College of Engineering inducts six members into Virginia Tech Academy of Engineering Excellence
Established in 1999, the academy celebrated its newest class in April and brought its total membership to 179 alumni who have achieved exceptional career successes.
Six new members have been inducted into the Virginia Tech Academy of Engineering Excellence.
The 2023 inductees, who have achieved exceptional career successes, were chosen from over 77,000 living College of Engineering alumni, bringing the academy’s total membership to 179.
This year’s inductees are:
- Edward H. Baine of Moseley, Virginia
- William J. Dally of Incline Village, Nevada
- Essex E. Finney Jr. of Mitchellville, Maryland
- James E. Miller of Waterford, Virginia
- David E. Parekh of Menlo Park, California
- Ingrid Jensen Vaughan of Ellicott City, Maryland
“We welcome a group of exceptional inductees whose career achievements have made a significant impact on the field of engineering,” said Julie Ross, the Paul and Dorothea Torgersen Dean of Engineering. “As members of the academy, they represent the height of professional success made possible with a Virginia Tech engineering education.”
The College of Engineering established the academy in 1999 under the direction of Dean Emeritus F. William Stephenson and the college's advisory board. Academy members have sustained contributions to engineering and leadership throughout their careers.
2023 Academy of Engineering Excellence inductees
Edward H. Baine
Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering, 1995
Raised on a tobacco farm in Southside Virginia, Baine came to Virginia Tech with humble beginnings and the encouragement of a trigonometry teacher to pursue engineering. Baine decided to study electrical engineering because his grandfather was an electrician and plumber.
He was one of two students out of a class of roughly 4,500 students to receive the Presidential Scholarship in 1991. This scholarship is a competitive program at Virginia Tech, designed to offset the costs of college for in-state Virginia high school students with significant financial needs. Baine said this financial support clinched his decision to attend the university after also receiving scholarship offers from the University of Virginia and Duke University.
“People from all walks of life, all economic means are ready and able to compete with anyone and take on the world. They just need the opportunity,” Baine said.
After Baine’s first steps on the Blacksburg campus, faculty and staff helped illuminate the path forward. Bevlee Watford, then in the Office of Minority Engineering, and Delores Scott, in the Office of Academic Enrichment, offered motherly advice while Baine was away from home, he said. Scott even offered Baine his first job at Virginia Tech: tutoring students from the Office of Academic Enrichment. Professors Arun Phadke and Robert Broadwater piqued his interest in the power industry, ultimately leading to his decision to work for Dominion Energy.
Since graduating in 1995, Baine has made a nearly 30-year career at Dominion Energy, from working in various electric distribution roles to his current position as president. He manages all facets of Dominion Energy Virginia, a vertically integrated electric utility with generation, transmission, and distribution assets that provides electric service to about 2.7 million customer accounts in Virginia and northeastern North Carolina.
In 2023, Baine was inducted into the Black Engineer of the Year Hall of Fame for devoting time and energy to ensure Career Communications Group’s career development and to help expand STEM programs. He was also named Philanthropist of the Year at the 2018 Virginia Tech Black Alumni Awards, in part for supporting the Student Transition Engineering Program (STEP). Currently, Baine serves as vice rector of the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors, giving his time and energy to help steward the university forward.
William J. Dally
Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering, 1980
From a young age, Dally was interested in electronics and computers. In the mid-1970s, Dally chose Virginia Tech because of its reputation for being the best and most affordable technical school. His decision to pursue electrical engineering as his major was life-changing in more ways than one.
“I will never forget the best thing that came out of taking calculus: I met my wife, Sharon Kinsel,” said Dally.
Dally began his career as a member of the technical staff for Bell Laboratories in 1980. During his two years at Bell Labs, Dally focused on design verification and physical testing. In 1986, he transitioned into academia. At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he directed a research group that developed multicomputer hardware and software and taught courses on computer architecture, concurrent computing, and very large-scale integration.
Since 2004, he has taught computer architecture, digital systems engineering, very large-scale integration, and “green” electronics at Stanford University. His research group developed the system architecture, network architecture, signaling, routing, and synchronization technology found in most of today’s large parallel computers. He was Stanford’s department chair for computer science from 2005-09.
For nearly 15 years, Dally has been the chief scientist and senior vice president of research at NVIDIA Corp. while continuing to teach at Stanford. At NVIDIA, he has built a world-class industrial research laboratory that includes machine learning, graphics, computer vision, programming systems, computer architecture, networking, very large-scale integration design, and circuits research groups.
Essex E. Finney Jr.
Bachelor of Science in agricultural engineering, 1959
Well before transferring to Virginia Tech from Virginia State College, Finney knew he wanted to study agricultural engineering. Having grown up on a farm that harvested grain, he understood how technology could help farmers use their resources more effectively. When Finney’s family bought their first tractor in 1951, they no longer had to walk behind the horses as they plowed their 200-acre farm.
As one of the first six Black students to attend Virginia Tech, Finney lived and ate with Mr. and Mrs. Hoge and his other Black classmates on East Clay Street. In the 1950s, the Hoges opened up their home to the Black students who were not allowed to live, eat, or otherwise use nonacademic amenities on campus because of university policy at the time. The Hoges provided students with room, board, and laundry assistance for $60 a month, in addition to care and support that would have been difficult to find otherwise.
