State of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame Inducts 2016 Class

Published: Feb 23, 2016 7:00:00 AM
Media Contact: Megan Burmester, smithmp@auburn.edu, 334.844.2220

hall of fame winners

Dean Christopher B. Roberts (left) attended the 2016 State of Alabama Engineering
Hall of Fame with inductees: Robert "Bobby" Keith, Charles E Gavin III, Nelda K. Lee,
and A. Frazier Christy

The State of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame inducted five individuals and honored two engineering projects during a recent ceremony at the Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel and Spa in Mobile.

The following five individuals join the 168 inducted into the Hall of Fame over the past 28 years: A. Frazier Christy of Birmingham; Charles E. Gavin III of Wartrace, Tennessee; Robert R. “Bobby” Keith of Hoover; Nelda K. Lee of Ballwin, Missouri; and Stephen D. Moxley Jr., formerly of Huntsville.

Also, Austal USA’s Littoral Combat Ship and the W. Warner Williams Water Resource Complex in Opelika were inducted as engineering projects, joining 41 projects inducted into the Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame since 1987.

Founded by proclamation of the governor, the State of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame honors, preserves and perpetuates the outstanding accomplishments and contributions of individuals, projects and corporations/institutions that brought and continue to bring significant recognition to the state.

The Hall of Fame is overseen by engineering colleges and schools at Auburn University, Alabama A&M University, The University of Alabama, Tuskegee University, University of Alabama at Birmingham, University of Alabama in Huntsville and the University of South Alabama.

It is administratively managed through the UA College of Engineering. For more information, visit aehof.eng.ua.edu.

Frazier Christy, former president of Paragon Engineering

Throughout his more than 43 years as a practicing engineer, Authur Frazier Christy had a role in designing or managing numerous civic projects that brought economic development to Alabama and a better quality of life for its citizens. His career is an outstanding example of an accomplished civil engineer who had a significant impact on the engineering industry in the state.

An Alabama native, Frazier graduated from Auburn University in 1968 with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. He joined the U.S. Navy, graduating in the top of his class from the Mine Warfare School. Frazier was assigned as the engineer officer to the USS Jacana. After the Jacana was decommissioned in late 1968, Frazier volunteered for duty with the SeaBees, the U.S. Naval Construction Forces, and was transferred to the U.S. Mobile Construction Battalion No. 4, where he served in DaNang, Vietnam, and Port Hueneme, California.

In 1970, he returned to Alabama as a design engineer with Rust Engineering in Birmingham, but he left in 1971 to join Paragon Engineering. At Paragon, his focus was on civil projects involving massive grading operations, highway, storm water handling, sewage collection and treatment along with surveying mapping and control. Frazier was essential in the completion of more than 6,200 projects for Paragon. As the firm grew, Frazier advanced, eventually becoming president with direct responsibility for projects with construction costs more than $500 million. In 2007, Paragon was acquired by Hatch Mott MacDonald, and Frazier continued to serve the company as sub-division manager, division manager and in-house consultant until his retirement in 2012.

A veteran and an engineer, Frazier formed the E & LS Group, with the goal of providing education assistance to veterans and encourages them to develop as engineers, land surveyors and engineering technicians.

A registered Professional Engineer in several states, he has served his profession throughout his career. He is a Fellow of the American Council of Engineering Companies. He served on the National ACEC Budget Committee as a member and chairman, and was heavily involved in ACEC in Alabama, eventually serving as president. He is a Life Fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers where has been active in the branch and section levels.

Frazier was also twice elected chairman of the Collation of Professional Surveyors, and has served on the board of the directors for the Alabama Society of Land Surveyors. In 2013, he was appointed to the Alabama State Board of Licensure for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors.

He has also been committed to enhancing engineering education through support of the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Engineering. He was an adjunct professor for seven years, and served on the school’s advisory board for 17 years. He also served as chair of the UAB Engineering Foundation, where is still an active member. He continues his support by teaching courses in UAB’s Continuing Education Series for Professional Engineers.

