Three MU Engineering Alumni receive Missouri Honor Awards
In March 2012, three College of Engineering alumni were recognized for their professional accomplishments, commitment and ideals with Missouri Honor Awards, the college’s highest honor. Excerpts from their acceptance remarks follow their profiles.
John T. Conway, BS CiE ’71, MS PA ’86, served as a location manager for Bartlett & West, a consulting firm for project development and funding, hydraulic analysis, regional water system design, pumping systems and contract administration, from 1996 until he retired in December 2010.
Conway served in the U.S. Army Reserves from 1971 to 1977. Prior to working at Bartlett & West, he spent 24 years working for the USDA’s Missouri Farmer’s Home Administration, where he played a key role in the development of countywide rural systems. For the past 17 years, he has worked as an engineering consultant to champion the mission of safe drinking water.
An active member of the MU Engineering Alumni Organization for 10 years, and in 2011, he received the MUEAO’s Citation of Merit Award, and also was inducted into the MU Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering’s Academy of Distinguished Alumni.
Conway and his wife, Pamela, live in Columbia.
“Thank you for this opportunity and thanks to the University of Missouri for the impact it has had on my professional life.
My parents would be quite proud to know that one of their 12 children received distinction from the prestigious University of Missouri College of Engineering. I was the fortunate one of the 12 who had an opportunity to go to college to pursue an engineering degree.
I would like to suggest to the students here tonight that you consider your core values and how they might serve you as you begin your engineering careers. Some that served me throughout my career are doing what was right when doing so was difficult, delivering quality through self improvement, and service to others, whether they were clients, fellow employees or my those in my community.
Be lifelong learners to become the best possible problem solvers and to also grow your human capacity.
It was always important in my career and profession that I achieve the distinction of becoming a licensed professional engineer and that I always stood ready to carry out that professional responsibility. In addition, I pursued the Order of the Engineer to reinforce the professional pledge and responsibility of being an engineer.
Finally, I’d like to stress the importance of maintaining a connection to our great College of Engineering by being an active participant in the MU Engineering Alumni Organization. The college needs you and your support.”
Paul R. Hollrah, BS CiE ’62, is a senior fellow at the Lincoln Heritage Institute and currently writes a weekly political column as contributing editor for the National Writers Syndicate and the New Media Journal.
He designed and built pipeline and marine terminals throughout the Midwest, pioneering the use of aircraft-style bottom loading for transport trucks. He served as a project engineer for Cities Service Oil Company in New York and Tulsa, and as a senior project engineer for Sunray DX (Sun Oil Company) in Tulsa.
In 1970, Hollrah transitioned from an engineering career to a career in the political world, serving as director of state relations for Sun and 15 operating subsidiaries.
Taking early retirement in 1984, he served as deputy campaign manager in the presidential exploratory committee of former defense secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. He has served two terms in the U.S. Electoral College.
Hollrah and his wife, Joyce, live in the lakes region of eastern Oklahoma.
“After graduation [from high school] in 1951, I did what most people in St. Charles did: I went to work at McDonnell Aircraft — on the assembly line. I was drafted in 1953 during the Korean War, and after returning from overseas in 1955 I went back to work on the assembly line, [eventually taking] a job selling sewing machines and vacuum cleaners door-to-door in St. Louis.
It was a terrible job, but that dark cloud turned out to have a silver lining because it made me realize that I was going to have to get serious about finding my niche in life. So, in the summer of 1958, at age 25, I drove to Columbia to enroll in the College of Engineering.
My wife and I loaded our meager possessions into a U-Haul trailer and, with our year-old son, moved to Columbia. We lived in one of those old World War II single story tarpaper shacks that used to sit across the road from the football stadium. We paid $27 dollars a month rent, had a food budget of 60 cents a day, and I started attending classes.
During my four years at Mizzou, I averaged about 3½ hours of sleep a night, and when I graduated in 1962 I was just over 6 feet tall and weighed 116 pounds. If I turned sideways you couldn’t see me.
The men and women who taught me — my professors — stood behind me, supported me, challenged me, encouraged me, and simply refused to let me fail. It was they who put me on the path to what has been, for an engineer, a most unconventional career, but a wholly satisfying one. I owe them all a tremendous debt of gratitude.
I have been so richly blessed, and this award is truly the icing on the cake. I appreciate it very much.”
David Russell Poe, ME ’70, is a partner in the Washington, D.C. office of the international law firm of Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP with clients in the energy and communications industries. His legal career of more than 35 years has focused on the application and limits of government authority with respect to the business structures and underlying technologies of these industries.
After graduating from the University of Missouri, Poe went to work for Southwestern Bell Telephone Company (now AT&T) in St. Louis, Mo. He later attended Duke University Law School in North Carolina, and upon graduation became an associate lawyer in New York City at the firm of LeBoeuf, Lamb, Leiby & MacRae. He became a partner at the LeBoeuf firm in 1983.
Poe is a member of the New York, North Carolina and the District of Columbia bars. A member of the Federal Energy and Federal Communications Bar Associations, he is a former chair of the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Section of Public Utility, Communications and Transportation Law and, as such, has represented them in the ABA House of Delegates since 2005. He is a Sustaining Life Fellow of the American Bar Foundation.
Poe and his wife, Constance Vaught, live in Washington, D.C.
“For the last 37 years, I have been a practicing lawyer, first on Wall Street in New York City and later in Washington, D.C.
It turned out that my undergraduate engineering degree was an excellent preparation for my career in the law. Not that I ever got very far from engineers. I have been hired by them, and fired by them. I have defended them and cross-examined them. And it turned out that my son-in-law is an engineer.
I have never strayed very far from my roots here in the College of Engineering. That should surprise no one because what I learned here became the foundation for my later legal career. I learned about problem solving. I also learned about technology, why things work and how they are designed. More significantly, I learned about the processes by which technological change occurs, how creativity and perseverance combine to produce and improve the machines that touch practically every aspect of human existence.
Much of our nation’s commerce depends upon laws that define and regulate various technologies, from the extraction of raw materials from the earth, to the manufacture of equipment, to the provision of services that prolong and enrich our lives. Without these laws, much of what we take for granted simply would not exist. It is crucial that such laws be developed and administered intelligently by people who understand the technologies to which they are to be applied. That means that those who fundamentally understand technology will be even more critical to our future and must share in the leadership of our society. This is a challenge for higher education generally, but it is also a special challenge to engineering education.
All of this underscores why what goes on here in the College of Engineering is so important. And why I am both humbled and honored to receive this award from an institution and people whom I deeply respect.”