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CEAT announces Hall of Fame inductees, J. Stephen Ford (also the Lohmann Medal recipient), Alyssa Schilling Warner, Cara Cowan Watts, Craig Stunkel and Duane Mass

CEAT announces 2023 Hall of Fame Inductees, Lohmann Medal recipient

Friday, October 13, 2023

Media Contact: Kristi Wheeler | Manager, CEAT Marketing and Communications | 405-744-5831 |

The College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology at Oklahoma State University has announced the 2023 Hall of Fame inductees and Lohmann Medal recipient.

CEAT Hall of Fame nominees must be a distinguished engineer, architect or technologist who has made an outstanding contribution to their profession or OSU and has served their community, state and nation with distinction. They should represent some of the most distinguished alumni and industry leaders associated with CEAT. The following candidates meet and exceed all criteria for the CEAT Hall of Fame recognition.

The Melvin R. Lohmann Medal was established in 1991 to honor alumni of CEAT for contributions to the profession or education of engineers, architects or technologists that merits the highest recognition. These honorees are also inducted into the CEAT Hall of Fame.

The college will hold a Hall of Fame banquet on Oct. 21, 2023, to honor those being inducted.

Honorees being inducted: J. Stephen Ford, Duane Mass, Craig Stunkel, Alyssa Schilling Warner and Cara Cowan Watts.

Hall of Fame inductee and Lohmann Medal Recipent

J. Stephen Ford
J. Stephen Ford - B.S in Architectural Engineering, M.S. in Civil Engineering and Ph.D. in Civil Engineering

Steve Ford attended OSU from 1965 to 1970 and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Architectural Engineering degree.

Ford comes from a family of OSU graduates. From a young age, Ford’s parents, Dick and D.H., took him and his brothers to OSU homecoming events. Those early experiences led him to an expectation that he was going to college and the understanding that he would attend the university for his undergraduate studies. Ford and his wife, Jane, carried on the same tradition with their two girls, who both attended OSU.

During his time at OSU, Ford met two friends who became very influential in his life: Jerry Keylon, P.E. and Bob Zahl, P.E. Keylon and Ford lived together in the Kerr dormitory. The two and their wives have now been friends for over 55 years and both had two daughters who attended OSU.

Zahl and Ford met in their first architectural design class in the basement of Engineering South. Zahl studied architectural design while Ford studied architectural engineering. After taking a required structural design class together, Ford convinced Zahl to take a second structural engineering class that was not required for Zahl’s architectural design curriculum. That decision changed the career path for Zahl and the two would ultimately become co-owners of the Zahl-Ford Structural Consultants firm in 1980.

The most pivotal point of Ford’s undergraduate career began the summer after his freshman year. Ford’s father introduced him to a friend and owner of a structural engineering consulting firm in Lawton, Oklahoma. Ford was hired and worked there every summer/school break, thereafter. Through that work experience, Ford was introduced to his wife, was able to pay entirely for his OSU studies and developed a true passion for structural engineering.

Ford indicated that one of the most important and vivid lessons he learned during his time at OSU happened when he failed at an assigned task. Ford worked for OSU professor Dr. Louis Bass in his consulting office and was responsible for writing a computer program to generate loads for a complex dome structure. The program contained an error in one of the load cases and cost $800 (equates to about $6,500 in 2023) to correct.

“I still remember how kind and non-judgmental professor Bass was when we determined what was wrong,” Ford said. “I’ve tried to remember that and emulate it when well-intentioned people have made an error.”

After graduating from OSU, Ford went to the University of Texas at Austin where he obtained his Master of Science and doctoral degrees in Civil Engineering. During that time, he was a research assistant at the University of Texas Balcones Research Center. His research included physically testing and analytically modeling the largest assemblage of concrete beams and columns that had been tested up to that time. The results of the research can be found in four international award-winning papers and implemented changes to the American Concrete Institute Building Code.

In addition to his internationally recognized papers, Ford was recognized as a Distinguished Alumni of the University of Texas Civil, Architecture and Environmental Engineering Academy. In 2020, he was recognized by "The Journal Record" in construction and real estate.

After his time at UT Austin, Ford went on to become a faculty member at the University of Oklahoma School of Civil and Environmental Engineering (1976-1978), then worked for a large structural consulting firm in Dallas until 1980. At this time, Zahl reached out to him about working together and Zahl-Ford Structural Consultants was born. That partnership evolved into Zahl-Ford Inc. and is now known as ZFI Engineering.

The firm’s work has been primarily in the design of structural systems for new/renovated buildings and in structural assessments/investigations. Many of the structural investigations with which Ford has been involved include large-scale serviceability and strength failures. Several of the investigations involved load tests of existing structures and geometric and material non-linear modeling of structures.

