Fauchet honors engineering students in athletics, Army and Navy ROTC

Vanderbilt School of Engineering students Lina Granados, left, a soccer player, and Kendyll Dellinger, a bowler. (Heidi Hall/Vanderbilt University)

All of Vanderbilt University’s engineering students experience the tough classes, long nights of homework and challenging labs.

But some push themselves even further, spending hours more on the court or field, or in Army and Navy ROTC programs.

For a second year, they’re the ones Dean Philippe Fauchet honored with a special dinner -– 45 engineering majors (see full list below) who are also playing for Vanderbilt’s athletic teams or preparing for military service. They gathered in the University Club tonight to hear encouragement from the hardworking alumni who came before them.

Speakers included financial planner Randall S. Lee, who earned his mechanical engineering degree in 1987 while serving with the Navy ROTC. Today, he’s treasurer of the Vanderbilt NROTC Alumni Association.

Lee told the group that studying engineering will prepare them for a variety of fields, and none that follow will seem as difficult. He recounted using his natural curiosity and math skills to challenge an online planning calculator posted by a major financial company, again and again coming up with different answers than the calculator. After Lee repeatedly insisted they check it, company officials fixed the formula.

“There’s no such thing as an ex-engineer,” Lee said. “It’s an identity you’ll have forever and a badge of honor you’ll have forever, and you should be proud of that. Even if you’re running a fish market, someone will say, ‘There’s a fish market down there run by an engineer. Try the halibut. It’s great.’”

Vice Chancellor for Athletics David Williams, left, and retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Jerry Creighton Breast.

Damien Charley, a football player who earned his bachelor’s degree in engineering science in 1999, later becoming an engineer for Pepsi, minister and mortgage banker, urged students to keep in mind one word: gracious. That’s because students will have to be gracious with themselves when they inevitably experience setbacks.

“What succeeding in engineering takes is perseverance, grit and determination to see it through. I commend each and every one of you in here,” said Charley, president of the Association of Vanderbilt Black Alumni. “We can be the hardest on ourselves. When we fail, we’re cracking the whip on ourselves.”

Retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Jerry C. Breast, who transferred from studying engineering to physics and mathematics for his last two years at Vanderbilt, discussed how ROTC service opened doors to a 32-year career as a Navy pilot, fighting in Vietnam and, decades later, coordinating air strikes against Libya.

And the newest graduate, Alexandria Walsh, who will soon earn her Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from Vanderbilt, discussed her time as a competitive swimmer while earning her undergraduate degree here.

She said she often thought about her mother’s advice to take advantage of the opportunities that she was given. “You’re offered opportunities every day,” Walsh said. “Recognize what they are. I had her voice in my head when I decided to walk onto the swim team.”

David Williams II, vice chancellor for athletics, said events like tonight’s dinner help him recruit athletes who want to study engineering because they know they’ll be supported. Making the point, Fauchet ended the evening by asking every staff member and guest to stand up and explain who they are so the students could see all the support they enjoy.

Association of Vanderbilt Black Alumni President Damien Charley addresses the crowd.


Paul Adkison, Roger Barrett, William Bearden, Mackenzie Clair, Julia Collins, Gregory Fennell, John Howe, Michael Jabaley, Renee Lassen, Walker Prieb, Andrew Quilliams, Ryan Shea, Justin Stone, Colburn Wagner


Zachary Johnson, Barry Linden, Johnhenry Moore, William Savage, Natalie Snyder, Benjamin Sturgeon, Nathan Wiegand

Student Athletes

Andrew Bachman, Claire Benjamin, Andrew Bridges, Marie Casares, Kendyll Dellinger, John Ewing, Nicholas French, Nikolaos Gkotsis, Sarah Goodale, Lina Granados, Joseph Hoffman, John Hughes, Cherrelle Jarrett, Damian Jones, Carter Josephs, Luke Kornet, Margaret Leavell, Hannah Martin, Baker Newman, Tommy Openshaw, Rebeca Reguero, Brittney Thomas, Vanessa Valentine, Jacob Van Geffen


Heidi Hall, (615) 322-6614
On Twitter @VUEngineering

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