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E-news Online november 2012

Engineering School Celebrates Extraordinary Achievements, at Thornton Society Dinner

By Josie Pipkin

Left to Right: Margot A. S. Vigeant,
Professor Roseanne Ford.
Left to Right: Dean James Aylor,
Professor Gary Shiflet, John DeMaso
Left to Right: Dean James Aylor, Vincent Derr, John DeMaso.
Left to Right: Dean James Aylor,
Professor George Cahen, John DeMaso

The School of Engineering and Applied Science Thornton Society Dinner in October was the setting for celebrations of the extraordinary within SEAS – with a distinguished faculty award, alumni and faculty service awards and an outstanding young engineering graduate award given to members of the SEAS community.

The Outstanding Young Engineering Graduate Award was given to Margot A.S. Vigeant, a 1999 graduate of the Department of Chemical Engineering, who is currently an associate dean at Bucknell University, where she focuses on international, graduate, innovation and outreach programs. She was recently featured in the cover story of ASEE’s Chemical Engineering Education with a profile on her career. Bucknell’s dean of the College of Engineering notes that Vigeant is “one of those people who make everything around them better and everyone more productive and more enthusiastic.”

The Distinguished Faculty Award was given to Professor Gary J. Shiflet, the William G. Reynolds endowed chair of materials science and engineering. Shiflet is a prolific researcher who holds six patents on amorphous alloys. He has received multiple single investigator NSF grants, published more than 200 technical journal articles and led large DARPA-funded initiatives. He also has dedicated himself to improving undergraduate education, including redesigning an introductory level materials science course for nonscience majors using the theme “Materials That Shape Our Civilization.” Thanks to his efforts, enrollment in that class grew from 20 students in 2004 to more than 600 students each year for the past three years.

The Distinguished Alumni Award was given to Vincent H. Derr (CE ’68, Darden ’73), who has given a life of service to the Engineering School. He has served on the Dean’s Advisory Committee and later was a member and president of the SEAS Trustees. He is past president of the SEAS Trustees and serves on the University’s Council of Foundations and the SEAS Strategic Plan Advisory Committee. His dedication to helping the School began early, when as co-captain of the cross-country team, he co-founded a committee of track alumni, a move that ultimately led to the construction of the Lannighan Track Facility in 1971.

The Distinguished Service Award was presented to Professor George L. Cahen in honor of his contribution to SEAS undergraduate education, graduate program administration, distance learning, alumni relations and student recruitment. He joined the SEAS faculty in 1976 and was the founding member of the Center for Electrochemical Science and Engineering. He served as assistant dean for graduate programs, director of the SEAS Commonwealth Graduate Education program and associate vice president of the Virginia Engineering Foundation. Currently he is the director of experiential programs, working with students on projects that include FIRST Robotics, Mini Baja Project and the Solar Car. He also led development efforts to fund the construction of Lacy Hall, the Experiential Learning Building.

“The Thornton Society Dinner is a gathering of our most-dedicated alumni and friends,” says Dean James H. Aylor. “But more than that, it is a chance for our faculty, alumni, friends and students to gather together and share with each other our pride in the Engineering School. It was a night to remember for the award recipients and for all of us who care about and support the School.”

To view all SEAS honors awarded at the 2012 Thornton Society dinner, visit

Photos by: Tom Cogill