Four alumni of the University of Kansas School of Engineering will receive the school’s highest honor in a ceremony next month.
The Distinguished Engineering Service Award ceremony is set for 6 p.m. Thursday, May 6, in the Kansas Union ballroom.
Honored this year are Bill Benso, Class of 1959; Michael Chun, Classes of 1966 and 1970; Dean Grimm, Class of 1958; and Bob Smith, Classes of 1964 and 1970.
Benso had a guiding hand in making the U.S. military more efficient and air travel safer. Chun has shaped the lives of thousands of young people while leading the nation’s largest independent school system. Grimm played a key role in landing the first man safely on the moon. Smith held crucial leadership roles for various petroleum and engineering companies for nearly 40 years.
“It is with great pride that we recognize the accomplishments of these four individuals,” said Stuart Bell, dean of the School of Engineering. “They each made tremendous contributions to their professions, through outstanding leadership, a tireless work ethic, high ethical standards and a dedication to doing the job right that are the trademarks of the KU School of Engineering. We are proud to call each of them Jayhawks.”
Benso, of Lawrence, worked for North American Aviation, later Rockwell International, for nearly a quarter of a century. He was involved in the development of a family of shipboard navigation systems that are on every U.S. submarine. He then went to Martin Marietta, later Lockheed Martin, in 1986. Through his leadership, he contributed significantly to Martin Marietta Canada Ltd., winning a system engineering management contract in the late 1980s to modernize Canada’s national air traffic control to seamlessly mesh with that of the United States. He retired in 1996. He has been active on the School of Engineering Advisory Board and continues to show a commitment to improving his community while exhibiting a love of KU and the School of Engineering. He earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from KU in 1959.
Chun, of Honolulu, Hawaii, has been a top administrator at Hawaii’s prestigious Kamehameha Schools since 1988. He also was director and chief engineer of the Department of Public Works for the City and County of Honolulu from 1981 to 1985. He earned a letter as a member of the KU football team in 1965, where he played alongside Jayhawk great Gale Sayers. He remains a strong supporter of all KU athletics. Chun earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 1966 and a doctorate in environmental engineering in 1970 from KU.
Grimm, of Parker, Colo., worked for NASA from 1963 to 1982. He managed the program that oversaw the design and implementation of the vehicle used by the first astronauts to land on the moon. Other significant NASA assignments for Grimm were developing procedures for systems failures, docking aids and lighting systems and training flight crews for the first space rendezvous in 1965. After he retired from NASA, he spent 11 years as a consultant before retiring from the workforce in 1993. He earned a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering from KU in 1958.
Smith, of Overland Park, is known for his contagious optimism, engineering expertise and adept leadership. He spent the first 10 years of his career with Atlantic Richfield Co., before moving to Fluor Daniel. He concluded his career at Black & Veatch, where he spent seven years as executive vice president and chief operation officer of the Process Division before retiring in 2000. Over the course of his career, he published eight papers, received 16 patents and earned the Dallas Section of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers Engineer of the Year Award in 1980. He serves on the School of Engineering Advisory Board. Smith earned his chemical engineering master’s degree and doctorate from KU in 1964 and 1970, respectively.
The Distinguished Engineering Service Awards, given out annually since 1980, honor KU engineering alumni or engineers who have maintained a close association with the university for outstanding contributions to the profession of engineering and to society.
Awards are made on the basis of an individual’s contribution 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.