Outstanding Mechanical Engineer Awards

Outstanding Mechanical Engineer Awards

Every year, the School of Mechanical Engineering at Purdue University recognizes alumni who have demonstrated excellence in industry, academia, governmental service, or other endeavors related to mechanical engineering.  Honorees have shown outstanding character and leadership and have accomplished great things.  Since 1991, 285 alumni have been honored with the prestigious Outstanding Mechanical Engineer Award.

Congratulations to all our 2019 OME recipients for showing us the best that Mechanical Engineering has to offer!

Eckhard Groll
William E. and Florence E. Perry Head and Reilly Professor of Mechanical Engineering

Angela Barbee | Ben Diachun | Avrum Gray | Marcia O'Malley | John Scholtes | Robert Wade

Angela Barbee
MSME 1998
Vice President - Engineering and New Product Development, Global Faucets, Kohler Co.

After a BSME from Wayne State University and an MSME from Purdue, Angela began her career at General Motors in 1994 as a Development Engineer at the Milford Proving Grounds. She progressed through various engineering positions including Design Release Engineer for Vehicle Interiors, Engineering Group Manager for Noise and Vibration Laboratory, and Vehicle Assembly Manager for Midsize Trucks.  During her progression, Angela was selected by General Motors for a 1-year special assignment as an Engineer-in-Residence at Purdue Mechanical Engineering.  During her tenure, she taught several undergraduate design courses and managed a collaborative research project between Purdue University and General Motors.

Angela was later promoted to Senior Manager for Global Accessory Engineering, where she was responsible for defining and executing the product development strategy for General Motors’ vehicle accessories, worldwide.  Eventually she was promoted to Director of Global Design Operations, overseeing five business units.

After 23 years at GM, Angela moved on to the Kohler Company, where she is responsible for crafting and executing the Global Faucets product division across all regions.

Angela has been recognized for her numerous achievements. She was included in the publication DRIVEN: A Tribute to Achievements in the Auto Industry. Angela has been featured in the “Engineering Our Future” exhibit at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry. She is also the recipient of the Black Engineer of the Year – Corporate Promotion of Education national award, which honored her continued contribution to the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) program.

Ben Diachun
BSME 1999
President, OPENER

It’s quite a jump to go from the world’s largest airplane to one of the world’s smallest.  But Ben Diachun’s expertise as an aerospace engineer has led him to create sustainable, high-growth aeronautics companies, and revolutionary new aircraft. 

Ben developed a wide variety of innovative experimental aircraft as president of Scaled Composites.  His past projects include the non-stop, non-refueled, around-the-world Globalflyer; the first commercial manned spaceship, SpaceShipOne, and its follow-on SpaceShipTwo; the optionally piloted/UAV Firebird demonstrator; the high-performance experimental jet Swift; the Model 401 advanced research aircraft; and the world’s largest composites airplane, Stratolaunch.

Ben is currently president at OPENER, a startup who are developing electric personal air vehicles for consumer travel.  Their fully electric Blackfly vehicle takes off vertically like a drone, but is large enough for a person to sit inside and fly for more than 25 miles.

Ben has a Master of Science Degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Stanford University and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University. He has certificates in Technical Management from the University of California, Los Angeles and Financial Management from the University of Virginia. He is a Commercial Pilot with Instrument, Multi-Engine and Seaplane Ratings.

Ben was part of the team that was awarded the Robert J. Collier Trophy in 2005 for the development of SpaceShipOne. In 2014, he was named in Aviation Week’s 40 under Forty.  Since 2016 Ben has served as an Industrial Advisory Council member for the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Purdue University. In 2018 Ben joined the Board of Directors for the Experimental Aircraft Association.

Avrum Gray
BSME 1956
Chairman and Founding Partner, G-Bar Limited Partnership

Avrum Gray began his career in automotive manufacturing, but soon moved on to the world of finance, becoming an industrialist, money management and venture capital executive.

In 1960, he began working at Alloy Consolidated Industries in Chicago, the nation’s leading universal joint manufacturer to the automotive aftermarket; also, a leading manufacturer of grease and oil seals, front wheel drive components and agricultural components.  He stayed with the company for more than 30 years, including as Chief Executive.

He served in other executive positions for Lynch Systems in Georgia, a glass press supplier to the television and computer industry; Material Science Corporation in Illinois; Nashua Corporation, a paper products company in New Hampshire; Lynch Corporation, a holding company in New York; and SL Industries of New Jersey, specializing in power and motion controls for medical, aerospace, and other industries.

