The Charles E. Via, Jr. Department of civil and environmental engineering recently inducted five members into the Academy of Distinguished Alumni.

The 2024 inductees were selected from the more than 12,000 living civil and environmental engineering alumni and brings the academy to a total of 162 members. Academy members have made contributions to the profession, their community, and service to Virginia Tech.

This year’s inductees are Joseph Dove of Blacksburg, Virginia; Jeffrey L. Gilliland of Clifton, Virginia; Jennifer Goupil of Fort Collins, Colorado; Dale C. Hammes of Leesburg, Virginia; Steve Meininger of Clarksville, Maryland; and Walter J. Rabe of Maidens, Virginia.   

Department Head Mark Widdowson expressed his admiration for the achievements of the department alumni, highlighting their exceptional dedication to our industry and Virginia Tech. He emphasized his pride in acknowledging their accomplishments.

The Via Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the CEE Alumni Board formally initiated the Alumni Achievement Awards program in 1998 as a means of honoring both younger alumni and those who have graduated from the department years ago.

Four outstanding young alumni were also recognized. Those recipients are G. Allen Bowers, Jr. of Woodstock, Virginia; Noah Jolley of Pullman, Washington; Lucy Travers of Henrico, Virginia; and Michael Wood of Washington, DC. 

All of the alumni award recipients were recognized at a banquet at the Inn at Virginia Tech on March 28, 2024.  

Read more about the previous winners of the Outstanding Young Alumni and each of the 162 members of the Academy of Distinguished Alumni

Joseph Dove
M.S. 1986

Professor of Practice, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Virginia Tech

Joseph Dove

Why did you choose your profession? I have always had an interest in geology and working with earth materials. I found through coursework and discussions with faculty that applying mechanics to earth materials was very compelling and then decided to pursue geotechnical engineering

Why did you decide to come to Virginia Tech? I decided to stay at VT because of the growth in the geotechnical program at that time. Wayne Clough and Mike Duncan were leading the program and it had national and international stature.

What is one of your favorite memories from Virginia Tech? Meeting my wife of 44 years when we were undergraduates at VT!

How did what you learned at Virginia Tech impact your career? Virginia Tech’s Geotechnical Engineering program gave me the opportunity to work with outstanding engineers on interesting projects. It is hard to do better than this.

What is your proudest accomplishment in your career? There are many facets of career accomplishments. In professional practice, being made responsible for several dam remediation projects early in my career was certainly a growth experience. In the university, it is rewarding to work with outstanding students and colleagues in research and teaching. Serving as an undergraduate advisor in the department is a challenging but important role. Students are making the personal transition from their preparatory years to becoming a professional. The most frequent topics of discussion in my advising are the difficult choices students face, such as career goals, financial pressures, major selection, course selection, job offers, and whether or not to attend graduate school.

Jeffrey L. Gilliland
B.S. 1987

Founding Principal, J2 Engineers

Jeffrey Gilliland

Why did you choose your profession? was attracted to land development design because it was a profession that incorporated many disciplines within civil engineering. I worked for a home improvement contractor in high school and was attracted to jobs connected to construction. A career in land development design gave me the opportunity to develop skills as a designer and also go to the site to see the design come to life. The fact that jobs in land development design were plentiful when I graduated influenced my decision too. As I progressed in my career, I gained an appreciation for the various project types and the fact that every site brings different challenges. I also gained a greater appreciation for the impact that our work has on our communities.

What was one of your favorite memories from Virginia Tech? I have a lot of fond memories from my time as a student. I always enjoyed snow days, especially the few occasions when classes were canceled. I remember having a lot of fun “traying” and riding oversized inner tubes down the hill next to Cassell. My last year, we had the fraternity formal at Mountain Lodge and those memories have stuck with me. Football game days were fun, especially when Webby joined us. Webby was a gentleman with Down Syndrome who befriended my fraternity years before I went to Tech. He brought so much joy and laughter. We loved Webby and he loved us. While I was at Tech, he lived at a group home in Radford. I have fond memories of going to Radford for the Special Olympics and supporting Webby and his friends.

