The University of Massachusetts Amherst
University of Massachusetts Amherst

Search Google Appliance


Outstanding Alumni Awards 2015

College of Engineering 2015 Outstanding Senior Alumni Award Recipients

Recipients of this award have brought recognition and honor to the UMass Amherst College of Engineering through their professional achievements, leadership, and service to the profession, university, and society.


College of Engineering 2015 Outstanding Junior Alumni Award Recipients

Recipients of this award are worthy ambassadors for the UMass Amherst College of Engineering and have shown extraordinary effort and notable success in their early careers.


Outstanding Senior Alumni Award Recipients

David Eley, MS ’91, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Principal, Geotechnical Group Leader
GeoEngineers, Inc.

David Eley, PE, is a principal and the geotechnical engineering group leader for GeoEngineers’ Baton Rouge, Louisiana, office. GeoEngineers is an earth, science, and technology firm with 14 offices across the nation.

Mr. Eley joined the GeoEngineers’ Baton Rouge office in 2007 and has helped to grow the office to almost triple the size. Over the years, Mr. Eley’s engineering work has made major contributions to the Gulf Coast, specifically through his coastal work. He has been heavily involved in marsh creation and restoration projects that have significantly contributed to the resiliency and sustainability of Louisiana’s coastline.

David is originally from Albany, NY and obtained a BS in civil and environmental engineering from Clarkson University in 1989. He graduated with an MS in civil engineering with a geotechnical emphasis in 1991 from UMass Amherst.

Upon graduation from UMass, he accepted an offer from G&E Engineering in Baton Rouge, La., where he focused on environmental assessments and remediation. David stayed with G&E Engineering through its acquisition by Conestoga‐Rovers & Associates (CRA) (now GHD) until 1999 when he briefly joined the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development. In 2000, David joined URS Corporation (now AECOM) where he practiced both environmental and geotechnical engineering until joining GeoEngineers.

Mr. Eley leads GeoEngineers’ Coastal Initiative plan to improve the current state of practice to better predict long-term performance of coastal restoration projects with a focus on sustainability. The goal is to continue to improve the state of the nation’s diminishing coastline and find new and innovative ways to do so. He has shared his extensive expertise in coastal engineering in presentations and papers. Most recently, David co-authored the article “Reversing Louisiana’s Land Loss,” presented in the January 2015 ASCE Civil Engineering magazine.

David lives in Baton Rouge, La., with his wife and two daughters. He enjoys fishing, woodworking, and grilling when not engineering.


Gordon (Don) Hutchins Jr. BS ’70, Electrical Engineering

President and COO
Fusion Telecommunications International, Inc.

Don Hutchins is president and chief operating officer of Fusion, a publicly traded cloud services company that provides business customers with creative technical solutions in unified communications, connectivity, cloud storage, and cloud computing. Fusion also provides international networking solutions through its interconnection agreements with over 300 global carriers.

Mr. Hutchins’ early career followed the emergence and growth of competition within the communications industry. After his graduation from UMass with a major in electrical engineering in 1970, he accepted a management position with AT&T, then the monopoly provider of communications services in this country. Several years later, when the industry was introduced to competition, and after receiving his MBA from the University of Dallas, he joined MCI to lead all sales, marketing, and public relations activities for their Midwest region.

Following the court-mandated break-up of AT&T in 1984, Mr. Hutchins was recruited to be CEO of LDX NET, where he led the construction and operation of a 5,000-mile inter-city fiber optic network. Then, after the local networks serving our major metropolitan areas were deregulated in the late 1980s, Mr. Hutchins demonstrated the same strong technical expertise and aggressive sales and marketing attitude as CEO of ICC Communications, a competitive local network provider in Washington, D.C.

As the world began to deregulate in the 1990s, Mr. Hutchins moved to the global stage and helped introduce competition to the rest of the world, serving as CEO of competitive companies based in Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Japan. He also served as CEO of STAR Telecom in Santa Barbara, California, and SwissFone in Washington, D.C.

