Engineering to honor outstanding alumni

The Dwight Look College of Engineering at Texas A&M University will honor seven alumni April 4 at the Miramont Country Club in Bryan, Texas.

Receiving the Outstanding Alumni Honor Award will be Thomas E. Ferguson ’78, former president of Flow Solutions Group; Col. Mike Fossum ’80, a NASA astronaut; Artie McFerrin ’65, chairman of KMCO; Elaine Mendoza ’87, president and CEO of Conceptual Mindworks Inc.; Robert F. Pence ’72, P.E., president and CEO of Freese and Nichols Inc.; and Ray A. Rothrock ’77, Venrock partner.

Receiving the inaugural Outstanding Early Professional Achievement Alumni Honor Award will be Curtis A. Hite ’91, CEO and chairman of Improving Enterprises Inc.

“Our seven honorees represent a broad spectrum of career paths with one common trait: excellence,” said Dr. M. Katherine Banks, vice chancellor and dean of Texas A&M Engineering. “The caliber of accomplishments and contributions to the greater good among these distinguished alumni is significant. From space exploration to education, nurturing successful startup companies to developing technologies that have changed the workplace, these exceptional leaders embody what it is to be an Aggie engineer and bring tremendous acclaim to their alma mater.”


Photo of Thomas E. Ferguson ’78Thomas E. Ferguson ’78
President, Flow Solutions Group (retired)

Before retiring, Ferguson was senior vice president of Flowserve Corp. and president of Flowserve, Flow Solutions Group. Flow Solutions Group is the premier global manufacturer of engineered pumps and mechanical seals. Ferguson has more than 30 years of experience in the flow control industry, including more than 25 years of experience with Flowserve and one of its predecessor companies, BW/IP. 

Before being named president of Flow Solutions Group in 2010, Ferguson was president of Flowserve Pump Division and president of Flow Solutions Division (Seals). He served for nine years in sales, marketing, technical and general management roles for Flowserve Seals. Before that, he worked for six years in sales, marketing, and service operations in the Pump Division of BW/IP. He has also held key positions in the oilfield services sector, including nine years in sales, marketing and technical roles with several firms, including Nowsco Well Service, Ltd. (now part of BJ Services), BJ Hughes (now part of Baker Hughes) and Zwick Energy Research.

Ferguson received a Bachelor of Science in industrial distribution from Texas A&M University in 1978. He also graduated from the University of Southern California’s Executive Management Program. He has been chair and president of the Board of Directors of the Hydraulic Institute and also has also been a member of the American Petroleum Institute and Fluid Sealing Association. He currently is a member of the Dwight Look College of Engineering Advisory Council. He considers his proudest career achievement to be the creation of more than 10,000 job opportunities for people and the development of numerous senior leaders in the flow control industry.


Photo of Col. Mike Fossum '80Colonel Mike Fossum ’80
Astronaut, National Air and Space Administration

Mike Fossum earned a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering from Texas A&M in 1980 and then received his commission in the U.S. Air Force. After earning a Master of Science in systems engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology in 1981, he was detailed to NASA Johnson Space Center before being selected for Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base (AFB) in California, where he graduated in 1985. After graduation, Fossum served at Edwards AFB as a flight test engineer in the F-16 Test Squadron and then as a flight test manager for the Air Force Flight Test Center. Fossum resigned from active duty in 1992 to work for NASA.

In 1993, Fossum was selected to represent the Flight Crew Operations Directorate in an extensive redesign of the International Space Station. He then supported the Astronaut Office as a technical assistant for space shuttle and then as a flight test engineer on the X-38 escape vehicle. In 1998 he was selected as an astronaut candidate. A veteran of three space flights, Fossum has logged more than 194 days in space, including more than 48 hours of extravehicular activity in seven spacewalks. He earned a second master’s degree in physical science (space science) from the University of Houston-Clear Lake.

