(May 24, 2017) The ISE Department announced the following nine people as the 2017 inductees into the Academy of Distinguished Alumni. They were honored at the ISE banquet at the Inn at Virginia Tech in April 2017. Please click their names for their short biographies.
2017 Academy of Distinguished Alumni inductees
Tom Askew graduated in Industrial Engineering from Virginia Tech in 1971, and in 1977 he received his MBA from VCU. While at Tech, Tom did a co-op program working for Reynolds Metals in Richmond. From this experience he was able to experience all facets of manufacturing and developed a keen sense of the importance of efficient and well managed operations.
In 1972, Tom was hired by Philip Morris (now known as Altria) and spent the next twenty-five years with them in a wide range of production management, financial analysis and industrial engineering roles. He held positions as Plant Manufacturing Manager, Head of Industrial Engineering, and Assistant Controller in charge of operations analysis. While on extended assignments overseas, he held director level positions in International Operations in Switzerland and England. During his 7 year tenure in England as General Manager of an equipment manufacturing subsidiary, he increased revenues more than 100% by expanding manufacturing capabilities in over 20 countries.
After taking an early retirement package from Philip Morris/Altria in 1998. Tom joined Renaissance Resources (a management consulting and executive search firm) and in 2006 became its President. In 2010 Renaissance Resources was acquired by Partnership Staffing, Screening and Search. For the last 18 years Tom has utilized his expertise to assist clients in recruiting high level executives mostly in the fields of engineering and manufacturing.
He is a past President of the Richmond Chapter of the Institute of Industrial Engineers and continues to be active having been Treasurer for 8 years and is now the Membership Director. He is also on the Central Virginia Advisory Board for the Virginia Tech Industrial Systems Engineering group.
Tom is married with three children and four grandchildren.
Steven Belz studied and worked for nine years at Virginia Tech, earning his bachelor's degree, master's degree and Ph.D. in industrial and systems engineering in 1995, 1997, and 2000, respectively. His area of concentration was human factors and ergonomics, and he conducted research on auditory displays and truck safety with John Casali, the John Grado Professor of the Grado Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering in the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech.
After graduate school, Steven worked for Eastman Kodak Company in Rochester, N.Y. in the areas of corporate design and usability. While in Rochester, Belz became an adjunct faculty member of the Department of Industrial Engineering at the Rochester Institute of Technology in 2001.
The Grado Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering honored Dr. Belz in 2006, recognizing him as an Outstanding Young Alumnus.
In 2007, Dr. Belz joined AT&T in Austin, TX. In 2014, he accepted the position of Director of Express Solutions Design in AT&T Business Solutions group. In that position, he oversees the design and simplification of product offers for AT&T’s Sales Express platform and focuses on improving customer experience and profitability through the application of user-centered design. Dr. Belz and his family currently reside in Dallas, TX.
Dr. Belz is recognized as a Certified Professional Ergonomist. Dr. Belz has authored or co-authored more than 75 patents in addition to a variety of other publications.
Steven is also active his church and as Treasurer for the High School Band Boosters. He also volunteers as an adult leader for the Boy Scout, Sea Scout and Venturing programs.
Steven is married to Kelly Belz, also a Virginia Tech Alum, and will celebrate their 22nd anniversary next month. Together, they are the proud parents of two sons – Mitchell a high school senior and Simon a high school sophomore.
After leaving Virginia Tech with her engineering doctorate in 1983, Betty Chao began her career as a member of the technical staff at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In 1995, seeing the need for a high-quality company to support Department of Defense and Department of Energy operations and possessing the drive and self confidence to tackle such a challenge, Dr. Chao established Westech International, Inc., where she has served as President, Chief Executive Officer and the company’s sole owner since its inception. Almost immediately the company was recognized as a dependable, hard-driving entity that others could go to with problems that needed a professional solution. Westech started operations with one employee, Betty. Today, Westech operates in 12 states with 350 employees.
When asked, what does Westech do? Dr. Chao replies, “we blow things up.” The company’s core areas include: test and evaluation of weapon systems that relate to chemical, biological, radiological, munition, cyber, and electronic warfare; Air Force intercontinental ballistic missile ground subsystem maintenance; Army range operations; Army logistics operations; management and disposal of spent nuclear material associated with nuclear weapon programs; security classification protection and safeguards; and a myriad of other high profile and sensitive systems and programs of critical importance to the security of the United States.
With her success, Dr. Chao looks forward to inspiring other young women engineers and entrepreneurs to challenge themselves and follow their dreams.
Dr. James T. Luxhøj is Professor and Undergraduate Director of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Rutgers University. In 1994-95 and Fall 2001 he was a Visiting Professor at Aalborg University in Denmark. He received his B.S. (1984), M.S. (1985), and Ph.D. (1986) in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research from Virginia Tech. His research and consulting interests are in the areas of aviation system safety, supply chains, risk modeling and decision analytics. Internationally recognized, his research in aviation safety and risk analysis has been funded by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the Office of Naval Research (ONR).