What is your proudest accomplishment in your career? Being a co-founder of J2 Engineers. After 20 years as a professional, I reached a point in my career where I was ready for a new challenge. It took a while to realize that the new challenge involved walking away from a great job that allowed me to grow over the past 18 years. I wanted to focus on creating a workplace where people would enjoy coming to work each day. I was confident that if we could create that great workplace, our people would do great work, and that would serve as the foundation for a successful business. We embarked on our journey in 2007 as the Great Recession started to impact our industry. It took a lot of perseverance to get through the next 3+ years. In retrospect, facing those challenges helped to focus our energies on what’s important for our team and our clients. We started with three people in a small office in Manassas and now employ over 70 people across five offices. We have brought together some great people who take great pride in their work and care about each other, our clients, and their impact on our communities. I’m proud as I reflect on what we’ve accomplished and I’m also very excited about J2’s future. I look forward to working with our next generation of leaders and designers to realize greater potential in the years ahead. 

Jennifer Goupil

B.S. 1992

Chief Resilience Officer, American Society of Civil Engineers

Jennifer Goupil

Why did you choose your profession? I can trace my interests back to my parents and my grandfather. My grandfather was a homebuilder and when we were young, we used to help with some small construction projects. One of my favorites was roofing an addition to our home. My father was a chemist and worked in biomedical engineering and my mother was a teacher – from them, I loved to understand “how things worked”. I was drawn to civil engineering because the profession was the wonderful combination of buildings and construction with a focus on “how things work” in the built environment!

Why did you decide to come to Virginia Tech? The caliber of the engineering programs at Tech impressed me, I really like the idea of the co-op program to earn real experience, and I LOVED the campus the moment I first visited it!

How did what you learned in civil engineering at Virginia Tech impact your career? The faculty in the CEE department really shaped my understanding of the profession and instilled in me a desire to create safe infrastructure for the public. The notion that “civil” engineering is the design of infrastructure that protects the health, safety, and welfare of the public – and the responsibility that comes with that – was impressed upon me and taken to heart. A calling I still hold in high regard to this day!

What is one of your favorite memories from Virginia Tech? Surveying class out at the Duck Pond!

Who influenced you during your time at Virginia Tech? There were many! Professor Plaut and Professor Murray especially encouraged me while at Tech, but by far my husband’s deep and continued support enabled me to succeed in my career!  

Dale C. Hammes
B.S. 1977

President, Water Resources, LLC

Dale Hammes

 Why did you choose your profession? I grew up on a Virginia Tech agricultural research farm, currently known as the Middleburg Agricultural Research and Extension (MARE) Center in Middleburg, Va. where my father was employed as an associate professor in the College of Agriculture. I always enjoyed watching him and other workers perform construction work. If they needed something, be it a structure, a system or even a tool, their first inclination was to build it using materials that happened to be at hand. The farm was a rich, natural environment and I was exposed to the many connections between land and water throughout these formative years. Working with water came naturally to me. However, none of this was top of mind when I decided to go into engineering. When I finished high school the national unemployment rate topped 6% and reached 8% during my sophomore year at Tech. I enjoyed math and science but, most of all, I needed a job after graduating. An engineering degree from Virginia Tech was a logical choice to increase my chances of landing a post graduate job.

Why did you decide to come to Virginia Tech? Virginia Tech professors and graduate students actively worked with my father conducting research at the farm and would visit from Blacksburg on a regular basis. Their research was presented throughout the country and as far away as Australia. My older brother Michael, always an inspiration to me, graduated from VT in 1967 with a degree in Industrial Engineering. When I was a junior in high school, Michael introduced me to life at Virginia Tech by taking me to a football game (and his fraternity house). With this long and rich association, Virginia Tech was for me. I didn’t apply to any other university. Fortunately, I was accepted.

What is one of your favorite memories from Virginia Tech? Not one, rather a collage of memories. Freedom, growing up, failure and success, a sense of belonging and knowing, without a doubt, I was in the right place striving to learn and prepare for my future. Classmates, football games and, of course, Hokie Pride.

Steve Meininger 
B.S. 1991

Chief Executive Officer, Inframark

Steve Meininger

Why did you choose your profession? There were three key factors in choosing civil and environmental engineering as a career. First, as someone who spent every free moment outside growing up, I wanted a career that would allow me to positively affect the environment and where I could “see” the impact of my work; second, my love for math and science; and third, and likely most impactful was my dad as a role model spending his career as a dedicated civil engineer, recently retiring after a 60+ year career.

Why did you decide to come to Virginia Tech? Well, there were several reasons…it was one of the top engineering colleges in the area (I lived in Columbia, MD) and it had a positive, well-respected reputation. I applied to only three schools --- UMD College Park, Penn State, and Virginia Tech. Virginia Tech was the most beautiful campus of the three, with a truly “college town” feel. It was also less expensive than going to UMD in-state at the time, which is no longer the case. Another leading factor was that my girlfriend had two brothers and a sister in engineering at Virginia Tech, so I figured chances were, she would want to go there. She did, and we have been happily married with three kids for over 30 years.

