The Kevin T. Crofton Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering at Virginia Tech recently inducted four new members into the Academy of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering Excellence on October 28. 

The aerospace and ocean engineering department and the members of its advisory board established an Academy of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering Excellence in 2016. Membership in this Academy is reserved for individuals who have made sustained and meritorious engineering and/or leadership contributions during their careers. While many of the inductees are alumni of the department, being an alumnus is not a requirement.  It is expected that Initiates have reached the pinnacle of their professional achievements and can recognize their accomplishments.  There is also an expectation from the department that academy members serve as our most esteemed ambassadors in advancing our mission and goals.

For 2022, the academy inducted eight new members: Kyle T. Alfriend, Bernard Grossman, Jessica A. Holmberg and James Lackey. These individuals were selected from some 6,700 living alumni, friends, and faculty who have demonstrated, over their career, a dedication to engineering excellence and Virginia Tech core values: brotherhood, honor, leadership, sacrifice, service, loyalty, duty, and Ut Prosim.

Kyle (Terry) Alfriend
Dr. Terry Alfriend (B.S., 1962 and Ph.D., 1967) is currently the Jack E. and Francis Brown Chair and Professor of Aerospace Engineering at Texas A&M University and a University Distinguished Professor. He has over 50 years of diverse experience in the aerospace business that includes research, development and management in the private sector, government, and academia. 

His research interests are in satellite formation dynamics, control and navigation, space situational awareness, astrodynamics, satellite attitude dynamics and control, and spacecraft design. He has served as an Associate Editor and Editor-in-Chief of both the American Astronomical Society Journal of the Astronautical Sciences, and the AIAA Journal of Guidance, Control and Dynamics.

Throughout his distinguished career, Alfriend has been the recipient of the AIAA’s Goddard Award, the Mechanics and Control of Flight Award, and the Guidance, Navigation and Control of Flight Award; and the American Astronomical Society’s Dirk Brouwer Award. 

Alfriend was nominated by Dr. Mark Psiaki. In his nomination, Psiaki wrote, “Terry Alfriend has reached the pinnacle of aerospace engineering achievement in terms of research, advanced development, and service to his profession.  He is a model that all Virginia Tech aerospace engineering graduates would do well to emulate.  He is a credit to Virginia Tech and highly deserves this recognition.”

Bernard Grossman
Dr. Bernard Grossman is professor emeritus at Virginia Tech, having served as a professor of aerospace engineering for more than 25 years. From 1993 to 2002 he served as the department head and was also the founding director of the Multidisciplinary Analysis and Design Center for Advanced Vehicles. He was one of the early developers in the field of Computational Fluid Dynamics where his research involved the development of computational algorithms over all flight regimes from low speed to transonic, supersonic, and hypersonic flows. Additionally, he was involved in the early application of CFD in the multidisciplinary design process. 

Prior to coming to Virginia Tech, Dr. Grossman spent 12 years at Grumman Aerospace Corporation, where his last position was the Head of the Theoretical Aerodynamics Laboratory in the Corporate Research Department. Upon leaving the university, he spent the last ten years prior to retirement at the National Institute of Aerospace in Hampton, Virginia, serving as the founding Vice President of Education. 

Dr. Grossman was nominated by Dr. Rakesh Kapania. He wrote, “Grossman, along with the late Rafi Haftka and Jarek Sobieski, pioneered the research in Multidisciplinary Analysis and Design Optimization. The research started small; but today no one would consider designing a new aircraft without using MDO.” 

“When Joe Schetz stepped down as the department head, many were apprehensive about the future of this department. Grossman stepped in Dr. Schetz's very big shoes and successfully navigated the department through this period. A few crowning achievements of his tenure were fighting to keep the ocean engineering program alive, key hires such as Craig Woolsey and appointing Wayne Neu as the assistant department head for undergraduate studies, who later developed a successful distance learning graduate program first in ocean and then in aerospace.”

