Six Inducted Into Hall of Distinction

Contact: Dan Adkins



“The Hall of Distinction inducts UK graduates who have made outstanding and extraordinary contributions to their profession. The engineering skills of these men and women have helped our nation and our world confront and solve many technological problems that we face”

-- Thomas W. Lester,
UK College of Engineering




Photo of Vijay K. Dhir
Vijay K. Dhir















Photo of Billy Harper
Billy Harper





Photo of Edward Lassiter
Edward Lassiter










Photo of Aubrey D. May
Aubrey D. May






Photo of Corneilius J. “Neil” Starkey IV
Corneilius J. “Neil” Starkey IV















J. M. “Mac” Yowell

LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 15, 2004) -- Six people have been selected for induction into the 2004 University of Kentucky College of Engineering Hall of Distinction scheduled for 2 p.m. Friday, April 16, in the William T. Young Library auditorium. A reception will follow in the National Alumni Association Gallery in the library.

“The Hall of Distinction inducts UK graduates who have made outstanding and extraordinary contributions to their profession. The engineering skills of these men and women have helped our nation and our world confront and solve many technological problems that we face,” said Thomas W. Lester, dean of the UK College of Engineering.

This year’s inductees are:

• Vijay K. Dhir of Los Angeles. Dhir, dean of the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of California at Los Angeles, earned his doctorate in mechanical engineering at UK in 1972. He received his bachelor’s degree from Punjab Engineering College in Chandigarh, India, in 1965, and his master of technology degree from the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur in 1968. He worked for a short period in industry as an engineer before joining the UCLA faculty in 1974. He has been a consultant for several organizations, including General Electric Corp., Rockwell International, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the Los Alamos and Brookhaven national laboratories. Since he became dean in 2002, the UCLA engineering school has won five competitive research centers from the federal government and private industry that will bring more than $100 million into southern California to spur research and development on emerging technologies during the next five years. Dhir leads the school’s boiling heat transfer lab. Dhir and his wife, the former Komal Khanna, are the parents of two daughters, Vinita and Vashita.

• Billy Harper of Paducah. Founder and president of Harper Industries Inc., Harper built a holding company that now has seven construction-related subsidiaries with offices in Kentucky, Tennessee and Texas and construction sites in more than 20 states. He has been active in local and state economic development efforts and was a vocal advocate of education reform during 1989 and 1990, when he was chairman of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. A 1966 graduate of UK in mechanical engineering, he and his wife, Laura, have four children.

• Edward Lassiter of Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. A 1957 graduate of UK in electrical engineering, Lassiter earned his master’s degree in electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1957. He also holds a master’s degree in engineering from UCLA and was a 1980 graduate of the Harvard Business School. He directed a major national security space program beginning in 1966 and was named program director in 1974 for the Global Positioning System. In 1979, he became general manager of U.S. Department of Defense shuttle integration, in charge of all its satellites on NASA shuttle missions. He currently is president and CEO of Independent System and Technical Evaluations Inc., a space systems engineering firm. He and his wife, Mildred Geiger Lassiter, have four children and 11 grandchildren.

• Aubrey D. May of Lexington. A 1958 graduate in civil engineering who got his master's degree in civil engineering in 1960, May has been involved in many major construction projects affecting Kentucky, including upgrades of U.S. highways 119, 150, 421 and 68, new bridges over the Ohio River at Cincinnati, Owensboro and Maysville, several sections of I-75 widening and others. He also guided geotechnical engineering assignments on the former Island Creek Coal Co. headquarters, Jerrico Corp. headquarters, the Kentucky Horse Park, the state Capitol Floral Clock, and the Kentucky Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Frankfort. He is a past chair of the Kentucky Board of Licensure for Professional Engineers. He and his wife, Karen, each have two children from previous marriages and three grandchildren.

• Corneilius J. “Neil” Starkey IV of Lexington. After starting his college education at Ashland Community College in 1967, Starkey served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam from 1969 to 1970. He resumed his classes at ACC in 1973, transferred to UK in 1974, and earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1976. During his senior year, he joined then-assistant professor Lee T. Todd Jr. to form Cathodochromic Technology Inc., which became DataBeam Corp. in 1983. At DataBeam, he held leadership roles in developing now widely used open standards for teleconferencing and multimedia communications in the International Telecommunications Union and the International Standards Organization. He established and led the International Multimedia Telecommunications Consortium to promote adoption of open standards. He served as the company’s executive vice president and chief technology officer until the firm was acquired by IBM in 1998. He was named an IBM distinguished engineer in 2000 and currently leads the strategic technology relationship team for the chief technology officer of IBM Federal. He and his wife, Katherine Hood Starkey, have a son, who also is a UK graduate.

• J. M. “Mac” Yowell of Versailles. Valedictorian of the Class of 1954 at Bowling Green High School, Yowell earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in May 1959. A week later, he began his career with the Kentucky Department of Highways, leaving in 1965 to work with various contractors in Kentucky and Tennessee. He also served as construction management engineer for the Economic Development Administration in Huntsville, Ala. He taught night courses in the engineering technology department at Western Kentucky University. The Kentucky Society of Professional Engineers named him its outstanding professional engineer in 1984. He was appointed state highway engineer by Kentucky Gov. Brereton Jones in 1992, a position in which he continues to serve, overseeing planning, design, construction and maintenance of the state’s 27,000 miles of roadways. He serves on the state’s Board of Licensure of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors. He has two children and three grandchildren.

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