronics to our students.

“With faculty like Dr. Farzbod, the mechanical engineering department has now positioned itself to further modernize its curriculum so that our students could find better opportunity in the global market.”

After earning his Ph.D. from Georgia Institute of Technology, Farzbod took a postdoc at Idaho National Laboratory. He was a research engineer at Google [x] Lab before coming to UM.

Farzbod’s most fulfilling professional achievement thus far is his second patent, which he filed while employed at Google.

“It is about using nose vibration to pick up speech signal,” Farzbod said. “I think it is really useful for wearable computers and it helps to personalize communication with wearable devices without much sacrifice for the power and the price.”

Although Farzbod enjoyed his time at Google, he found himself drawn to life in a college town more than the big city. “Those years of living in the South, with its green nature, warm weather and nice people made my best memories,” he said.

The new faculty member has already set short- and long-term goals for himself.

“My short-term goal is to bring outside research money to the department to provide for graduate student stipend, experimental setups and possibly some summer hours for undergrads,” he said.

“One of my long term goal is to reach out beyond Ole Miss and serve the state of Mississippi. Another long-term goal is to be somewhat well known in my area of research, to have a lab with state-of-the-art facilities to serve both my research and teaching activities.”

The most gratifying part of the job for Farzbod is working with students.

“I am still on a learning curve about the level of students here,” he said. “Some of them definitely beat my expectations. But I have to find the average, to adjust my gears.”

Farzbod and his wife, Rozita, enjoy hiking and playing cards with friends. He looks forward to serving the campus community and beyond.

“I remember that when I was working at Google, we were encouraged to go out couple of days a year and tutor high school students in underprivileged schools in the Bay Area,” Farzbod said. “I think Mississippi, among all places, needs our help. The late Jim Chambers – God bless his soul – was active in this.”

For more info, visit

Earl Fyke Finds, Shares Fortunes

Electrical engineering alumnus is successful cardiologist, gives back to alma mater

Earl Fyke

Earl Fyke

Dr. Frazier Earl Fyke III truly believes it is better to give than to receive.

As a long-standing member of the Woods Order, the electrical engineering graduate contributes regularly and generously to the University of Mississippi School of Engineering. A staff cardiologist at Baptist Heart in Jackson, Fyke readily acknowledges his alma mater laid the foundation for his professional success.

“I got a wonderful education under some really wonderful mentors in the engineering program at Ole Miss that prepared me well for 10 years of medical training and for life,” Fyke said.

“On several occasions I have been fortunate enough to hear Dr. Fyke share his belief that an engineering degree from Ole Miss is one of the most valuable degrees you can earn, from its rigorous preparation to its long-term career potential,” said Kevin Gardner, development officer for the engineering school. “Dr. Fyke’s confidence in our degree programs is reflected in his support to strengthen our engineering scholarship program, helping to recruit and retain outstanding students. We are extremely grateful for his and Nancy’s continued support.”

After earning a master’s degree in electrical engineering, Fyke chose to pursue a professional career in medicine. His decision led him to Mayo Medical School, where he earned his M.D. He completed a residency in internal medicine and a fellowship in cardiovascular diseases at Mayo.

Over the years, Fyke has worked as a staff cardiologist at Mississippi Baptist Medical Center, Rankin Medical Center and Rivers Oak Hospital. In 1991, he served as chief of cardiology at MBMC and nine years later was chief of medicine there.

Since then, he has served as director of Baptist’s Echocardiography Laboratory, Cardiovascular Associates Echocardiography Laboratory and University Heart Select Specialty Echocardiography Laboratory. He has held national certifications in adult echocardiography, cardiac pacemakers and implantable defibrillators, and interventional cardiology.

Fyke became a professor of clinical medicine in cardiology at the UM Medical Center in 2008, then returned to private practice as a staff cardiologist at Jackson Heart Clinic before assuming his present position with Baptist. He reflected upon his two most gratifying professional achievements.

“Early in my career, I was invited to serve on the national examination writing committee for the North American Society of Pacing and Electrophysiology (now Heart Rhythm Society) and did so for a decade,” Fyke said. “I think I was the only private practice physician on this board of celebrities in that field. What a thrill to meet annually with them in Philadelphia and work throughout the year preparing this certifying examination.”

A member of the board of trustees of Belhaven University for more than 20 years, he chairs its academic affairs committee.

“To work with the faculty and administration to promote academic goodness as well as thoughtful application of the university’s commitment to teach each discipline in Christian perspective has been a privilege,” he said.

Fyke is a fellow in the American College of Physicians, American College of Cardiology and the Society of Cardiac Angiography and Interventions. He also has memberships in the Heart Rhythm Society, American Society of Echocardiography and American Heart Association.

A prolific author, he has published 17 peer-reviewed journal articles, six abstracts, two book chapters, two editorials, two letters to the editor and a book review. He has also been a reviewer for Heart Rhythm Journal and Catheterization and Cardiovascular Interventions.

He is married to the former Nancy Jean Johnson, and they have three children: Frazier Earl Fyke IV, Thomas Joel Rutherford Fyke and Georgia Katherine Fyke.

Fyke jokes that he is deferring leisure time until retirement. He enjoys reading and spending time with family.

“Right now, I am still overly busy in my practice just taking care of patients,” he said. “Thankfully, I love medicine and especially cardiology. I lecture fairly frequently, which requires a good bit of outside-of-work preparation.”

Family Supports Engineering Scholars

Planned gift encourages students to stay in state, earn engineering degrees

School of Engineering Dean Alex Cheng (left) and Marni Kendricks, assistant dean (right), greet Nancy and Earl Fyke. Nancy Fyke's father, Otho Johnson, established a scholarship that will provide financial assistance to full-time undergraduate students pursuing an engineering degree.

