2017 Outstanding Engineering Alumni Award Recipients
Congratulations to our 12 alumni who received the Outstanding Engineering Alumni Award this year. They are proud representatives of more than a century-long tradition of excellence. They provide an ideal for the thousands of engineering students who will follow. Their expertise, accomplishments, and leadership provide testimony to the success of their alma mater as a premier engineering educational institution.
Mark E. Alpert
Environmental Engineering, M.Eng. 1980
President, Integrated Delivery Solutions
A Baltimore, MD, native, Mark Alpert received his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Lehigh University and came to Penn State for his master’s degree because it had one of the top ten environmental engineering programs at the time, and because they offered an EPA Traineeship program.
Three months before graduation, however, Mark became ill and had to leave school. He nearly didn’t return. Instead, he got married, became a father, and began his professional career as a field project engineer for the State of Maryland where he worked in enforcement of the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Act. Through the support of his advisers, Mark did ultimately return and complete his degree several years later.
Upon graduation, Mark held several positions in state government before he received his professional engineer license. His first private sector position was with Metcalf & Eddy (1978-1983 and 1989-1992) — now part of AECOM — where he became senior vice president for his work in the project development unit. While there, he started a unique business unit focusing on new business ventures and projects that deployed emerging technologies.
In 1983, Wheelabrator Technologies in Hampton, NH, recruited Mark. They introduced him to both project development as well as integrated design, construction, and facility operations.
Mark joined CH2M Hill in 1983 working throughout the U.S. and Canada. Mark became a senior vice president of the CH2M Hill Water Business Group. He worked with key clients in over 40 states and Canadian provinces and served in many roles from project engineer, project manager, and Executive in Charge on numerous projects ranging in size from $1M to $275M.
Mark formally retired in 2014 but continues to serve as the executive director of the Water Design Build Council. In addition, he is president of Integrated Delivery Solutions in Highlands Ranch, CO, where he advises public and private sector owners, as well as engineering, construction, and technology companies.
In 2009, Mark was honored by the Design Build Institute of America with its highest level of recognition, the Brunelleschi Lifetime Achievement Award.
Mark resides in Highlands Ranch, where he lived with his late wife, Claire, until her untimely passing in 2014. Mark and Claire had four sons, David, Andrew, Eric, and Kevin, and five grandchildren, all living in Colorado.
Industrial Engineering, B.S. 1969
Private Equity Investor
As a high school senior in Monessen, PA, Gary Bello was just looking for a college where he could play soccer. He wrote to the coach at Penn State several times, sent him press clippings of his achievements playing for a soccer club back home, and sure enough, he was offered a scholarship to play.
Gary arrived in Happy Valley as an eager freshman ready to conquer his opponents on the soccer field but he didn’t give too much thought to academics. He was intrigued by the nuances of building design so he decided on architecture as a major.
Within two years, his grades started to suffer due to his commitment to soccer and a growing disinterest in his chosen major, so he started thumbing through the Penn State Bulletin. That’s when he saw the description of industrial engineering.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
After graduating from Penn State, Gary worked as an industrial engineer in the Packard Electric Division of General Motors and by the age of 30, he became the youngest senior executive in the company. While at GM, he earned his master’s degree in management science as a Sloan Fellow at Stanford School of Business.
In 1983, Gary went on to become the vice president of Clark Equipment Company and president of its North American Forklift subsidiary. With Gary at the helm of operations, Clark again became a world leader in the design and manufacture of forklift vehicles.
After 10 years with Clark, Gary decided to become a private equity investor and has thrived as a principal in a number of Central Kentucky companies that employ several hundred employees.
“Going to Penn State was the best decision I could have made and my time there has made an indescribable impact on my life,” he said. “Engineering really is all about problem solving so my education really laid the groundwork for all of the opportunities I’ve been fortunate to have over the years.”
Gary was named the University of Kentucky’s Businessman of the Year in 1991 and in 2010, he was named an Alumni Fellow by the Penn State Alumni Association, the highest award given by the association.