Jessica A. Holmberg
Mrs. Jessica Holmberg is the head of the aeromechanics division in the Air Systems Group at the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division at Patuxent River, Maryland. She oversees all aspects of aerodynamics, performance, flight dynamics (air vehicle and store separation) and flight controls domains, with the integral supporting functions of modeling and simulation. She is the NAWCAD technical warrant holder for aeromechanics, charged with enacting technical authority as well as defining and revising technical standards in support of all naval aviation in the areas of flight vehicle performance, flight dynamics, flight controls, and store separation. 

Mrs. Holmberg has worked in some capacity on all fixed wing Navy and Marine Corps aircraft programs within the aeromechanics disciplines, with expertise in high angle-of-attack/out of control flight regimes, airshow development, and flying qualities for manned and unmanned systems. She has mentored K-12 students, interns, college students and engineers at all levels. 

She was nominated by Robert Hanley. He wrote, “Jessica Holmberg lives Ut Prosim.  She has been an active member of the AOE Advisory Board for twenty-two years.  She mentors students.  She hires AOE graduates.  She lives and breathes this University.”

“In addition, she brings exceptional credentials.  She has written internationally recognized technical papers in aerospace and been honored with numerous awards at the highest levels in the industry. She has leveraged her AOE degree to make a difference.  The decisions she makes today (and has made as a NAVAIR aerospace engineer for 26 years) save the lives of Navy and Marine Corps operating world-wide in defense of our great nation.” 

James Lackey
James Lackey is Senior Vice President, Mission Solutions Sector for Parsons Defense and Intelligence Business Unit. As senior leader, he is responsible for the execution and demonstrated growth of business in the areas of: space domain awareness, ground operations, C2 and launch payload integration; multi-domain software architecture and engineering, mission command and control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance applications; directed energy platform productions, electronic warfare test equipment, advanced sensor integration, perimeter protection systems; and weapon system threat intelligence modeling and simulation, and hardware analysis for a variety of federal customers and intelligence community partners. 

Lackey has more than 35 years of weapon systems development and capability experience in program management and engineering in support of a variety of Department of Defense and other national security customers. He brings deep work experience with the Department of Defense and a deep knowledge of defense customers to his current role. 

Throughout his career he has received numerous awards, including an Army Superior Civilian Service Award in 2017, two Navy Meritorious Civilian Service Awards for his Program Management leadership at the Naval Air Systems Command, and the Order of Saint Michael Medal for his contributions toward developing next generation future vertical lift Army platforms.

Lackey was nominated by Robert Hanley. “James is a Hokie through and through. Having had a stellar career with the Navy and the Army (including being selected as a member of the Senior Executive Service), he then retired and began working at Parsons. During these times, he also has given back to Virginia Tech as a long standing and active member of the AOE Advisory Board and as a mentor of students. He represents the best of the best from Virginia Tech and we need more active Hokies like James to keep Virginia Tech’s status as one of the leading engineering universities in the world.” 

Alumni Awards and Departmental Honors

In addition to our academy membership, the department recognizes achievements and accomplishments of our alumni in all stages of their careers, and honors contributions of faculty and staff.

Emerging Leaders Award: Recognizing alumni in the early stages of their career (been in the workforce no more than 10 years). Nominees are on the “fast track” and have made rapid advancement within their organizations, or have been recognized for early professional achievements by others within their profession, field, or organization. They are considered to be future leaders in their profession.

Ryan J. Meritt

Award for Service and Engagement: Presented to alumni who have furthered department projects and activities through generously giving of their time and efforts as a volunteer to the department and University.

Randy Spicer

Distinguished Faculty Award: In recognition of faculty members for lifelong contributions to the profession, field, University or society at large. Nominees have brought distinction to the department, evidenced by activities that extend beyond normal expectations, unique contributions, or long standing leadership and impact on the University and beyond.

Pradeep Raj

Meritorious Staff Award: Honoring staff members for their commendable service to the department and University. Nominees have demonstrated their commitment to excellence, integrity, leadership, loyalty, respect, and selfless service.

Steve Edwards and Jeff McConnell