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College of Engineering Outstanding Alumni winners
Front row from left: Aleida Rios '91, Dean M. Katherine Banks and Donna Walker. Back row from left: James T. Hopper Sr. '68, Peter D. Huddleston '80, Lee M. Tillman '84, Ronald E. Smith '80, Michael J. Plank '83 and David D. Dunlap '83. | Image: Jim Lyle

The Texas A&M University College of Engineering honored nine alumni during the 2019 Outstanding Alumni Awards Banquet. 

Receiving the Outstanding Alumni Honor Award were David D. Dunlap ‘83, James T. Hopper Sr. ‘68, Peter D. Huddleston ‘80, William B. Hurd ‘99, Michael J. Plank ‘83, Aleida Rios ‘91, Ronald E. Smith ‘80, Lee M. Tillman ‘84 and J. Mike Walker ’66.


Outstanding Alumni Honor Awards

David D. Dunlap ‘83
Petroleum Engineering
President and Chief Executive Officer of Superior Energy Services

David D. Dunlap is president and chief executive officer of Superior Energy Services, a position he has held since 2010. Superior Energy Services supports the oil and gas industry worldwide through its drilling products and services, subsea and intervention technologies, and broad ranging marine services.

Prior to joining Superior, Dunlap was executive vice president and chief operating officer for BJ Services Company. During a 25-year career with the company, he served in a variety of engineering, operations and management positions, including president of the company’s international division and vice president of division sales.

He received the 2013 Transformational CEO award for the United States Gulf Coast Area presented by Ernst & Young as part of the organization’s Entrepreneur of the Year Awards program. In 2017, he was named to the Academy of Distinguished Graduates of the Harold Vance Department of Petroleum Engineering at Texas A&M and in 2018 was inducted into the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets Hall of Honor.

Dunlap earned his Bachelor of Science degree in petroleum engineering in 1983 from Texas A&M.

He and his wife Anne have six children: Maggie ’11, Emily, Grace ’18, John, Mary ’22 and Tess ’22.

James T. Hopper Sr. ’68
Engineering Technology & Industrial Distribution
Owner of Megahertz Technology, Inc. 

James T. Hopper owns and operates Megahertz Technology, Inc., which he founded in 1985. He has designed, implemented and maintained radio systems for a variety of businesses that require quick radio communications.

Hopper served in the U.S. Army and upon completion of his service, he was offered a job as a logic design engineer at Collins Radio Company, which later became Rockwell International. He later worked for the Xerox Corporation, where he spent 10 years as an inventory operations manager for the Southern U.S.

The U.S. Secret Service honored him with a certificate of appreciation for his help coordinating communications in Dallas when five U.S. presidents came to town to open the Bush Library in 2013. He is a member of the Texas A&M Legacy Society and a member of the Endowed Century Club. For the past three years he has sponsored and mentored capstone teams within the Department of Engineering Technology and Industrial Distribution Texas A&M Engineering Technology group.

Hopper earned his Bachelor of Science degree in industrial technology from Texas A&M in 1969, and later received his Master of Business Administration from Texas A&M University-Commerce in 1980.

He and his wife Kathleen have a son, Jamie.

Peter D. Huddleston
Petroleum Engineering
President and Chairman of Huddleston & Co., Inc.

Peter D. Huddleston is president and chairman of Huddleston & Co., Inc., which provides petroleum engineering and evaluation services to public and private oil and gas entities, financial institutions, legal firms and individuals.

Huddleston has worked his entire career within the Huddleston organization. He was also owner of the Peter Paul Petroleum Company until 2017, a founding member and chairman of Continental Operating Company, and founding member and director of CIMA Energy, Ltd.

He is a member of the Petroleum Engineering Advisory Board, Petroleum Ventures Program Advisory Board, Bush School of Government and Public Service Advisory Board and Texas A&M at Galveston Board of Visitors.

He has authored and presented various papers to the Society of Petroleum Engineers, Department of Petroleum Engineering, Corps of Cadets, students at the Bush School, seminars for the petroleum industry and continuing education programs for bar association members.

Huddleston earned his Bachelor of Science degree in petroleum engineering in 1980 from Texas A&M.

He and his wife Kathy ’81 have two children, Will and Katherine ’16.

Will B. Hurd ’99
Computer Science and Engineering
U.S. House of Representatives, Texas District 23 

Will B. Hurd is the first member to serve the 23rd District of Texas in Congress for three consecutive terms in a decade. He serves on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, where he serves as the top Republican on the Subcommittee on Intelligence Modernization and Readiness. He was also selected by Republican leader Kevin McCarthy this year to serve on the House Appropriations Committee, where he is a member of the Subcommittees on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs along with Transportation, Housing and Urban Development.

Upon graduating from Texas A&M, Hurd joined the Central Intelligence Agency, where he was one of the first called in to fight the global war on terror following 9/11. He served in the Middle East and South Asia for nearly a decade, collecting intelligence that influenced the national security agenda. Upon leaving the CIA, he became a senior advisor with a cybersecurity firm, covering a wide range of complex challenges faced by manufacturers, financial institutions, retailers and critical infrastructure owners.

Hurd earned his Bachelor of Science degree in computer science and engineering from Texas A&M in 1999.

Michael J. Plank ’83
Mechanical Engineering
Chairman and CEO of The Plank Companies, Inc.

Michael J. Plank is chairman and CEO of The Plank Companies, Inc., a diversified holding company with numerous investments and operating entities engaged in industrial real estate, rail services and manufacturing.

