State of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame
In February, Auburn Engineering saw three of its alumni, and one project made possible by an alumnus, inducted into the prestigious State of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame.
Wendell Mead, a 1963 and 1966 aerospace engineering graduate, is a pioneer in the field of ballistic missile defense and aerospace systems engineering. He is CEO and chief technical director of Associate Group for Research and Innovation (AGRI, Inc.), a company he founded in 1990. The cornerstone of AGRI’s success is Mead’s proprietary Ballistic Missile Defense Technical Requirements Assessment & Design Evaluation Simulation (BMD TRADES) – a model that uses engineering and physics equations, information on missiles and trajectories, as well as data from radar, sensors and satellites to determine collision points at which to intercept launched missiles. Mead donated the simulation software, and its crucial source code, to Auburn’s Department of Aerospace Engineering – a gift with a commercial value of $5 million. The model provides students with hands-on training in ballistic missile defense analysis, simulation and evaluation, in addition to a means for faculty to research defense scenarios. Mead holds the 2010 Distinguished Auburn Engineer Award, and serves on the Department of Aerospace Engineering Advisory Committee and the Auburn Alumni Engineering Council.
Charles E. “Buddy” Davis, a 1959 electrical engineering graduate, made groundbreaking contributions to electrical and aeronautical engineering during his decades in the aerospace industry. His work with the Thor rocket, Harpoon missile and KC-10 aircraft aerial refueling platform played a vital role in the evolution of U.S. defense systems. He also played an important role in the Apollo rocket program as the country embarked upon its quest to put a man on the moon. His design contributions are still evident in the assembly, transport and launch pad systems used in the space program today. In 2007, the Auburn University Board of Trustees named the Aerospace Engineering Building as Davis Hall in recognition of a significant contribution from Davis and his family. He is a member of the university’s George Petrie Society and the Engineering Keystone Society.
Gerald Smith, a 1961 and 1970 aerospace engineering graduate, spent much of his career designing and developing propulsion projects for NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. He led efforts to design, build, qualify and fly the redesigned solid-rocket motor for NASA following the Challenger accident in 1986. He later served as deputy director of NASA’s Stennis Space Center, the federal government’s largest rocket-engine test facility. Upon retirement, Smith directed enterprise strategy and research operations at the Georgia Tech Research Institute, served as president of Thiokol Corp. and was named executive director of the National Space Science and Technology Center. He holds the Auburn Alumni Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award, NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal and NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal, the highest honor that NASA confers on a non-government individual. He was also named a NASA Distinguished Executive, and received the NASA Outstanding Leadership Award, NASA Exceptional Service Medal and an Army Commendation Medal for his many contributions to those organizations’ projects and programs.
Davidson Center for Space Exploration is a 75,932-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility located at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville. It is named for Julian Davidson, a 1950 electrical engineering graduate and founder of Davidson Technologies in Huntsville. He was the first director of the U.S. Army Advanced Ballistic Missile Defense Agency. Davidson and his wife, Dorothy, whose careers have both centered on the development of space exploration technology, noted during the dedication of the facility that the Davidson Center is a tribute to the men and women who have engineered the rockets that have put Americans in space and on the moon. The center opened on Jan. 21, 2008, on the 50th anniversary of the launch of America’s first satellite, Explorer 1. The $22 million facility serves as a magnificent exhibition space for the nation’s historic Saturn V rocket and as a unique event space that celebrates Alabama’s contributions to space exploration technology.