School of Engineering Dean Alex Cheng (left) and Marni Kendricks, assistant dean (right), greet Nancy and Earl Fyke. Nancy Fyke’s father, Otho Johnson, established a scholarship that will provide financial assistance to full-time undergraduate students pursuing an engineering degree.

Otho Johnson was a University of Mississippi varsity cheerleader and even in death, he continues to cheer for the university, having established a scholarship that he hoped would encourage students to remain in Mississippi to earn their undergraduate degrees.

“The enthusiasm with which he cheered for the Rebels carried over to his support for our children all the way through their school years and beyond,” said Earl Fyke of wife Nancy Johnson Fyke’s father.

The Otho Johnson Engineering Scholarship Endowment, funded by the Dorothy Day Johnson Living Trust, will provide financial assistance to full-time undergraduate students pursuing a degree in the School of Engineering.

“My father was an ardent Ole Miss supporter. Both he and my mother (Dorothy ‘Dot’ Day Johnson) went to school here,” Nancy Fyke said. “My father was in the entering class of 1941, so the war interrupted his education. He was in civil engineering when he started, and he came back after the war to complete his degree.

“In his will, he designated three places to receive charitable donations. The School of Engineering was one of those, along with Reformed Theological Seminary and First Presbyterian Church in Jackson.”

The Fykes said the gift is a natural extension of Otho Johnson’s personality.

“I think he wanted to establish the scholarship as an encouragement for students to go into engineering, which he always felt provided a solid foundation for his own career, and he wanted to do something special for Ole Miss and specifically for the engineering school,” Nancy Fyke said.

“We know from experience with our own children’s classes that a lot of talented students leave the state. Scholarships, as well as the Honors College, were powerful encouragements for our children to come to the University of Mississippi instead of accepting appointments out of state.”

First preference for the award will be given to students participating in the Belhaven University 2+2 or 2+3 program, honoring Dot Johnson, who attended Belhaven before transferring to UM after her freshman year.

The partnership between Belhaven and the UM School of Engineering was established in 2015 as an incentive for students who want to attend both universities. Students in the 2+2 or 2+3 program complete core classes in two years at Belhaven and then finish their degree at UM, which specializes in the course of study they want to pursue. Students will earn two degrees, one in the original discipline at Belhaven and one in engineering at Ole Miss.

“We expect this partnership to ultimately be a win-win strategy,” said Kevin Gardner, development officer for the School of Engineering. “It affords Belhaven students the opportunity to receive financial assistance while also keeping them in-state to receive their degrees, which is good for Ole Miss.”

Secondary preference for the Otho Johnson Engineering Scholarship will go to students from Jackson Preparatory School who want to major in engineering.

“That relationship seemed natural as all of our children attended Prep,” said Earl Fyke, a Jackson, cardiologist and UM engineering graduate. He and Nancy, who also graduated from Ole Miss with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in home economics, have three children, all of whom attended UM.

“Otho was probably their greatest fan and greatest cheerleader going through school and rarely missed any of their activities at Jackson Prep. The thinking was that because this is a very good preparatory school, many of those kids have opportunities to study out of state. We would love to encourage them to come here, as did Otho.”

Engineering Dean Alex Cheng said Johnson’s generosity will benefit students for generations to come.

“Mr. Johnson had the foresight to provide significant support for students in a way that will encourage more students to choose the University of Mississippi for their engineering degree,” Cheng said.

Born in Jackson, Johnson attended the Jackson public schools and was a member of the Central High School Class of 1941. During World War II, he served as a pilot with the Eighth Air Force flying B-24 bombers in combat over Germany. Following the war, he graduated in engineering from Ole Miss, where he was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.

After graduate study in ceramic engineering at the University of Illinois, Johnson returned briefly to Jackson, joining his father as a ceramics engineer at the Johnson-Cone Brick Co. He married Dot Day of Inverness in 1947 and moved his family in 1949 to the Starkville area, where he managed four counties for the Southern Bell Telephone Co.

In 1952, Johnson joined Lamar Life Insurance Co. in Jackson, beginning a successful 50-year career with the company as an agent. He became a general agent in 1954 and earned the Chartered Life Underwriter and the Chartered Financial Counselor designations. He was a life member of the Million Dollar Round Table and served as president of the Jackson and the Mississippi Associations of Life Underwriters and the Mississippi Chapter of Chartered Life Underwriters.

Johnson served the community of Jackson in numerous roles, including director in the Jackson Chamber of Commerce, president of the Rotary Club of Jackson, president of the Northside and the Metropolitan Jackson YMCAs, president of the Mississippi Genealogical Society, president of the Jackson Camellia Society and organizer of the Family Research Association of Mississippi. He provided leadership as a deacon in Central Presbyterian Church, the church of his childhood, and later as deacon and elder at Trinity, Covenant and First Presbyterian churches in Jackson. Until his death, he remained an elder emeritus at First Presbyterian Church.

“Otho was one of those people who would want neither credit nor accolades for any of this,” Earl Fyke said. “He was such an unselfish people person. Everybody loved him, and everybody trusted him.”

“Throughout his life, he was very much a promoter of Ole Miss,” Nancy Fyke added, recalling the many times her father brought her and her siblings, Dr. Camille Johnson Jeffcoat and David Otho Johnson, to Oxford for ballgames. Both Jeffcoat and Johnson also attended Ole Miss.

Individuals and organizations can make gifts to the Otho Johnson Engineering Scholarship Endowment by mailing a check with the designation noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655; visiting or contacting Kevin Gardner, development officer, at 662-915-7601 or