Distinguished Engineering Alumni

The Distinguished Engineering Alumni Award is presented to Purdue Engineering alumni who have distinguished themselves in any field of endeavor that reflects favorably on Purdue University, the engineering profession, or society in general.

In the case of alumni who are engaged in engineering work, their record of accomplishments should indicate a high potential for future growth into positions of increasing responsibility. The College of Engineering has over 85,000 living alumni. The distinction of DEA has been bestowed upon 516 of these outstanding individuals.


Angela Barbee

Senior Vice President –Global R&D and Technology

Weber Grill

MSME '98


For her visionary leadership in business management, product development and manufacturing expertise of large engineering enterprises directly impacting consumer products while advocating for diversity and inclusion within the STEM disciplines.


 

As the first African American woman to obtain a master’s degree from the Ray W. Herrick Laboratories of Purdue’s School of Mechanical Engineering, Angela Barbee has made a habit of exceptional achievement.

Succeeding in several positions with ever-increasing responsibility and influence at General Motors Company, Barbee was awarded the Black Engineer of the Year Award for Corporate Promotion of Education from US Black Engineer & IT magazine. She has been cited in the publication DRIVEN: A Tribute to Achievements in the Auto Industry and was also featured in the “Engineering Our Future” exhibit at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry.

Angela currently serves on several professional boards and has received numerous other recognitions, honoring her contribution to Science Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). Today, Barbee is leading Global R&D and Technology for Weber Grill, headquartered in Chicago, as its Senior Vice President

She says that during her time as a Purdue student she discovered the joy of problem-solving: “I realized the goal was not to simply ace my class, but to gain knowledge and problem-solving skills. The purpose of many of the insurmountable complex problems was to learn how to think strategically. Once I made that realization, I gained a new purpose and began to experience Purdue differently. My focus became more about what additional tools and skills I would acquire to use in the workplace versus my GPA.”

Barbee has remained deeply engaged with the school throughout her demanding career. Placing her career advancement at General Motors on hold for one year, she became General Motors’ second Purdue Engineer-in-Residence in the School of Mechanical Engineering (ME).

The goals for that program, which Barbee helped define, included increasing research capabilities, enhancing students’ experiences, increasing collaborative research between General Motors and Purdue, and providing novel career-development opportunities for engineers with the possibility of future faculty development.

During that year, Barbee taught three courses in design sequence and established a collaborative research project with a Purdue faculty member and a graduate student. She also facilitated several engineering workshops, was active in a summer program for underrepresented high school students interested in science and engineering, participated in graduate research defense committees, and was a member of the Schools of Engineering Diversity Action Committee.

As an active member of the ME Industrial Advisory Council since 2001, Barbee continues to mentor students today.

She offers this advice for today’s undergraduates: “Stretch yourself and tap into your curiosity. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Work to understand your strengths and weaknesses. Both will help you be a great contributor as well as a better leader.  Most importantly, make friends and enjoy the journey. My father told me college would be the best years of my life. I did not believe him, but he was spot on.”

Career Highlights

  • 2021-present Senior Vice President – Global R&D and Technology, Weber Grill
  • 2020-2021 Vice President – Advanced Development, Global Kitchen & Bath Group, Kohler Company
  • 2018-2020 Vice President – New Product Development & Engineering, Global Faucets Division, Kohler Company
  • 2013-2017 Director – Global Creative Design Operations, General Motors Company
  • 2010-2013 Associate Director – Global Accessory Engineering, General Motors Company
  • 2008-2010 Executive Chief of Staff – Global Electrical Systems, Infotainment and Electrification, General Motors Company
  • 2006-2008 Executive Chief of Staff – Global Vehicle Integration, Safety Engineering & Performance Division, General Motors Company
  • 2004-2006 Engineering Group Manager – Global Vehicle Assembly Engineering, General Motors Company
  • 2002-2004 Engineering Group Manager – Global Vehicle Proving Ground, General Motors Company
  • 2001-2002 Adjunct Professor – Engineer-in-Residence, School of Mechanical Engineering, Purdue University
  • 1998-2001 Design Engineer – Vehicle Interiors, Full-size Truck Division, General Motors Company
  • 1996-1998 Distinguished Fellow – General Motors Graduate School Fellowship Program, Purdue University
  • 1994-1996 Test and Development Engineer – Noise & Vibration, Full-size Truck Division, General Motors Company
  • 1993-1994 Design Engineer – Vehicle Powertrain, Nissan Technical Center

Education

  • 1998 MS Mechanical Engineering, Purdue University
  • 1993 BS Mechanical Engineering, Wayne State University