Gary and his wife, Sheila, reside in Lexington, KY, near their five married children and 12 grandchildren.
Andrew J. Bieniawski
Nuclear Engineering, B.S. 1989
Vice President, Material Security and Minimization, Nuclear Threat Initiative
Andrew Bieniawski spent most of his professional career traveling the world on behalf of the Department of Energy (DOE) collecting nuclear material in order to keep it out of the hands of those that might misuse it. He credits Penn State with giving him the unique combination of skills he needed to excel at that highly specialized work.
“The key to my success is my Penn State nuclear engineering degree. Coming out of Penn State and going to DOE, that technical background gave me a huge advantage,” Andrew says. “As a young person going to foreign countries and meeting with technical people, I could speak their language.”
The other skill he honed at Penn State was how to be personable. “I learned to be a well-rounded people-person through serving as a Lion Ambassador and through Acacia Fraternity,” he says.
After graduating in 1989, Andrew joined the DOE. By 2001, he was in Moscow working with the Russians to secure their nuclear arsenal and materials.
From 2004 to 2012, Andrew led the U.S. government’s Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI). Under his leadership, GTRI removed about 5,070 pounds of dangerous, highly-enriched uranium and plutonium from vulnerable locations around the world â€“ enough material for terrorists to make more than 80 nuclear weapons. During this time, Andrew provided direct oversight of 21 complex operations to secure nuclear material in more than 15 countries.
In 2012, Andrew became acting principal assistant deputy administrator for the National Nuclear Security Agency’s Office of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation, responsible for overseeing more than 240 staff and a $2 billion budget.
After retiring from government service in 2014, Andrew took on his current role as vice president, material security and minimization at Nuclear Threat Initiative, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that works to prevent catastrophic attacks and accidents with weapons of mass destruction and disruption â€“ nuclear, biological, radiological, chemical, and cyber.
In addition to his Penn State undergraduate degree, Andrew holds a master of arts in international relations from Johns Hopkins University.
He lives in Virginia with his wife, Ann (’89 BAE). Their son, Austin, is a junior in mechanical engineering at Penn State, a Schreyer Scholar, and a member of the Naval ROTC program. Their daughter, Lauren, is a junior in high school and plans to study nursing at Penn State.
Mechanical Engineering, B.S. 1980
President, Boeing Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific
Maureen Dougherty lives 9,940 miles from where she grew up. In a way, she says she has Penn State to thank for that.
“Penn State made such a lasting impression on me because it got me out of my early life in New York and changed my perspective,” she says. “I learned about different places and people, and I learned so much from the professors there. I have very fond memories of going to Penn State.”
Her journey from Queens, NY, to Sydney, Australia, began with a stop in State College — where she earned a degree in mechanical engineering — and has included many career challenges and opportunities.
Maureen is now president of Boeing Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific. Directing 3,400 employees, she is the senior company leader in the Oceania region and coordinates all Boeing activities and government relations, and directs the implementation of the Boeing strategy to expand its local presence and grow the business.
Reflecting on her higher education choices, Maureen remembers having a very specific checklist.
“I loved the idea of going to a rural school with engineering and big sports,” she says. “I also really needed scholarships and work study to be able to afford it and Penn State offered me those, too.”
Maureen was the first in her family to go to college.
“My parents couldn’t believe I could even do it,” she says. “They were very proud.”
Maureen’s current position at Boeing is the latest in a succession of advancements spanning a 35-year career. She previously served as vice president and program manager for the KC-46 Tanker, the Airborne Early Warning and Control surveillance aircraft, and the F-22 fighter programs. Before those assignments, she held a variety of engineering and program leadership positions on missile, fighter, bomber, and military commercial derivative aircraft programs and has a broad technical background in structures, avionics, systems, and test engineering.
She serves as chairperson of the American Chamber of Commerce in Australia, as a board director of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, and as a member of the Business Council of Australia. She is also a fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society.
