2017 Distinguished Engineering Alumni / Alumnae

The Distinguished Engineering Alumni/Alumnae Award is presented to men and women who have distinguished themselves in any field in ways that reflect favorably on Purdue University, the engineering profession or society in general. The distinction of DEA has been bestowed upon 509 outstanding individuals.

Stacy Bartoletti

BSCE ’91
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Degenkolb Engineers

Stacy Bartoletti’s successful career as a structural engineer had simple beginnings. He worked on building projects, like a small cabin, with his father.

While at Purdue, Bartoletti alternated between campus and co-op work at CH2M Hill, a Milwaukee engineering firm. After earning a master’s degree from the University of Texas, he went to work for San Francisco-based seismic engineering firm Degenkolb Engineers and never left.

Bartoletti now leads about 150 employees. “We learn something new every time there’s an earthquake,” he says. “That’s who we are as a company, and that’s what keeps me here.”

He has testified before Congress on seismic safety, and he continues to build on Degenkolb’s global reputation as an industry leader. The company has won over 100 national and local awards for engineering excellence. In 2012, it was named best structural engineering firm to work for by Civil + Structural Engineer magazine, which regularly includes Degenkolb in its top-10 list.

William Elmore

BSEE ’75, MSEE ’76
Co-Founder and General Partner, Foundation Capital

The T-shirt business he founded as a Centerville, Ohio, teenager was among the early harbingers of Bill Elmore’s future business success.

Elmore chose to study engineering rather than business and says his Purdue engineering education has been crucial to his highly successful venture capital career, which has made the most of the worldwide digital revolution.

He first took on marketing-management roles at Hewlett-Packard before earning his MBA. Elmore was then president of startup Visual Engineering and became a general partner at Inman & Bowman, a venture capital firm.

In 1995, he co-founded Foundation Capital, where he remains today. That Menlo Park, California, venture capital firm invests primarily in software, communication and technology-enabled services. Foundation Capital has had 28 companies go public, including Netflix, Atheros (a pioneer in Wi-Fi chips), and financial services firms Lending Club, Envestnet and Financial Engines.

Despite the demands on his time, Elmore remains engaged with Purdue’s College of Engineering and its students.

James Greenleaf

MSES ’66, PHD ’70
Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Associate Professor of Medicine, College of Medicine, Mayo Clinic

James Greenleaf’s many national awards, 450 peer-reviewed articles, multiple books and 17 patents speak to a prolific research career in biomedical engineering. The far-reaching impact of his work — from developing lifesaving devices to educating dozens of graduate students at the Mayo Clinic and Mayo Clinic School of Medicine — is difficult to measure.

Through cutting-edge collaborations that have led to several Mayo patents, Greenleaf has adopted a teaching philosophy that reflects his own path. “I give students directions to go and find the trails themselves,” he says. “Should they need to, they can come back and restart a project. But when they leave my lab, I like them to be independent enough to be on their own.”

Many of his former students have started their own companies in the medical field. He says that their accomplishments mean the world to him: “That’s probably the biggest accolade I can get.”

Amy Hess

Special Agent in Charge, Louisville, Kentucky, Field Office, Federal Bureau of Investigation

As a girl in Jeffersonville, Indiana, Amy Hess hoped “to be an astronaut or an FBI agent.” She was 11 when her inspiration for the latter grew stronger, thanks to a tour of FBI headquarters during a Washington, D.C., trip with her parents.

Her years at Purdue — the “Cradle of Astronauts” — could easily have put Hess on a path to space. Instead, she heeded the FBI’s call for people from the science and engineering fields and became a special agent.

After more than 25 years at the FBI, Hess wouldn’t trade her accomplished career for the moon — literally. When she visits Purdue, she always encourages students — technophiles and engineers alike — to consider options seemingly off the traditional career track. “It’s hard for the government to compete with private-sector salaries,” she says. “But we can provide a sense of purpose and mission, such as service to country, they might not find elsewhere.”

Keerti Melkote

MSEE ’93
Senior Vice President and General Manager, HPE Aruba Group, Co-Founder, Aruba Networks

As an engineer, Keerti Melkote applies constants in his equations, but in his life and career, he embraces change. “That’s why I was driven to be an entrepreneur,” he says. “I wanted to drive the change.”

After earning his bachelor’s degree from a top engineering school in India, Melkote came to Purdue for his master’s in electrical engineering and was introduced to the practical aspects of connecting networks. “Nearly 25 years later, I’m still in the field of networking. Everything I learned at Purdue, I still apply.”

In 2002, he created Aruba Networks, a startup focused on wireless networking technology. In March 2015, Hewlett-Packard acquired Aruba Networks for $3 billion. Today, Aruba does over $1 billion in annual revenues, has shipped $4 billion in products worldwide and employs 2,000 people. “The whole journey, 13 years of building the company from scratch, has been a total dream,” Melkote says.

Doreen Mitchell

BSCE ’81
Vice President, Facility Asset Management, Walt Disney World Company

Growing up in Addison, Illinois, Doreen Mitchell dreamed of building skyscrapers in downtown Chicago. Her young imagination, however, never took her to Walt Disney World, where she is today.

She faced challenges even before landing her first position. “When I was interviewing for a job my senior year, a recruiter asked me, ‘Why in the world would any guys on a construction site ever listen to you?’” she says. “I knew I had to prove myself.”

Mitchell first proved herself to Disney when the Chicago firm she worked for built the Imagination Pavilion at Epcot Center. “Disney’s expectations for quality drove my desire to problem-solve, stay engaged and learn something new.”

