2021 Civil and Environmental Engineering Alumni Awards
The Charles E. Via, Jr. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering has thousands of successful alumni throughout the world and the accomplishments of these alumni are truly noteworthy.
While we were unable to celebrate with these award winners in person this year, we hope to still have the opportunity to recognize these eight alumni. Six alumni were inducted as members of the Academy of Distinguished Alumni and two alumni were recognized as Outstanding Young Alumni.
The Academy of Distinguished Alumni was established in 1998 and, since that time, has recognized 144 members with this distinct honor. Alumni are selected based on their accomplishments and commitment to the profession of engineering and other careers, and support to the university, nation, and to society as a whole.
Robert “David” Curfman earned his B.S. from Virginia Tech in 1983. He is the Chief Engineer and Director of Design and Construction for the Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command (NAVFAC) for the U.S. Navy. He has been recognized as the NAVFAC Engineer of the Year for developing dredging criteria for the U.S. Navy Aircraft Carriers transiting harbors with long-period wave swell. He also received the Secretary of the Navy award for Environmental Impact Planning Analysis for Navy At-sea training that enables realistic training while protecting marine mammals to the greatest extent. In 2019, Curfman led the rapid restoration of Navy facilities at Naval Station China Lake that was damaged by a 7.1 earthquake in 2019. “The technical depth that I received at Virginia Tech in steel and concrete design shaped and enabled me to be very qualified for my first job in bridge design. It created a heart for learning that has enabled me to hunger for learning new things throughout my career,” Curfman said.
Young Ho Chang earned his B.S. in civil engineering from Virginia Tech in 1987. He currently serves as the President of ATCS, a professional consulting firm dedicated to providing comprehensive, multidisciplinary services in transportation planning and roadway design, traffic engineering, and construction management. “Virginia Tech provided me with excellent technical foundation,” said Chang. “I know I can compete with the best in the working world.” He has led several multi-billion megaprojects in the northern Virginia area, including the I-95 Public Private Partnership (P3) managed toll lanes project and the Transform66 P3 Managed Lanes project. Chang has served on the civil and environmental engineering alumni board, serving as Chair in 2015 and is currently on the College of Engineering Advisory Board.
John Hildreth earned his Ph.D. from Virginia Tech in 2003 and is now the Kimmel Distinguished Professor of Construction Management at Western Carolina University. Prior to that, he was a Project Engineer at Heeter Construction, Inc. and Hildreth Consulting Engineers, Inc. “I was naturally drawn toward civil engineering because my father is a practicing civil engineer and I grew up around it and working with him,” Hildreth said. “I always enjoyed designing and building things and once I went to graduate school, I began to consider a career in academics.” He has served as chair of the Transportation Research Board Committee on Maintenance Fleet and Equipment since 2016, as well as previously serving as chair of the Construction Engineering Division of ASEE and being an Editorial Board Member of the International Journal of Construction Education and Research.
Philip Line earned his B.S. in civil engineering from Virginia Tech in 1991. He is the Director of Structural Engineering for the American Wood Council. “Virginia Tech gave me basic engineering skills but, more importantly, helped me learn how to become a better student and helped to grow my interest in learning,” he said. “I like to think that becoming accustomed to constant learning and enjoying working with others in that pursuit has helped me become a better engineer and colleague. He has 28 years of experience in structural engineering, building codes, standards, and guideline development. Among his many honors, he has been awarded the S.B. Barnes Research Award by Structural Engineers Association of California Seismology and the L.J. Markward Award from the ASTM D07 Committee of Wood.
Antonio Trani earned his Ph.D. in Transportation Engineering from Virginia Tech in 1988. He has been at Virginia Tech since then, currently serving as Professor for the civil and environmental engineering department. He is also the Co-Director of the Federal Aviation Administration National Center of Excellence for Aviation Operations Research (NEXTOR2), serving in that role since 2002. “My proudest career accomplishments have been teaching and guiding many wonderful graduate students over 32 years,” he said. “Teaching and motivating undergraduates to pursue careers in airport engineering and directing the development of practical models used by airport designers and practitioners is very rewarding.” His research focuses on developing practical aviation-related computer models and analysis tools to help in airport design and decision-making. He was awarded the Civil and Environmental Engineering Alumni Teaching Excellence Award in 2015.
Dennis D. Truax earned his B.S. from Virginia Tech in 1976. He is the James T. White Endowed Chair, Director and Professor of the Richard A. Rula School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Mississippi State University. He also serves as the Director of the Mississippi Transportation Research Center at MSU and will be the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) President in the 2022-2023 term. He has led projects to redesign water and wastewater treatment systems with innovative treatment processes that brought safe potable water to thousands of people in developing countries. “But my proudest accomplishment are the hundreds of individuals I have mentored during the academic and professional careers, helping them to become the next generation of professional engineers who are making a difference in so many people’s lives around the world,” he said. He has been recognized with the Edmund Friedman Professional Recognition Award from ASCE, the Distinguished Service Award by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) and a Fellow of the National Society of Professional Engineers.
In 2021, we also recognized two Outstanding Young Alumni for their contributions to their careers and the civil engineering profession early in their careers. The criteria for this award are similar to that for the Academy of Distinguished Alumni, but award winners must be within 15 years of their graduation date with the bachelor’s degree.
Brett Maurer earned his Ph.D. from Virginia Tech in 2016. He is an Assistant Professor at the University of Washington, Seattle. He also serves as the Associate Editor for Earthquake Spectra and is on the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Technical Committee on Earthquake Engineering and Soil Dynamics. Maurer has authored or co-authored 17 refereed journal papers currently in print and 24 paeprs in refereed conference proceedings. At the 2020 GeoCongress in Minneapolis, he swept both first and second places for his posters. In 2016, he won the ASCE Norman Medal, given for the most outstanding paper in all ASCE journals. “I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say I owe my professional success to the time I spent at Virginia Tech, and to those there who taught me, mentored me, and invested in my potential,” he said.
Kellen Johnson earned her B.S. in civil engineering from Virginia Tech in 2009. She is currently a Project Manager at Draper Aden Associates and is a Civil Engineer Corps Officer for the U.S. Navy Reserves. She has provided planning, design and construction administration for projects such as The College of William and Mary Integrative Wellness Center, the Linden Street Pedestrian Commons at Virginia Commonwealth University, the American Civil War Museum, and the Colonial Williamsburg Art Museum. She recently served as Humanitarian Assistance Program Manager for the Combined Joint Task Force where she managed construction projects at schools and clinics benefitting the local population in the Horn of Africa. “The Virginia Tech motto of “Ut Prosim” has impact my career and has been a defining part of my life,” she said. “I am a big believer that you need to make sure that the people you work with know you care about them as people first, not just about the bottom line or results.”