Charlies E. Gavin III, founder, chairman of the board and former president of MFG Chemical Inc.

Charles E. Gavin III’s prowess in textile engineering transformed an industry vital to the Southeast. He is a pioneer in carpet dyeing technology and is responsible for many innovations in the textile industry including the development of the first filament carpets dyed with acid dyes.

Gavin graduated from Auburn University in 1959 with a degree in textile management. He begin work as a dyer trainee for Cabin Crafts, a subsidiary of the textile giant West Point-Pepperell, and he developed recognition within the industry for his technical expertise and innovation. He was hired as plant manager at the age of 26 for Rossville Carpet Dyeing with the task to build the most modern commission carpet dyeing facility in the industry.

In 1967 Gavin returned to his home of Columbus, Georgia, to build and staff dyeing facilities for Columbus Carpet Mills. Gavin’s work led to the first successful acid dyed filament carpets, which improved both light and wash fastness.  This achievement became the industry standard and remains so today. During Gavin’s years at Columbus, he was involved with flock, stock, beck and continuous carpet dyeing. He assumed other responsibilities as he advanced to plant manager and later vice president of carpet manufacturing with plants in Columbus, Georgia; Phenix City; Union Springs; and Eufaula.  He completed the Executive MBA program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1978.

Gavin answered the entrepreneur call and in 1981 formed MFG Chemical Inc. to develop chemical auxiliaries for carpet dyeing. The company began with just Gavin and his wife, Carol Ann, but now has three plants and a distribution center. Today, MFG serves a broad section of the chemical industries top Fortune 100 companies. Gavin serves as board chairman.

Professionally, Gavin has been a member of the American Association of Chemist and Colorist since he was a student at Auburn. He has served in most all offices on the regional and national levels, including president and treasurer for the association and its foundation. He played a key role in starting the foundation and was the first contributor.  In 2002, he was selected for the association’s Harold C. Chapin Award for service. Upon his retirement, he was named treasurer emeritus for each and was recognized for his broad areas of philanthropy.

He has been a strong supporter of engineering education and work force development in Alabama, plus scholarships at Auburn and other major universities.  At Auburn, he has created an endowed professorship in chemical engineering and recently made a transformational gift of $8 million to Auburn’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering. The gift will allow an update and renovation to the college’s textile building, renamed the Carol Ann and Charles E. Gavin III Engineering Research Laboratory.

Auburn recognized Gavin as the 2003 Outstanding Alumnus in Textile Engineering and in 2014 with a Distinguished Auburn Engineer Award.

He is a member of the Alumni Engineering Council, Auburn Eagles Society, Auburn Engineering Keystone Society and the Presidents Circle of the 1856 Society.

Robert “Bobby” R. Keith, former CEO of Hoar Construction

A veteran of the construction industry, Robert “Bobby” R. Keith has a lifelong commitment to Alabama construction and to those in need throughout the world. He is a dedicated industry leader who contributed to the engineering and construction profession through his business skills, personal integrity and exceptional community involvement.

While a student in mechanical engineering at Auburn University, Keith worked in the summer months as a laborer for F.R. Hoar & Son, now Hoar Construction. He graduated from Auburn with a bachelor’s degree in 1963, joining Northrop Space Laboratories in Huntsville amid the U.S. Lunar Landing Program. He worked on thermodynamics of heat transfer in missile propulsion systems, and, later, was team leader for Northrop Space Labs in the development of the guidance program for the Saturn V rocket system used during the Apollo Lunar Landing program.  At the same time, he attended evening classes pursuing a master’s degree in astrodynamics at University of Alabama in Huntsville.

In 1970, Keith returned to Hoar Construction in Birmingham as a field supervisor, rising through the ranks to become chief executive officer. Hoar Construction/Hoar Program Management specializes in healthcare, retail and other commercial markets, consistently ranking among the country’s largest construction companies with offices in seven major cities.  After retiring in 2001, Keith continues to serve on the board of directors.

