State of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame inducts Class of 2020

By Austin Phillips

Published: Feb 24, 2020 2:30:00 PM

Kenneth Kelly, ’90 electrical engineering and chairman and CEO of First Independence Bank; Linda DuCharme, ’86 chemical engineering and president of ExxonMobil Upstream Integrated Solutions; and David Mobley, ’61 electrical engineering and consultant for ECHOTA Research & Science Applications. Kenneth Kelly, ’90 electrical engineering and chairman and CEO of First Independence Bank; Linda DuCharme, ’86 chemical engineering and president of ExxonMobil Upstream Integrated Solutions; and David Mobley, ’61 electrical engineering and consultant for ECHOTA Research & Science Applications.

The State of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame inducted six individuals, including three Auburn University alumni, during a ceremony Saturday at the Bryant Conference Center in Tuscaloosa.

This year’s inductees from the university include Linda DuCharme, ’86 chemical engineering and president of ExxonMobil Upstream Integrated Solutions.; Kenneth Kelly, ’90 electrical engineering and chairman and CEO of First Independence Bank; and David Mobley, ’61 electrical engineering and consultant for ECHOTA Research & Science Applications.

Other inductees include Jody Singer, ’93 industrial engineering from the University of Alabama and director of the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center; Michael Johns, ’97 mechanical engineering from the University of Alabama and vice president of the Southern Research Institute’s engineering division; and Sheila Cummings, ’95 aerospace engineering from the University of Maryland and founder, president and CEO of Cummings Aerospace. 

In addition to the State of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame inducting three Auburn Engineering graduates, the organization also announced the appointment of two Auburn Engineering graduates to its board — Tony Smoke, ’84 electrical engineering and vice president of the Birmingham division of Alabama Power, and Ken Smith, ’81 civil engineering and former president of Spire.

Class of 2020
Linda DuCharme joined Exxon Company in 1986 after graduating from Auburn University with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering. She spent the first 10 years of her career in New Orleans gaining experience in engineering and project management for production operations in the Gulf of Mexico. She subsequently held roles with increasing responsibility throughout the organization both domestically and internationally, serving as director of ExxonMobil International Limited for Europe, Russia and the Caspian region and vice president of the Americas, Africa and Asia Pacific New Markets, to name a few.

In August 2016, DuCharme was appointed president of ExxonMobil Global Services where she led organizations providing support in information technology, global real estate and facilities, procurement and environmental services. She was named president of ExxonMobil Upstream Integrated Solutions (UIS) in April 2019 as part of a restructuring of ExxonMobil’s seven upstream companies to three. In this role, she is responsible for setting the vision and direction of the engineering, geoscience, research and commercial centers that execute drilling operations, develop and deploy technology, provide expertise in subsurface and surface engineering and drive commercial and trading performance. Ducharme is also responsible for skill development and deployment across the upstream, ensuring the best talent is in place to innovate, integrate and develop transformative solutions for upstream success. She serves as the executive sponsor of staffing and long term development for a global organization of more than 15,000 employees, where she is a champion for inclusion and diversity.

DuCharme is a member of 100+ Women Strong —Auburn Engineering’s program to recruit, retain and reward women in engineering — and was the keynote speaker at the program’s 2018 spring conference. She has been a longtime supporter of Auburn Engineering and established the Linda DuCharme Endowed Scholarship for students in chemical engineering in 2017.

Kenneth Kelly is a 1990 electrical engineering graduate of Auburn University who also earned his executive MBA in 1998 from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Kelly serves as the chairman and CEO of First Independence Bank, the seventh largest African-American-controlled bank in the country. Prior to leading First Independence, he held several positions at Alabama Power, Georgia Power and Southern Power leading negotiations for solar projects totaling more than $3.4 billion in partnership value. In 2012, while employed at Southern Power’s Business Development group, he negotiated Southern Power's first $500 million solar facility in the state of California. In 2017, he retired from Southern Company after making notable contributions in engineering, industrial marketing, nonprofit leadership, corporate finance and planning, managing investments and trusts, human resources, supply chain management, and commercial and industrial sales management.

As a result of his leadership contributions and professional expertise, Kelly has been appointed to the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago’s Community Depository Institutions Advisory Council for a three-year term and has been appointed nationally to the FDIC’s Community Bank Advisory Committee to provide guidance to the chairwoman on policy for a two-year term. In May 2018, he was presented The Spirit of Detroit Award by the Detroit City Council.

He serves as vice chair of the Auburn Alumni Engineering Council and is a member of the university’s Foy and Samford societies, as well as the college’s Eagles Society. The Engineering Academic Excellence Program Reception Area in the Brown-Kopel Engineering Student Achievement Center was recently named in his honor for his support of Auburn Engineering.

David Mobley graduated from Auburn University in 1961 with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and joined NASA as a test engineer working on Saturn rockets. During his career with the space agency, he worked at Marshall Space Flight Center, Kennedy Space Center, Johnson Space Center and at the Thiokol plant facility in Utah. Early in his career, Mobley worked on the Apollo Telescope Mount, a major component of the Skylab Project and worked in Florida as part of the launch preparation team for Skylab. In 1976, he was part of a NASA technical support team sent to Holland to work with the European Space Agency. In 1984, he was named Spacelab chief engineer.

Among his lasting achievements were brokering a peaceful and technically awe-inspiring collaboration to birth the International Space Station, one of the greatest engineering feats in human history.  He worked tirelessly with the Russians to involve them with the International Space Station, which also involved agencies from Japan and Europe. His interpersonal instincts were instrumental in forging a working relationship with Russian engineers, setting a precedent for future space partnerships with Russia. His efforts to get Russia onboard an American-led design were detailed in the popular book, “Dragonfly: NASA and the Crisis Aboard Mir.”

His work on the space station led to him to being chosen as NASA’s chief engineer where he was the senior technical advisor to former NASA administrator Dan Goldin for all the agency’s projects.

He retired from NASA in 1996 and became chief engineer for Boeing Space and Defense Group in Huntsville before being assigned as the U.S. Lab/Hab lead. He served as chief engineer for Microgravity on a Marshall project. After retiring as chief engineer for Microgravity, he has remained active as an independent consultant providing independent management and technical reviews and systems engineering related support to NASA headquarters and Marshall programs and projects. The most current programs he supported include Gateway to the Moon, Lunar Lander, Habitat, Payloads and International Standards.

The State of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame was chartered by the governor in 1987 to honor those individuals, corporations and projects associated with the state that have brought credit to the engineering profession. A total of 186 engineers, 44 projects and 32 firms have been recognized by the hall. These inductees span from border to border, across all industries, and personify the impact engineering has played on the economy, quality of life and standard of living for the people of Alabama.

The Hall of Fame is overseen by engineering colleges and schools at Auburn University, Alabama A&M University, the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa, Tuskegee University, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the University of Alabama in Huntsville and the University of South Alabama.

Media Contact: Austin Phillips, austinp@auburn.edu, 334-844-2444

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