Maureen earned her master’s degree in engineering from the University of Washington, where she studied as a Boeing Company Systems Engineering fellow.
She lives in Sydney with her husband, Mike de La Chapelle, also an engineer for Boeing.
Electrical Engineering, M.S. 1984
Founder and CEO, Xoriant Corporation
As a child, Girish Gaitonde became fascinated with circuits and electronic devices. Growing older he built on this interest and pursued a Bachelor of Technology in electrical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay.
Still seeking more knowledge in electronics, computers, and the hardware of computers, he did some research and found that Penn State had a great electrical engineering master’s program and came to Happy Valley soon after completing his undergraduate degree.
At Penn State, working in the CSE department as a teaching assistant, Girish learned what an asset being a grad assistant was for his own education.
“It was my first time ever teaching and I really enjoyed it, but I also found that I learned a lot more by teaching rather than just studying — I really had to know the subject to teach it,” says Girish. “Plus I enjoyed the lab work and using instruments we didn’t have in India at the time. Penn State taught me about analysis, gave me quantitative skills, and taught me about business. I feel very fortunate to have studied at Penn State.”
After obtaining his M.S. Girish moved to Oregon and worked for Intel, designing and analyzing circuits. He moved to Chicago seven years later and got his MBA in finance and marketing from the University of Chicago. After working for AT&T in Chicago, Girish decided to start his own company.
In 1990, Girish founded TekEdge, a software services company focused on technology companies in Silicon Valley. As the company grew, he began offering assistance to incorporate business applications, additional industries, and geographies. In 2000, TekEdge changed its name to Xoriant Corporation to signify its entry into projects and outsourcing business, including a development center in India. Xoriant continues to grow and expand its footprint across the globe.
Girish credits much of the success he’s had to the fact that his parents and siblings were in his corner.
“They really were a driving force in my career,” he says. “I was so lucky to have their support.”
Girish lives with his wife and two sons in Saratoga, CA, where he serves on the boards of various companies and nonprofits including the South Asian Heart Center.
Agricultural Engineering, B.S. 1979; M.S. 1980
Executive Vice President of Engineering Services, Skelly and Loy, Inc.
“What I most enjoy about coming to work every day are the opportunities to mentor others,” says Gerry Longenecker. “I share advice about topics ranging from career advancement to project management and client relationship counseling. Seeing engineers grow professionally is about as good as it gets.”
After earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Penn State, Gerry was hired by an environmental consulting firm in West Chester, PA, to perform soils testing for on-site septic systems, and groundwater well monitoring. Over the next 13 years, the Manheim, PA, native gradually worked his way up to project management, sales and marketing, and leadership positions.
In 1993, Gerry joined Skelly and Loy, a privately owned corporation headquartered in Harrisburg, with six offices that provide professional engineering and environmental services to public and private sector clients throughout the United States and abroad.
Initially, Gerry coordinated engineering efforts between Skelly and Loy’s Pittsburgh and Harrisburg offices. After one year, he was charged with supervising the entire civil engineering department.
“The department’s service areas soon expanded to the point that I was given an opportunity to oversee all of the engineering services at Skelly and Loy’s six offices,” says Gerry.
Last year, Gerry was named executive vice president of engineering services, which involves company-wide responsibility for personnel and project management, client satisfaction, and business development.
Throughout his 35-year career, Gerry completed approximately 100 stream restoration and relocation projects; prepared erosion and sedimentation control plans for a variety of developments; oversaw the design of numerous stormwater runoff control facilities; managed more than 150 wetland delineations in coastal tidal marsh and inland undisturbed areas in accordance with state and federal methodologies and requirements; and directed dozens of wetland restoration projects under enforcement actions by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for compliance with the Clean Water Act.
He is also a licensed professional engineer in six states.
Gerry lives in Harrisburg with his wife, Jane. They have four children.
Chemical Engineering, B.S. 1974
Vice Chancellor for Research and Engagement, University of Massachusetts Amherst
A summer research experience at Penn State turned out to be life-changing for Mike Malone. “I didn’t originally intend to go to graduate school,” says Mike. “But after Larry Duda and I co-authored a paper, he recommended that the University of Massachusetts Amherst would be a good fit for my interests.”
