The Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering Alumni Hall of Fame was established to inspire our current students and our alumni, and to celebrate the accomplishments of those extraordinary graduates who have used their education to excel in a profession, career or service.
The five inductees of the 2022 CCEE Hall of Fame represent an inspiring, interesting and influential group of alumni. Membership in the Hall of Fame is limited to about 1% of CCEE alumni.
This year’s Hall of Fame Induction ceremony was held on Nov. 4, 2022.
Deborah Bell Young (Global Capital Health, Safety, & Environmental Engineering Director, Honeywell International, Inc., retired), was inducted into the CCEE Hall of Fame in 2021. While speaking at the ceremony, she pointed out that, while the inductees all had very different paths to success, they have all had a major impact on the engineering industry and the CCEE community.
“Through our careers, we have touched many lives by teaching, mentoring, leading and being a part of this community and servicing and doing philanthropic work for NC State,” she said. “Thank you for being an exemplary alumni for CCEE.”
CCEE Ph.D. candidate Jessi Thangjitham, who is advised by Dr. Mervyn Kowalsky, also spoke at the event, saying it is obvious that “this group has made a major impact on our engineering community.
“Leadership, service and excellence was a universal theme amongst all the graduates. Congratulations on the well-deserved honor,” she said. “I think I can say on behalf of the NC State students that you inspire us to exhibit traits of leadership, service and excellence while we pursue our own great accomplishments.”
CCEE Head Dr. Jackie MacDonald Gibson said that the purpose of the Hall of Fame is to “inspire our current students and alumni and to celebrate the extraordinary accomplishments of our graduates from this program who are seeking to be the best that they can be.
“Congratulations to all the new inductees, and thank you for being an inspiration to all of us.”
Read more about each of the 2022 inductees:
Dan Pleasant, PE, earned his BSCE in 1972 and MCE in 1973. He has worked at Dewberry for more than 40 years, beginning as manager of a startup office in Danville, Virginia, and ultimately serving as Dewberry’s chief operating officer for 12 years. Though he now is working a limited schedule, he continues to guide critical initiatives for Dewberry, including championing its corporate acquisition program. Pleasant has also managed the acquisition of seven companies for Dewberry, including the 2021 acquisitions of two engineering firms in the Southeast and the 2019 acquisition of an engineering firm based in California. Pleasant also continues to be very active with Dewberry’s clients, serving as an executive client manager for several strategic clients. He has also held the roles of president of Dewberry Engineers Inc., a division of more than 1,800 employees, and president of Dewberry’s Southeast division. Under his leadership, he has successfully directed numerous complex planning and design assignments requiring the coordinated effort of professionals with a range of disciplinary expertise. Such assignments include serving in executive management roles for public and private sector clients for multimillion-dollar capital programs.
Pleasant has been active in numerous local, regional and state organizations, including serving as a board member and chair of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, as a member of the CCEE advisory board, as a director for the publicly traded American National Bank and Trust Company, and on the board of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce.
Dr. Sami Rizkalla
Dr. Sami Rizkalla moved to the U.S. in 1971 after working as a practicing structural engineer in Egypt. He earned his MSCE in 1974 and Ph.D. in 1976 from NC State. He then started his academic career as an assistant professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Manitoba, Canada, where he moved up the ranks and was promoted to professor in 1988. Rizkalla served as an associate dean in the college’s faculty of engineering from 1992 to 1994. During his career, he served as president and scientific director of the Canadian Networks of Centers of Excellence on “Intelligent Sensing for Innovative Structures.” Rizkalla was largely responsible for the design and construction of the first “smart” bridges in North America reinforced with durable fiber-reinforced polymer (FRP) materials. In 2000, he returned to NC State as a Distinguished Professor of Civil Engineering and Construction. He remained at the university until his retirement in 2017. Rizkalla also served as the director of the department’s Constructed Facilities Laboratory and the site director of the National Science Foundation Industry/University Cooperative Research Center (I/UCRC) on the Repair of Buildings and Bridges with Composites and director of the I/UCRC on Integrating Composites into Infrastructure. He was among the founding members of the American Concrete Institute (ACI) Committee 440: Fiber-Reinforced Polymer Reinforcement and served as the committee chair from 1997 to 2003. His research includes more than 300 refereed journal publications. During his 40-year career in academia, Rizkalla served as the chair/co-chair of more than 70 research-based M.S. students and more than 30 Ph.D. students. His research and contributions to the profession have been recognized by many awards, including being named a Fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers, Canadian Society for Civil Engineering, International Institute for FRP in Construction, Prestressed/Precast Concrete Institute (PCI), and ACI. He also received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Institute for FRP in Construction, PCI Distinguished Educator Award and was recently named an honorary member of the ACI.