Fossum has earned several honors and recognition throughout his career, including the NASA Exceptional Service Medal and two NASA Spaceflight Medals. He is a Texas A&M Distinguished Military Graduate and was a squadron commander in the Corps of Cadets while enrolled at the university. He was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters and various other service awards from the U.S. Air Force and was named a Distinguished Graduate of the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School, Class 85A.


Photo of Elaine Mendoza '87Elaine Mendoza ’87
President and CEO, Conceptual Mindworks Inc.

A Texas A&M aerospace engineering graduate, Elaine Mendoza is founder, president, and CEO of Conceptual MindWorks Inc. (CMI), a biotechnology and medical informatics company in San Antonio. In the biotechnology industry, CMI’s strengths are in building scientific and technical teams to develop and deliver unique solutions to address issues in areas such as chemical and biological defense, trauma medicine and population health.

Mendoza was appointed to the Board of Regents of The Texas A&M University System by Governor Rick Perry in 2011 and is chair of the Committee on Academic and Student Affairs. San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro appointed her chair of the Early Childhood Education Municipal Development Corporation Board of Directors and his Brainpower Committee. Mendoza is also a member of the P16 Plus Council of Greater Bexar County, Generation Texas San Antonio, CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Health System and the Texas Technology Development Center. 

She has been involved in community initiatives revolving around the expansion of educational opportunities, health care and economic growth locally and nationally. In January 2006, Governor Perry appointed her to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, on which she served as secretary, chair of the Committee on Closing the Gaps, and vice chairman. Perry also appointed her to the Commission for a College Ready Texas in April 2007. She was a member of the “Code Red” task force assembled by the Academic Health Science Centers of Texas to study Texans’ access to health care. In 2000-2001, Mendoza served on Governor Perry’s Special Commission on 21st Century Colleges and Universities and, nationally, was appointed to the Commission on the Advancement of Women and Minorities in Science, Engineering and Technology in 1999-2000, later serving as chairperson.

Photo of Artie McFerrin ’65Artie McFerrin ’65
Chairman, KMCO

Artie McFerrin earned his Bachelor of Science in 1965 and his Master of Science in 1969, both in chemical engineering from Texas A&M. He began his career in 1967 with Shell Chemical before becoming a consultant in 1972. In 1975, he founded KMCO, a chemical process and manufacturing company. He also owns South Coast Terminals, which was honored as a 2005 May Business School Top 100 Aggie Business. He is also a partner in several other chemical processing plants.

McFerrin has served Texas A&M as chair of the Chemical Engineering Advisory Board, a member of the President’s Corps of Cadets Board of Visitors, the Dwight Look College of Engineering Advisory Council, the Texas A&M Research Foundation and as a member of the Chancellor’s Council. He is currently chairman of the 12th Man Board of Trustees. He has endowed the chemical engineering department, the Marilyn Byrne Student Success Center in the College of Education and Human Development, The Becky Gates Children Center, and named the Robert M. Gates Room in the new Memorial Student Center. McFerrin also named the Bill Byrne Student Athletic Center at Olsen Field in Blue Bell Park and recently donated the cooking station for athletes in the Student Athletes Nutrition Center. The McFerrin Indoor Athletic Center and the Cox-McFerrin Basketball Center are results of his generosity. McFerrin has sponsored a chair in the College of Education and Human Development and a professorship in chemical engineering.

He has been honored as a Distinguished Alumnus of Texas A&M and by the chemical engineering department. In 2012, he was inducted into the Letterman’s Association Hall of Honor. He has also received the Chemical Educational Foundation’s Vanguard Award, which is given in recognition of leadership, commitment, and outreach initiatives in chemistry education.


Photo of Robert F. Pence ’72, P.E.Robert F. Pence ’72, P.E.
President and CEO, Freese and Nichols Inc.

Bob Pence has led the Fort Worth-based engineering and architecture firm of Freese and Nichols since 2002 when he became president and CEO. The firm has experienced remarkable growth and profitability despite a challenging economic climate, and, in 2010, Freese and Nichols became the first and only architecture/engineering firm to receive the Malcolm Baldrige Award for Performance Excellence.

