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Hall of Fame Class of 2017

Jeffrey S. Berk
Senior Vice President of Infrastructure, Cordoba Corporation

BS Civil Engineering, Cal Poly Pomona, 1988
MS Civil Engineering, Loyola Marymount University, 1993

Jeffrey S. Berk ’s engineering inspiration began at a young age, as he helped his father build things around the house. With this experience, during high school Jeffrey created a small construction company. After he nearly lost his thumb using a table saw, he reevaluated his future. “I decided that it might be safer to become an engineer like my dad and work towards a degree in civil engineering,” Jeffrey concluded.

The summer before his senior year, Jeffrey’s first engineering job was working on a project near the California-Mexico border. He assisted with designing and building a pump station and pipeline to capture water from the most polluted river in the nation, conveying the water to a holding pond, adding chlorine, and taking samples every day.

The firm was so impressed, they hired him after graduation. Over the next 28 years, Jeffrey gained diverse experience working for various consulting, manufacturing and service organizations, eventually landing at AECOM and advancing to senior vice president. Today, Jeffrey is senior vice president of infrastructure at Cordoba Coporation.

Jeffrey urges students to focus on their interpersonal skills, as well as their engineering skills. “There are many great technical engineers who can solve difficult problems. If you can also communicate, manage people and develop relationships well, you’ll have a lot more opportunities.”

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Boise Hall of Fame

Deborah Flower Boice
Senior Vice President, Western Region, Swiss Re

BS Chemical Engineering, Cal Poly Pomona, 1986
MBA, Cal State Fullerton, 1993

For Deborah Flower Boice, it all started with the right choice of major—chemical engineering—and the right university—Cal Poly Pomona. After graduation, Deborah went to work for an insurance company specializing in chemical processing facilities and oil refineries. She trained to become a fire protection engineer to assess these facilities’ protection features to help mitigate losses.

Soon after, Deborah was first promoted to management at age 29, making her the one of the youngest female managers in the company. She eventually moved to the underwriting side of the business, where her engineering knowledge continues to help her understand the risks she underwrites. Today, Deborah serves as senior vice president for Swiss Re’s Western Region, analyzing and underwriting a large book of commercial properties. Deborah also became active in the Southern California chapter of the Society of Fire Protection Engineers—serving as president of the local chapter, serving on the international Board of Directors and finally as the first female president of the international Society of Fire Protection Engineers.

“Try something and if you’re not passionate about it, try something else. Always be ready for the next challenge. Keep your skillset sharp and retool as needed for the next steps in your career journey,” Deborah says.

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Deborah R. Castleman
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, U.S. Department of Defense

BS Electrical Engineering, Cal Poly Pomona, 1981
MS Electrical Engineering, California Institute of Technology, 1986
MA International Studies, The Claremont Graduate School, 1990

A self-proclaimed feminist, Deborah R. Castleman set out to pioneer her own path and become a professional electrical engineer. After serving in the U.S. Air Force working on avionics electronics, Deborah earned her engineering degree at Cal Poly Pomona. After graduation, she worked at Hughes Aircraft—eventually becoming one of the first two women to hold the position of spacecraft manager.

Five years later, Deborah obtained her second master’s degree and became a space and defense policy analyst at RAND. During this time, she also volunteered in politics, and worked on the Clinton/Gore presidential campaign in Little Rock, Arkansas. After the election, Deborah was hired at the Pentagon for the position of Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Command, Control and Communications.

A few years later, Deborah came back to Los Angeles to work as vice president in her husband’s innovative startup company. After the company closed, she then scaled back from full-time work altogether to devote time to traveling, hiking, and philanthropic activities.

Lipa Hall of Fame

Kevin Patrick Grundy
Chief Operating Officer, Sarcos Corporation

BS Electrical Engineering, Cal Poly Pomona, 1979
MS Electrical Engineering, Cal Poly Pomona, 1982

Engineering seemed to be in Kevin Patrick Grundy’s DNA, and it soon became clear that Kevin’s career trajectory was not to practice strict engineering, but rather innovation-driven engineering. Kevin’s distinguished career consists of multiple startups that have substantially contributed toward innovative new products and services.

After graduating from Cal Poly Pomona, Kevin worked at General Dynamics (missile division), while earning his master’s degree at Cal Poly Pomona and also teaching as an undergraduate instructor. Since then, a progression of engineering roles has shaped Kevin’s career in a unique way.

He was on the founding design team for the computer that was used to launch the World Wide Web. He envisioned and created the nation’s first self-installed smart DSL network for the company that became DirecTV Broadband. He even created the first application of smart reception technology for terrestrial television—serving as CEO and COO for four leading-edge corporations along the way.

To invigorate future innovation, Kevin urges Cal Poly Pomona students to become and stay uncomfortable. “The best way to gauge this is to ask yourself every year: ‘Is what I’ve just done the best thing ever? Have I outdone myself?’ If the answer is no, you haven’t challenged yourself nearly enough.”

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Negussie Hall of Fame

Pete Rodriguez
Independent Advisor

BS Chemical Engineering, California Institute of Technology, 1984
MS Electrical Engineering, Cal Poly Pomona, 1990
MBA, Pepperdine University, 1993
Joint Professional Military Education, Naval War College, 2011

Born in Havana, Cuba, Pete Rodriguez came to the U.S. as a refugee at age 9, along with his mother and sister. They sought a better life, and for Pete, education was the answer.

