• Radka Z. Nebesky
    Director of Development
    National Academy of Engineering
  • Stephanie Halperin
    Associate Director of Development
    National Academy of Engineering

Donor Spotlight

The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) recently received a $100,000 gift to establish the Dr. L. Kent Thomas Advance, Innovate, and Mentor (AIM) Fund. This fund is made possible in part by a charitable donation from Dr. Kent Thomas’ estate to carry on his legacy.

AIM Fund LogoThe NAE was notified that they were a beneficiary in Thomas’ IRA, shortly after his passing. Thomas’ family reached out to the NAE and discussed how Kent’s legacy could be continued. After being presented with some options, the family decided that creating an endowment named for Thomas supporting inclusion and diversity would carry on Thomas’ passions in perpetuity. 

The AIM Fund will provide critical funding to NAE programs that currently exist or are in development, such as the new Inclusive, Diverse Engineering for All (IDEA) Program. IDEA has been designed to provide practical foundations and inspire community activity to broaden inclusion and diversity as well as equitable and entrepreneurial talent development. 

“The AIM Fund is not only a way to continue my dad's legacy, but it is also hope for the next generation and a means to prove that if you possess the passion and the patience to educate yourself in your area of interest, you can achieve anything you wish. My dad mentored students and colleagues throughout his career from different cultures and backgrounds, with many of them becoming lifelong friends. He would be so proud to know that this contribution will allow others to do the same,” shares daughter, Jana Thomas-Roach.

The Thomas FamilyKent Thomas (NAE '16) was always searching for a way to do things better and smarter. As a leader, he challenged his team to seek out solutions to problems that seemingly could not be solved, and then shared the solutions with other professionals in the industry. Kayleen Thomas, Kent’s widow, comments “even though Kent was a world-renowned engineer and a top expert in subsurface flow modeling, he was very modest. He delighted in helping others make the most of their talents. He had a way of rolling up his sleeves and collaborating with his employees to develop new ideas and solve complex problems. Kent was a great conversationalist and an eager listener.”

Kent graduated from the University of Oklahoma with honors and received a fellowship to attend The University of Michigan, where he received his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering. He began his career with Phillips 66 Petroleum Company in 1966 and was promoted to Manager of Engineering Sciences a few years later. His new responsibilities included the development of reservoir simulation software for use within the company and application to major field projects such as Ekofisk in the North Sea and consultation with field engineers. 

Abbas Firoozabadi, Kent Thomas, and Jana Thomas-RoachAbbas Firoozabadi, pictured on the left with Kent and Jana, was a colleague and mentee of Thomas. He also worked with the family and the NAE to help this legacy gift come to light. “Kent had the combination of two characteristics at the highest level. He was a world-class scholar and a genuine mentor. His willingness and ability to help other colleagues were phenomenal. He found talented individuals and helped them grow to their full potential. For more than 30 years, I was lucky to enjoy his sincerity, his help on many occasions, and to call him a close friend and mentor. He would always, without exception, help most sincerely. Kent was an example to follow,” remarks Abbas.

Thomas has authored or co-authored over 50 technical papers throughout his career and served on more than 45 Society of Petroleum Engineers’ committees, chairing many of them. He lectured worldwide in 1995 and 1996 and was inducted into the NAE in 2016.

If you would like to contribute to the Dr. L. Kent Thomas AIM Fund or if you would like to learn more about naming your own endowed fund please contact Radka Nebesky, Director of Development: | 202.334.3417

Jennie S. HwangThe National Academy of Engineering has received a $100,000 gift to establish the Dr. Jennie S. Hwang Endeavor Fund. The fund was made possible through a generous donation from Dr. Jennie S. Hwang (NAE '98), CEO, H-Technologies Group. 

This endowment will fund programs at the NAE that support high school and college students—with a preference for women and underrepresented minorities (URM's)—to enhance exposure to diverse and/or international perspectives in engineering education, networking, and the profession. 

While women earning degrees in STEM has increased in the past 20 years, they are still well below men in degree levels and in all fields of engineering. Decreasing this gap for women and URM’s is a priority for the field and profession and the Dr. Jennie S. Hwang Endeavor Fund is a positive step in addressing this issue. “As one of the ’earlier‘ women pursuing engineering education and business practice, I am blessed to have the opportunity to contribute to the NAE in pursuance of its ultimate mission,” said Hwang.