Prior to joining Fusion, Mr. Hutchins served as a strategic advisor to over 100 communications and technology firms. His client list included such well-known names as Cisco, Siemens, AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, Sprint, NTT Japan, and Telkom South Africa, along with many smaller ventures in the U.S., Europe, Latin America, Asia, and Africa.

Mr. Hutchins is a well-known figure at industry conferences and events, and has spoken frequently throughout the world on the topics of competition and technology.

Ronald LaBarre BS '73, Chemical Engineering


Ronald LaBarre received his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from UMass Amherst in 1973 and then earned a master’s in chemical engineering from the University of Pittsburgh in 1974.

Now retired, Mr. LaBarre was Group Vice President and a member of the Executive Committee of Air Liquide SA, the world leader in industrial gases. He was directly responsible for the Large Industries international business unit for 11 years, based in Paris, France.  During that time, he was responsible for growing the unit’s annual sales to $5 billion.

Mr. LaBarre has over 30 years of direct experience in developing, contracting, building, owning, and operating industrial gas plants and pipeline systems.  Prior to joining Air Liquide, he worked for Diamond Shamrock, Air Products and Chemicals and International Technology.  Starting in R&D, he transitioned to sales, then business management and the executive management.  Mr. LaBarre relocated ten times as his career progressed.

Mr. LaBarre specializes in business management, risk evaluation, commercial development and business strategies.

He has served on the boards of several Air Liquide joint ventures and subsidiaries including Air Liquide Middle East (Paris), Lurgi (Frankfurt), Shuaiba Oxygen (Kuwait), Gasal (Doha), and Air Liquide Arabia (Riyadh).

Mr. LaBarre is currently chairman of the advisory board for the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

He and his wife, Maura, split their time between homes in Houston, Texas, and Rockport, Massachusetts.


G. Don Taylor Jr. PhD '90, PE, Industrial Engineering & Operations Research

Charles O. Gordon Professor and Department Head
Grado Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISE), Virginia Tech

Prof. Taylor is the Charles O. Gordon Professor and department head in the Grado Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISE) at Virginia Tech, one of the largest and most highly ranked ISE departments in the United States. He previously held the Mary Lee and George F. Duthie Endowed Chair in Engineering Logistics at the University of Louisville where he was a cofounder of the Center for Engineering Logistics and Distribution (CELDi), one of the National Science Foundation’s largest Industry/University Cooperative Research Centers. He also previously held the rank of full professor at the University of Arkansas where he was the director of The Logistics Institute (TLI), and has held visiting positions at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and at Aston University in England. He has industrial experience in both military and consumer electronics—the former at Texas Instruments in Lewisville, Tex., and the latter at Digital Equipment Corporation in Enfield, Conn.

Throughout his career, Prof. Taylor’s research has focused on the simulation and optimization of complex systems and the logistics of material flow and freight transportation. He has served as principal investigator or co-principal investigator on more than 75 externally funded projects from a variety of funding sources while partnering with more than 60 different companies. His research has led to more than 200 technical publications including ten edited books. Prof. Taylor has made hundreds of formal presentations at conferences and seminars in more than 20 countries, including 21 keynote or plenary session addresses before audiences that range in size from several dozen to more than 5,000 persons.

He holds BS and MS degrees in industrial engineering from the University of Texas at Arlington, where he was also a 7-time varsity letterman and captain of the track and cross-country teams. He holds a PhD in industrial engineering and operations research from the University of Massachusetts. He is a fellow and a past-president of the Institute of Industrial Engineers (IIE), the preeminent professional society in his field. He is currently the inaugural chair of the Board of IIE Solutions, Inc., a for-profit subsidiary of IIE. He is also a fellow of the World Academy of Productivity Science and is a registered professional engineer. He is an eagle scout, and he has hiked the entire length of the Appalachian Trail.


Outstanding Junior Alumni Award Recipients

Jordan H. Crafts BS ’05, Computer Systems Engineering 

Design and Development Leader, Wireless Embedded Systems
Lutron Electronics Co., Inc.

Jordan Crafts is an embedded systems developer working at Lutron Electronics Company in Coopersburg, Pennsylvania. Lutron is an industry-leading manufacturer of lighting control, energy management, and automation systems for commercial and residential applications.

