The Award Goes To…

The State of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame inducted nine individuals to the Class of 2021, including four from Auburn University. From left, the Auburn inductees include Jim Cooper, ’81 civil
engineering and founder of Cooper Construction; Cindy Green, ’79 chemical engineering and retired chief sales and marketing officer for DuPont; Beverly Banister, ’83 chemical engineering and retired
deputy regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 4; and John Thomas, ’60 mechanical engineering and consultant for Lee & Associates.

The Class of 2021 inductees from the university include Beverly Banister, ’83 chemical engineering and retired deputy regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 4; Jim Cooper, ’81 civil engineering and founder of Cooper Construction; Cindy Green, ’79 chemical engineering and retired chief sales and marketing officer for DuPont; and John Thomas, ’60 mechanical engineering and consultant for Lee & Associates.

Beverly Banister ’83 Chemical Engineering

Beverly Banister graduated from Auburn University in 1983 with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering. After college, Banister joined the EPA, working first on remedial Superfund programs, then on water projects, including underground storage tanks and water management. She climbed the ladder at the EPA, eventually becoming director of the Region 4 Water Division. It was in this role that she spearheaded the establishment of standards for impaired bodies of water to address pollutant-loading threats, maintained the lowest National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System backlog in the country and finalized plans to significantly improve water quality in the Charlotte Harbor and Mobile Bay estuaries. Following her tenure in the Water Division, Banister became the director of the Air, Pesticides and Toxics Management Division for Region 4, where she had oversight for all regional EPA air, pesticides and toxics programs. During her tenure in this role, Banister’s leadership resulted in 39 areas, including large population cities such as Atlanta, Charlotte and Birmingham, moving from a designation of “not attaining” to “attaining” clean air standards, resulting in cleaner air quality for millions of people. During this time, Banister’s work also had international prominence, as she traveled to Shanghai, China, to support air quality planning in preparation for the 2007 Women’s World Cup held in China. 

In 2019, Banister’s leadership and expertise were rewarded with an appointment as the Region 4 Deputy Regional Administrator, the No. 2 EPA official for the entire Southeast. She retired in that role in 2020.

For more than 30 years, Banister has championed and supported special emphasis programs, including establishing the first Women in Science and Engineering chapter in her region. She is also among the loyal alumni and friends whose gifts help elevate Auburn Engineering to new heights through the Engineering Eagles Society. She is highly involved in Auburn’s 100+ Women Strong program, which seeks to recruit, retain and reward female students in Auburn Engineering. 

Jim Cooper ’81 Civil Engineering

Jim Cooper graduated from Auburn University in 1981 with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. In 1991, Cooper founded Cooper Construction with a focus on personal relationships and satisfaction for every client. The company operates as a general contractor specializing in industrial, warehouse/distribution and multifamily projects whose expertise in private sector development has allowed for continued expansion and successfully completed projects throughout the United States. Cooper is heavily involved in achieving the organization’s vision, and through his relentless efforts has grown Cooper Construction into a $200+ million national company with an additional office in Dallas.

In recognition of his lifelong dedication to the construction industry in our state, Associated Builders and Construction named Cooper its 2019 Cornerstone Award winner.

Cooper has devoted tremendous time and energy to support the next generation of Alabama’s civil engineers through his service to the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering and, specifically, the Department of Civil Engineering. He has served in significant leadership roles on the Civil Engineering Advisory Board and the Auburn Alumni Engineering Council, and was a direct advisor to the dean of engineering during the creation of the college’s Office of Career Development and Corporate Relations. In honor of his support, the corporate conference room and the office suite in the Office of Career Development and Corporate Relations was named in his honor. Cooper is also a member of Auburn Engineering’s Keystone, Ginn and Eagles giving societies, as well as the university’s 1856 and Samford giving societies.

Cindy Green ’79 Chemical Engineering

Cindy Green earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Auburn University in 1979. Upon graduation, she launched a successful career at DuPont, one of the most successful chemical corporations in the world. In more than three decades with DuPont, Green’s groundbreaking career saw her grow from an assistant plant manager to become one of just three women to serve the company as a business unit president. In leading the DuPont Fluoroproducts, Green was responsible for managing the $3 billion global business unit, including products and brands such as Teflon and Freon, where she placed an emphasis on reducing the company’s environmental footprint.

From there, she ascended to DuPont’s chief sales and marketing officer. In this role, she was responsible for corporate brand management, sales and marketing strategies and competency development for each of DuPont’s business units. One of Green’s more public and lasting accomplishments on behalf of the DuPont brand was negotiating and supporting the company’s long-term sponsorship deal with NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon and the Rick Hendrick Motorsports team. She retired from DuPont in 2011.

Green is an active alumna of the Auburn University Samuel Ginn College of Engineering. She is a founding member of the college’s 100+ Women Strong program, she serves as a member of the Auburn Alumni Engineering Council, as a member of the Department of Chemical Engineering Alumni Council, and she is also a passionate supporter of the Engineering Academic Excellence Program such that the college named the Diversity in Engineering Gallery outside the program’s office suite in her honor. For her professional achievements and dedication to Auburn University and the College of Engineering, she was named as a Distinguished Auburn Engineer in 2017.

John Thomas ’60 Mechanical Engineering

John Thomas earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Auburn University in 1960. Upon graduation, Thomas began an exemplary career with NASA that included numerous key engineering positions within NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. His first assignment was as a lead test facility engineer working on rocket engines for the Saturn IB launch vehicle. He then served as a lead systems engineer on the nation’s first space station, Skylab, from its development, its launch from the Kennedy Space Center and flight operations at the Johnson Space Flight Center.

In 1986, in the wake of the Space Shuttle Challenger tragedy, Thomas led the accident investigation, initializing redesign and recertification of the solid rocket booster, the cause of the Challenger explosion. Later, after his team successfully redesigned the booster’s motor and returned the shuttle to flight, the orbiter returned with a new issue — severely damaged thermal protection tiles that protect the vehicle during reentry into the earth’s atmosphere. Once again, Thomas was called upon to oversee the team as they determined the debris that damaged the tile and recommended solutions to prevent future damage. After a productive career with NASA, Thomas joined Lockheed Space Operations at the Kennedy Space Center as vice president and site director. Later, he became vice president and general manager of a multifaceted service contract for NASA, which included the development of an advanced solid rocket motor. Following his work at Lockheed, Thomas became a member of Lee & Associates, a division of QuantiTech, where he has served for the past 15 years as a mentor and consultant for NASA and the aerospace industry.

Thomas is engaged in the community through both his time and philanthropic involvement. He is a member of the Auburn Alumni Association, has presented lectures to aerospace engineering design classes and generously contributed to the engineering gift fund. He is the recipient of the Department of Mechanical Engineering’s 1987 Outstanding Alumni Award, as well as the 2015 Distinguished Auburn Engineer Award.

The State of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame was chartered by the governor in 1987 to honor those individuals, corporations and projects associated with the state that have brought credit to the engineering profession. A total of 186 engineers, 44 projects and 32 firms have been recognized by the hall. These inductees span across all industries, and personify the impact engineering has played on the economy, quality of life and standard of living for the people of Alabama. The Hall of Fame is overseen by engineering colleges and schools at Auburn University, Alabama A&M University, the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa, Tuskegee University, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the University of Alabama in Huntsville and the University of South Alabama.

Comments are closed.