How did what you learned in civil engineering at Virginia Tech impact your career? One of the best things about Virginia Tech is the approach they take in building the “whole student” – from the technical knowledge to people skills, to mindset. The breadth of classes and disciplines helped broaden my understanding and ability to quickly engage in a meaningful way early in my career. Also, the rigor of the curriculum and teamwork culture helped prepare me as a team member and team leader with confidence in both areas. And the encouragement and inspiration to do big things and make a difference as a proud Hokie has been a guiding light in my career.

What is one of your favorite memories from Virginia Tech? Playing innertube water polo in the War Memorial Gym pool as an intramural sport. We made it to the finals with our sophomore dorm-based team and beat the Beta Theta Pi fraternity team.

Walter J. Rabe, Jr. 
B.S. 1989
M.S. 1991

President/CEO, Schnabel Engineering

Walter Rabe

Why did you choose your profession? I was always good at math (that is until I encountered calculus, differential equations, and linear algebra) and my parents encouraged me to pursue engineering. My father was an engineer who graduated from the United States Military Academy and also received two master’s degrees from the University of Michigan. I leaned on their advice and became intrigued about the opportunity to apply my math skills to design civil engineering structures.

Why did you decide to come to Virginia Tech? I was also accepted to that other school in Virginia as well as Georgia Tech but chose Virginia Tech because of its superior engineering reputation. Most importantly, when I visited the Virginia Tech campus, I felt like I belonged there.

How did what you learned in civil engineering at Virginia Tech impact your career? Graduating with an engineering degree was not as straightforward for me as it maybe was for others. I did horribly my first year and dabbled in the business school for parts of my second and third years. When the business school denied my entry, I buckled down and worked hard to refocus on engineering and make it my future. While the content from the courses has helped me incredibly in my career, the ability to find the inner strength and determination to turn around my floundering academic direction after those first years has helped me even more so.

What is one of your favorite memories from Virginia Tech? Telling my parents that I was accepted into the civil engineering graduate program is one of my favorite memories. They never faltered in their support of my education, and I was proud to have finally honored and rewarded their support with such an achievement. 

Outstanding Young Alumni

G. Allen Bowers, Jr. 
B.S. 2012
M.S. 2013
Ph.D. 2016

Director of Engineering, Geopier

Allen Bowers

Why did you choose your profession? My original plan was to get a Master of Divinity and pursue a career in the ministry. Because most M.Div programs require an undergraduate degree, I decided to get a degree that incorporated other subjects I was passionate about such as math and science, so I choose civil engineering. During the course of my studies I discovered that I truly enjoyed engineering and was gifted in it. I then applied for and received a NSF Graduate Research Fellowship and the rest is history.

Why did you decide to come to Virginia Tech? I actually did not apply to any other college because I only wanted to study at Virginia Tech. Both my parents attended Virginia Tech so I grew up loving the school. Additionally, it was an in-state school known for engineering, thus a perfect fit.

What is one of your favorite memories from Virginia Tech? I have two favorite memories. One was during my freshman year at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes meeting where I met my future wife when competing against her in a relay race. The second was the 2009 football game against Nebraska, where my friends and I painted up for the game. We were down by five with a minute and a half left but ended up winning the game and rushed the field.

How did what you learned at Virginia Tech impact your career? The outstanding technical education and ability to problem solve has set me up for success. But most impactful was learning how to be an effective member of the geotechnical engineering community. My mentors and advisors showed me how and provided opportunities for me to get involved in professional organizations and to network with those in our profession. This skill has provided me with incredible professional opportunities, the ability to collaborate with others on industry impactful change, as well as a great group of friends and resources to turn to when needed for difficult challenges. 

Noah Jolley
M.S. 2013

Vice President, Advisory, HNTB Corporation

Noah Jolley

Why did you choose your profession?  I’ve always been captivated by large construction projects. When I decided to pursue a degree in civil engineering, I was most excited to start my career off in bridge design or construction management. However, I took a course during my senior year that centered on infrastructure policy, funding, and alternative delivery methods, which opened my eyes to the multidisciplinary field of project development and public private partnerships. I knew right away this was the path I wanted to take. It was also through that course that I met people from ACS Infrastructure, where I interned prior to attending Tech, and where I spent the first nine years of my career working on developing and delivering mega transportation projects across the US and Canada.