Finney thought being part of the first two cohorts of Black students was an exciting experience, but he didn't consider himself a pioneer in that light.
“I thought the other Black students who were two years ahead of me might have been pioneers. But by the time I arrived, things were working pretty smoothly,” Finney said.
The agricultural engineering department chair, Earl Swink, had the greatest influence on Finney’s long-term career. Swink encouraged Finney to attend graduate school instead of joining the military. After Finney explained that he couldn’t afford to further his education, Swink worked with a professor at Pennsylvania State University to get Finney into its graduate agricultural engineering program, along with securing a research assistantship and financial support. Finney, after receiving his master’s degree, went on to earn his Ph.D. in agricultural engineering from Michigan State University.
Finney had a 30-year career with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For the last three years of his career, he worked at the Agricultural Research Center, the chief scientific in-house research agency for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He evaluated agricultural products and developed handling processes focused on quality control.
The proudest moment of his career was being called to work as a senior policy analyst in the Office of the Science Advisor under Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.
“When I worked with President Carter to define the priorities for research and science for the Department of Agriculture to help farmers and the people who buy agricultural products, I felt that I had reached a peak of my career,” Finney said.
Finney is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the American Society of Agricultural Engineers.
James E. Miller
Bachelor of Science in computer science, 1997
Miller followed in his grandfather’s footsteps to attend Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering.
“From an early age, I knew I wanted to be an engineer and felt drawn to the school in hopes of making my family proud,” Miller said.
After taking instructor Dwight Barnette’s first-year computer science class, he knew that the computer science department was the right fit.
“If not for him, I likely would not be receiving this award,” Miller said.
He credits the College of Engineering and the Department of Computer Science, in particular, for teaching him how to break down complex tasks and convert them into solvable problems. These skills have benefited Miller throughout his entrepreneurial career.
Miller has been president and CEO of four companies since 2002. Miller first founded a secure communications solutions company, Applied Security Inc. His second venture, Vulnerability Research Labs, which specialized in developing computer network exploitation capabilities, was formed in 2008. Miller’s third venture was Strategic Resources International, an entity that owns and operates international telecommunications infrastructures. He successfully sold his first three companies. Currently, he is CEO of Quantum Leap Research LLC, which aims to develop solutions to problems expected to face United States national security in the future.
Miller has stayed connected with the university as an advisory board member for both the College of Engineering and the Department of Computer Science.
David E. Parekh
Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering, 1982
With the inspiring support of his family, Parekh has built a career full of lifelong learning and research. During his undergraduate studies, when he nearly flunked a midterm, it was his mother who encouraged him to persevere and believe in himself. With her encouragement, he finished the class with an A. On graduation day while his family took pictures, his grandfather, who never went to high school, put on Parekh’s gown and wore it with pride. To this day, he has inspired Parekh’s pursuit of excellence.
These relationships, as well as meeting his wife of 40 years on campus, have taught Parekh that empathy is as important as intelligence.
After graduation but before starting a career in research laboratories, Parekh went on to receive a Master of Science in mechanical engineering, a Master of Science in electrical engineering, and a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Stanford University.
Parekh credits Professor Emeritus Robert Mahan for instilling his passion for research. Mahan established and directed the Thermal Radiation Group, a nationally prominent laboratory in remote sensing and infrared technology.
Parekh has worked for Boeing, in addition to McDonnell Douglas Research Laboratories, Georgia Tech Research Institute, and the United Technologies Research Center. He is currently the CEO of SRI International, an independent, nonprofit research institute with a rich history of supporting government and industry.
Reflecting on his career path, Parekh gave future engineers the following advice: “Don’t be preoccupied worrying about what your next job or promotion will be. Instead, focus on doing a great job on what you are doing today. Establish a track record of delivering, and your next job will find you.”
Parekh is a fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and a member of the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering.
Ingrid Jensen Vaughan
Bachelor of Science in industrial engineering and operations research, 1985
Vaughan’s father encouraged her to pursue a career with strong job prospects in a field in which women were underrepresented. Industrial engineering and operations research was the perfect fit, as it also aligned with her problem-solving skills.
“I often reflect that Virginia Tech was the launching point for my career. The professional recruitment center connected me to Westinghouse, now Northrop Grumman,” Vaughan said. “Due to Virginia Tech’s strong reputation, I was given a chance to start a career at a fantastic company. Thirty-seven years later, to be inducted into the Virginia Tech Academy of Engineering Excellence is an unexpected, but incredible, honor.”
Vaughan has held several roles with Northrop Grumman, including work with the Combat and Defensive Product Cells Business Unit, Cobra Judy Replacement Program, AMDR Technology Demonstration Program, G/ATOR Program, and ground-based tactical radars. Now the vice president and general manager for the maritime/land sensors and systems division, Vaughan has received the Northrop Grumman President’s Leadership Award three times.
She also supports Northrop Grumman’s University Relations Program. Through this role, she helped lead the first anchor-level partnership at the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus. This partnership will establish a new Center for Quantum Architecture and Software Development that will support new frontiers of quantum research.
Vaughan was inducted into the Grado Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering Academy of Distinguished Alumni in 2019. She also serves on the Virginia Tech College of Engineering Advisory Board.