Ford served as a key leader of Zahl-Ford Inc. for 37 years.

“… I believe the greatest accomplishment was helping to develop a firm that has provided less experienced individuals a place to grow technically, professionally, and ethically, and to provide for their families," Ford said.

Ford attributes some of his success to a high school guidance counselor who effectively told him “he can’t.” She told him that his aptitude test scores indicated that “he really could be anything he wanted to be, except he should NOT pursue engineering.”

Endless engineering conversations with his architect/engineer/contractor father during his childhood, along with work and research experiences during his academic studies, mentorship from two world renowned professors, and his self-determination led him to become a successful engineer and business owner.

When he’s not focused on engineering, Ford loves to travel the world with his wife and friends, visiting their grandchildren, along with golfing and anything that involves spending time with his friends.

"Regarding the technical side of engineering, develop an exceptional understanding of engineering fundamentals. Many changes, including some very large ones, will occur during your professional lifetime," Ford said. "As those changes occur, an understanding of those changes and the implications of those changes will require an expertise in engineering fundamentals and structural behavior.”

He went on to advise students.

“Carefully, choose your first employer. It is important to look at a firm’s and their employee’s ethics, technical expertise, professionalism, mentorship of new graduates, passion for engineering, etc. … rather than the salary and benefits," he said. 

Hall of Fame Inductees


Duane Mass
Duane Mass - B.S. in Architecture

Duane Mass is the founder and president of Mass Architects. Mass founded his architecture firm with a determination to provide customer service and attention to detail. His passion for the built environment remains as palpable today as when he started his practice over 20 years ago.

Mass has been heavily involved in rural health care facilities, working with local health professionals to provide environments to improve the health of all of Oklahomans. In 2012, he designed the Oklahoma County Health Department’s new 54-acre public health campus which was featured in "The New York Times." Soon after, working with the Oklahoma State Health Department, Mass prepared a disaster and pandemic plan for Oklahoma that subsequently became the national model.

Additionally, Mass and his firm have carried out many projects reinvigorating the infrastructure of small airports across the state. He has also extensively offered his professional service to charitable foundations and other institutions benefiting a wide array of groups within the state — unhoused teens, victims of abuse, children with devastating diseases or disabilities, and many other groups. Mass not only designs the facilities, but also helps the organizations fundraise to get them built.

Mass was raised in Hartshorne, Oklahoma, on a family ranch. The community was settled at the end of the 19th century by Italian and other immigrant groups. Because of this, Mass grew up hearing Italian, Polish, Czech and Russian. Mass called his hometown “the most atypical Oklahoma small town.”

As a young man, Mass worked at construction sites and often interacted with the project architects. He remembers that one architect told him he was “in the wrong business” and that the only architecture school worth talking to within several hundred miles was OSU. That conversation led to his decision to attend OSU and study architecture.

Mass prides himself on his dedication to his studies. The majority of his time at OSU was spent in the architecture studio, working, learning and mastering his craft. During his time at OSU, he received the Alpha Rho Chi Medal for Merit in Architecture. Mass graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Architecture in 1989.

On Feb. 4, 1988, Mass met his wife, Robin Troy, at the Eskimo Joe’s Beer Garden. They went on to have one son and two daughters: Frank, who also graduated from CEAT; Jessica, who graduated from OSU’s College of Human Sciences; and Rachel, who graduated from the University of Arkansas.

Immediately after graduating, Mass became a member of the American Institute of Architects. His professional career started with a recommendation from a colleague to a small Tulsa firm. Soon after completion of a large corporate project with this firm, he moved to a firm in Oklahoma City where he worked under two senior principals. There, he grew his knowledge of educational and medical designs, but most importantly how to serve on a community level. The third firm Mass worked for allowed him to work on international and multimillion-dollar projects. During this time, he fell in love with historic preservation and restoration.

Mass opened his own practice in 1995. Mass Architects would soon compete against firms 10 times their size and continue to today. The firm grew and completed many projects within public and community health architecture, as well as master planning.

Sixteen years ago, Mass led the initiative with Gov. Brad Henry to restore the State Capitol as capitol architect. The restoration began in 2014 and will be dedicated soon.

“Duane most notably has saved and transformed the physical environment of the Oklahoma State Capitol Building. It is a monument that quite literally was nearly lost, were it not for Duane’s tenacity and expertise," said Suzanne Bilbeisi, OSU’s former School of Architecture department head.