In 2015, Plank was appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott to serve on the board of the Governor’s University Research Initiative. He was appointed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick to the Port Authority Advisory Committee in 2017, and as chairman of the Transportation and Port Advisory Board in 2019. He was appointed in 2018 by Abbott to serve on the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and was appointed to The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents in 2019.

He is past president of the Trench Shoring & Shielding Association of America, Houston Equipment Distributors and Children’s Museum of Houston. He serves on the College of Engineering Advisory Council and Commandant’s Advisory Council for Texas A&M’s Corps of Cadets.

Plank earned his Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from Texas A&M in 1983 and was inducted into the department’s Academy of Distinguished Graduates in 2000.

He and his wife Susan have two children, Kendall ’19 and Jared.

Aleida Rios ’91
Chemical Engineering
Head of Upstream Engineering-BP

Aleida Rios is head of upstream engineering, reporting to BP’s chief operating officer.

Throughout her 27-year career at BP, she has held a variety of leadership positions in operations and engineering. Her most recent role was vice president of operations for the Gulf of Mexico operated assets, and prior to that she held the same role in BP’s North America Gas.

She serves on the company’s Supplier Diversity Council, is chair of BP’s Women International Networks globally and is active with the Business Resource Groups to promote diversity and inclusion. She was recognized by Financial Times as ranking fifth among its Top Ethnic Minority Executives in 2018, Hispanic Executive magazine for being a STEM advocate and was recognized as the 10th most powerful Latina by The Association of Latino Professionals for America and Fortune magazine in 2017.

She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering in 1991 from Texas A&M and is a member of the Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering Advisory Board.

She and her husband Eduardo have three sons, Anthony, Gabriel ‘22 and Benjamin.

Ronald E. Smith ’80
Ocean Engineering
President, Chief Executive Officer and Director of Deep Down, Inc.

Ronald E. Smith and his wife Mary Budrunas founded Deep Down, Inc. in 1997. Smith has served as chief executive officer, president and director since December 2006. Prior to that, he was the company’s president. Smith was the first recipient of the Texas A&M University Ocean Engineering Outstanding Alumni Award. Additionally, he serves on the ocean engineering advisory board and is a mentor to the Texas A&M Aggie Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE team.

Smith worked both onshore and offshore in management positions for Ocean Drilling and Exploration Company, Oceaneering Multiflex, Mustang Engineering and Kvaerner before founding Deep Down. Smith is directly responsible for the invention or development of many innovative solutions for the offshore industry, including the first steel-tube flying lead installation system. He is also credited for the new patented loose steel-tube flying leads, subsea deployment systems, new subsea J-plates and the recently patented non-helical umbilical, which is a mobile steel-tube umbilical production facility employing a new concept to build steel-tube umbilicals.

Smith earned his Bachelor of Science degree in ocean engineering from Texas A&M in 1981.

Lee M. Tillman ’84
Chemical Engineering
Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Marathon Oil Corporation 

Lee M. Tillman is president and CEO of Marathon Oil Corporation and chairman of the Marathon Oil Corporation Board of Directors. He joined the company in August 2013.

He previously served as vice president of engineering for ExxonMobil Development Company, where he was responsible for all global engineering staff engaged in major project concept selection, front-end design and engineering. He served as North Sea production manager and lead country manager for subsidiaries of ExxonMobil in Stavanger, Norway, from 2007-10, and as acting vice president of ExxonMobil Upstream Research Company from 2006-07.

He is a board member of the American Petroleum Institute and the American Exploration & Production Council, a member of the University of Houston Energy Advisory Board. and the Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering Advisory Board and College of Engineering Advisory Council at Texas A&M. He is also a member of the National Petroleum Council, Business Roundtable and Society of Petroleum Engineers. He serves as a member of the Celebration of Reading Committee within the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation and is a member of the advisory board of Spindletop Charities.

Tillman earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering from Texas A&M in 1984 and his doctoral degree in chemical engineering from Auburn University in 1989.

J. Mike Walker ’66
Mechanical Engineering
Co-founder, Chairman, President and CEO Dril-Quip

J. Mike Walker co-founded Dril-Quip in April 1981 and served as chairman, president and CEO until his retirement.

Upon graduating from Texas A&M with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, where he was number one in his class, and earning a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from The University of Texas at Austin, he began working with Exxon Refining. After four years at Exxon, Walker returned to Texas A&M and earned a doctoral degree in mechanical engineering in 1974.

He then returned to Exxon, working at Exxon Production Research Company in the Offshore Department as a subsea engineer. He subsequently worked for McEvoy and Vetco Offshore before partnering with two Vetco vice presidents (Larry E. Reimert and Gary D. Smith) to form a private company, Dril-Quip, in April 1981. The three co-founders and co-CEOs began developing innovative products, grew the company and took it public on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol DRQ, with an initial public offering on Oct. 23, 1997.

In 2011, Walker retired from his role as chairman, president and CEO, as well as the largest shareholder of the publicly traded company, which had a market cap in excess of $4 billion and some 2,200 employees at its various manufacturing, sales and service centers around the world.

Walker was inducted into the Distinguished Mechanical Engineering Academies at both Texas A&M and UT Austin, as well as the Huntington Red Devil Basketball Hall of Fame.

Before his passing in December 2018, Walker contributed $20 million each to name the mechanical engineering departments at both Texas A&M and UT Austin. He is survived by his wife Donna, and children Lawrence Tate, Amanda Tate and Melinda Papp.