Two people with a long history of outstanding contributions to the University of Kansas School of Engineering will receive the school’s highest honor today, May 8.
Stan Rolfe, the Alfred P. Learned Distinguished Professor of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering, and Linda Ellis Sims, a retired ExxonMobil executive, will receive the Distinguished Engineering Service Award in a ceremony set for 6 p.m. at the Kansas Union.
“The School of Engineering owes a debt of gratitude to both these individuals for their strong leadership and dedication over the years. They’ve each had distinguished careers and made remarkable contributions to their professions,” said Dean of Engineering Michael Branicky. “Their expertise and high level of involvement has helped take KU and the School of Engineering to greater heights and positioned us for a brighter future.”
The School of Engineering Advisory Board has given the Distinguished Engineering Service Award annually since 1980. The award honors KU engineering alumni or engineers who have maintained a close association with the university and for outstanding contributions to the profession of engineering and society.
The award is made on the basis of an individual’s contribution to the public good, governmental service or the educational system, or contributions to the theories and practices of engineering, research and development in new fields of engineering or direction of an organization that has made exceptional contributions in design, production and development.
About the 2014 honorees:
Stan Rolfe earned his bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and doctorate in civil engineering from the University of Illinois in 1956, 1958 and 1962, respectively. He spent seven years at U.S. Steel’s research laboratory before bringing his expertise to the civil engineering program at KU in 1969.
As the Alfred P. Learned Distinguished Professor of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering, his leadership in fracture mechanics and fatigue helped build the university into a global leader in steel and concrete research. His research has led directly to longer lifespans, improved safety and decreased costs for structures such as bridges, buildings, ships and pipelines.
From 1975 to 1998, he chaired the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. He also served a year as interim department chair in 2002. He assembled a closely knit group of top-notch faculty members whose students have made a significant effect on the engineering profession. He also shifted the department’s focus, leading a vast majority of faculty to create active research programs.
In 2012, Rolfe provided strong, active leadership to the School of Engineering during a one-year term as interim dean of engineering. Under his guidance, the School of Engineering maintained the momentum of facilities expansion, faculty enhancement and student enrollment growth initiatives established by former Dean Stuart Bell, helping ensure a smooth transition for Dean Michael Branicky.
Rolfe has earned a number of highly prestigious national awards during his long and distinguished career. He’s a member of the National Academy of Engineering, which honors those who have made outstanding contributions to engineering research, practice or education. This is the highest professional distinction accorded to an engineer.
Rolfe and his wife, Phyllis, live in Lawrence and have three children, all of whom are KU graduates, and 12 grandchildren.
Linda Ellis Sims
Linda Ellis Sims earned a chemical engineering degree from KU in 1979, and she spent her entire career at ExxonMobil. She was known for her keen business judgment, market knowledge and tenacious focus. She started as a sales representative and ended as a global account executive, where she was responsible for mentoring account managers all over the world to help them succeed with many different businesses and cultures.
While a bit unusual for an engineer to work on the sales and marketing side, Sims, who also earned an MBA from Memphis State University in 1985, achieved great success through her professional drive, positive attitude and outstanding leadership skills. Sims also garnered much respect for her analytical and problem-solving skills.
Throughout her career – and in retirement – Sims has remained loyal to her Jayhawk roots. She is a tireless advocate for everything KU – devoting countless hours to the betterment of the School of Engineering and the university – while serving as a great role model for young engineering students.
She’s been active on the KU Endowment Board of Trustees, serving as chair of the development committee, and on the KU Alumni Association National Board of Directors, including a high level of participation in the Houston Chapter of the Alumni Association. She currently serves on the Alumni Association’s Greater Kansas City alumni chapter board. Sims has been on the School of Engineering Advisory Board since 1995, and she has also served on the Department of Chemical & Petroleum Engineering Advisory Board as well as the school’s Diversity & Women’s Programs Advisory Board.
In recognition of her contributions to the university, Sims received the Fred Ellsworth Medallion in 2011, the highest honor bestowed by the KU Alumni Association.
Sims retired from ExxonMobil in 2012. She and her husband, Russ, live in Independence, Mo.