Dr. Hwang, inspired by Winston Churchill, quoted him when asked what inspired her to create this new fund, “it is no use saying we are doing our best. You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary” and “we make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”  Her passion and support for the work the NAE does are evident through her philanthropy. “The NAE is a unique institution in an exceptional position to provide valuable services to the nation. The NAE helps advance engineering education, the engineering profession, and the engineering practice to achieve the continual betterment of human life while enhancing the well-being of the nation. I am also happy to support President Anderson’s initiatives and the relentless work by the staff of the Development Offices of NAE and NASEM,” shared Hwang. 

In addition to this new fund, Dr. Hwang’s philanthropy includes the Dr. Jennie S. Hwang Award for Faculty Excellence at Cleveland State University, the Dr. Jennie S. Hwang Award for Women Students in STEM at YWCA Cleveland, and the Dr. Jennie S. Hwang Endowment Fund at the Engineering School of Case Western Reserve University where Dr. Hwang was the first woman to earn a Ph.D. in Materials Engineering and later served on its Board of Trustees for 20 years.

Dr. Hwang was elected to the NAE in 1998 and currently chairs both the Assessment Board of Army Research Laboratory and the Army Research Program Review and Analysis Committee. She also chairs the Materials Engineering Peer Committee, and serves on the Committee on NIST Technical Programs, and the Laboratory Assessments Board. 

Dr. Hwang has served on the board of NYSE-, NASDAQ-, and TSX-listed public companies and other private companies, as well as the board of trustees of universities and a number of non-profit organizations. Currently, she is the CEO of H-Technologies Group, providing business, technology, and manufacturing solutions to the electronics/microelectronics industry. Previously, she has held various senior executive positions with Lockheed Martin Corporation, Sherwin Williams Company, SCM Corporation, and CEO of International Electronic Materials Corporation and Interim CEO of Asahi America, Inc.

Julie and Alton D. Romig, JrIn 2019, Julie and Alton “Al” D. Romig, Jr. (NAE ’03) established a $100,000 giving challenge for NAE members elected since 2015. All first time and upgrade gifts will count towards the challenge and have double the impact.

At the 2018 Golden Bridge Society Dinner, Julie and Alton D. Romig, Jr. (’03) became members of the Einstein and Heritage Societies. The Heritage Society celebrates members and friends who have planned a gift that provides for the future of the NAE. Better known as Al around the NAE, he has had an impressive engineering career with tours at Sandia National Labs and Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company’s Advanced Development Program (Skunk Works). As a loyal donor to the Academy since his election, Al and wife Julie believe that philanthropy can have a great impact on our communities and world.

“For me, giving always feels good and I want to share that, to let other people get that rush,” says Romig, who currently serves as the Executive Officer of the NAE and is responsible for the program, financial, and membership operations of the Academy. Julie and Al recently established a $100,000 gift challenge in an effort to incentivize members elected since 2015 to make their first gifts to the NAE. Additionally, any increase in a member’s 2018 total giving to the NAE will count towards the challenge.

Al understands that “Although most of us don’t have the giving capacity of Andrew Carnegie or John D. Rockefeller, with collective action we can make a difference for those causes we care the most about.”

Wes HarrisIn 2018 the NAE welcomed Wesley L. Harris (NAE ’95) into the Einstein Society, which recognizes members and friends whose lifetime giving is over $100,000. Dr. Harris, the Charles Stark Draper Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has more than 40 years of industry experience that includes seminal contributions to the fields of aerodynamics, aeroacoustics, rarefied gas dynamics, sustainment of capital assets, and chaos in sickle cell disease. 

Dr. Harris explains that “as a member of the NAE, I am better able to participate in the essence of engineering—to engage technology for the common good and to serve humanity.” He adds that “my trust and respect for the potential of the NAE to continue to serve our nation and society underpin my philanthropy.” He encourages other members and friends who are considering supporting the Academy to “Come quickly, dive in, and join us. The future impact of the NAE in service to the nation and society is strengthened through our philanthropy.”

John McDonnellJohn F. McDonnell, a member of the Presidents’ Circle since ’04, made a very generous pledge of $2 million to provide core support for NAE’s EngineerGirl program and to pilot new activities that will expand the program’s reach, mentoring efforts, and hands-on engagement. This recent pledge is just one element of his dedicated support of the NAE, its programming, and initiatives over the years.

With a successful 40-year career in the aeronautical industry, in both engineering and management positions, Mr. McDonnell has a deep understanding of the importance of engineering. He describes it as “a universal language with teamwork at its essence, so engineers are well positioned to thrive in a global setting where the ability to work together will be of increasing importance.” And he recognizes that “my engineering background has benefited me beyond the field by equipping me with the capacity to think critically and understand issues in many situations, which is central to fields like management and finance.”