Professionally, he served as president of the Alabama chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors and as national vice president (Southeast region) for the association. In 2000, he received the ABC Cornerstone Award.

Keith served 10 years on the Hoover City Schools Board of Education, including four terms as president. Named an All-State School Board member, he worked on the state’s tenure commission for seven years. He also served 11 years as a trustee for the Baptist Health System of Alabama and was twice chairman. He served on the boards of Montclair and Walker County hospitals.

He has used his engineering and construction skills to help people throughout the world. As a member of Green Valley and Dawson Memorial Baptist, he led construction-related mission work in the United States, Honduras, Venezuela, Brazil, Spain, Romania, Ukraine and South Sudan. During those projects, he has helped build and renovate churches, schools, orphanages, drug rehabilitation centers, community centers and vocational training centers. As part of Metro Changers of Birmingham, Keith has helped renovate hundreds of homes for people in need.  He continues to serve on the Metro Changers Board of Directors.

A supporter of engineering education, he established the Keith Family Presidential Endowed Scholarship in the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering at Auburn. He serves on the college civil engineering advisory board.

Keith and his wife, Donna Vanderver Keith, live in Hoover. The families of their two daughters are Laurie and Stephen LeGrone, Susie and Bobby Shanahan and five grandchildren: Keith and Jake LeGrone  and Jack, Maggie and Lillie Shanahan.

Nelda K. Lee, former senior manager for the Test and Evaluation Business division of Boeing Co.

During the course of her impressive career, Nelda K. Lee made a remarkable and enduring contribution to the field of aeronautics and aviation. Remembered as a trailblazing aerospace engineer, she is a role model, inspirational leader and mentor to women pursuing engineering careers.

Raised on a farm in Aliceville, Lee followed her father’s legacy to study engineering at Auburn University. While earning a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering, she completed elective courses to earn her private pilot’s license. In 1969, she became the second woman to graduate from Auburn with a degree in aerospace engineering.

After graduation, she began a prominent career with Heritage McDonnell Douglas Co., now part of Boeing Co. She joined the company as an associate engineer at a time when few women worked in the aviation industry. Her exemplary work and excellent engineering skills earned her respect, and over the course of more than four decades, her roles and responsibilities steadily increased.

Within eight years of graduation, Lee had earned a commercial pilot’s license, rated for instruments and multi-engine aircraft, and was rated to fly helicopters. She was instrumental in the design, development and testing of a number of aircraft during her career, and was the first woman to work on the flight test engineering team at her company. She was integral to the test engineering of the F-15, the U.S. Air Force’s premier tactical combat aircraft. Besides working on material and mechanical engineering components of the jet, Lee is the first woman to fly an F-15, logging more than an hour during testing.

She continued to work on integrated defense systems and fighter jets for McDonnell Douglas and then Boeing. In 2009, she was assigned senior manager for the Test and Evaluation Business division, overseeing flight and ground test teams. In 2014, she retired from Boeing.

In retirement and throughout her career, Lee has advocated for women in the aerospace industry. She is a charter member of the board of directors for Women in Aviation, International. She was international president of the Whirly-Girls Inc., an organization of women helicopter pilots. She served as the governor and international officer of the organization of women pilots, the Ninety-Nines Inc. She was a member Board of Trustees for Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum. Dedicated to helping young women pursue engineering, Lee is part of Samuel Ginn College of Engineering’s 100 Women Strong program. She has also served as president of the St. Louis chapter of the Society of Flight Test Engineers and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Her numerous professional recognitions include induction into the Women in Aviation International Pioneers Hall of Fame in 2004. She was awarded the Boeing Pride Award 13 times. She was selected for the Katherine & Marjorie Stinson Award for Achievement by the National Aeronautics Association in 2010 and was recognized by AIAA in 1978 with the Young Professional Award. In addition, Lee was recognized as an outstanding alumna by Auburn and Webster University in St. Louis, where she earned a master’s degree in management and human resource development in 1999.

