By  Sarah Mullen
photo of Thornton Hall
Thornton Hall at the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science.

UVA Engineering’s annual Award Ceremony occurs each year at the Thornton Society Dinner, which this year took place in late September. Thornton Society members' generous investments empower UVA Engineering to tackle complex technological challenges facing our society. At the annual Dinner, time is set aside to recognize and celebrate UVA Engineering alumni who have achieved the highest levels of accomplishment in their fields, as well as staff who have demonstrated distinguished levels of service. 

Alumni awards, and their recipients, this year included: 

The Robert A. Bland Award is given in honor of Mr. Bland, a 1959 alumnus of the Department of Electrical Engineering and the first African American student to receive an undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia. The recipient of the 2023 Robert A. Bland Award is Dr. Paul Mensah (M.S. in chemical engineering '97 and Ph.D. in chemical engineering '99), senior vice president of biotherapeutics pharmaceutical sciences at Pfizer. Dr. Mensah's work with mRNA was essential to Pfizer's ability to develop a COVID-19 vaccine under the most challenging circumstances imaginable: a compressed timeline and pandemic conditions. 

The recipient of the 2023 Distinguished Alumni Award is Frank Hady, Ph.D. (B.S. in electrical engineering '87 and M.S. in electrical engineering '89). Dr. Hady currently holds the position of Intel Fellow, an elite designation for Intel employees on the technical track, and has been with Intel, America's premier semiconductor manufacturer, since 1995. A leading inventor in computer architecture, Hady holds 40 U.S. patents, with several others pending, and has also authored over 30 publications related to memory, storage, networking and computer architecture. One of his most cited papers introduced 3D memory, which allowed Intel to produce solid-state drives. 

Dr. Sharon L. Wood, Ph.D., the executive vice president and provost at the University of Texas at Austin, is the recipient of the 2023 Engineering Achievement Award. Dr. Wood (B.S. in civil engineering '82) is also the Cockrell Family Chair #14 and a professor in the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering. As a faculty member at the University of Texas-Austin, Dr. Wood quickly climbed the ranks. Prior to her current role at UT-Austin she was the first woman chair of the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering as well as the first woman dean of the Cockrell School of Engineering.

The 2023 recipient of the Outstanding Young Engineering Graduate Award is John T. Gaskins, Ph.D. Dr. Gaskins is a triple ‘Hoo, receiving his undergraduate degree in computer engineering and his master’s degree and Ph.D. in mechanical and aerospace engineering from UVA. Since receiving his Ph.D. in 2013, he has made exceptional contributions to multiple fields of science, engineering, and business, most notably in the translation and commercialization of UVA technology as CEO of a small business, Laser Thermal, Inc., which spun out of UVA in 2020. While playing a crucial role in the research and development of Laser Thermal, Dr. Gaskins has also displayed a remarkable degree of leadership at UVA, enabling major advancements in research, funding growth, and intellectual property while supervising programs and mentoring students and postdocs.

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