In his time at Lutron, Mr. Crafts has served in a number of roles including embedded software development, systems engineering, development team leadership, and technology research. His resume includes technical contributions to a large number of commercially successful Lutron products including the RadioRA 2 and HomeWorks QS home automation systems.

Mr. Crafts was the author of a feasibility study for the wireless component of the Exxon Headquarters Quantum System deployment—the largest system deployment in Lutron’s history. He contributed to the analysis and design of security features for the consumer grade Caseta Wireless system. Most recently, Mr. Crafts has contributed to the creation of novel intellectual property for a new commercial wireless system solution. 

Throughout his decade-long Lutron career, Mr. Crafts has been a dedicated advocate for UMass Amherst. In addition to his product development responsibilities, Mr. Crafts has served as UMass Campus Manager for Lutron. In this role, he developed a recruiting strategy and track record that resulted in the 2014 addition of UMass Amherst to Lutron’s Core Recruiting Schools—a designation representing a long-standing and successful relationship for Lutron.

Mr. Crafts earned his BS in electrical and computer engineering with a major in computer systems engineering from UMass Amherst in 2005. He has recently enrolled in the computer science master’s program at Purdue University.


Kevin Machado Ferreira BS ’07, Chemical Engineering


Kevin Machado Ferreira is originally from New Bedford, Massachusetts, and graduated with a BS in chemical engineering in 2007. Since graduating, he has worked in Baytown, Texas for ExxonMobil. He has held various positions in pilot plant, semiworks, and commercial operations, focusing on catalyst/product development, operations improvements and support, process design, process safety stewardship, and project development, leadership, and execution.

He has been an enthusiastic member of the UMass Amherst recruiting team for ExxonMobil since 2014; the team just capped off the most successful recruiting year in recent history with five full time BS hires, one PhD hire, and two interns.

Besides advocating for UMass students for ExxonMobil, he has made it a personal goal to make UMass alumni feel welcome in the Houston, Texas-area. He has volunteered time to mentor young alumni and interns within ExxonMobil. He recently developed Houston, Texas-area social network groups by reaching out to alumni via Facebook and LinkedIn and he organizes frequent events for UMass alumni to socialize, including attending Red Sox games (in Houston), watching televised Patriots’ games, and touring breweries/distilleries.

Mr. Ferreira is very passionate about engineering education. He has made time during his most recent personal visit to Massachusetts to present to students as a guest lecturer in CHE 226 (“Thermo I”) and CHE 338 (“Separations”.) As part of an alumni team, he helped launch a fundraising effort to improve the undergraduate instructional laboratory for chemical engineering students (senior lab in Goessman 61/62, CHE 401-402 course). During the summer of 2015, two new experiments were constructed as a result of this successful fundraising. Mr. Ferreira designed one of the two new experiments and helped steward completion throughout the summer, leveraging his personal experience in process design and project execution. The fundraising effort for the lab has raised just over $100,000 to date and will be an ongoing effort to make additional improvements in subsequent years.


Lisandra Garay-Vega MS ’04, PhD ’08, Civil & Environmental Engineering

Highway Accident Investigator, Project Manager
National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)

Lisandra Garay-Vega, PhD, is a project manager at the National Transportation Safety Board, an independent Federal agency that investigates significant accidents in all modes of transportation, determines the probable cause, and issues safety recommendations to help prevent recurrences.

Dr. Garay-Vega manages highway investigation reports from crash scene through Board presentation. She travels to the crash scene; ensures that factual information and safety issues are adequately developed; and coordinates the development of safety recommendations. Fluent in Spanish, she actively seeks opportunities to communicate transportation safety messages to the Hispanic community.

Prior to joining NTSB in 2014, Dr. Garay-Vega worked for the U.S. Department of Transportation for ten years as a principal investigator and technical project manager. At Volpe, the National Transportation Systems Center, she examined drivers’ acceptance and safety benefits of in-vehicle crash avoidance technologies. She also led an interdisciplinary team conducting research on the detectability of vehicle sounds as it relates to the safety of blind pedestrians. Her team received the Excellence in Government Award for Creativity and Innovation from the Greater Boston Federal Executive Board. She then served as a senior engineer at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. She led interdisciplinary teams working on vehicle crash avoidance research and rulemaking activities. She also managed multiple research contracts and was responsible for the technical quality of the design, execution, and interpretation of research findings.