Mike completed his Ph.D. in chemical engineering in 1979 and joined Purdue University as an assistant professor of chemical engineering.
The following year, Mike returned to UMass Amherst, where he has spent the past 36 years teaching chemical engineering courses and serving in leadership positions.
Mike began as an associate professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, and later earned several promotions, eventually becoming head of the chemical engineering department from 1997 to 2003, Ronnie and Eugene M. Isenberg Distinguished Professor of Engineering in 2003, and dean of the College of Engineering in 2004.
During this time, he also directed UMass Amherst’s Process Design and Control Center (PDCC) for nine years. The PDCC focuses on the creation of systematic methods for the rapid invention, development, and operation of industrial processes to manufacture microstructured chemical products including pharmaceuticals, emulsions, and nanoparticles.
Broadening his research horizons, Mike completed two visiting scientist stints at DuPont, one in the company’s nylon business and the other in Central R&D focused on conceptual design.
Mike was appointed to his current position as vice chancellor for research and engagement in August of 2009. In this role, he manages more than $200 million per year in research expenditures, which support more than 1,300 faculty, 6,500 graduate students and postdoctoral scholars, and a large number of undergraduates engaged in research. He also oversees 91 staff in seven offices.
Making connections across the university is what Mike enjoys most about his current post.
“A lot of high-impact work — the reason we do research — involves multiple disciplines, so I bring people together, from different programs and different colleges, who might not otherwise get an opportunity to collaborate,” he says.
Mike lives in Amherst, MA, with his wife, Christine Lau. He has a stepson, Chris, and daughter-in-law, Danielle, and two grandchildren.
J. Scott Radecic
Architectural Engineering, B.A.E. 1986
Senior Principal, Populous
After being introduced to architectural engineering in high school, J. Scott Radecic knew the building industry was the perfect fit for him â€“ and so was the football field.
As a talented high school linebacker being recruited to play collegiate football, Scott zeroed in on universities offering architecture and engineering programs, with Penn State at the top of his list.
“Being recruited by Coach Joe Paterno, I felt Penn State was a place where I could play the best college football in the country, where I would become the best athlete and football player that I could be, and I’d be going to class in the number one architectural engineering program in the country,” he says.
As a member of the Nittany Lion football team from 1980 to 84, Scott was named second team All-American and first team Academic All-American in 1982. He was the leading tackler on the 1982 National Championship team.
In 1984, Scott was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs. Because of the rigorous five-year architectural engineering program, he returned to Penn State during his first two off-seasons to finish his degree. “It was important to set an example for all of the other student athletes that come behind you who are looking at this tradition of Penn State athletes who work hard, excel, and graduate,” he says.
After spending 12 seasons in the National Football League (NFL) with the Chiefs, Buffalo Bills, and Indianapolis Colts, Scott retired from professional play, but knew he wanted to stay around the game. Soon after, a five-year off-season internship with HOK Sport, now Populous, turned into a full-time position.
As a senior principal with Populous, Scott is a member of the firm’s Board of Directors and is the director of its NFL and collegiate marketplaces. He focuses on the strategic development of pursuing and managing sporting facility projects.
Scott’s unique experience as a collegiate and professional athlete combined with his expertise in architectural engineering has made him a trusted adviser to collegiate and professional teams. He has worked with 10 NFL teams and more than 50 universities to construct new or renovate current sporting facilities.
Scott lives in Mission Hills, KS. He has two children, Matthew and Taylor, and three grandchildren, Reagan, Rory, and Khylin.
Aerospace Engineering, B.S. 1987
Flight Operations, Assistant Director for Commercial Crew, NASA Johnson Space Center
The first manned Moon landing had a major impact on Heather Rarick’s life. “It always stood out in my mind,” she says. “When I was considering engineering as a degree, I didn’t know much about it. Later I read an article about astronauts, and many of them had aerospace engineering degrees. I thought, ‘Wow, that seems interesting. I see that as a future!’”
