Rutgers School of Engineering awards first alumni medals of excellence

Honors go to JDS Uniphase CEO, retired Corning researcher, Vanderbilt professor; school's alumni association also presents annual award to FAA fire safety expert

NEW BRUNSWICK/PISCATAWAY, N.J. The School of Engineering at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, is awarding its first "Medal of Excellence" honors to alumni who have made major contributions to society or achieved notable positions in business, government or education.

The recipients will be honored at an awards banquet on May 17, the evening before the School of Engineering's spring commencement ceremonies. They are:

  • Kevin J. Kennedy, chief executive officer of JDS Uniphase. Kennedy, who earned two master's degrees and a doctoral degree in mechanical engineering from Rutgers in 1979, 1981 and 1982, is being honored as alumnus of the year.
  • Irwin M. Lachman, a retired senior research associate at Corning Inc. Lachman is being honored for lifetime achievement. He received his bachelor's degree in ceramic engineering from Rutgers in 1952.
  • David S. Kosson, professor and chair of the department of civil and environmental engineering, professor of chemical engineering and professor of earth and environmental sciences at Vanderbilt University. Kosson is being honored for achievement in academia. He received his bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in chemical and biochemical engineering from Rutgers in 1983, 1984 and 1986.

At the same event, the school's alumni association the Rutgers Engineering Society will present its distinguished engineer award to Constantine P. Sarkos, manager of aircraft fire safety research and development at the Federal Aviation Administration. Sarkos received his bachelor's degree in engineering and his master's degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering from Rutgers in 1963 and 1965. The society has been presenting its distinguished engineer award since 1960.

"Rutgers has a long and proud history of engineering education, with graduates who have risen to leadership positions in government, industry and academia worldwide," said Michael Klein, dean of the School of Engineering. "Establishing these awards, which we will issue annually, gives us the chance to recognize our alumni and display the breadth of talent and expertise we nurture here."

Instruction in engineering began at Rutgers in 1864, when the state of New Jersey designated the Rutgers Scientific School as the "State College for the Benefit of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts." The present School of Engineering became a separate entity in 1914. It has departments that cover aerospace, biochemical, biomedical, chemical, civil, computer, electrical, environmental, industrial, materials, mechanical and systems engineering.

Alumnus of the Year award:
Kevin J. Kennedy is the chief executive officer of JDS Uniphase, a company that makes components, modules and equipment used to build fiber-optic telecommunications and cable television networks. He has enjoyed a distinguished career in the telecommunications industry. Before his current position, he was chief operating officer of Openwave Systems, a wireless technology company. He also spent seven years at Cisco Systems and 17 years at Bell Laboratories. In 1987, he was a Congressional Fellow to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology. In addition to his graduate degrees in mechanical engineering from Rutgers, he holds a bachelor's degree in the same field from Lehigh University.

Alumni Lifetime Achievement award:
Irwin M. Lachman retired in 1994 from a senior research associate position at Corning Inc., where his work led to a patent on a key material used in automotive catalytic converters to reduce air pollution. Lachman and two of his Corning colleagues were inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2003, and they received the National Medal of Technology in 2005. After receiving his bachelor's degree from Rutgers, Lachman earned a master's and doctoral degree in ceramic engineering from Ohio State University in 1953 and 1955. Before joining Corning, he was a research scientist at Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico.

Alumni Achievement in Academia award:
David S. Kosson has carried out research and published extensively on subsurface contaminant transport, leaching, and treatment processes for hazardous waste. He served on several National Research Council (NRC) committees for The National Academies reviewing and evaluating the Army's stockpile disposal program, and contributed to other NRC efforts to evaluate alternative chemical demilitarization and disposal technologies. He is well known for his expertise in bioremediation. Before joining Vanderbilt, he served as professor of chemical and biochemical engineering at Rutgers.

Rutgers Engineering Society Distinguished Engineer Award:
Constantine P. (Gus) Sarkos is an internationally recognized expert in aircraft fire safety. Since 1985, he has managed the fire safety branch at the FAA's William J. Hughes Technical Center, which has extensive fire test facilities for in-house research. Many aircraft safety improvements and practices have resulted from his group's research, including heat-resistant evacuation slides, seat cushion fire blocking layers, cargo compartment fire detection and suppression systems, and a practical system that greatly reduces the chances of fuel tank explosions.

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