Pete’s first engineering job - a process engineer at Siliconix - marked the start of many diverse career roles. While working for Aerojet in 1993, Pete became the youngest third-level manager in the company’s history.

Next, Pete transitioned to a variety of executive leadership roles, including president and CEO of Exar Corporation, and vice president and general manager for NXP Semiconductor. In parallel, Pete served for 25 years in the U.S. Naval Reserves (which included resigning from a CEO job to mobilize for a tour in Afghanistan) and he also served as an aerospace engineer and worked on several aircraft and weapon systems programs. Pete is now semi-retired, serving as an independent advisor to various technology startups and as acting chief technology officer for an early-phase wearable technology company.

“Take one day at a time, enjoy the journey, celebrate the small victories, focus on the correct problem and have a five- and ten-year plan for life,” Pete shares to students today. “Go to smart people and listen carefully to what they say. Integrate their best ideas - and always do the right, ethical thing.”

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Klaus F. Stricker
President, Vision & Motion Technologies, Inc.

BS Mechanical Engineering, Cal Poly Pomona, 1970
MS Mechanical Engineering, California Institute of Technology, 1971

Klaus F. Stricker immigrated from Hamburg, Germany to California in 1960 to seek a better future and more professional opportunities. He decided to attend Cal Poly Pomona because it emphasized the practical aspects of engineering through extensive courses in machining operations and other mechanical disciplines. After graduation, he joined the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he designed the engineering model of the tape recorder for the 1975 Mars Mission Orbiter Spacecraft.

After several more career moves—all centered on magnetic tape products—Klaus started his own company and patented an improved tape cartridge tensioning mechanism. Later, this technology was ruggedized for military and space applications and the company was sold to a larger military products manufacturer. An entrepreneur at heart, Klaus went on to form a new company, where he offered engineering consulting and product development on a contractual basis for commercial, industrial and military/aerospace products.

Klaus encourages engineering students to decide as early as possible on a career path. “If you want to work for a large corporation, determine whether you prefer a hands-on or a management role. If you’re the entrepreneurial type, search out a small company that specializes in product areas you’re most interested in, and get exposed to more of the business operations.”

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Thomas J. Tiernan
President & CEO, VFO Group

BS Electrical Engineering, Cal Poly Pomona, 1985
MS Computer Engineering, Santa Clara University, 1989

To pay his way through college, Thomas J. Tiernan worked at an engineering company in various capacities. From janitor, to draftsman, to technician to student engineer, his roles grew along with his skills. He enjoyed - and was challenged by - the work, and decided to pursue engineering as a career.

Tom’s first year at Cal Poly Pomona was tough, but ultimately persevered with a lot of hard work and strong support from Cal Poly Pomona professors. Tom ended up joining HP and stayed for almost 20 years. He eventually became vice president and general manager, running various global businesses ranging in size from $200 million to nearly $2 billion. He left because he wanted to be a CEO one day—and achieved his dream a few years later with Synaptics. Since then, he has served as CEO at four more companies, including his current role with VFO Group, a company focused on assistive technology for the visually-impaired community.

Today, Tom encourages students to, “Keep things in perspective - your career isn’t everything. Remember to stay grounded with your family, your relationships and other passions and ambitions. Express a willingness to take on new challenges. Stay outside your comfort zone by seeking to learn new things. Find a mentor. Be willing to ask for help. And be persistent - never give up.”

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Patti Wagner
CEO, Southern California Gas Company

BS Chemical Engineering, Cal Poly Pomona, 1984
MBA, Pepperdine University, 1996

When Patti Wagner began exploring potential careers, her love of math and science definitely directed her to the field of engineering. However, at Cal Poly Pomona, Patti recalls that some classes were challenging. She had a small group of friends she studied with, and they got through the rigorous program.

After graduation, Patti’s early engineering roles included project management in water treatment and manufacturing environments. She completed her MBA by going to school at night, and her roles then shifted to business leadership - serving as vice president of information technology, and vice president of accounting and finance, prior to attaining the role of CEO for Sempra U.S. Gas and Power. Currently, she serves as CEO of Southern California Gas Company.

Looking back, she has learned a lot about how she achieved success. “Effectively working in teams in a large organization is critical, and being known as a team player always opened doors for me.”

Her advice to students is simple, “Your reputation matters. Be conscientious, and act with a sense of urgency, passion and professionalism. Know that you’re part of a big world, so learn how to interact with people and organizations effectively. These skills are just as important as developing your technical competencies.”

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Enrique C. Zaldivar
Director & General Manager, LA Sanitation (LASAN)

BS Civil Engineering, Cal Poly Pomona, 1985

Born in Zacatecas, Mexico, Enrique C. Zaldivar immigrated to the U.S. at age 15 to reunite with his family. Even as a child, he had an affinity for math and science. He was drawn to the construction of projects, which led him to the field of civil engineering—and ultimately, to Cal Poly Pomona.

After graduation, Enrique started out as an assistant engineer, eventually progressing to associate engineer, full engineer, project manager, program manager, assistant general manager, and finally, director and general manager for LA Sanitation for the City of Los Angeles. He accepted increasingly challenging assignments and responsibilities, which included the management and leadership of staff. In his positions, the ability to work effectively with the political leaders of the large City of Los Angeles has been equally crucial.

Enrique shares what he has learned through the years. “The engineering profession has become more interdisciplinary than ever before. Being able to work well with others of diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds remains paramount to the success of one’s career. Choose to become an expert in a particular field of engineering, once you’ve had a chance to test your skills and professional preferences.”

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