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Batten College of Engineering Celebrates Its Golden Anniversary

Engineering Award WinnersThe Batten College Distinguished Honors winners with Dean Oktay Baysal

The first 50 years of engineering education at Old Dominion University were celebrated during a gala in Virginia Beach on Friday, May 17.

Oktay Baysal, dean of the Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology, welcomed the gathering to the Distinguished Honors Celebration, which was also marked by the presentation of the college's annual community awards.

From modest roots, the college has grown into one of the most respected institutions of engineering education in the state, boasting Navy admirals, NASA administrators, entrepreneurs and inventors among its graduates.

"An anniversary is a time to pause and reflect on our identity and who we are," Baysal said, during the event at the Westin Town Center. "Our history provides the outpost from which to explore new opportunities and conquer new fields - the vantage point from which new knowledge is sought."

Baysal said it's important for the college to reflect on its accomplishments, but also "to blaze new trails into the future" by creating innovative curricula, such as the first undergraduate program in modeling and simulation engineering in the country.

Graduates from the 2013 charter class of this program - Spencer Lane, Tyrell Gardner, Lucas Lezzi and Tien Nhan - were presented with the Batten College Pioneer Award, which was established to honor a group of outstanding pioneers or innovators in the engineering profession, and the community.

Three other awards were presented during the Distinguished Honors Celebration. Former ODU engineering dean John Weese, who came to the event from his home in Annapolis, Md., was presented the Monarch Milestone Award for his commitment to improving the quality of the Batten College, through leadership and other contributions. Weese was dean of engineering at ODU from 1974 to 1983, at that time acting as an ambassador for the young engineering college in the Hampton Roads community, promoting the program at every turn.

The Leadership Award was presented to Jodi Gidley, senior vice president, Mid-Atlantic Regions, for AGL Resources. She is responsible for all aspects of operations at utilities serving 556,000 customers in three states. A 1994 master's degree recipient in mechanical engineering from ODU, Gidley was lauded for the leadership role she has taken in the regional engineering community.

The Distinguished Honors Service Award was presented to Johnny Garcia, founder and CEO of the Portsmouth-based modeling and simulation firm SimIS Inc. Garcia, who received a Ph.D. in modeling and simulation engineering from ODU in 2011, was recognized for his consistent efforts to give back to his doctoral alma mater, which have included providing internship opportunities for engineering students, acting as a mentor and helping promote and grow the local M&S industry.

The event also featured a reading from "Built from the Ground Up: The First 50 Years of Engineering at Old Dominion University," a book commissioned in 2012 by Baysal to commemorate the college on its golden anniversary. The book, written by Brendan O'Hallarn, features interviews with 40 former and current ODU faculty members, as well as extensive material from ODU's Archives and Special Collections. It will be available from the University Village Bookstore in early summer.

Toykea Jones, a 2005 ODU master's graduate in environmental engineering and member of the Batten College advisory board, served as emcee for the gala. Jones announced that she is creating a second endowed scholarship for ODU engineering students, having established the Toykea S. Jones Endowed Scholarship in Engineering in 2010.

Jones works as senior supply chain lead for The Clorox Co.