Five elected to ME Society of Distinguished Alumni

Five elected to ME Society of Distinguished Alumni

On May 2 the second class was inducted into the Mechanical Engineering Society of Distinguished Alumni during a ceremony at the Inn at Virginia Tech.
The society was created in 2018 to formally recognize alumni who demonstrated extraordinary achievement in their careers, and to promote greater interaction between alumni, faculty, staff, and students.

Class of 2019 inductees are:

John C. Blanton
BSME, 1976; MSME, 1977; PhD, 1981
An internationally known and respected leader in the field of gas turbine design and technology, Dr. John Blanton has maintained life-long commitments to the sound fundamental practice of mechanical engineering and to his alma mater.
Starting as a student and continuing throughout his lengthy career with General Electric and now as a consultant, Blanton excelled at complementing corporate engineering responsibilities with leadership and collaborative volunteer activities with professional engineer societies.
Blanton has also shared his experiences with the next generations through extensive formal teaching and mentoring programs. His service to Virginia Tech includes more than a decade on the ME Department Advisory Board.


William Cousins
BSME, 1978; MSME, 1979; PhD, 1997
A recognized international expert in compression system stability and operability, William Cousins’ invention of a device for fore-and-aft flow in a surge event in compressions, has become the standard for stall and surge testing in turbine engine compressors.
Cousins recently completed the design and test of the first-ever boundary-layer ingesting distortion-tolerant fan under a NASA contract, and he shares his knowledge with students at Virginia Tech as well as maintaining a position as an adjunct faculty member at the University of Hartford. In addition to his role on the Mechanical Engineering Advisory Board, Cousins also serves as an informal advisor to the governing board of the ASME International Gas Turbine Institute.


Michael Fleming
BSME, 2002; MSME, 2003
As the Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Torc Robotics, Michael Fleming has positioned his company as a leading provider of self-driving solutions.
Starting in 2005 in Blacksburg as a student start-up, Torc developed the self-driving technology for team Victor Tango in the DARPA Urban Challenge. Since its top-three finish in this historic self-driving race, Fleming has overseen Torc’s rapid and organic growth to more than 100 employees, along with the commercialization of self-driving technology into trucking, mobility, mining, and defense applications through OEM partnerships.




Uma Jayaram
MSME, 1987; PhD, 1991
The first woman officially admitted to the Indian Institute of Technology’s Mechanical Engineering program at IIT Kharagpur, Uma Jayaram completed her master’s degree at Virginia Tech working on hypersonic jet inlets before earning her doctoral degree in computer-aided design/interactive computer graphics and mathematical geometric surface modeling for aircraft.
Since leaving Blacksburg, Jayaram has started three companies, including Voke, a virtual reality experience company which was purchased by Intel in 2016. She currently leads a vibrant engineering team at Intel and has brought her experience and expertise to providing cutting-edge immersive experiences for sporting events and leagues such as the 2018 Winter Olympics, NFL, NBA, NCAA and MLB.


Edward Nelson
BSME, 1990; MSME, 1992; PhD, 1994
In 1991 Edward Nelson worked at NASA’s Ames Research Center in the area of experimental infrared radiation heat transfer and from 1996-1999 for a company in the Corporate Research Center working on Naval Air Warfare Research Center studying heat flux of solid rocket plumes.
Beginning in 1999, Nelson worked at Virginia Tech, first in Continuing and Professional Education and since 2005 as the Associate Dean for Administration and Chief of Staff of the College of Engineering. In this role he has most recently been devoted to planning the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus in Alexandria, and the Holden Hall expansion which is set to begin in the summer of 2019.