Stephen Dewey Moxley Jr., former president of Avex Electronics

A prolific engineer, Stephen D. Moxley Jr. was engaged in the technical development and management of projects in the fields of computer-controlled systems, electronic and hydraulic closed-loop control, air traffic control, space telemetry equipment as well as industrial and consumer electronics, along the way growing a company in Huntsville.

The son of an engineer, Moxley was born in Birmingham and graduated from The University of Alabama in electrical engineering in 1949. From there, he went to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to earn a master’s degree in electrical engineering in 1950. His master’s thesis pioneered the use of acceleration feedback for stabilizing a high-performance servo mechanism.

After graduation, he worked briefly with General Electric before joining Reliance Electric and Engineering Co. in 1950 in the development of industrial closed-loop control systems and special-purpose electric motors.

He joined Continental Oil Co. in 1953, now ConocoPhillips, and became part of a team that developed the Vibroseis exploration technique for using seismic vibrators to survey underground, which became an industry standard. Based largely on his contributions to this innovation in the field of oil exploration, he was elected a Fellow in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers in 1975. Moxley is credited with two patents at Conoco on cross-correlating computers and magnetic recording techniques.

In 1957, he went to Cincinnati to work for the Avco Electronics Division, AED, of Avco Corp. The company designed and manufactured OEM electronic products for the telecommunication, office products, industrial and educational markets along with space-flight hardware and government electronics.

In his early years with AED, he designed the automatic ticketing system for the then new transit system for Washington, D.C. He also supervised design and development of the Volscan Air Traffic Control System and other developments in predicted-paths air traffic control. For his efforts, he is the inventor of a U.S.-patented technology that improved air traffic control systems.

In 1963, Avco named Moxley vice president and general manager of AED, putting him in charge of a 10-person sales and electronic fabrication unit in Huntsville. While he was at the helm of AED, the company grew to 1,000 employees and $100 million in annual sales by the time of his death in 1987. He also oversaw international expansion with the opening of plants in Singapore and Scotland.

Moxley was named AED president in 1984, and Avco merged with Textron in 1985. AED was sold to the J.M. Huber Corp., and the name was changed to the Avex Electronics. Just before his death, the company named Avex’s headquarters after Moxley.

A registered professional engineer in Ohio and Alabama, Moxley authored several papers on computer control, air traffic control technology along with other subjects. He was a member of Tau Beta Pi and was chairman of the IEEE Huntsville section.

Active in civic affairs, Moxley served on the boards of the Business Council of Alabama, Huntsville Chamber of Commerce and the Alabama Council on Economic Education. He was also active in the UA engineering alumni group, the Capstone Engineering Society, serving a term as chair.

Austal USA Littoral Combat Ship

Established in 1999 on the Mobile River, Austal USA started its journey toward the design and construction of one of the U.S. Navy’s most innovative ships, the Independence-variant Littoral Combat Ship USS Independence. The ship will give the Navy the flexibility and speed it needs to advance and defend national interests well into this century. All Independence-variant  LCSs were built at Austal in Mobile.

The seeds for Austal’s entry into defense contracts were two large catamarans for Hawaii Superferry Inc. To build these two ships, Austal USA increased its work force, including engineers and designers, in a few years. The work force training and capital investments in maritime manufacturing required for the super ferries helped prepare the company for the LCS contract, awarded in 2005. Since the contract was awarded, Austal USA expanded is manufacturing space to more than 700,000 square feet.