The Mt. Lebanon, PA, native enrolled in Penn State’s aerospace engineering program because of the outstanding reputations of the College of Engineering and the Department of Aerospace Engineering.
Following graduation, Heather began her career at Rockwell Space Operations Company as a shuttle flight design engineer, where she was able to take on tasks other engineers couldn’t because of her extensive Penn State education.
“Penn State gave me the engineering-disciplined approach to problem solving and the in-depth technical background that allowed me to accept additional responsibilities and gain more experience and success more quickly.”
Over the next 20-plus years, Heather held significant leadership positions at NASA. From 2004 to 2006, she chaired the Russian Joint Operations Panel to negotiate operational issues and flight rules between NASA and Roscosmos for the International Space Station (ISS).
Between 2006 and 2015, she was an ISS Flight Director and successfully led Mission Control Center operations to safely achieve mission objectives for Expedition 17 and STS-128/17A, and also completed mission requirements for other Space Shuttle and ISS missions.
In 2015, she was named to her current position, where she serves as the primary point of contact with the Commercial Crew Program, ensuring operational expertise and technical recommendations are applied to human space-flight missions.
Heather loves her job and the combination of hard work and fun it brings.
“When you work shuttle and station missions, you spend a lot of time with coworkers and it becomes a family,” says Heather. “I love the NASA mission, and we’re all fighting for the common good. It’s a great job, supporting human space flight. I can’t wait to see where we go next.”
Heather has been recognized with multiple awards by NASA, including a Silver Snoopy, two Outstanding Leadership Medals, and a Distinguished Service Medal.
Heather also holds an MBA from the University of Houston-Clear Lake.
She lives in Houston, TX, with her husband, Douglas, and their two daughters: Sydney and Alexandra.
Bioengineering, M.S., 1985; Ph.D. 2000
Associate Professor, Anne Arundel Community College
“Bioengineering appealed to me because it was sort of the intersection of science and engineering,” says Marjorie Rawhouser. “I was interested in its many applications geared toward helping people.”
Marjorie enrolled at Penn State after earning a bachelor’s degree in systems engineering from the United States Naval Academy and subsequently completing five years of active duty in the Navy.
After finishing her master’s degree, Marjorie spent two years as a clinical engineer at Iowa Methodist Medical Center, before returning to Penn State to begin her Ph.D. studies.
Following graduation, she joined Abiomed, a medical implant device manufacturer in Danvers, MA, where she held QA engineer, design assurance engineer, and QA manager positions.
In 2005, Marjorie moved back to Pennsylvania, started her own consulting firm, and taught senior-level Control System Design and Analysis courses at Penn State Harrisburg.
That fall, Marjorie was called to active duty and served for one year as a military liaison officer to the United Nations Mission for Iraq.
“My responsibilities included handling internally displaced persons issues, and working with people in the U.N., the U.S. military, and the U.S. Embassy on political engagement programs,” says Marjorie. “I was a small part of the mission, but I enjoyed working with people from many different countries.”
Upon returning to the U.S., Marjorie joined ITT Technical Institute in Harrisburg as an adjunct instructor and was named chair of ITT’s School of Electronics Technology the following year.
In 2010, she became an assistant professor at Anne Arundel Community College in Arnold, MD. She is currently an associate professor there, teaching courses in the Engineering Transfer and Engineering Technology Programs. She also holds a joint appointment with Frostburg State University in Hanover, MD, where she serves as the on-site coordinator for the university’s Transfer Engineering Program and teaches electrical engineering and physics courses.
After 20 years in the U.S. Navy Reserve, Marjorie retired to focus solely on her career in academia.
“It was very beneficial to have those careers side by side,” says Marjorie. “Staying in the Reserve allowed me to remain connected with the military, while utilizing my engineering skills to do other things.”
Marjorie lives in Annapolis, MD, with her husband, Dennis Hicks.
