Logo: University of Southern California

California Club Fills with Viterbi Faculty, Alumni, and Friends

2009 Awards Banquet is a glittering night to remember

April 13, 2009 —

Dean Yannis C. Yortsos' speech at the April 1 Viterbi Awards banquet at the California Club

Good evening - ladies and gentlemen, dear friends. And welcome to the 31st Annual Viterbi Awards.

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Dean Yortsos at the podium.  (all photos © Steve Cohn) (Click on the image of the dean to see a slide show of the event)
Before we proceed with our program, allow to me to take a moment to acknowledge some special friends of the Viterbi School.

Please stand when I call your name, and remain standing so we can recognize you as a group. Please hold your applause until I have called them all.

First, two USC Trustees:

  • Malcolm Currie (Management Award 1984)
  • Daniel Epstein (BOC and Distinguished Alumni Award 1994)

And also Provost Max Nikias and his wife Niki

And from the board of councilors:

  • Gordon Anderson and his wife Liz (Distinguished Alumni Award 1998)
  • Dwight Baum and his wife Judy
  • Kenneth Dahlberg  (Distinguished Alumni Award 2005)
  • John Deininger
  • Albert Dorman
  • Jay Kear
  • Bryan Min
  • Don Paul

And past Awardees

  • James Keenan  (Distinguished Alumni 2001)
  • Tony Lazzarro
  • Kenneth Richardson  (Distinguished Alumni 1997)

Since its first incarnation in 1978, the Viterbi Awards has been a significant annual event for the School. It has become our forum for recognizing outstanding members of the engineering community…. and those of our own alumni who have made lasting contributions to engineering in all its manifestations…

Waiting for the Viterbi School's finest
These manifestations are multiplying. Now, engineers paint on a new canvas – pictures never-seen-before. We call it “Engineering plus.”

This evolution appears in practically all our endeavors, most spectacularly in health: Engineering plus Medicine.

In fact, the Viterbi School and other engineering schools in the nation are busy incorporating such insights into our curricula, letting our students realize that their profession has more societal outreach, more enabling of other disciplines, even higher aims.  
This powerful toolkit is needed to solve our current challenges.

One year ago, the National Academy of Engineering articulated 14 Grand Challenges for engineering. These were centered on important societal and human needs and were roughly categorized as follows:  "Sustainability, Health, Vulnerability, and the Joy of Living." (A subject that engineers are reputed to not be very good at! Of course, not so at USC!)

Last month, along with Duke University and Olin College, USC Engineering co-hosted the first ever Grand Challenge Summit at the Duke campus.  

I had the privilege of making the summary closing address at the Summit. I began by borrowing NAE President Chuck Vest’s spectacular description of the criteria for a modern engineer.

The modern engineer (Engineer 2.0) is:

  • An Engineer- in the traditional sense: Let’s say Engineer 1.0
  • A Leader
  • An Innovator, and…
  • An Entrepreneur

Passion was also often mentioned in the Summit as a much-desired characteristic. What a welcome addition to the engineering job description!

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Viterbi 2009 honorees: from left: Don Paul, Thomas Reed, , Narayana Murthy and Dean Yannis C. Yortsos.
  Our honorees today exemplify these attributes (and more) over the span of their remarkable careers.

Can Engineering Plus also help us get out of our current crisis? 

Our answer is an emphatic “yes.” In fact, one can map almost one-to-one the federal stimulus initiatives to the themes of the Grand Challenges:  Urban infrastructure; IT+Health; Green Technologies; K-12 Education, Sustainability, Health, Vulnerability, even the Joy of Living (so to speak), depend greatly on public policy.

Which can be another variation of Engineering Plus: a theme that deals with human nature, brings about constantly changing complexity, and makes life interesting in its own.

I was reminded that in our audience today there are twelve members of the National Academy of Engineering (along with at least three members of the National Academy of Sciences). We can practically hold a regional meeting.

Now: the awards. Our honorees have worked on such challenges for a long time now. Their work seems to have come in widely disparate fields.

But a closer look reveals that each of them followed the same method. They applied engineering plus in government, policy, business and the industry. In so doing they transformed national security, transformed the oil industry, helped transform an entire nation.

It is with great pleasure that I represent the Viterbi School in honoring these remarkable individuals. (Click on the portraits to view individual video biographies.)
PetersThe Mark A. Stevens Distinguished Alumni Award is named for USC engineering alumnus and USC Trustee, Mark A. Stevens. It goes to Mr. Thomas Reed. As a sidelight to this award, I should note that is also the 50th anniversary of Tom’s USC degree. Tom, for your contributions to engineering, science, public policy, and public outreach, the USC Viterbi School of Engineering is pleased to present you with the Mark A. Stevens Distinguished Alumni Award.

And now it’s my pleasure to introduce a special award – one that is going to another very special individual, Dr. Don PaulPaul. Don, for your contributions to the Viterbi School as a visionary leader, supporter and forward-thinking strategist, the USC Viterbi School of Engineering is proud to present you its Distinguished Service Award.

The Daniel J. Epstein Management Award is named after a distinguished leader in industry management, an outstanding USC engineering alumnus, the namesake of our Industrial and Systems Engineering department and a USC Trustee, Daniel J. Epstein.

MurthyThis award goes to  Narayana Murthy. For your contributions in changing the face of global business, for your paving of the flat world, and for your continuing work as a visionary leader, the USC Viterbi School of Engineering is pleased to present you with the Daniel J. Epstein Management Award.

We wanted to do something unique for our special evening, so I am pleased to offer a delightful closing.

USC's own Rachel Lauren.
Rachel Lauren is a Music Industry and Jazz major on scholarship at the USC Thornton School of Music. There she finds the time to self-manage her career as a performer, run her own record company, volunteer weekly at local elementary schools and stay on the honor roll. 

She is an accomplished singer who has been performing publicly since her early childhood. Since her discovery of jazz at the age of 15, she has become an emerging star by applying her own innovative style to classic jazz standards.

Please welcome USC’s own – Rachel Lauren.

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen… With this, we bring the Viterbi Awards to a close.  I want to thank all of our award winners again – and all of you for coming. We hope to see you again soon.