Design work for the LCS – Independence-variant has been performed mostly in Mobile. With its work force currently at more than 4,000, including more than 300 personnel in the Engineering Department, Austal USA is the largest manufacturing employer in the southern region of Alabama. Like so many of the state’s grand engineering projects, the LCS inspires the next generation of engineers, some of whom will work on this project or other critical shipbuilding efforts in Mobile. Austal’s commitment to the Port City and the United States has helped economic development in Alabama and the region while strengthening national defense. It’s estimated the project has generated more than $380 million in wages through the creation of more than 14,800 direct and indirect jobs in the area.

The LCS – Independence-variant is a highly maneuverable, high-speed trimaran built for use in littoral waters. Its advanced configuration brings a new level of support to the U.S. Navy. Specific areas of support are: mission configuration, smaller required crew compliments, stealth capabilities, innovative propulsion design, innovative maneuvering capabilities, cargo and aviation support along with fuel economy.

The ship is designed with the ability to change its mission packages as needed within days. The open architecture command and control system allows the LCS to accomplish critical missions, including mine warfare, anti-submarine warfare and surface warfare with inherent capabilities that also support such missions as special operations and maritime interdiction. This adaptability makes the LCS critical for the Navy’s future fleet.

Warner Williams Water Resource Complex

Opened in May 2013, the W. Warner Williams Water Resource Complex in Opelika, developed by Krebs Engineering of Birmingham and staff at the Utilities Board of the city of Opelika, is a nationally recognized water resource complex that enables the treatment facilities to surpass all required drinking water standards consistently . The emphasis on efficiency and sustainability exceeded all expectations. It enables the Utilities Board to maximize plant staff productivity and optimize plant operational flexibility while integrating operations into the board’s entire water system.

In a departure from typical water treatment projects, the board undertook the replacement of the city’s 1940s-era water treatment plant at Saugahathcee Lake with a project that placed equal emphasis on process engineering and architectural design. Several technical issues associated with the project added complexity to the design process. These issues included the need to meet evolving water quality treatment requirements while providing a means to incorporate sustainable design principles, below-grade structure construction and extensive pipe routing through subsurface rock, wetlands within the project site, centralizing heat and cooling for the entire 11-acre complex, and re-use of equipment from the existing facilities. Also, the board wanted to avoid buildings that felt “institutional”; therefore, there was the challenge of integrating the engineering parameters into a design that addresses these challenges and provides a connection with the natural environment.

Constructed on an 11-acre campus at the board’s 415-acre water supply reservoir, new facilities include a water treatment facility that can handle 8 million gallons per day, a raw-water intake, an administrative office building, a vehicle and equipment storage facility and a maintenance facility. The water treatment facility includes conventional mixing and flocculation; high-rate sedimentation basins; finished water storage and 18,000-square-foot membrane filtration and chemical facility; onsite generation of chlorine/bleach; and a finished water-pumping station. A state-of-the-art laboratory is also provided. All operations, including administrative, customer service and field services, were consolidated and moved to the new campus. The field services office and the administrative office are approximately 8,000 and 11,000 square feet, respectively, and both facilities are Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Silver certified.

The site location was a previously undeveloped peninsula on the 400-acre reservoir and is intended to be a paradigm for municipal treatment construction within an environmentally sensitive watershed. Innovative techniques used for this project include provision of membrane filtration for meeting stringent water quality regulations; treatment of process wastewater for use either irrigation or is recycled and re-treated for consumption; use of forested buffer zones between the buildings and lake; use of bio-swales and natural wetland treatment of stormwater runoff and process water overflows; and use of permeable pavers to filter vehicular contaminates. Also, the site is landscaped with native plant species to avoid fertilizer run-off. In lieu of gutters, gravel trenches topped with flagstone are used at most building driplines — a feature that allows roof water infiltration into the site.

The complex won the 2015 Grand Award for Engineering Excellence, the top prize given by the American Council of Engineering Companies of Alabama, and was recognized by the national ACEC as an Engineering Excellence Award winner. Krebs Engineering was honored as the No. 1 engineering firm in Alabama for the project.

-Contributed by the State of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame