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Hall of Fame Class of 2015


Broderson Hall of Fame

Dr. Robert W. Brodersen
Professor Emeritus, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, UC Berkeley
BS Electrical Engineering, Cal Poly Pomona, 1966
MS Electrical Engineering, MIT, 1968
PhD, Electrical Engineering, MIT, 1972
National Academy of Engineering, 1988

Growing up, Dr. Robert W. Brodersen enjoyed figuring out how things worked. So it is no surprise that he gravitated to the field of engineering and ultimately to Cal Poly Pomona. Inspired by the university's hands-on electrical engineering program, he particularly enjoyed lab work, making measurements and building electrical devices.

After receiving his PhD from MIT, Bob joined Texas Instruments, and later became a world-class professor at UC Berkeley, where his research focused on low power design and wireless communications. He is a founder of the Berkeley Wireless Research Center, a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers to name a few accolades.

"The Learn by Doing engineering teaching paradigm made me comfortable working in a laboratory, even though my PhD was in solid state physics theory and I spent most of my career in academia, I was always happiest being in the lab working with students."

His advice to engineering students today is simple: Get as much education as possible, and don't be afraid to venture into areas, projects and companies that are outside your experience. Stay outside your comfort zone.

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Healis Hall of Fame

Steven Healis
Entrepreneur, Pass The Baton
BS Industrial Engineering, Cal Poly Pomona, 1982

Wherever Steven Healis goes, successful business ventures tend to follow. Throughout his 30-year career, this Cal Poly Pomona alumnus proved that engineers really can own large, successful
non-engineering companies.

During his junior year, the Learn by Doing paradigm helped Steve rise above students from other schools and land an internship, and first job, at Procter & Gamble. But corporate America wasn't Steve's passion.

In 1988, he joined a friend's part-time janitorial business, growing it from one to 50 employees in six years. Next, he started his own company, growing it from 20 to 450 employees in five years and making the Inc. magazine 500 List in the year 2000.

Several years later, instead of selling his company to the highest bidder, he found an innovative way to sell to key employees for no money down. Over the next 11 years, Steve went on to launch 22 more businesses with 28 partners and employ over 1,500 people, before recently retiring.

His advice to students today? Don't start a business right out of college; work for companies that will teach management skills you can apply to future businesses. Be open to opportunities and do your research, but don't be afraid to pull the trigger.

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Huggins Hall of Fame

Michael Huggins
Site Director & Chief of Rocket Propulsion Division, Air Force Research Laboratory
BS Aerospace Engineering, Cal Poly Pomona, 1985

As a product of the sixties, Michael Huggins grew up fascinated by the "space race" and the idea of man walking on the moon. As far back as he can remember, he wanted to build and fly rockets—and even used his home chemistry set to mix rocket propellants in his garage.

For college, he chose Cal Poly Pomona because it aligned perfectly with his interests and partly because of his fond memories visiting a campus open house event one year with his uncle.

After graduation, he started as a propulsion engineer working on the initial production and flight testing of the Air Force's B-1 bomber. Later, he moved into engineering management and eventually organizational leadership, serving companies like Rockwell International, the Air Force Phillips Laboratory, the Air Force Astronautics Laboratory and the Air Force Research Laboratory.

When giving advice to engineering students today, Mike says, "Always act with integrity, don't be afraid to take technological risks in solving new challenges, and always maintain a 'balanced' life. I work to live, but I don't live to work."

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Lipa Hall of Fame

Jacob Lipa
President, Psomas
CEO, Micropolitan LLC

BS Civil Engineering, Cal Poly Pomona, 1976
MS Civil Engineering, CSU Northridge, 1979

Born and raised in Israel, Jacob Lipa came a long way to study at Cal Poly Pomona. After completing military service in Israel, he was hired by a soil lab that trained him as a soil technician, and inadvertently introduced him to the field of civil engineering.

Impressed with Cal Poly Pomona's support for foreign students transitioning to the U.S., and once enrolled, he particularly enjoyed the university's emphasis on hands-on engineering.

"I remember my time at Cal Poly Pomona as fun, fast and full of academic and personal learning."

After graduation from Cal Poly Pomona, Jacob joined a small engineering firm to provide drafting support and field surveying. Jacob's next move was to Psomas, where he started as a design engineer, then moved up to project engineer, project manager, team leader, group leader, board member and ultimately president of the company.

Jacob encourages students to "be curious and willing to step beyond present standards. You need to always enhance your education, listen to your clients and develop strong social and work teams."

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Negussie Hall of Fame

Mel Melaku Negussie, Esq.
CEO, NT Group LLC
COO/General Counsel, Ethio-American Doctors Group, Inc.

BS Chemical Engineering, Cal Poly Pomona, 1987
JD University of Southern California, 1992

Born and raised in Ethiopia, Mel Melaku Negussie immigrated with his brother to the U.S. to escape what had become a communist state under a brutal regime. Eventually, they settled in Los Angeles to live with extended family, and both attended Cal Poly Pomona.

The college experience, however, was difficult. "I knew that four years of sacrifice would lead to many years of comfort and opportunity, so it was all worth it."

Sure enough, Mel's education lead to a diverse career. Right before graduation, Mel accepted a position with Dow Chemical Company, where he met a lawyer who sparked his interest in getting a law degree. Mel would earn his Juris Doctorate and work for law firms focused on intellectual property, international trade and product liability matters.

A few years later, Mel pursued several entrepreneurial efforts. Today, he owns a consulting company and leads an initiative to build a hospital in Ethiopia, serving as COO and general counsel, and has raised $9 million in seed capital for this $100 million project.

Mel advises students to, "Take risks in your career to go after something that interests you. If you fail, accept it and move on. No one succeeds without failing in something in life."

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Patel Hall of Fame

Ganpat "Pat" Patel
President & Founder, Cherokee International, Inc.
Founder & Patron-in-Chief, Ganpat University, Gujarat, India

BS Electrical Engineering, Cal Poly Pomona, 1970

Originally from Gujarat, India, Ganpat "Pat" Patel immigrated to the U.S. at age 19 to pursue an undergraduate degree. He found his passion in engineering, but not without a lot of work and some luck.

He started college at Iowa State, but after experiencing his first icy winter, he moved west to study electrical engineering at
Cal Poly Pomona after just one semester. Turns out, he fell in love with it.

After a series of jobs supporting military initiatives, he shifted to the commercial sector before his entrepreneurial spirit took over. He started a power supply design company called Cherokee International, which at its peak employed over 1,000 people, and generated more than $111 million in revenue. After he stepped down as chairman, in 2005 Patel decided to change his focus and established Ganpat University in his home state of Gujarat, India.
It is a private university that now has more than 20,000 students.

His advice to students is this, "Keep learning. Be flexible. Pick a field you're passionate about. Love what you do and do what you love. And lastly, pick your spouse wisely because strong support is something we all need as we walk the road of life."

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Robinson-Berry Hall of Fame

Joan Robinson-Berry
Vice President, Supplier Management, Shared Services Group, The Boeing Company
BS Engineering Technology, Cal Poly Pomona, 1982 MS Engineering Management, West Coast University, 1991

Joan Robinson-Berry's inspiration to become an engineer began in high school, where a classmate encouraged her to study engineering. Although her high school counselor discouraged her from pursuing such technical fields, she met a Cal Poly Pomona counselor who took note of her abilities in science and mathematics and urged her to not only attend Cal Poly Pomona but also pursue engineering.

The university's hands-on approach was a good fit for Joan. College was initially intimidating—she was unfamiliar with shop tools and sometimes felt isolated as one of the few women in the program.

Overcoming these hurdles, Joan became one of the first
African-American women in her community to graduate with an engineering degree, and one of the few minority women in the nation to be an associate fellow with the Aerospace Industries of America. Today, Joan is a vice president at The Boeing Company and an advocate for diversity in careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Joan advises students to be courageous. "There will be times when you will feel thwarted. Don’t give others power by quitting. Stay the course and learn how your skills as an engineer can help improve the world around you."

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Salek Hall of Fame

Sohrab Rob Salek
Executive Vice President, Minimax Viking Group
BS Mechanical Engineering, Cal Poly Pomona, 1973
MS Engineering, Cal Poly Pomona, 1975
Professional Engineer in Fire Protection Engineering, 1986

Sohrab "Rob" Salek was born in Iran and immigrated to the U.S. to attend Cal Poly Pomona, a decision he says is the best one he ever made.

"The College of Engineering taught me that anything in life is achievable, and not to be afraid of new challenges or the unknown."

College life was challenging. Speaking English as a second language, and the stress of balancing work and study were difficult. Fortunately, Rob's time at Cal Poly Pomona served him well.

After graduation, he started work in the fire protection field as a designer, and then worked his way up to regional management. Later he joined Tyco International as vice president for Asia, managing one sector of an $11 billion global enterprise. Ultimately, Rob became CEO of Consolidated Fire Protection, helping double its revenue and overseeing the company's acquisition by Minimax Global.

When advising current students, Rob says, "Meet every challenge head-on and treat it like any other problem you solve every day. Put in the time required to reach your goal, become a goal-oriented person and continually learn. Remember, to advance, you simply need to be a little better and work a little harder than others."

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Silva Hall of Fame

Peter S. Silva
President, Silva-Silva International
BS Civil Engineering, Cal Poly Pomona, 1977

Growing up in the Imperial Valley area in California with a
farm-working family and few resources, Peter S. Silva quickly realized the critical importance of water.

After joining Cal Poly Pomona's civil engineering program with an emphasis on water, Peter learned that performing well is not just about technical skills, but also about working with people.

Following graduation, Peter worked for regional water boards and districts in Southern California, learning about water issues he had previously studied. Soon, he worked for an international water commission interacting with high-profile U.S. and Mexico officials.

Later, Peter was appointed by President Clinton to the Board of Directors of the Border Environment Cooperation Commission, and by Governor Gray Davis as the vice-chair of the State Water Resource Control Board—reappointed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. In 2009, President Barack Obama appointed Peter as the assistant administrator for the Office of Water at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

"I always focused on making sure that I learned as much as I could in any job and always gave it my utmost effort and always tracked opportunities that might fit my career path. That meant keeping communication with colleagues and friends and staying current with industry."

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