Black engineer of year is general From humble start to head of prestigious Corps of Engineers


March 02, 1998|By Shanon D. Murray | Shanon D. Murray,SUN STAFF

Army Lt. Gen. Joe N. Ballard, the 1998 national "Black Engineer of the Year," has been called an "engineer's engineer."

Ballard heads the prestigious Army Corps of Engineers, which coordinates environmental and disaster relief activities and has major responsibilities for water projects and other civilian works.

The general received the top honor Saturday night as the 12th annual Black Engineer of the Year Awards Conference ended its three-day run at the Baltimore Convention Center.

The conference provided career seminars and networking for black engineering students and professionals.

It also provided a forum to honor engineers and technology workers for their accomplishments.

Thirty-four African-American engineers and technologists were honored at the conference, which drew about 8,000.

"Naturally I'm very proud and happy, and I'm humbled to be singled out by my peers," said Ballard, who began his four-year term as head of the corps in October 1996. He works in Washington.

"Engineering is the type of field that touches everyone, from the buildings we work in, to the cars we drive, to the computers we type on," he said.

"It all flows from someone called an engineer. Within the corps, we're really saving this planet for those who come after us."

A panel of academic, technical and personnel specialists

selected Ballard and the other honorees.

The panel plowed through 300 nominations made by chief executive officers, corporate chairmen, and top professors from around the country.

A stack of endorsements, technical data and resumes accompanied each nomination.

The Black Engineer of the Year is selected from the nominees, said Marsha Jews, chief operating officer of Career Communications Group, the Baltimore company that sponsors the conference.

Billions in projects

"He's an engineer's engineer," she said. "It's fascinating that we have a black man who is responsible for [billions of dollars] worth of projects."

The Corps of Engineers plans, designs, builds and operates water projects and other civilian works.

The corps also is the military construction arm of the Army and Air Force, and provides engineering support to 30 other federal agencies.

Ballard graduated from Southern University in Baton Rouge, La., in 1965 with a degree in electrical engineering.

Having been active in Army ROTC in college, his choice for a military career after a graduating was a simple one: the Army Corps of Engineers.

"When I had the choice to select a military branch, I wanted to use my education," said Ballard, 55, the father of three daughters. He later earned his graduate degree in engineering management from the University of Missouri.

He also served two tours in Vietnam.

Credits a neighbor

Ballard credits a neighbor in his hometown of Oakdale, La., for grooming his interest in engineering and the military.

"When I was a youngster in high school, I had a neighbor who was a black businessman with naval training," Ballard recalled.

"He repaired radios and toasters. I worked for him and realized I enjoyed it.

"He was my first real mentor. He taught me the value of the engineering profession."

Award winners

Black Engineer of the Year: Lt. Gen. Joe N. Ballard, chief of engineers, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

President's Award: Kenneth D. Lewis, senior staff engineer and section leader, Lockheed Martin Energy Systems Inc.; Leroy Jones, senior regulatory engineer, Dell Computer Corp.

Dean's Award: Colin J. Parris, research staff member, IBM Corp.

Lifetime Achievement: Waymon Whiting, chief project engineer, Boeing Co.

Career Achievement: Jerry D. Fenderson, director of engineering corporate programs, General Motors of Canada Ltd.; Darren A. Jones, principal staff engineer, Mobile Satellite Systems Division Motorola SSTG

Professional Achievement, Industry: Harold Don Smith, vice president of electronic project engineering, Raytheon E-Systems; Carlton Holmes, principal structures engineer, Boeing Co.

Professional Achievement, Government: Marion H. Hall, SEAWOLF senior construction project engineer, Department of the Navy

Entrepreneur: Kathryn C. Turner, founder and principal owner, Standard Technology Inc.

Outstanding Technical Contribution: Dr. Gardy Cadet, member of technical staff, Lucent Technologies/Bell Labs; Charles E. Harbor-Clark, Marlboro Projects group leader, Raytheon Co.

Affirmative Action: Al Boldon, director of small business office, TRW Space and Electronics Systems Group

Community Service: Lisa L. Barker, section head, TRW Inc.; Robert Blount Jr., group leader, MITRE Corp.

Most Promising Engineer: Christopher Cotton, hardware design and development engineer, Raytheon Electronic Systems

Student Leadership: William E. Spann, midshipman second class, Naval Academy

Technical Sales and Marketing: Thomas Brooks, marketing manager, Texas Instruments Inc.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.