After over 30 years of leading projects at Disney, Mitchell says she finds improving the guest experience through technology-based projects most fulfilling: “A lot of the things that work in engineering also work in leading an organization. Engineers have a passion for making things better.”

Patricia Poppe

BSIE ’89, MSIE ’91
President and Chief Executive Officer, CMS Energy Company and Consumers Energy Company

“Holy mackerel!” That’s what Patti Poppe’s father, William Kessler, said when he learned his daughter was named president and chief executive officer of CMS Energy Co. and Consumers Energy Co. — his former employer.

His surprise might have been all the more striking because he remembered when she had no ambition in engineering. “I had wanted to be a TV news broadcaster,” Poppe recalls. “I definitely did not want to be in engineering until I came down to Purdue for a Women in Engineering career day.”

Her IE degrees and her combination of knowledge, instinct and ambition led her to positions of leadership at General Motors Corp. and DTE Energy before arriving at Consumers Energy Co., where she is now in charge. The company provides natural gas and electricity to 6.7 million of Michigan’s 10 million residents.

“I love being part of a team, and the privilege of leading that team in delivering a vital product — energy for the state of Michigan,” she says.

Jennifer Rumsey

BSME ’96
Vice President, Chief Technical Officer, Cummins Inc.

Jennifer Weerts Rumsey is no stranger to high achievement at a relatively young age. Within 20 years of graduating with highest honors from Purdue, she succeeded in several technical leadership positions at engine manufacturer Cummins. She ultimately landed the position of chief technical officer — a female first for the company founded in 1919.

As she continues to influence lives through her industrial role, Rumsey remains committed to professional societies and to her community. By lending her expertise to robotics competitions for middle schoolers and through involvement with various Purdue programs, she demonstrates the endless possibilities that engineering offers.

Once a student member of the Purdue Society of Women Engineers, Rumsey is now a spokesperson for the field of engineering. “There are a variety of opportunities that can have a positive impact. That’s the thing I find so motivating about my job. I’m working on technologies that help the environment, and I’m impacting people’s lives.”

Vijay Swarup

BSChE and BS Chemistry ’86
Vice President of Research and Development, ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company

Born to “strong” parents who taught him that education is the “differentiator,” Vijay Swarup remembers that his father said, “You don’t have to be the tallest or the fastest. The one thing that will separate you is knowledge.”

Swarup has lived that lesson. Born to immigrants from India, Swarup was raised in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where his love of math was born alongside his passion for baseball and its statistics.

Today, you might see Swarup on national TV as a spokesman for ExxonMobil’s energy research. In one commercial, Swarup says he and his team of 735 researchers are capturing CO2 before it can get into the air: “We captured more than 16 million tons in 2014 alone. That’s the equivalent of eliminating the annual emissions of more than 1 million cars.”

“We’re trying to educate about energy and discuss the challenges with delivering reliable, sustainable, economic and renewable energy solutions,” he says.

Donald Ufford

MSME ’89
Director, Global Vehicle Engineering, Ford Motor Company

The Ford Mustang, with its matchless style and engine sound, has inspired poetry. One of dozens of poems at themustangsource.com begins: “A twist of the key, a mechanical whir, in the blink of an eye, the engine purrs.”

Mustang devotees would enjoy meeting Donald Ufford, whose engineering work has helped create the Mustang and its revered whir and purr.

Ufford has led engineering teams that have produced a long list of award-winning vehicles for Ford, including the Fusion, Fusion Hybrid, Explorer, Focus, Transit Connect and the F-Series pickup, which is the best-selling vehicle in the United States.

Ufford says he works to set up his teams for success: “I develop my team of engineers so that they have the best capabilities and knowledge available today around the globe. I want them to be inspired to come to work and do a great job of putting passion into our products that customers can see and feel.”

Lisa Veitch

MSMSE ’86, PhD ’89
Director, Global Vehicle Engineering, Ford Motor Company

A semiconductor production line in Kokomo, Indiana, couldn’t hold Lisa Veitch. Luckily, her post-bachelor’s engineering position at Delco Electronics was close enough to Purdue that getting a master’s degree was feasible.

Veitch followed that with her PhD research for the Office of Naval Research. She subsequently landed a position at NASA, where she received a patent for ceramic matrix composite materials to reinforce gas turbine engines.

Veitch then joined the Institute for Defense Analyses in Alexandria, Virginia, and has contributed to research for several weapon systems, including the Joint Strike Fighter, Comanche helicopter and the presidential helicopter. Her assessments have been used by the Department of Defense to either restructure or terminate weapon-system programs.

Veitch also takes time to give back by speaking about the importance of math and science: “I’ve talked to over 300 high school and freshman engineering students this year alone. I take my vacation and do it on my own.”

Ravi Venkatesan

MSIE ’86
Chairman of the Board, Bank of Baroda, India

An American brokerage firm became well-known in the 1970s and ’80s for its slogan: “When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen.”

That is an apt phrase for Ravi Venkatesan, who has many people listening, particularly in his home country of India. He wrote the book “Conquering the Chaos: Win in India, Win Everywhere.” The former chairman of both Cummins in India and Microsoft India, he is now chairman of India’s Bank of Baroda.

As the first private-sector leader to be chairman of a government-owned Indian bank, Venkatesan is helping India manage its fourth industrial revolution, one that he says will involve “dramatic advances in every field, including gene editing, space travel — the works.”

Toward that goal, he is working to narrow the gap between India’s wealthy private sector and its struggling public sector. “I have never shied away from making really difficult decisions nor from accepting responsibility for mistakes or things that didn’t work out,” he says.