You don't have to be an Auburn alum to understand the vision of Auburn Engineering.
A. J. Ronyak
A.J. Ronyak is a fourth generation asphalt man, born and raised in the industry. His father, grandfather and great-grandfather were all pavement pioneers in Ohio. He didn't come by success easily though, first shoveling asphalt then running heavy equipment and eventually making asphalt.
In contrast, Ron Kenyon had barely graduated high school when he started working for a local pavement company in Des Moines, Iowa. When he found out that the company he was working for was soon to be sold, Kenyon started an ambitious campaign to buy it himself. The company worked with him to finance the project, and Kenyon started his own company, Ronald Kenyon Construction Company, which he ran until his retirement in 1992.
Both men are pioneers in the field, involved in a multitude of industry and trade organizations and known worldwide for their innovations in asphalt technology and design. While neither one holds an Auburn degree, both Ronyak and Kenyon share a passion for and a belief in the future of asphalt technology research at Auburn University. They both have made generous gifts to the National Center for Asphalt Technology (NCAT), supporting the leading edge research for which the center is internationally known.
"As far as I'm concerned, NCAT is the top dog in asphalt research," said Ronyak. "With the test track and the different mix designs that they're monitoring, the whole program is truly state-of-the-art."
A former manager of the world's largest asphalt plant, owned by the Thompson McCulley Company, Ronyak holds an international patent on an additive he developed that neutralizes asphalt odor. Thompson McCulley funded the initial testing of the additive at NCAT, which began more than 15 years ago. NCAT has continued testing the materials for various uses during the last 10 years.
"In this day and age, our concern is protecting the asphalt industry as a whole," said Ronyak. "A plant might be operating in an area for years and then all of a sudden housing develops nearby and the plant is shut down because of the odor issues. That's always a serious hurdle for our business."
Because NCAT was so helpful in testing Ronyak's additive, he and his wife Patty have designated a $2.8 million gift to NCAT from their estate. Ronyak says that a gift to the center just made sense for their family.
"The asphalt industry has been really good to my wife and me, and with NCAT's help, we're going to keep the business alive for as long as asphalt is around," he said. "It's been fun being able to semi-retire at an early age and having the means to give back to the asphalt industry in some way. For us, Auburn and NCAT were a great place to start."
Mike McCartney, president, McCartney Construction Company was recently inducted into the Alabama Roadbuilders Hall of Fame. McCartney and wife Jane (center) celebrate the honor with their children Tim McCartney, Vice President, McCartney Construction Company (far left); Carol Keasler, president OK, Inc.; and Michael H. McCartney, secretary and treasurer, McCartney Construction (far right).
Though they come from different backgrounds, Kenyon's story of NCAT support is much the same. Kenyon also has a long history as a pioneer in the development and implementation of innovations in the Hot Mix Asphalt (HMA) industry. Now retired from his work as the owner of Ronald Kenyon Construction Company, he is known particularly for his work with drum mixing technology, the recycling of HMA paving materials and equipment improvements that have been adopted on an industry-wide basis.
Kenyon's firm was a charter member of the National Asphalt Paving Association (NAPA). He served on various committees and task forces and in numerous national offices. Grasping the reigns as NAPA chairman of the board in 1988, Kenyon led the effort to raise $10 million to establish an endowment supporting education, research and information services in the hot mix asphalt industry. This endowment in many ways led to the NCAT we know today.
"Ron really felt that NCAT was a part of him," said Ray Brown, former NCAT director and friend of Kenyon. "He recognized where he came from, what he had become and how he had gotten there, and he wanted to give back to the industry. Ron felt that NCAT was the best place to do that, and he was always involved in whatever we were working on there."
In 1991, he was honored as NAPA Man of the Year for his efforts on behalf of NCAT. That same year, the Ronald D. Kenyon Education and Research Award of the NAPA Education Foundation was established to recognize individuals for their outstanding contributions in asphalt research.
In 1999, Kenyon and his wife established Auburn's $1 million Ronald D. and Margaret L. Kenyon Endowment for Fellowships in Asphalt Technology, providing scholarships to graduate students performing asphalt technology research at NCAT.
"Mr. Ronyak and Mr. Kenyon's leadership in the asphalt industry are inspirational," said Randy West, director of NCAT. "Their commitments to NCAT will be a lasting legacy that will help us continue the kind of practical research that Auburn engineers are known for worldwide."