Logo: University of Southern California

33rd Viterbi Awards Banquet Honors Three Extraordinary Trojans

Orna Berry, Ronald Tutor and Chengyu Fu celebrated for combination of entrepreneurship with engineering excellence
Eric Mankin
April 08, 2011 —

An impressive gathering of the Trojan Family on April 5th honored three extraordinary Trojans — Orna Berry, Ronald N. Tutor and Chengyu Fu —at the 33rd annual Viterbi Awards Banquet.

Hosted by Viterbi School of Engineering Dean Yannis C. Yortsos in the company of his predecessor as dean, USC President C.L. Max Nikias, the group of more than 300 distinguished well wishers that filled the California Club included senior USC officers and trustees, members of the Viterbi School Board of Councilors (BOC), plus school namesake Andrew J. Viterbi. (see list)

Ronald Tutor, Orna Berry, Dean Yannis C. Yortsos and Chengyu Fu together at the 33rd Viterbi Awards. (photos: Steve Cohn)

Yortsos explained how “since it began in 1978, this occasion has become our signature annual event, our way to celebrate engineering and to honor outstanding engineers.”

He said engineering itself had evolved: “Engineering and Technology are empowering society in creation and innovation in ways unimaginable only a few years ago. I like to call this engineering empowering society or engineering+. … Engineering is empowering society with new, tools, devices, methodologies; by exporting ways of thinking, of innovating and of communicating; and by designing solutions under constraints, whether political, social, financial or environmental.”

Yortsos said the trio that the evening’s event honored were front and center in this process: “This evening, we gather to celebrate and to honor our colleagues whose passion and creativity have contributed to this empowerment in a variety of ways and have led to a positive impact on our lives. It is dedicated to them, and we are thrilled that they are here to honors us with their presence.”

Introduced Guests

Trustees: Malcolm Currie, Daniel Epstein, Ming Hsieh, Ray Irani, Ronald Tutor, Andrew Viterbi. USC Senior Officers: Al Checcio, Senior Vice President, University Advancement, Courtney Surls, Vice President, University Advancement. BOC Members: William Ballhaus, Ron Barnes, Leo Chu, Malcolm Currie, John Deininger, Al Dorman, Daniel J. Epstein, Alan Fohrer, Ming Hsieh, Jay Kear, Don Paul, Warner Williams, Jeff Woodbury, Diplomats: China Consul General Shaofang Qiu, Israeli Consul General Admony-Ravid Sigal, China Education Consul for Economic Affairs Cuiying Xu

The first honoree, computer scientist Orna Berry (Ph.D. ’86) stepped onto the stage to receive the Mark A. Stevens Distinguished Alumni Award, named, as Yortsos noted, for “a distinguished engineer, entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and USC engineering alumnus.”

The awardee brought with her a similar resume, one Yortsos called “astonishing.” Berry has been a researcher, inventor, entrepreneur, policy maker, investor, advisor, senior executive, educator and for three years, the first female Chief Scientist of the Ministry of Industry and Trade of Israel. She was co-founder of ORNET Data Communication Technologies Ltd, and a venture partner in Gemini and is

Orna Berry: "defining the rules and working on the exceptions." Click on the image to view a video about her life and career.
now vice president and general manager of the giant EMC Corporation’s Center of Excellence.

A widely known and sought-after speaker, she gave an enthusiastic and eloquent acceptance speech. “My business,” she declared, “is leveraging human minds.” She paid tribute to minds that had leveraged hers: those of her family. Her parents, she said, provided examples of “entrepreneurship and daring, and taught me the importance of doing, and doing with love. Their vision and drive have been a model to me, which I hope I have passed on to my children, I am thankful to my family every day, and especially on this stage.”

Her mind, she said, was a synthesis of three worlds: personal, professional and academic, and she talked about her life and career as a continuing push to the edges of engineering. In a series of open ended and very tough questions, she asked:

“What is the relationship between an engineer and an entrepreneur or an executive? Can an engineer evolve into positions that require spontaneity, creativity, enthusiasm?  Can a good engineer also become a good manager? Would engineering studies limit the future development of one’s career? Does academia prepare a student for the outside world, for challenges not studied in an engineering department?"