Computer Science, B.S. 1982
President and CEO, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, GE Healthcare
When Eric Stahre of West Chester, PA, graduated from Penn State, he didn’t realize how important his undergraduate experience would be for his career.
Eric was interested at a young age in his father’ work as a systems analyst. “My dad would take me to the office and it was exciting seeing computers in action,” he says.
After taking a high school programming course, Eric was hooked and chose to study computer science.
“I remember sitting in physics classes, thinking, “when am I ever going to use this?’ I never imagined how much of my career would depend on applications of physics, from satellites to medical imaging technologies,” says Eric.
Eric’s academics and leadership roles in the fraternity, Theta Delta Chi, helped shape his path. Today he is president and CEO of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) at GE Healthcare.
Eric’s career at GE started in 1984 at RCA’s satellite systems division. GE acquired RCA in 1986. Over the next 10 years, Eric took on roles of increasing responsibility in engineering, product management, and business development.
In 1996, he joined GE Healthcare as systems and applications engineering manager, MRI. He was promoted to general manager of MRI’s global technology organization in 1998. In 2000, Eric was appointed general manager, Genomics and Molecular Medicine and later general manager, Medical Diagnostics Integration based in the U.K. In 2005, Eric was promoted to lead Molecular Imaging and CT’s global technology organization. In 2007, Eric transitioned to product management as general manager of CT’s premium segment. His responsibilities expanded to Molecular Imaging and CT. Eric took on his current position in 2014.
“At GE Healthcare, I’ve had the absolute privilege to go to work every day with the brightest engineers and scientists who develop life-saving medical imaging technologies,” says Eric. “We get to innovate in collaboration with world-renowned radiologists and medical physicists. There’s no better feeling than bringing our innovations to market, putting them in the hands of healthcare providers around the world, and seeing the positive impact they have on patients. It’s an extraordinary mission.”
Eric also holds a master’s degree in computer science from Villanova University and an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.
He resides in Oconomowoc, WI, with his wife, Tammi. They have two grown children, Jonathan and Katie.
Engineering Science, B.S. 1990
Senior Vice President, Solution Delivery Centers, SAP
John Starr never planned where his career would go. “I’ve always been open-minded to new things, and took each step in my life and career based on opportunities that presented themselves,” he says. “Along the way, I found when you focus on helping others become successful, your own career tends to take care of itself.”
Having grown up on a small farm, John took his first college course after ninth grade and pursued engineering because of the advice of his high school calculus teacher.
“I had no idea what major to choose,” John recalls. “She told me to select engineering, but I knew nothing about it. She said, “Don’t worry — it’s for people who are good at math and science. You’ll enjoy it.’”
John entered the engineering science program and focused on engineering mechanics after attending an ice cream social hosted by the University Scholar’s Program to learn more about the major — and because “no teenage boy could pass up free food.”
He began his career as a mechanical engineer at Westinghouse, where he worked on the manufacturing of submarine missile launch systems and designed propulsion systems.
In 1992, John joined medical device startup Respironics and earned seven patents for inventions. By 1996, Respironics had put him through Carnegie Mellon University Tepper School of Business for his MBA and gave him a series of leadership roles in product development and new business development.
In 1999, John was recruited to become Director of Operations for FreeMarkets, a dot-com software company that offered global supply management solutions. In 2004, software company Ariba acquired FreeMarkets and asked John to build and lead a global organization of deployment teams to grow their cloud software business.
Ariba was acquired by SAP in 2012, and soon after, named John as Senior Vice President of Solution Delivery Centers wherein he currently leads 2,000 IT professionals who provide software services to SAP customers across the planet.
“I’ve always believed you don’t have to have it all figured out. Take it one day at a time, do your very best, help people, stay positive, have fun every day, and opportunities will continue to come,” says John.
John lives on his 170-acre family farm in Allegheny Township, PA, with his wife, Margie, and their five children: Tommy, Danny, Jeannie, Sammy, and Jessie.