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Clark School Press Release Story

UMD Clark School Announces Inaugural Awards Winners

New awards honor alumni, friends for career achievements and contributions to Clark School.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE  November 21, 2014

Elise Carbonaro
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COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland A. James Clark School of Engineering today announced the esteemed, inaugural recipients of its two new awards, the Glenn L. Martin Medal and the Early Career Award. The winners were nominated by their peers and selected for their accomplishments in the field of engineering and dedication to the University of Maryland.

The Glenn L. Martin Medal is awarded to those who have upheld and contributed to the mission and ideals of the A. James Clark School of Engineering. Non-alumni who are nominated and receive the award will become a lifetime member in the UMD Alumni Association, the Clark School, and will have the status of “Terp for Life.” Nomination and selection criteria includes, exceptional community service, contributions to the  student experience at the Clark School, and noteworthy leadership and accomplishments in the field of engineering.

The Early Career Award is given to alumni who have achieved meritorious contributions and significant rapid advancement in the early stages of his or her career. 

Winners of the Glenn L. Martin Medal and Early Career Award will be honored at a special gala celebration on November 21 at the Samuel Riggs IV Alumni Center on the university’s College Park campus.

More information about this year’s Glenn L. Martin Medal and Early Career Award recipients is below.

Glenn L. Martin Medal

Robert W. Deutsch, a veteran of World War II, an accomplished physicist, and founder of two major engineering companies, General Physics Corporation and RWD Technologies, received this award in absentia for his entrepreneurial and philanthropic spirit, his commitment to science and technology, and his service to his country. Jane Brown and Neil Didriksen, daughter and son-in-law of Robert W. Deutsch, champion their late father’s efforts through the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation, which promotes innovation in science and technology, arts, education, and social justice. First through Dr. Deutsch himself, and then under the leadership of Ms. Brown, the Foundation has been a valuable friend and ally in the Clark School’s mission of engineering life-changing innovations for millions.

Dr. Jeanette Epps, ’94 and ’00, has achieved remarkable professional accomplishments and service to our nation as a CIA intelligence officer and NASA astronaut. She has served her country as an aquanaut aboard the Aquarius underwater laboratory during the NEEMO 18 undersea exploration. Last December, Dr. Epps gave the Clark School commencement address.

Emilio A. Fernandez, Jr., ’69, who serves on the Clark School’s Board of Visitors, has notably co-founded several companies, including Pulse Electronics, which earned him the Hispanic Business of the Year Award and Entrepreneur of the Year Award by the Greater Washington Hispanic American Chamber of Commerce. He was inducted into the Clark School’s Innovation Hall of Fame in 1994, and he has been awarded numerous patents covering a broad spectrum of technology, including e-reader technology.

Gary K. Kessler, ’82, has over three decades of federal service, during which he has advised senior Naval Officers on matters relating to aircraft, both manned and unmanned. He was a great champion of the new University of Maryland Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Test Site in Southern Maryland, and his commitment to his alma mater has helped advance the Clark School’s excellence in engineering. 

Dr. Naomi Leonard, ’91 and ’94, is the Edwin S. Wilsey Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton University. In 2013, Dr. Leonard was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and in 2004, she was awarded the prestigious MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. She is a Fellow of the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineering, a Fellow of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, and a Fellow of the International Federation of Automatic Control. She has also received the Inaugural Distinguished Alumni Award from the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department here at the University of Maryland. 

Dr. Vikram Manikonda, ’94 and ’97, has dedicated service and support to the Clark School and its Institute for Systems Research (ISR). As President and CEO of Intelligent Automation, Inc., Dr. Manikonda’s leadership has established I.A.I. as a national leader in government-sponsored research and development. He is a visionary corporate leader who has given back to both ISR and the Clark School at every stage of his career, through his hiring practices, his continuing collaborations in research, and his dedication to Clark School students.

John “Jack” W. Poole, III, ’86, of Poole Fire Protection is an industry leader recognized for their innovative thinking and problem solving in fire and life safety system design. Mr. Poole serves as co-chair for both the Fire Protection Engineering Board of Visitors and the Fire Protection Engineering Alumni Club, and he is a member of the Fire Protection Engineering Curriculum Advisory Committee and the Department’s Legacy Campaign Committee for the Professor of the Practice.

Thomas H. Scholl has shown invaluable service to the Clark School community through engineering and business acumen. Mr. Scholl is a successful entrepreneur, technology innovator, and investor through his involvement with more than 40 startups with differing roles including founder, chairman, CEO, board member, and investor. Mr. Scholl holds six patents relating to software, the Internet, and digital telephone systems, so you would think he studied electrical engineering. Mr. Scholl has also served as Chair for the Clark School Board of Visitors and is a Trustee of the University of Maryland College Park Foundation.

Early Career Award

Alex Mehr, ’03, is founder and President of Zoosk, the world’s largest online dating platform and a top 10-grossing app in Apple’s App Store. Called the “Amazon of dating,” Zoosk has some 25 million users in 70 countries. He co-founded Zoosk in 2007 alongside UMD alumnus Shayan Zadeh. Mehr has a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Maryland and is the author of several peer-reviewed published articles on a variety of subjects.

Brendan Iribe is a technology innovator and entrepreneur and has shown unparalleled support for the University of Maryland. Iribe is world-renowned for his work in video game technology, and with his company Oculus VR, creating the best virtual reality platform in the world.. His recent donation to create the Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Innovation, including a Computer Science scholarship, is the largest single gift in the history of the University.

Dr. Nagarajan Valanoor, ’01, has made seminal contributions to the field of materials science. Dr. Valanoor is credited with the discovery and characterization of new materials (complex oxides) that may form the basis for new sensor materials and microelectronics based on electron spin rather than traditional silicon transistors. He has more than 130 peer reviewed journal articles, and has received numerous awards for his work. 

About the A. James Clark School of Engineering

The University of Maryland’s A. James Clark School of Engineering is a premier program, ranked among the top 20 in the world. Located just a few miles from Washington, D.C., the Clark School is at the center of a constellation of high-tech companies and federal laboratories, offering students and faculty access to unique professional opportunities.

Our broad spectrum of academic programs, including the world’s only accredited undergraduate fire protection engineering program, is complemented by a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem, early hands-on educational experiences, and participation in national and international competitions.

The Clark School is leading research advancements in aerospace, bioengineering, robotics, nanotechnology, disaster resilience, energy and sustainability, and cybersecurity. From the universal product code to satellite radio, SMS text messaging to the implantable insulin pump, our students, faculty, and alumni are engineering life-changing innovations for millions. Learn more at