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Pitt′s Swanson School of Engineering Honors 2011 Notable Alumni, Including First Woman to Receive Distinguished Alumni Award

The awards include an alumni award for each of the Swanson School′s six departments and a school-wide Distinguished Alumni Award, which, in 2011, honored a woman for the first time since the award was established in 1964.

"We have been formally celebrating the success of our alumni since the inception of the Distinguished Alumni Awards in 1964," said Gerald Holder, Pitt′s U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering. "Every year we are impressed by the achievements of the Swanson School alumni body, which today comprises over 25,000 alumni living around the world."

Brief biographical information on the awardees follows.

Roberta Luxbacher, Swanson School Distinguished Alumna: Luxbacher, of Dallas, serves as vice president for industrial and wholesale global fuel sales for ExxonMobil. She was named to her current position in 2009 and is responsible for fuel sales, marketing, and operations for customers in 40 countries. Luxbacher joined Exxon in 1978 shortly after graduating from the Swanson School. She has since served in several high-level positions in the corporation related to marketing and corporate planning. She also served on the board of the Natural Gas Supply Association (NGSA) from 2000 to 2002 and was elected as chair in 2001. Luxbacher is a frequent speaker on current energy issues. She serves on the Swanson School′s Board of Visitors and graduated from Pitt in 1978 with a bachelor′s degree in chemical engineering.

Eric A. Chen, Department of Bioengineering: Chen, of Fulton, Maryland, serves as director of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration′s Humanitarian Use Devices Designation Program, which focuses on encouraging manufacturers to develop medical devices that help people with rare diseases or conditions. He is a recognized expert in medical device regulation for mechanical circulatory support devices and has written more than 20 publications, as well as given numerous presentations, on the topic. Chen is cochair for the National Clinical Trials Initiative for Mechanical Circulatory Support Evaluation. He has received numerous awards for his work and also serves on the editorial board for several medical journals. Chen earned his master′s degree in bioengineering at Pitt in 2002.

Anthony V. Cugini, Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering: Cugini, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is director of the National Energy Technology Labora­tory (NETL). NETL is owned and operated by the U.S. Department of Energy and serves as the lead field laboratory for the department′s Office of Fossil Energy. NETL consists of five facilities, including one in Pittsburgh. Cugini oversees the implementation of major science and technology programs meant to resolve the environmental, supply, and reliability issues of various energy sources. These areas include carbon sequestration, reducing the environmental impact of coal-fired power plants, and increasing the efficiency and environmental soundness of the domestic oil and natural gas industries. As a researcher, Cugini′s research and publications have included such topics as hydrogen production and separation, gas hydrates, carbon dioxide sequestration, and computational modeling. He completed his bachelor′s, master′s, PhD degrees in chemical engineering at Pitt in 1981, 1986, and 1993, respectively. 

Anthony M. Parasida, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering: As the Boeing Company′s president of global services and support, Parasida, of New Castle, Washington, leads all aspects of the company′s $8 billion business providing maintenance, modification, and upgrade support for defense aircraft. He joined Boeing in 1978 as a structures engineer on helicopter programs and has since held numerous jobs of increasing responsibility within aircraft design and program management. He has worked with training systems, solutions, and simulation for mili­tary aircraft and ground combat systems; managed network and commu­nication services; infrastructure support services and support operations; intelligence, reconnaissance, and surveillance services; energy solutions; logistics command and control, and international support systems. Parasida earned his bachelor′s degree from Pitt in 1978.

Robert K. Henry, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering: Before his recent retirement, Henry, of Melbourne, Florida, spent 40 years in the aerospace and defense industry. Henry was most recently the executive vice president and chief operating officer of Harris Corporation, a Florida-based information technology company. He oversaw the company′s government busi­nesses and had a leading role in such areas as research and development, technology transfer, and manufacturing, among others. Prior to joining Harris, Henry was vice president of engineering for Sanders, a Lockheed Martin company. He also served eight years with the U.S. Army Communications Command and the Defense Communications Agency. He is a former chair of the board for the Astronauts Memorial Foundation and served on the Board of Directors for MILCOM, the premier international conference for military communications. Henry received his bachelor′s degree in electrical engineering from Pitt in 1969.

Nishan G. Vartabedian, Department of Industrial Engineering: Vartabedian, of Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, retired in 2008 after 25 years with Fidelity In­vestments, the nation′s largest mutual fund company. He most recently served as executive vice president of Fidelity Invest­ments Institutional Services Company, Inc., where he man­aged a team that focused exclusively on the nation′s banks. Vartabedian was Fidelity′s leading expert on the banking industry and was an accomplished speaker at conferences hosted by the likes of the American Bankers Association, the American Banker, and the New York and Massachusetts Banking Association, among others. Before joining Fidelity, Vartabedian worked in several sales and market­ing positions for the Depository Trust Company, New York, from 1972 to 1983, and served in the military from 1970 to 1972 as First Lieutenant, U.S. Army Combat Engineers. He received his bachelor′s degree in industrial engineering from the Swanson School in 1967.

John P. Schoeppner, Jr., Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science: Schoeppner, of Saint Petersburg, Florida, had a 45-year career contributing to the defense of the United States and allies worldwide. After 31 years in the U.S. Air Force, he retired as a Major General in 1991 then joined Lockheed Martin Corporation as director of missiles and fire control for international business development. There he developed markets for airborne infrared targeting systems, air combat maneuvering systems, tactical recon­naissance systems and munitions across the globe. Key venues for such sales were the major air shows of the world. His many awards and decorations include two Distinguished Service Medals, two Legion of Merit medals, and twelve Air Medals. Schoeppner′s work as Air Force Flight Test Center commander was recognized by Aviation Week and Space Technology with the magazine′s Laurel Award in 1990 and 2005. He graduated Pitt with a bachelor′s degree in mechanical engineering in 1960.

Contact: Morgan Kelly

[412-624-4356 (office); 412-897-1400 (cell); mekelly@pitt.edu]

Contact: Morgan Kelly