The University of Alabama

UA Honors Six Distinguished Engineering Fellows

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The 2014 Distinguished Engineering Fellows include, from right, Russell S. Hager, Michael C. Simmons, Jerry R. Cook, J. Michael Silva and Rear Adm. Charles A. Richard.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The University of Alabama College of Engineering honored five alumni by inducting them into its 2014 class of Distinguished Engineering Fellows.

Each year, the College of Engineering inducts a select group of alumni and friends as Distinguished Engineering Fellows. Recognition as a Distinguished Fellow is the highest commendation given to graduates and others who have strengthened the reputation of the College of Engineering through their efforts.

Since the recognition’s inception 25 years ago, fewer than 400 individuals out of an estimated 27,000 alumni and friends have been recognized as Distinguished Engineering Fellows.

The 2014 class includes Jerry Cook, of Huntsville; Russell S. Hager, of Jasper; Rear Adm. Charles A. “Chas” Richard, of Saint Mary’s, Ga.; J. Michael Silva, of Los Gatos, Calif.; and Michael C. Simmons, of Overland Park, Kan.

The inductees were honored March 8 at a ceremony at the North River Yacht Club in Tuscaloosa. For complete biographies of this year’s Distinguished Engineering Fellows, visit eng.ua.edu/awards.

Jerry R. Cook
Deputy Director, Stennis Space Center

Through nearly 30 years of dedicated service to the country’s space program, Jerry Cook has risen to help lead NASA’s John C. Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Miss., the nation’s largest rocket engine test facility and unique federal city of more than 40 agencies and organizations. A native of Greensboro, Cook graduated from UA in mechanical engineering in 1985. He soon joined NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, working his way to the Senior Executive Service in 2007. The same year he was named manager of the Space Shuttle Main Engine Project Office, and he was on flight console for the final 18 shuttle missions. In December 2012, he was selected as deputy director of Stennis. He is responsible for implementing NASA’s mission in the area of rocket propulsion testing, developing and maintaining NASA’s world-class rocket propulsion test facilities and ensuring Stennis serves as the systems engineering center for applied science activities assigned by the agency.

Russell S. Hager
President, Hager Oil Inc.

Since taking over his father’s company nearly 40 years ago, Russell Steve Hager has grown Hager Oil Co. Inc. into one of Alabama’s premier petroleum distributors, serving more than 700 customers with millions of gallons each month. The company supplies all of north central Alabama and areas in the surrounding states of Mississippi, Tennessee and Georgia. Coming from a proud family of University of Alabama engineers, Hager earned his degree in mechanical engineering from the Capstone in 1973. He took over his father’s company not long after graduation, and he has strategically grown the company. Today, Hager Oil Co. sells more than 34 million gallons of petroleum products with revenues of more than $100 million serving the mining, steel, timber, natural gas, railroad and agriculture industries.

Rear Adm. Charles A. Richard
Commander, Submarine Group 10

In a career of service in the nation’s defense, Rear Adm. Charles A. “Chas” Richard has risen to command all of the United States Navy’s ballistic-missile and guided-missile submarines in the Atlantic fleet, including more than a quarter of the nation’s strategic nuclear deterrent force. Originally from Decatur, Richard, who graduated from UA in 1982 in electrical engineering, went on to serve on nuclear attack submarines for the U.S. Navy, including command of the USS Parche. He has held a variety of positions including executive assistant and naval aide to the Under Secretary of the Navy. Since November 2013, Rear Admiral Richard has commanded Submarine Group 10 in Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Ga. In this role, he is over all of the Navy’s ballistic-missile and guided-missile submarines in the Atlantic fleet, more than a quarter of the nation’s strategic nuclear deterrent force.

J. Michael Silva
President and Research Engineer, Enertech Consultants

A respected research engineer, J. Michael Silva led his business to become internationally recognized for its capability to manage, engineer, research and provide scientific consulting. Today, Enertech Consultants provides engineering consulting services, performs applied research and develops and markets software and instrumentation systems to serve clients throughout the United States and in 59 countries around the world. A native of Eutaw, Silva began his career designing high-voltage transmission lines for Alabama Power Co. after graduating from UA in civil engineering. He also has a master’s in engineering from Auburn University. After stints at the Electric Power Institute and GAI Consultants, he founded Enertech Consultants in 1982, where he is still president and an active research engineer. He has advised the federal Department of Energy on research projects and spoken across the country and world about this research.

Michael C. Simmons
Owner and President of Quality Air Solutions; Express Scale Parts and Manufacturing; and VIC Systems

With engineering as his foundation, Michael C. Simmons has become an entrepreneur and innovator who champions the virtues of small businesses. For more than three decades, he has made small businesses successful, and he continues to own and operate three businesses. He graduated from the University in 1973 in civil engineering and went to work as a sales engineer in the Kansas City, Mo., area for American Cast Iron Pipe Co. In 1981, he and a partner purchased Quality Industrial Products, a distributor of industrial, pharmaceutical and food-handling piping systems. Simmons sold his ownership in the company 29 years later to open Quality Air Solutions with two product lines dealing with compressed air filtration and nitrogen generation. Additionally, Simmons is owner and president of Express Scale Parts and Manufacturing that makes equipment for weighing, bagging and conveying. In August 2013, Simmons purchased the assets of VIC Systems International Inc., forming a new company, VIC Systems International LLC. VIC Systems complements Express Scale’s reputation in the open-mouth bagging industry as a purveyor of reliable, rugged and cost-effective bagging equipment.

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.