Six new members inducted into CEE Academy of Distinguished Alumni

On March 30, 2017, many gathered at the Inn at Virginia Tech to recognize accomplished civil and environmental engineering alumni. Six new members were inducted into the Academy of Distinguished Alumni and two alumni were recognized as Outstanding Young Alumni.


David W. Cocke, class of 1980

David Cocke received his B.S in Civil Engineering from Virginia Tech in 1980. He began his career as a Structural Engineer at the San Francisco‐based firm, Degenkolb Engineers. While working at Degenkolb, he continued his education, earning his M.S. in Structural Engineering from San Jose State University. He became a licensed Structural Engineer in California in 1987, and holds Professional Engineer licenses in several states. In 2001, Mr. Cocke founded the structural engineering firm, Structural Focus, and has served as President since that time. Structural Focus has designed many significant projects in Southern California, including the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, the Wilshire Boulevard Temple, and the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre. Under his leadership, these and many other projects have received multiple awards for excellence in structural design and historic preservation. Distinguished clients include Warner Bros., Sony Pictures Entertainment, and DreamWorks Animation. In addition, in 2016 Structural Focus was named as one of the Top Five Places to Work by the Los Angeles Business Journal.

Darren R. Conner, class of 1983

Mr. Darren Conner is the President of Dewberry’s southeast region. He leads a multi‐disciplined staff of 480 in 24 office locations spread throughout Virginia, North Carolina, Florida and Alabama. He graduated from Virginia Tech with a B.S. in civil engineering in 1983 and continued on to take some master’s level courses at Virginia Tech as well. Prior to becoming a Hokie, Mr. Conner earned his A.S. in Pre‐Engineering from Danville Community College. Mr. Conner began his career with Dewberry in 1984, bringing over 30 years of experience to the firm. He also leads the company’s private sector business development initiative, serving as an ambassador of the firm, which has resulted in a nearly 30% growth in work for the private sector market.

Thomas J. Dalzell, class of 1957

Thomas J. Dalzell enrolled in Virginia Tech in 1953 on a football scholarship playing from 1953‐1956 while completing his engineering degree and graduating with a B.S. in Civil Engineering in 1958. He received an M.S. in International Affairs from George Washington University in 1971 and is a Fellow of the Society of American Military Engineers. He is a registered Professional Engineer. Upon graduation, he worked briefly for the Department of Commerce Bureau of Public Roads as a civil engineer inspector on government public works projects. Reporting to active duty in the United States Marine Corps he served 31 years on active duty in all ranks from Second Lieutenant to Colonel in combat engineering units. As a Colonel he served on the staff of the Commander In Chief Pacific (CINCPAC) as the officer in charge of the civil
engineering support plans for all U.S. operational plans throughout the Pacific. He later trained thousands of Marines in engineering skills while serving as the Commanding Officer of the Marine Corps Engineering School at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

Ronald L. Meng, class of 1996

Ronald L. Meng earned his B.S. in civil engineering from the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) in 1971 and his M.S. in Aeronautical Engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. After serving for 22 years in the United States Marine Corps, he returned to complete his Ph.D. at Virginia Tech, graduating in 1996. Currently Dr. Meng is the Engineering Manager at Banker Steel Company in Lynchburg, Virginia, which is the largest steel fabricator in the mid‐Atlantic region. Banker Steel Company is a full‐service structural steel fabricator that provides fabricated structural steel to the entire east coast, but also provides design‐assist services and has provided steel for designbuild projects such as the Washington Nationals Park in Washington, DC, the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, and even Torgersen Hall on Virginia Tech’s campus. The companies that Dr. Meng has worked for, primarily Banker Steel, have donated more than $100,000 worth of structural steel to Virginia Tech structural engineering and materials program for research purposes.

J. Michael Potter, class of 1975

J. Michael Potter earned his B.S. in civil engineering from Virginia Tech in 1975 and then an MBA in Finance from Loyola College in Maryland. He has more than 40 years of experience in construction, construction management, and design of highway/bridge, building, and environmental projects. In 2000, he joined RK&K, LLP, and is currently Senior Partner of the firm with over 1,000 employees in 15 offices along the east coast. He also heads the firm’s Construction Management Group which has grown from a largely quality control inspection operation in two states to a firm that provides a comprehensive array of construction management services in six states. His role at RK&K also includes integrating a recent acquisition, introducing leadership and other non‐technical skills to young engineers, and providing vision for the firm’s future. Mr. Potter has also been a strong advocate for construction management on the national level. He has served in many roles for the Construction Management Association of America (CMAA), culminating as the National Board Chairman, and has been inducted into its College of Fellows. He is often called upon by CMAA to teach its Professional Construction Management courses.

Guoqing Zhou, class of 2011

Guoqing Zhou graduated with his second Ph.D. in Transportation Engineering in 2011 from Virginia Tech. His first was in Remote Sensing and Spatial Informatics in 1994 from Wuhan University in China. Prior to that, he earned a B.S. in Geomatics from East China University of Technology and an M.S. in Geo‐Informatics from Southwest Jiaotong University. Although he did work briefly in industry at Spatial Information Technology LLC in Virginia Beach, he has spent most of his career in roles within higher education. He served as Vice President of Guilin University of Technology in China. Prior to that, he was Assistant President and Director of the Center for Remote Sensing at Tianjin University. He also had various positions at Guilin University of Technology, ODU, The Ohio State University, Technical University of Berlin, Beijing Jiaotong University, Tsinghua University, and Beijing Normal University.


Oustanding Young Alumni

Lee Bryant, class of 2003 and 2010

Lee Bryant is a faculty member in the Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering at the University of Bath in the United Kingdom. She joined the University of Bath in 2014 as a Prize Fellow and became a Lecturer in 2016. In 2014, according to the Complete University Guide in the UK, the architecture degree at the University of Bath was ranked first and the civil engineering degree was ranked second. Her research interests are biogeochemical cycling, limnological processes, and cross‐media mass transfer in aquatic systems. She focuses on oxygen, nutrient and trace‐metal dynamics and management of water quality in lakes, reservoirs, and oceans with emerging areas of interest in the effects of global climate change on hypolimnetic oxygen depletion.

Emily Sarver, class of 2010

Dr. Emily Sarver is Assistant Professor of Mining and Minerals Engineering and adjunct faculty to the Charles E. Via Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Virginia Tech. She holds B.S. (2004) and M.S. (2005) degrees in Mining Engineering and a Ph.D. (2010) in Civil and Environmental Engineering, and was a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow. She is currently involved in nearly $3.5M of funded research, and her work has been published in a variety of journals including Mining Engineering, Chemosphere, Ecological Engineering, and the Journal of the Electrochemical Society. Emily teaches both undergraduate and graduate courses, and serves as major advisor to a diverse group of graduate students pursuing degrees in Mining Engineering, Environmental Engineering, and Biological Systems Engineering.