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Herff College Faculty, Students, and Alumni Receive Awards


The Herff College of Engineering Alumni, Theopolis Holeman (BSET’ 71) and Bobby Wharton (BSET’ 75), were honored with the University of Memphis Alumni Association’s highest awards.

Theopolis Holeman accepts the Herff College Distinguished Alumni Award.
Theopolis Holeman accepts the Herff College Distinguished Alumni Award.
Holeman (BSET’ 71), who was named Outstanding Alumnus in 2008 by the Herff College of Engineering was honored with the 2010 Distinguished Alumni Award. He is group vice president of U.S. operations for Spectra Energy, one of North America’s leading natural gas infrastructure companies serving three key links in the natural gas value chain: gathering and processing, transmission and storage, and distribution.

Holeman formerly served as senior vice president of power delivery for Duke Energy, one of the largest electrical power companies in the nation. Holeman has been recognized as one of the “Top 75 Most Powerful Black Executives in the U.S.” by Black Enterprise magazine. He earned his bachelor’s degree in construction technology from the U of M in 1971 and later a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Houston. He has also completed the Stanford Executive Program.

Wharton (BSET’ 75) was the 2010 recipient of the J. Millard Smith Illustrious Service to the Alumni Association Award. Wharton, president and owner of G & W Diesel Inc. and co-owner of Pro-Fire Equipment, personifies what it means to a “True Blue Tiger.” He has generously contributed to professorships in the Herff College of Engineering for almost 10 years. His commitment provides foundational support annually for an outstanding professor in that field.

President Shirley Raines congratulates Bobby Wharton, the 2010 Milllard Smith Illustrious Service to the Alumni Association Award.
President Shirley Raines congratulates  Wharton, the 2010 Milllard Smith Illustrious Service to the Alumni Association Award.
Wharton is the former president of the University of Memphis National Alumni Association and currently serves on the Herff College’s Alumni Board. Wharton also served as the president of the Highland Hundred and TOM II's caretaker. In 2006, he was honored with the True Blue Tradition Award, which is awarded annually by the Alumni Association to those who have made significant contributions to creating and continuing the traditions of the U of M. When asked why he does so much for the University of Memphis, Wharton remarked, “ I would not be where I am today without my University education, and for that I owe it a debt of gratitude.”


The Herff College of Engineering Alumni Chapter proudly named Ron Driggers (BEE’ 84, MS’ 86, PhD’ 90) as this year’s Outstanding Engineering Alumnus. Dr. Driggers was honored at the annual awards program held on March 16. Through his leadership positions at NVESD, the Army Research Labs (ARL), and his current position at the Office of Naval Research (ONR), Dr. Driggers has helped direct numerous projects worth millions of research dollars for the Herff College of Engineering. He is a prolific technical author with hundreds of journal publications and has served as an editor for two premier journals in optical science. Over the past three years, he has co-authored more than a dozen papers with professors at the University or graduates of the University and, therefore, amplifies the value of the engineering program at the University of Memphis.


Dr. Erno Lindner, a distinguished professor of biomedical engineering, received the $20,000 Willard R. Sparks Eminent Faculty Award.

The Sparks Eminent Faculty Award recognizes exceptional and sustained contributions to scholarly-creative achievement, teaching and service, and for bringing recognition to the University.

Lindner, a native of Hungary, is the R. Eugene Smith Professor of Biomedical Engineering. He has assembled an outstanding laboratory research group and has compiled an impressive record of achievements in the fields of chemical sensor and biomedical engineering. His research is associated with such diverse aims as the early diagnosis of heart attacks and the precise delivery of the potent anesthetic drug propofol.

His research is supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health, and he works closely with research partners from the University, the city, the nation, and the world. His colleagues describe him as the “model of the ideal academic. ” Lindner has launched many of his students into prestigious careers in engineering and science. His work is cited in scientific papers hundreds of times a year. Last year he was honored with the U of M Alumni Association Distinguished Research Award for achievement in the sciences, engineering, and mathematics.

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