Dr. Garay-Vega serves on the External Research Advisory Panel for Morgan State University; leads the mentoring program for the National Association of Hispanic Federal Executives; is a member of the Transit Advisory Group for Montgomery County, Maryland; and volunteers as a mentor.

Lisandra holds a MS and PhD in civil engineering, with an emphasis in transportation safety and human factors, from UMass Amherst and a BS degree in civil engineering from the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez.


Juan (Jay) F. Latorre III BS ’07, Computer Systems Engineering

Radio Frequency Engineer
Verizon Wireless

Graduating from UMass Amherst in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in computer systems engineering, Mr. Latorre has aligned his professional career with the major interests of his academic career, continuing to focus in the fields of software engineering and wireless networking.

In 2008, Mr. Latorre began working at KMC Music, Inc., in Bloomfield, Connecticut, as a Programmer/Analyst. Writing business software and performing QA testing for a major musical instruments distributor allowed Mr. Latorre to gain experience in professional software development and work for a corporation that shares his love of music.

In late 2009, Mr. Latorre began work on a master’s of science in engineering, with concentrations in electrical engineering and engineering management, from Western New England College (now University). He obtained his degree in 2011.

In 2011, Mr. Latorre joined Verizon Wireless in East Hartford, Connecticut, as a radio frequency engineer. In his current role, Mr. Latorre designs and optimizes Verizon Wireless' cutting edge 4G LTE wireless network. He provides project management and financial planning for a multitude of projects within the Western Massachusetts footprint, including the UMass Amherst Distributed Antenna System project. He provides software engineering requirements for various third party network systems, as well as offers expert RF testimony on behalf of Verizon Wireless at municipal and state boards in Massachusetts and Connecticut.

Mr. Latorre lives in Springfield, Massachusetts. He is an avid outdoorsman, serves on a Young Professional's Committee chartered by the Springfield City Council, and is a member of the Executive Board of the Western Massachusetts Boy Scouts of America.


Miriam Pabón-González PhD ’01, Industrial Engineering

Dean of Graduate School
Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico

Miriam Pabón-González has been a professor and administrator at the Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico since 2001. As dean of the Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico’s Graduate School, Dr. Pabón-González manages the academic offering of 13 master’s programs and has recently launched a doctoral program in engineering and applied sciences. One of her most notable successes has been the recognition of the Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico, in 2012/13, as the number one institution in the United States awarding master’s degrees to Latinos in STEM fields.

In addition to directing the Graduate School, she currently leads the International Academic Alliances program at the Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico. This program has successfully closed important educational exchange agreements with higher education institutions in the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Colombia, and Panamá.

Dr. Pabón-González is also an active member of professional associations, currently serving a two-year tenure as president of the Industrial Engineers Institute of the Colegio de Ingenieros y Agrimensores de Puerto Rico. She has actively contributed to the Institute of Industrial Engineers and the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying in the development of the Industrial Engineering professional licensure exam. She also served as president of the Puerto Rico section of the National Society of Professional Engineers.

After spending five years offering professional technical services in the pharmaceuticals industry in Georgia and Puerto Rico, Dr. Pabón-González pursued career-changing graduate studies, obtaining a master’s degree in engineering management at the Polytechnic University, and a PhD in industrial engineering at UMass. Recently, she completed the Institute for University Management and Leadership (IGLU) program directed at excellence in forming higher education leaders in Latin America.

For her PhD, Dr. Pabón-González conducted research in the field of ergonomics, leading her to become a technical consultant. She founded, a consulting business offering forensic evaluations and work area analysis and optimization.

She enjoys volunteer work, including mentoring women engineering students (Society of Women Engineers), and working for the Institute of Industrial Engineers. She is a vocal advocate for STEM education initiatives in several forums including primary and secondary schools and non-governmental organizations. She is also a frequent speaker at professional association meetings where she often addresses her passion for vanguard management concepts, organizational behavior, innovation, and leadership.