Dr. Luxhøj led a research team in collaboration with NASA’s Aviation Safety and Security Program to apply probabilistic risk modeling techniques that involved the application of Bayesian Belief Networks (BBNs) to evaluate the projected impact of new technologies upon reducing safety risk in the National Airspace System. More recently, this research has been extended to hazard and safety risk modeling for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). He has published extensively (over 165 technical papers) and is a member of Alpha Pi Mu and Tau Beta Pi.
A recipient of numerous Rutgers teaching awards, Dr. Luxhøj is a Fellow in the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers (IISE) and serves as the Rutgers IISE Faculty Advisor. A recipient of a 1987 NASA/ASEE Summer Faculty Fellowship, a 1989 SAE Ralph R. Teetor Award for Engineering Education Excellence, and 2012 and 2013 Office of Naval Research (ONR) Distinguished Summer Faculty Fellowships, Dr. Luxhøj is also a co-author of Engineering Economy, 12th and 13th editions published by Prentice Hall and is the recipient of the 2017 Wellington Award by IISE’s Engineering Economy Division (EED). Active in his local community, Jim has served as an assistant baseball and soccer coach, a Scoutmaster, and as Grand Knight in the Knights of Columbus.
Alexandra Medina-Borja earned her Ph.D. and Master's Degrees from Virginia Tech’s Industrial and Systems Engineering Department in 2002 and 1995, respectively, and a Production Engineering Degree from the Federal University of São Carlos in São Paulo, Brazil.
From 2006 to 2012, Dr. Medina-Borja was the founding Director of the International Service Systems Engineering Research Lab at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez, securing substantial federal funding for her research, mainly from NSF. Her research focuses on the effective design and analysis of service delivery systems considering factors such as culture, demographics and behavioral and cognitive traits.
In 2012 she was appointed as the first Director of Evaluation and Assessment for the Directorate for Engineering of the US National Science Foundation (NSF) in Arlington, VA, where she also held an interim appointment as Head of the new Evaluation and Assessment Section in the Office of the NSF Director from 2012 to 2015. In addition, Alexandra has acted as Cognizant Program Officer in Smart Service Systems for the Directorate for Engineering, being the main contributor to the development of the Smart Service Systems research funding opportunity. She is a member of the NSF-wide working group developing the Work and the Human Technology Frontier research theme, one of the ten ideas for future NSF investment championed by the NSF director. In 2016, she became responsible for the entire portfolio of the Partnerships for Innovation in Smart Service Systems program within the Division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships.
From 2001 to 2006, Alexandra managed the Operations Research and Analysis Unit of the American Red Cross National Headquarters in Washington D.C. This organization adopted an analytical framework developed as part of her doctoral dissertation. This work was awarded the 2007 Goodeve Medal by the British Operational Research Society for the most significant contribution to the theory and practice of OR in the world in the given year. Prior to that and for several years worked for the United Nations’ International Trade Centre. She serves as ambassador of The International Society of Service Innovation Professionals, ISSIP, and is a member of the editorial board of INFORM’s Service Science Journal, She is a member of ASEE, INFORMS and IISE.
Both of her children, Felipe now an engineering sophomore at Harvey Mudd College, and Camile, a rising freshman at the College of William and Mary were born in Blacksburg during the years that Alexandra was pursuing her doctorate degree. Her husband, Armando Borja, works bringing higher education opportunities to refugees worldwide.
John Minnich was born and raised in Bridgewater, NJ. He graduated from Virginia Tech in 1989 with a degree in IEOR. John’s first job was as an Industrial Engineer for Levolor Corp, in Rockaway, NJ.
After two years, he joined Pittsburgh-based HB Maynard and Co., beginning a 20 year career in Management Consulting, working with hundreds of clients in manufacturing, retail, transportation, utilities, and distribution, throughout North America and Europe. While at Maynard, John’s work centered on designing and leading projects in the areas of Incentive Correction, Lean Operating Practices, and Performance Management. He also designed and led projects at Maynard that pioneered the successful implementation of Toyota Production System disciplines in Retail Operations, particularly Retail Grocery.
Along with his partners and team at Maynard, they doubled the size of their company over about an eight year period, prior to selling it to Accenture. The Maynard tradition continues to live on at Accenture as their Operations Workforce Optimization (OWO) team.
Following three years at Accenture, John, his wife Jennifer, and their two children Reagan and Liam, moved to Southern Shores, NC, and began second careers as small business owners. Along with another couple, the Minnichs created Trio Wine, Beer, and Cheese, a retail shop and restaurant in Kitty Hawk, NC, which recently celebrated its 5th anniversary. While John’s work as Proprietor and Beermonger at Trio is significantly different than his work at Maynard, he still leans heavily on his IE background to help solve problems, and he’s grateful for it.