In 1982, he founded the G-Bar Limited Partnership, one of the nation’s largest independent options trading firms and a leading specialist in computer-based arbitrage activities in the derivative markets.  Avrum has published works on options and arbitrage, and has also served as an advisor to the US Department of Commerce.

Avrum was born in Chicago in 1935, and has lived there his whole life, raising three children with his wife Joyce.

Marcia O’Malley
BSME 1996
Stanley C. Moore Professor of Mechanical Engineering, of Computer Science, and of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Rice University

Marcia O’Malley combines many interests in her research at Rice University in Texas.  She directs the Mechatronics and Haptic Interfaces Lab, which addresses issues that arise when humans physically interact with robotic systems, with a focus on training and rehabilitation in virtual environments. This includes wearable robots; compliant series-elastic actuation systems; assessment of human motor control and surgical skill; virtual environments and haptic feedback for skill assessment and training; bilateral teleoperation; and educational haptics.

At Rice, she currently serves as Special Advisor to the Provost on Educational and Research Initiatives in Collaborative Health. She is also an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Departments of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at both Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Texas Medical School at Houston. Additionally, she is the Director of Rehabilitation Engineering at TIRR-Memorial Hermann Hospital, and is a co-founder of Houston Medical Robotics, Inc. 

She has twice received the George R. Brown Award for Superior Teaching at Rice University. O’Malley received the ONR Young Investigator award and was also a recipient of the NSF CAREER Award. She is a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. She currently serves as senior associate editor for the ASME/IEEE Transactions on Mechatronics and the ACM Transactions on Human Robot Interaction.

Marcia O’Malley received a B.S. degree in mechanical engineering from Purdue University in 1996, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in mechanical engineering from Vanderbilt University in 1999 and 2001, respectively.

John Scholtes
BSME 1982
Chief Engineer, Commercial Vehicles, Ford Motor Company

John Scholtes grew up on a farm in Granger, Indiana and came to Purdue in 1978.  After earning his BSME (and an MBA from the University of Detroit), he began his career with Ford Motor Company as an engineer in the Heavy Truck Engineering Office.  He has served in a variety of engineering, strategy, marketing/sales and general management positions with increasing responsibilities in Michigan, Indiana, California, Taiwan, England, Brazil, South Africa and China.

In his current role, he is responsible for total product program management, including product leadership, quality, fuel economy, customer driven features, product innovation and financial management.  John’s product portfolio includes Transit, E-350/450, F-650/750, and F53/9 Commercial Stripped Chassis that are built into motorhomes and delivery vans.  He also leads Ford’s Special Vehicle Engineering activity that designs unique fleet customer options, resulting in Ford’s leadership in commercial vehicle sales.

Throughout his career, John has operated with the mindset to “do what’s right for the customer.”  A good example of this was John’s Special Vehicle Engineering team adding wheelchair lifts to the internal employee shuttle fleet on the Dearborn campus, even though no budget was allocated.  Wheelchair bound employees can now receive a ride between buildings in 15 minutes versus previously having to book 48 hours in advance with a third party taxi service.

John has been happily married to Rebecca for 36 years (she is a Purdue grad, and her father John Held is a 1960 Purdue ME grad!)  They have four grown children and two grandchildren.  They are members of the John Purdue Club, President’s Council, and the Purdue Mechanical Engineering Advisory Committee. 

Robert Wade
MSME 1995
Engine Component Design Manager, Ford Motor Company

Robert Wade came to Purdue after finishing his BSME at Michigan Tech.  His thesis research was on effervescent atomization and combustion, working at Zucrow Labs (which then was called the Thermal Science and Propulsion Center).  He also earned an MBA from Michigan State University.

Robert began working at Cummins, on mid-range diesel engine research, seeking ways to implement advanced emission compliance technology.  He moved to General Electric Aircraft Engine division, designing combustion systems for military gas turbine engines.

He has now spent 18 years working on automobile engine technology at Ford Motor Company.  While at Ford, he has contributed to engine modeling, engine boost systems, thermal management, and component design.  Ford’s current Ecoboost engine lineup uses turbocharging, direct injection, and variable cam timing to make significant gains in energy efficiency.  

He has authored several technical papers and filed for over 35 patents.  In his current position in the United Kingdom, he is the department manager for engine component design including the engine cylinder block, engine cylinder head, valvetrain, crankshaft, piston, connecting rod, variable oil pump, bearings, cooling, drive systems, and the lubrication system.

Robert attributes many of the skills he utilizes today to his experience gained at Purdue.  The rigorous process that culminated in his thesis serves as a clear pattern for his current technical work: observation, hypothesis, controlled experiment, conclusion, and implementation.  This Purdue-taught process is still the model that guides his technological contributions in the automotive industry.