John also knows that a diverse engineering workforce that better represents the world’s population is essential to the health, happiness, and safety of the individual and society. “Overall, women have been underrepresented in engineering. A better balance between men and women in the field will provide better, comprehensive solutions to global engineering challenges.”

To read the entire spotlight on Mr. McDonnell, click here

Asad Madni and TajAsad M. Madni (NAE '11) has more than 40 years of engineering experience that includes pioneering contributions to projects such as the Hubble Telescope’s Extremely Slow-Motion Servo Control System, providing unprecedented accuracy and stability that resulted in remarkable images that have enhanced our understanding of the universe.  Since his retirement in 2006 as the President/ COO/CTO of BEI Technologies Inc., he has been an independent consultant and a distinguished adjunct professor at UCLA, guiding doctoral research, mentoring students, inspiring the next generation of engineers, and bringing an awareness of the NAE Grand Challenges to university, community college and high school students.

At his NAE induction ceremony in 2011, Dr. Madni was struck by the importance of discretionary financial resources to assure the independence of NAE’s voice on national policy.  He also wishes to advance our work to increase the number, quality, and diversity of U.S. engineering graduates and to advance our national capacity for 21st century innovation and global competitiveness.

Dr. Madni reflects that, “a professionally successful career that does not include philanthropy is an incomplete and unsatisfying one and I never forget that achieving this privilege in my profession makes it incumbent upon me and my family to give back and help guide the generation following us.” Since his induction as an NAE member in 2011, Dr. Madni and his family have sponsored two member giving challenges that have generated more than $450,000 for the NAE.  He and his wife have also decided to include the NAE in his estate plans and established an annuity to provide long lasting support to the Academy.

To read our entire interview with Dr. Madni, click here

Compton's Donor Spotlight SectionW. Dale Compton (NAE '81) and his late wife Jeanne were longtime supporters and friends of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE). Elected for "exceptional leadership in developing advanced automotive technologies, individual achievements in engineering physics, and innovative contributions in promoting university-industry relations," Dale was a strong advocate of issues related to industry and engineering education. He worked to advance the NAE's Frontiers of Engineering (FOE) program and was instrumental in getting it off the ground. 

Before their deaths, Dale and Jeanne were both very active within the NAE, including greeting new members during orientation and induction at Annual Meetings. Dale also served on the NAE Council and as Home Secretary from 2000-2008. As members of the Einstein and Heritage Societies, they are an exemplary model to current and future members through their generous contributions to the NAE. 

We were deeply saddened to hear of Dale's passing on February 7, 2017. Dale and Jeanne's generosity will leave a lasting impact though, as they named the NAE a beneficiary in their IRA retirement plan. Their unrestricted bequest provides the most flexibility and helps secure the financial future of the NAE while honoring Dale and Jeanne's years of dedicated service and contributions to the NAE. They will both be greatly missed.  


Robert Briskman (NAE ’14) and wife Lenore, are hard at work in the engineering community. The latest challenge for Rob, a renowned pioneer in satellite communications and co-founder of Sirius XM Radio, is finding ways to protect satellites from orbital debris. And Lenore continues to manage American Classic Clothes, a successful children's clothing corporation that she launched almost three decades ago.

Even so, Rob and Lenore found time to plan for the future, and they've designated the National Academy of Engineering as a beneficiary to their estate. "The NAE – and the Academies – provide good, sound advice on some very important issues, and the government certainly needs it. If you're looking for an organization whose work will help your kids, grandkids, and others, it's important to support the Academies' efforts." 

"There is very little that we do in life that doesn't require engineering," added Lenore. "That is why it's important for NAE to foster the profession and provide proper guidance." 

Rob was elected to the NAE just a year ago, so both he and Lenore are excited about getting involved in other ways too. Although Rob has received many awards and professional honors, his NAE membership is in a different class. "The NAE is a working organization that tries to improve things. So being elected is special."

Dan BergDaniel Berg (NAE ’76) has long been an active member and generous supporter of the National Academy of Engineering.  This year marks Dan’s 40th anniversary as a member, and to celebrate he and his wife Fran are  “giving big” and joining the ranks of the Academies’ Einstein Society – whose members’ cumulative lifetime giving is $100,000 or more.  In addition, they have joined the Academies’ Heritage Society by naming the NAE as a beneficiary of their estate.