Pence joined Freese and Nichols as an engineer in 1978 and became a principal in the company in 1988. Throughout his career, he has championed professional education, ethical behavior and open communication, and has promoted the management system of continuous improvement. In 2011, CE News recognized Freese and Nichols as the best civil engineering firm to work for in the nation among large firms and in 2013 Texas Monthly named the company a “best company to work for.” He was named 2011 CEO of the Year by the Fort Worth Business Press. 

Pence received his undergraduate and graduate degrees in civil engineering from Texas A&M and is a veteran of the U.S. Army. He was named Engineer of the Year by the Fort Worth Chapter of the Texas Society of Professional Engineers in 2008 and, in 2010, a Fellow by Leadership Fort Worth. His service to Texas A&M includes serving on the advisory committees of the Zachry Department of Civil Engineering and the Dwight Look College of Engineering. His community service includes chairing the North Texas Commission, Communities in Schools, North Texas L.E.A.D., and the local United Way campaign, and serving as an advocate for children and education in numerous endeavors. In 2008 he chaired the drive for the Fort Worth ISD challenge grant and raised more than $680,000.


Photo of Ray A. Rothrock '77Ray A. Rothrock ’77
Partner, Venrock

Ray Rothrock is a partner of the venture capital firm Venrock, which he joined in 1988 to fund and build early-stage technology companies that aimed to solve big problems and improve lives by bringing great products and technologies to market. He began his professional career as a nuclear engineer with Yankee Atomic Electric in Westborough, Mass., and then spent a year in uranium operations at Exxon Minerals. Before joining Venrock, he also participated in three Silicon Valley venture capital-backed companies, including the successful Sun Microsystems.

Rothrock established Venrock’s Internet practice in 1992 and its energy practice in 2004, and was a managing partner until 2010. His venture investments have resulted in a lifetime investment internal rate of return of 94 percent and earned him the #49 spot on the Forbes Midas List in 2012. He also is chairman of the National Venture Capital Association. A frequent speaker on venture, energy and technology, he has testified before Congress on numerous matters such as entrepreneurship, and in 2010, he testified before the President’s Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future. He was also invited to the White House to brief Vice President Joe Biden. 

Rothrock graduated from Texas A&M in 1977 with a Bachelor of Science in nuclear engineering. He completed his Master of Science in nuclear engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1978 and graduated with distinction from the Harvard Business School in 1988. He served on the Texas A&M Vision 2020 Committee and endowed a chair in music in the College of Liberal Arts, creating the music degree program at Texas A&M. He also served on the board of the Association of Former Students, as well as the Board of Trustees of the Texas A&M Foundation from 2003-2010 and chair of its investment committee.


Photo of Curtis A. Hite '91Curtis A. Hite ’91
CEO and Chairman, Improving Enterprises Inc.

Curtis A. Hite, CEO and chairman of Improving Enterprises, Inc., graduated from Texas A&M with a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in computer science. He began his career as a software engineer building systems in the defense industry—first with Rockwell International and then at E-Systems, which was later acquired by Raytheon. He assisted in the establishment of a national technology consulting center of excellence. The creation of the Raytheon’s Technology Transfer Center served as a seed of inspiration.

In 1998, Hite and several partners founded Expede, a software development consulting and training company. Its quick growth grew the attention of a French company, Valtech, which acquired Expede in 1999. Hite became CEO of Valtech’s North American operations and remained in that position until late 2006. By 2006, Valtech North American had reached new highs in revenue and profit.

In early 2007, many of the same founders established the Blue Ocean Group, which quickly merged with a small training company called Improving Enterprises. The company has experienced continued growth during the past four years and has been recognized with several awards, including the Inc500, Dallas 100 and Aggie 100. More importantly, the company has received recognitions from its employees as one of the best work places in Texas, as noted by The Dallas Morning News, Dallas Business Journal and Texas Monthly.