Mass is a registered architect and is licensed in six states. He has gone on to win multiple awards and was named the 2013 Architect of the Year by the American Subcontractors Association.

In 2020, he was the Catholic Charities Green Tie Gala Chairman and Ambassador, while Robin served as co-chair. Most recently, the Latino Community Development Agency named him as Corporate Partner of the Year in 2022.

Outside of his career in Architecture, Mass and Robin love to travel. Sitting outside of a cathedral, castle, or monument in America or Europe and sketching allows Mass to feel a piece of where he is in that moment. They also enjoy the process of building and restoring and have built many houses over the years.

Mass remains involved with OSU’s School of Architecture, serving on the advisory board and offering his observations when necessary, and his financial support whenever possible. He enjoys staying connected to his alma mater and relishes the fact that today’s generation is working just as hard as he did for the degree.

Mass and his wife were excited to create and fund a scholarship endowment aimed at assisting non-traditional students who wish to study architecture abroad — something he was unable to do as a student.

“Students at CEAT should understand that it is our mission to serve. What you build or create will serve for the betterment of all of us or it is not worth doing,” Mass said. “Most of all, be respectful to your work partners and make working with you something that becomes the best part of their day.”

Craig Stunkel
Craig Stunkel - B.S. in Electrical Engineering, M.S. in Electrical Engineering, Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering

Craig Stunkel is a Stillwater native who graduated from OSU with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering in 1982, and a Master of Science in 1983. He later completed his doctorate from the University of Illinois in 1990. All degrees had an emphasis on computer engineering. 

Attending OSU was an easy choice for Stunkel. He attended many OSU events before becoming a student and he loved the relationship OSU has with the community. While in high school, he gained experience learning how to program computers in the math building on OSU’s campus. During his freshman year at OSU, Stunkel walked onto the men’s basketball team, later earning a scholarship and continuing to play throughout his undergraduate years.

He was a member of Sigma Nu Fraternity and while he made a multitude of memories with his fraternity brothers during his time on campus, his focus was always on his academic studies. After graduating in 1982, Stunkel married his high school sweetheart, Susan (Honska). The two met in the second grade at Westwood Elementary and had dated since their junior year of high school.

After getting his master's degree at OSU and working for IBM for 3 years, Stunkel and his wife moved to Urbana-Champaign, Illinois.

“Susan and I often say, if we had understood all the things that can go wrong on the road to a Ph.D., would we have had the courage to pursue it? But it really worked out well in our case,” Stunkel said.

Stunkel accepted a position with IBM Research in 1990 and devoted 30 years of avid leadership to the company, designing many high-speed networks for parallel and supercomputers.

Stunkel created significant and lasting innovations in high performance interconnects. He drove these innovations into many highly successful IBM supercomputing products over multiple generations. His work has significantly improved the execution time, viability and scalability of many important scientific applications that have improved lives and protected the nation.

Stunkel served in many roles during his career at IBM Research, including technical leader, different levels of management, mentoring, and as an advisor to executives. His work on interconnects (a key part of any supercomputer system) contributed to and was essential to the development of multiple high performance computing systems, which have been installed at the U.S. Department of Energy Labs, the U.S. Department of Defense, other U.S. government agencies and around the world.

With Stunkel’s contributions, IBM placed first multiple times on the computing industry’s Top 500 list for performance of supercomputers. During his time with IBM, Stunkel received four “Outstanding Technical Achievement” awards in three different areas for contributions to Blue Gene/P, Federation Switch and SP Communications Subsystems.

In 2020, Stunkel retired from IBM and joined NVIDIA, who have been designing the world’s fastest individual processors, and more recently, the world’s fastest networks. 

To date, Stunkel has 19 U.S. patents beginning in 1994 through 2021. He has 56 papers and three books/journal issues and has been recognized as a world-class expert in the interconnect area.

It is clear a big passion for Stunkel is computer design and high-speed internet, however this does not take away from his continued passion for basketball and love for his family. Stunkel and Susan have two kids Leanne and Kevin, and three grandchildren whom they get to see multiple times a week after they made the move to St. Louis to be closer to them. He also enjoys going on many biking adventures with Susan.

Stunkel named six OSU professors who inspired him to continue chasing his dreams: Charles Bacon, Louis Johnson, Rob Robinson, Mark Rockley, Jack Allison and David Soldan. He went on to name Dan Reed of the University of Illinois as the biggest influence on his decision to pursue parallel computer design as a career.

“Do summer internships, this is so much more important than back in my day,” Stunkel said. “Become knowledgeable about important challenges facing the world and how engineers can make a difference. Today, artificial intelligence is changing every field.”