Berry’s EMC is now opening a new creative site which will continue to extend her efforts to “define the rules and work on the exceptions,” a site that will that will involve Viterbi faculty. She spoke about current collaborations while also giving thanks to the professors who had worked with her during her time as a student: Len Adleman, Ellis Horowitz, and John Silvester, and paid a tribute to the school as “this home of knowledge.”

“USC has fueled my ongoing journey, she concluded, “to realize knowledge and information as building blocks for successful business practice,” and left the stage to sustained applause.

Ronald N. Tutor: "It has been a great ride."  Click on the image to view a video about his life and career.
The name of 2011 recipient of the Daniel J. Epstein Engineering Management Award is written all over the USC campus, at the Viterbi School’s Ronald N. Tutor Hall, and at the recently opened Ronald N. Tutor Campus Center. The prize is for leadership in industry and management – and the Chairman and CEO of Tutor-Perini  Corporation has offered evidence of these skills in his firm’s rise to the ranks of the nation’s 10 largest infrastructure and private works construction companies.

Tutor, who was also 2010 Walt Disney Man of the Year, was ironic when he took the stage after his video biography. “Looking at the film took away most of the things I had thought about saying: that this has been a love affair between USC and Ron Tutor for an awful lot of years. I was fortunate enough to work with Dr. [former dean Leneord] Silverman at a time in which we were struggling to get young engineers out of high school into the university.

"The transformation has been truly remarkable. Leonard was the head of the school when we first talked about the Tutor hall. He then passed the baton to the inimitable Max Nikias and from working with Leonard I went to the stage where I was worked on by Max.

“All joking aside,” Tutor concluded. “It has just been a great ride, l love my relationship with USC and it will always hold a very special place in my heart, thank you.”

Yortsos then presented a musical interlude – first threatening to bring out his accordion. But claiming an injured hand, he produced instead violinist Martin Chalifour, concertmaster of the L.A. Philharmonic, professor at the USC Thornton school, “who is not only one of the world’s great musicians, but one of my great good friends.”

President Nikias presented the evening's third honor, the Global Leadership in Engineering Award, to China National Offshore Oil Corporation President Chengyu Fu, only a few days before the announcement that Fu would be stepping down at CNOOC, which he had quintupled in size

Chengyu Fu congratulated by President C.L. Max Nikias. Click on the image to view a video about his life and career.
during his tenure, to assume the leadership of China Petroleum and Chemical Company, Asia’s largest refiner.

Nikias described Fu as a good friend. “It was seven years ago,” he recalled, when he and Barbara Myers of the Viterbi School External Relations Department visited Fu in Beijing for two days, “and he hosted us for dinner, a seven-course dinner, a dinner that brought a lot of memories of when Fu was a student at USC."

Earlier in the day, Fu had given his views at a press conference attended by representatives of Agence France Presse, Reuters and other media, and at the banquet, he shared some memories, and paid tribute to some of his Viterbi professors, including Iraj Ershaghi and George Chilingar, plus the late Lyman L. Handy

“I am very thankful to the Viterbi School for honoring and inviting me. With this award the school is honoring all students of international heritage in this case Chinese, in particular, who have attended USC or are on their way to this world-class institution. I am fortunate to have been a student at USC 27 years ago.

“My education here steered me on to lead CNOOC from a small company into a competitive international energy company. Today we are faced with a rapidly changing world, particularly in the emerging market. While the fast growing Chinese economy has become a power engine for the world, companies like CNOOC are playing bigger roles. We not only need to supply more energy in a cleaner manner, but also take action to protect the environment and combat climate change.

“To take those actions requires knowledge and talent,” he said. And USC is a place that supplies both he continued, “offering challenging programs and encouraging young people to be better prepared for tomorrow.”

Yortsos, smiling, came back to the microphone. "We have just one more thing. Allow me to introduce a musical group that despite lacking an accordion player is still the finest marching band on the planet, the USC Trojan Marching Band!"

The California Club filled with Viterbi Awards audience.
Below: Viterbi Awards sponsors.