After earning a BSCE in 1967 and an MSCE in 1969, Louis Rossi worked as a planner for the newly created New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT). In the 1970s, railroads were in a financial crisis. New York was struggling to save those companies, and NYSDOT organized a rail division to find a solution. An unusually young Rossi was put in charge. He quickly created a plan and got the buy-in of federal and local governments, businesses and other stakeholders with conflicting interests. He conceived and implemented New York’s TurboTrain, an early high-speed gas turbine passenger train running from New York City to Buffalo, New York. Sadly, those trains were disposed of by Amtrak in 1980. He became the director of transportation planning and focused on infrastructure. Working with U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan and staff, the Federal Surface Transportation Act included procedures whereby every project had to be reviewed for its impact on pedestrians and cyclists. This required every state to have a bike/pedestrian program manager. The 1996 plan is still in place and is used as a model for other states. His system of statewide signed bicycle routes has evolved into the multiuse Empire State Trail.
Following retirement to Florida in the 1990s, he authored “Cycling Along the Canals of New York” Volume 1 and Volume 2, which popularized bicycle tourism in New York. He volunteered with the Florida Department of Transportation and the Lake County, Florida, sheriff to improve cycling policies and helped create a network of Children’s Bicycle Safety Clubs as well as the Lake County bike racing team.
Rossi passed away on Aug. 16, 2020. He was a smart, energetic and creative civil servant who positively influenced many forms of transportation for residents of New York and Florida.
Sepideh (Sepi) Saidi
Born in Tehran, Iran, Sepi Saidi was raised with a large emphasis on education and the need to be independent. Through her years of primary school, Saidi excelled in science and math, leading to her dual bachelor’s degrees in civil engineering and agricultural engineering in 1993 from NC State.
With a $35,000 home equity loan and the will to succeed, Saidi opened the doors of Raleigh, North Carolina-based SEPI (a division of TranSystems) in 2001. She is the founder of SEPI and has been CEO for 21 years. Since its founding, the organization has grown domestically to become an Engineering News-Record Top 500 Engineering company, with gross revenue of $36 million in 2021.
Early on, Saidi recognized the value of relationships. Starting with her involvement in the American Council of Engineering Companies of North Carolina, Saidi increased her participation in professional organizations and served as the board chair of the Raleigh Chamber of Commerce (the third female chair in nearly 100 years). She also serves as chair of the North Carolina Chamber.
Fittingly, there are many similarities between Saidi and her company, SEPI. SEPI’s four core values are intrinsically woven into the fabric of the culture, driven by its leader: Be Brave, Be Open, Choose Positivity, Pursue Excellence.
James Trogdon earned a BSCE in 1984 and an MSCE in 1990. He is the former secretary and chief executive officer of the North Carolina Department of Transportation — which represents the second-largest state-maintained transportation system in the U.S. with more than 80,000 miles of roads, seven ferry routes, intercity passenger rail, public transit, aviation and more than 12,000 employees. Trogdon led the effort to substantially compress project development timelines and obtain legislative enactment of the state’s largest transportation bond. He helped increase transportation revenues while providing a substantial increase in capital program delivery. These efforts resulted in the acceleration of projects across the state that had been delayed for decades. In addition to his 27-year transportation career, Trogdon retired in 2016 as the Deputy Adjutant General – North Carolina National Guard. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in 1983 as a Distinguished Military Graduate Reserve Officer Training Corps at NC State. He served in the Engineer Company, Engineer Battalion, and Brigade Commands, performing engineering construction missions in more than a dozen countries throughout the world in support of combatant command theater engagement strategies. He was mobilized and deployed on active duty in 2003 in support of Operation Noble Eagle. He was again deployed on active duty in 2006 for Operation Iraqi Freedom as Commander, 105th Engineer Group in support of Multi-National Division North and the 25th Infantry Division during the Iraq “surge.” Trogdon was selected in 2011 by the U.S. Secretary of Defense to Joint Task Force Panther as Commander of all Department of Defense assets in support of the 2012 Democratic National Convention and National Special Security Event.