Alyssa Schilling Warner
Alyssa Schilling Warner - B.S. in Chemical Engineering

Alyssa Schilling Warner attended CEAT from 1998 to 2002, earning a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering.

During her time at OSU, Schilling Warner was highly active in the university, the college and the School of Chemical Engineering. She was a member of the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority, was a Top 10 Freshmen Woman, the top CEAT graduate and named the Top Female Graduate of OSU in 2002. She was active in CEAT Student Council, co-founding and leading the CEAT Freshman Council, she was active in AIChE, president of Omicron Delta Kappa and she was executive director of the Big Event, a campuswide community service event.

After graduation, Schilling Warner began what would be a 20-year career with ExxonMobil. Her career took her to New Orleans; Santa Barbara, California; Houston; and finally, Papua New Guinea, where she spent the last four years of her career in two critical roles. She worked as a gas plant engineer, facilities engineer, process lead, engineering supervisor, field manager, asset manager and technical manager.

She was known among her coworkers as an exceptional engineer, developing and implementing novel solutions to problems onshore, offshore, and in various environments. While Schilling Warner had stints in other “broadening” experiences, ultimately, she loved being an engineer and constantly sought opportunities for technical challenges and increased responsibility.

Schilling Warner’s highest-profile role was as LNGP asset manager, where she was the operations manager for an 8.3MTPA LNG plant in PNG. When she had the chance to take the role, she jumped at it even though it involved moving her family — including five-month-old and three-year-old daughters — around the world because it was an amazing technical opportunity.

Schilling Warner was also passionate about OSU. She grew up in Follett, Texas and then Shattuck, Oklahoma, and was proud of where she came from along with the life skills instilled in her from an early age: hard work, family, community and service. She was also well aware of the doors that an engineering degree from OSU opened for her.

It was not surprising then that shortly after graduating she began funding a Presidents Distinguished Scholarship to benefit students from rural areas studying engineering. She wanted as many kids as possible to have the opportunities that she had at OSU and was willing to support those opportunities financially. Schilling Warner also joined in with several other ExxonMobil alumni to support the Student Excellence Center in CEAT and the ENDEAVOR undergraduate engineering laboratory — her name is prominently listed in both places.

Finally, Schilling Warner served as a recruiter at OSU, seeking out the best students to join ExxonMobil. She made multiple trips back to CEAT to talk to students at AIChE and other meetings, host information sessions and conduct interviews. Although she was overseas in PNG for her last four years, she was still named the lead recruiter for ExxonMobil at OSU, with the expectation that she would resume her direct engagement upon return to the U.S.

Although Schilling Warner was an extraordinary engineer, she was also an exceptional mentor and leader, helping to develop other engineers, both her staff and coworkers. In PNG, she was respected by the workforce there; the female engineers looked up to her as a role model and referred to her as “Boss Meri” or “Girl Boss” in their native language. She was invested in their growth and success.

Outside of engineering, Schilling Warner was passionate about her family, skiing and dance. Between eighth and 11th grades, she ran “Alyssa’s School of Dance,” where she did everything from choreographing and keeping books to hosting annual recitals for her students. She was named Teen Miss Dance of Texas from Dance Masters of America.

In 2013, Schilling Warner married Jeff Warner and soon had two daughters Audra and Laurel. She made it her goal to set an example for how to be a strong, smart and loving woman for her daughters to look up to.

Schilling Warner passed away on March 16, 2023, at the age of 44. She made a significant impact on many during her life and will continue to do so through her legacy and the lives she influenced. She was everything a leader should be and an inspiration to all.

Cara Cowan Watts
B.S in Mechanical Engineering, M.S. in Telecommunications Management, and Ph.D. in Biosystems Engineering

Cara Cowan Watts was born in Shawnee, Oklahoma, and grew up in Seminole, Oklahoma. She graduated from Seminole High School in 1992. After high school, Cowan Watts attended OSU where she obtained a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering in 1997. She obtained her Master of Science in Telecommunications Management from OSU-Tulsa in 2002.

Before returning to OSU for her doctorate, Cowan Watts worked at Hewlett-Packard in Colorado Springs in manufacturing and Williams Communications in Tulsa in telecommunications. She successfully defended her Ph.D. in Biosystems Engineering at OSU in the Fall of 2015.

Tulsa Pier Drilling was created in 1998 by Cowan Watts’ husband, Doug Watts. TPD has been under her leadership since 2016. Cowan Watts, CEO and principal owner, oversees drilling services, which generally includes turn-key installation of slurry, cased and other vertical piers for new foundations on bridges, substations, transmission lines, large residential homes, commercial and industrial buildings, tie backs and other drilled holes.