Fred St. John makes his home in Princeton, WV with his wife, Santina. Although He grew up in Roanoke, he has lived in Princeton for the past 26 years. Princeton is only one hour away from Blacksburg so he has maintained a presence on the campus of Va. Tech, especially for sporting events. He attended Va. Tech from 1969 thru 1974. He received his undergraduate degree in 1973 and continued with graduate courses in 1974.
The majority of Fred’s working career has been associated with the coal industry. His first employers were larger corporations, Ashland Oil, Ashland Coal and Belco Petroleum. His primary work in these initial years dealt with acquisitions and dispositions of coal operations.
In 1989, Fred took an equity position in a small start-up coal operation in southern West Virginia. His flagship corporation was True Energy Coal Sales, Inc., along with its sister corporations. In addition to ownership, he was an officer and director of the various corporations. His companies mined, processed, and marketed low volatile metallurgical coal to both foreign and domestic customers. As the coal business was and remains cyclical in nature, his companies adjusted as necessary to survive and then take advantage of opportunities when the time was right. The business was sold in 2008 and he exited the coal business in 2012 when owner financing from the sale was paid in full.
Fred has volunteered to serve on the Board of Directors of Princeton Community Hospital for 12 years and has served as President of the Board of Directors since 2009. The hospital is a not-for-profit healthcare provider for southern West Virginia and is also one of the largest employers in Mercer County. He also serves on the Mercer County Local Advisory Board of BB&T.
Dinesh Verma received the Ph.D. (1994) and the M.S. (1991) in Industrial and Systems Engineering from Virginia Tech. He served as the Founding Dean of the School of Systems and Enterprises and Professor in Systems Engineering at Stevens Institute of Technology from 2007 through 2016. He currently serves as the Executive Director of the Systems Engineering Research Center (SERC), a US Department of Defense sponsored University Affiliated Research Center (UARC) focused on systems engineering research. During his fifteen years at Stevens he has successfully proposed research and academic programs exceeding $150m in value. Verma served as Scientific Advisor to the Director of the Embedded Systems Institute in Eindhoven, Holland from 2003 through 2008. Prior to this role, he served as Technical Director at Lockheed Martin Undersea Systems, in Manassas, Virginia, in the area of adapted systems and supportability engineering processes, methods and tools for complex system development and integration.
Before joining Lockheed Martin, Verma worked as a Research Scientist at Virginia Tech and managed the University’s Systems Engineering Design Laboratory. While at Virginia Tech and afterwards, Verma continues to serve numerous companies in a consulting capacity. He served as an Invited Lecturer from 1995 through 2000 at the University of Exeter, United Kingdom. His professional and research activities emphasize systems engineering and design with a focus on conceptual design evaluation, preliminary design and system architecture, design decision-making, life cycle costing, and supportability engineering. In addition to his publications, Verma has received three patents in the areas of life-cycle costing and fuzzy logic techniques for evaluating design concepts.
Dr. Verma has authored over 100 technical papers, book reviews, technical monographs, and co- authored three textbooks: Maintainability: A Key to Effective Serviceability and Maintenance Management (Wiley, 1995), Economic Decision Analysis (Prentice Hall, 1998), Space Systems Engineering (McGraw Hill, 2009). He was honored with an Honorary Doctorate Degree (Honoris Causa) in Technology and Design from Linnaeus University (Sweden) in January 2007; and with an Honorary Master of Engineering Degree (Honoris Causa) from Stevens Institute of Technology in September 2008.
Linda Stephenson Wood graduated from Virginia Tech with a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research in 1981. After graduation, she went to work for R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., a subsidiary of Reynolds American, headquartered in Winston-Salem, NC. She recently retired from R. J. Reynolds with over 35 years of dedicated service. At the time of her retirement she was Vice President of Operations Services. In her role she reported through the Operations function with responsibility for Operations Strategy, Brand & Innovations Planning and International Operations but also had responsibility for enterprise-wide Procurement and Supply Planning and Logistics. She spent 30 years of her career in Operations and Supply Chain roles but in addition, she served in a cross functional role in Human Resources as a Strategic Business Partner supporting executive teams across the majority of corporate functions.
Linda is very involved in giving back to the community through her many years of service on the Goodwill Industries of NWNC (North West North Carolina) BOD, the YMCA of NWNC BOD and the Virginia Tech Industrial and Systems Engineering department Advisory Board. She has held numerous leadership roles within these organizations including Board Chair of both Goodwill and the YMCA.
Linda has been married for 33 years to her husband Keith, has two married daughters, Kristen and Lindsay and a three year old grandson, Jackson. Both daughters are expecting babies in 2017 which will prove for an exciting first year of retirement for Linda. She enjoys spending time with her family, traveling to new places, playing golf, attending Virginia Tech football games and relaxing at her home in Lake Lure, NC.