Why did you choose to come to Virginia Tech? Most notably, the course I mentioned was originally developed and taught at Columbia University by Mike Garvin. I took the class from Dr. Chang, who was also be a former PhD student of Dr. Garvin’s. In exploring different programs, Dr. Garvin (and Virginia Tech) were at the top of my list. Through many discussions with Dr. Garvin and his current and past students at the time (and after being awarded a generous scholarship) I gladly accepted the offer.

What is one of your favorite memories from Virginia Tech? I had lived in New York City for the prior three years, so moving to a beautiful place like Blacksburg was a welcomed change. I spent much of my free time biking, hiking, and trail running around Blacksburg, which are some of my best memories there. I also hadn’t attended a D1 university with a strong sports program, so being a Hokie fan was a new experience!

How did what you learned at Virginia Tech impact your career? My research was very relevant and allowed me to build a deep knowledge of public private partnership projects and delivery models prior to starting a career in that space. Also, in hindsight, my time working with Prof. Garvin is where I really started to pay attention to and worked to hone my writing and communication skills. 

Lucy Travers
B.S. 2020

Construction Manager, RK&K

Lucy Travers

Why did you choose your profession? I credit the Roanoke Valley Governor’s School with introducing me to STEM at a young age and supporting students with rigorous coursework ahead of college searches. I chose engineering because I wanted a tangible application of my gift in STEM. I chose civil engineering, specifically, because it is service-driven and focuses on necessary/functional infrastructure. I chose construction management because I wanted variability and field work to be part of my job. I enjoy the prospect of conquering differing and new challenges while leaning on communication to deliver projects with a wide range of people.

Why did you decide to come to Virginia Tech? Growing up in Roanoke, I was always aware of Virginia Tech’s reputation. I was impressed with the alumni network and the name recognition. It seems like anywhere you go, you can see someone in a VT sweatshirt- and there is something comforting about that. When I decided I was going to pursue a degree in civil engineering, I knew I wanted to attend VT because it has one of the best programs in the country.

What's one of your favorite memories from Virginia Tech? One of my favorite memories from Virginia Tech was traveling to northern Virginia for the Concrete Canoe competition in 2019. We had an incredible team of students who all enjoyed one another and loved the design team. We participated in the rowing/technical competitions, cooked at the Airbnb, played pick-up games, and attended a dinner party with other college teams.

How did what you learned at Virginia Tech impact your career? Virginia Tech provided me with incredible hands on experience that poised me well for my career. The broad offerings of courses combined with the labs provided an incredible wealth of knowledge that I still lean on regularly. In terms of licensure, VT set me on a path to successfully pass the P.E. What I found to be most impactful was the emphasis on writing, communication, and collaboration that is woven into the technical courses.  

Michael Wood
B.S. 2013
M.S. 2014

Senior Project Engineer, Thornton Tomasetti

Michael Wood

Why did you choose your profession? I think structural engineering is the coolest job imaginable, and I’m not sure why anyone would want to do anything else? Structural engineers contribute to the built environment on a macro level, where our projects can re-write city skylines, provide people places to live, work, cheer on their favorite team, or watch their favorite performer in concert. I love the teamwork, the creativity required to solve problems, and how we use the structure to enhance the architecture.

Why did you decide to come to Virginia Tech? Virginia Tech is such a well-rounded university that truly has something for everyone. I was most drawn to the strong academics particularly within the engineering field, a competitive football program (at least during my time as a student), active Greek Life, and an unparalleled school pride that permeates the student body… plus the nationally-ranked food in the dining halls didn’t hurt either!

Who influenced you during your career at Virginia Tech? I was fortunate to have many great professors and mentors during my time in Blacksburg, but Dr. Matt Eatherton was the most influential in my academic career. I first met Dr. Eatherton while taking his Steel Design class in 2012, and he later offered me a position helping out with several of his research projects in the Structures Lab. While Dr. Eatherton’s classes were among my favorites, it was the work in the Structures Lab that gave me the opportunity to break out of the theoretical homework problems and really begin to apply the structural engineering concepts we learned in practical and realistic ways.

What is your most noteworthy or proudest accomplishment in your career? In 2017, I had the opportunity to move from New York City to Dubai to work for a structural design firm in the Middle East. Taking this leap of faith, in both my personal and professional life, led to opportunities to work on projects that I never could have dreamed of and that I am incredibly proud to have contributed to. Among those were a 100-story residential tower, buildings at the 2020 World Expo, and high rise towers in India and Indonesia, all where I had the opportunity to work with and learn from brilliant engineers and Architects who contributed to my growth as an engineer.