“As a professional, NAE has made an enormous impact on me. This is an opportune time to do something bigger,” Berg explained.  “I’ve been hoping to become an Einstein member.  I thought this would be a nice time to recognize the organization’s meaning to us, and what NAE does --not only for the country, but for the world.”

Berg mentioned, over the years, NAE has provided countless opportunities that helped him advance professionally. A former president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, he first encountered his predecessor in that position, George Low, at the NAE.  “He gave a talk when he won the Founders Award (renamed the Simon Ramo Founders Award in 2012). Although they didn’t meet then, “a couple of years later, he hired me as provost. I truly believe NAE has helped me in my career – not only through the connections I’ve made but also by broadening my scope and getting me involved in new things.” 

“Even more important,” the Bergs say, “is the opportunity to support the NAE’s work. For a relatively small budget, NAE’s impact is incredible.  Dollar for dollar, it’s a very high return on your investment.  It’s an organization that provides advice that is grounded in study and analysis. The goal is to do the right thing for society.” 

George and Virginia BugliarelloGeorge Bugliarello (NAE '87), and his widow, Virginia, have always valued education. George, who died in 2011, spent most of his long and distinguished career in academia, first as dean of engineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago and then as president and chancellor of Polytechnic Institute of New York University. And Virginia, who recently retired after serving 40 years as a librarian at the Port Washington, N.Y. public library, is a committed volunteer for an adult literacy program.

So it seemed fitting to Virginia to honor George’s memory by making a generous gift to the National Academy of Engineering’s Engineer Girl program, dedicated to encouraging girls and young women to become engineers.

In the early 70s, George organized a symposium when he was at the University of Illinois that was one of the first efforts in encouraging women to go into engineering,” Virginia said. “This gift to Engineer Girl felt perfect.”

The gift also recognizes George’s decades of service to the NAE. He was NAE’s foreign secretary from 2003 to 2011, the “interim” editor of the Bridge for more than 10 years, and a member of dozens of committees. “He was always involved because the NAE meant a lot to him. And by osmosis, it means a lot to me.”

Ken XieKen Xie (NAE '13), attended his first NAE activity in March 2013 - the NAE Regional Meeting at Stanford. During this meeting, vice president Maxine Savitz remarked on the importance of philanthropy to NAE’s work. Shortly thereafter, Ken Xie decided to direct a $100,000 gift from the Xie Foundation in support of the NAE Independent Fund, which provides NAE with the critical resources necessary to enhance engineering’s position in the U.S. and around the world.

When asked why it was important to him to support NAE early in his membership, Mr. Xie replied: "The Academy is uniquely positioned to bring awareness to the great potential of engineering. At a time when it will take creative thinking to maintain American competitiveness and address global problems, I want to make sure NAE has the resources to build strong relationships and to educate government leaders and the public.”

Mr. Xie, founder and CEO of Fortinet, a publicly traded company that specializes in cybersecurity, was elected for “contributions to cybersecurity, including network security systems and services.”

In 2012, over 600 NAE members gave $1.5 million to the Independent Fund, a sizeable increase over the previous year. Mr. Xie’s generosity, and that of other NAE members, can help NAE maintain the growth of this vital fund, giving the Academy more opportunities to advocate for engineering to be part of the solution to global challenges.

Trevor O. JonesTrevor O. Jones (NAE '82) was elected to NAE for his leadership in the application of electronics to the automobile to enhance its mechanical performance. Since then, he has participated in studies on topics including biological warfare, automotive fuel economy, nuclear regulatory management, aerospace, military systems, and deep sea oil drilling. Mr. Jones also chaired the “2020 Energy Vision” Regional Meeting in Cleveland, OH in 2006, a meeting that drew over 1,300 attendees and 1,000 viewers via webcast.

“The National Academy of Engineering, as part of the National Academies, provides unimpeachable, unbiased views and recommendations on vital and strategic technological issues of national importance. It is therefore incumbent upon all professional engineers, particularly NAE members, to fully support NAE’s participation in these endeavors.”

Mr. Jones has been a generous donor to the NAE for over two decades. He says that he supports the NAE because, as an engineer, he feels a sense of responsibility to support an organization that plays such a unique and nationally important role.

"Being an NAE member provides an unparalleled opportunity to participate in major, advanced technological studies. Such participation provides NAE members the opportunity to interface with a very broad spectrum of expertise in a wide variety of university, government, and industry research organizations. The impact of this career building experience is extremely rewarding and unattainable outside of the NAE.”