She oversees a team of almost 18 full-time and part-time employees, a fleet of commercial trucks and drill rigs, bidding, legal negotiations, business development, marketing, safety, accounting and human resources needs for their privately owned small business.

For over 20 years, Cowan Watts has been the owner and contract consultant for Cherokee Star. She contracts with companies and organizations that include project management, communication planning, innovative education solutions, presentation development needs and much more, within Indian Country or tribes doing business with outside corporations. 

Cowan Watts served as the elected tribal legislator for portions of Tulsa and Rogers counties in Oklahoma. She resided for three consecutive terms from 2003 to 2015, serving as the tribal council representative for Districts 13, 5 and 7. During her service, she initiated and amended legislation which furthered the interests of almost 320,000 Cherokee Nation citizens while serving approximately 30,000 constituents. She was also responsible for lobbying for new programs, additional monies, and policy changes. 

“I love my community work and my public and political work in the Cherokee Nation and across Indian Country,” Cowan Watts said. “I love to fish, hunt, hang out in the great outdoors as well as garden. I am still working to protect not only Cherokee Nation’s water rights and water quality, but the State of Oklahoma’s waters. I am really focused on traditional Cherokee plants such as identifying, gathering, and preparing Cherokee foods and first aid treatments.”

Cowan Watts is a Louis Stokes National Science Foundation Fellow and former twice elected member of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) Board of Directors. From 2017 to 2021, she served as president of the Oklahoma Professional Chapter. In 2018, she facilitated an agreement between OSU and AISES to bring the National American Indian Science and Engineering Fair (NAISEF) to the OSU-Stillwater campus and return the fair to a physical format after being virtual for almost a decade.

In 2020, she was awarded the highest AISES lifetime achievement award, the Ely S. Parker Award, to recognize those Indian leaders who most clearly embody AISES’ mission and goals through their achievements and contributions to science, technology, engineering, and math.

“For me, OSU AISES was a life changer,” Cowan Watts said. "I found my community with OSU AISES and National AISES. From the first local meetings on campus, to the region and to National meetings, I found my niche with other 'nerdy Native kids' in STEM, which helped provide the emotional, financial and peer support I needed to succeed in primarily a mainstream male environment. OSU engineering itself is typically diverse in student population compared to other engineering schools, but the faculty was not as diverse then as it is now with both women and Native peoples.”

Cowan Watts has been a member of the Engineers’ Society of Tulsa, Inc., the International Association of Foundation Drilling, the Tulsa Engineering Foundation, the Deep Foundations Institute, the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, the Oklahoma Professional Chapter of American Indian Science and Engineering Society, the Society of Women Engineers, Tau Beta Pi, Pi Tau Sigma and AISES.

Recently, Cowan Watts was invited to join the Strategic Advisory Board in CEAT. In addition, she was invited to join the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) Guidance Committee for Inclusive, Diverse and Equitable Engineering for All (IDEEA) from July 1, 2021, through June 30, 2022. Since 2019, she also served the Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering on their advisory board including acting chair.

Cowan Watts stays involved in multiple community organizations, such as the Victory Cherokee Organization, Tulsa Cherokee Community Organization, Rogers County Cherokee Association, Cherokee Indian Women’s Pocahontas Club, the Oklahoma Cattlewomen’s Association and much more.

Cowan Watts credits her parents — Beverly Leerskov Cowan, a Cherokee Nation citizen, and Clarence “Curly” Cowan — as having the most influence in her life. As public school teachers in K-12 and college for Oklahoma and Texas, she states that they set the tone for her public service, the importance of a strong education for all, and her inner moral compass. Her love for math comes from her dad and his constant need to challenge her and her brother.

“Many a paper napkin has been sacrificed to a good math problem over the years at Cowan meals,” Cowan Watts said.

“... Embrace your time at college as an opportunity to dive into new skills, research, and learn to fail successfully. Success is born of failure, so get comfortable with failure. Failure is your friend because it means you are engaged, you care, and you want to learn from your mistakes.”

Cowan Watts’ passion includes educating, mentoring and encouraging youth in STEM. She has been married to Doug since 2005 and lives on their ranch in Justus, Oklahoma. She is an active co-owner and co-operator of the Sideways Cattle Company, focused on training American Quarter Horses in competitive team roping and steer roping, raising Corrientes cattle for local roping pens, as well as providing beef to the public through a yearling operation in partnership with cattle brokers.

In addition, she is serving her third elected term to the USDA Farm Service Agency Committee for Rogers and Tulsa counties to drive public policy and ensure the next generation of farmers and ranchers are able to feed America.

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