School of Engineering announces 2024 Distinguished Alumni and Friend honorees

Accomplished alumni from the Vanderbilt University School of Engineering who have gone onto successful careers in energy markets, health care, academia and space transportation—along with an Under Secretary for the U.S. Department of Defense—will join the School of Engineering’s Academy of Distinguished Alumni. In addition, a longtime community volunteer and philanthropist associated with the school has been named a Distinguished Friend. They were recognized at an induction ceremony at an April 25 Engineering Celebration Dinner.

The eight honorees are School of Engineering alumni John C. Addison, Tamara C. Baynham, Baratunde A. Cola, John H. Dayani, Richard J. Statuto, Ashish S. Vazirani and Erika B. Wagner. Shannon Addison, a Vanderbilt alumna, will join the School of Engineering’s Circle of Distinguished Friends.

Engineering Dean Krishnendu Roy

“I am incredibly honored and excited to welcome these exceptional new members of the Academy of Distinguished Alumni and the new member of our Circle of Distinguished Friends and recognize their highly impactful professional achievements and personal contributions to our School of Engineering community,” said Krish Roy, Bruce and Bridgitt Evans Dean of Engineering and University Distinguished Professor. “This year’s inductees represent the best of the best of our alumni – who are leaders in their fields, have a deep commitment to service, and tirelessly works for the greater good of the community. I am grateful for their support and congratulate them on their incredible successes. They exemplify the essence of a Vanderbilt Engineering education, our Dare-to-Grow mission, and in doing so they honor the school and the university.”

The Distinguished Alumni Award recognizes notable achievement, significant service and excellent character. The Distinguished Friends Award recognizes individuals associated with the School of Engineering, but who are not alumni, whose professional, civic and philanthropic pursuits reflect the high standards and values associated with the school. Honorees are chosen by an awards committee that comprises the dean, faculty members and alumni representatives.

2024 Distinguished Alumni Honorees

John C. Addison, BE’01
John Addison graduated as a major in both chemical engineering and chemistry with a minor in economics. Addison began his career in energy trading at Enron, where he worked for six months before the company’s demise and where he also gained a career’s worth of knowledge from boom to bust in his short tenure. He subsequently joined Shell Trading, where he had served as a student intern, on the trading desk, and he has been an energy trader since. He currently works at Vitol, the world’s largest energy trader and one of the largest privately held companies, where he has been in management since 2013. He holds other roles such as co-head of Vitol’s Global Trading Initiative, a collective of Vitol’s top global talent who strategize about the future of the business and its role in the industry. He serves on the School of Engineering’s Campaign Cabinet and is a member of the Board of Visitors. His wife, Shannon, is a Peabody College graduate and is recognized this year as an inductee in the School of Engineering’s Circle of Distinguished Friends (see below).

Tamara C. Baynham, BE’93
Tamara Baynham earned her undergraduate degree in biomedical and electrical engineering. She has provided support to areas across the university, including athletics, the Association of Vanderbilt Black Alumni (AVBA), the School of Engineering and the Department of Biomedical Engineering, the Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center, and others. She is a member of the School of Engineering Board of Visitors and a mentor for both AVBA and the Wond’ry. Baynham received her master’s and doctorate in biomedical engineering at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She has more than 20 years of experience in medical device research and development, including positions at Johnson and Johnson, Boston Scientific and Nevro corporation. She is also a patent agent registered to practice at the U.S. Patents and Trade Office (USPTO) and holds 50 patents of her own granted by the USPTO. In 2013, Baynham founded Ingenuity Medical Device Research LLC. She currently serves as part-time director of engineering at Popcheck Technologies, a seed-stage medical device startup based in Memphis, Tennessee.

Baratunde A. Cola, BE’02, MS’04
Baratunde Cola earned a bachelor’s degree with majors in mathematics and mechanical engineering, continuing at Vanderbilt, where he received a master’s in mechanical engineering. As a student, he lettered in varsity football after transitioning from equipment manager to starting fullback. He has provided support for both the mechanical engineering program and athletics. After a brief stint in private business and politics, Cola earned his doctorate from Purdue University and quickly became a noted global expert in the fabrication of aligned carbon nanotubes (CNTs) and advanced materials applied to energy technology and thermal management. As a tenured professor at Georgia Tech, Cola has published more than 100 peer-reviewed research papers and participated in more than 100 speaking engagements. Additionally, he has led the growth of Carbice Corporation, as its founder and CEO, from a small lab in 2011 to a 20,000-square-foot headquarters and global production facility in Atlanta—the largest vertically aligned carbon nanotube production center in the world. Cola is the recipient of a number of awards including the 2017 Alan T. Waterman Award, recognizing the nation’s top scientist or engineer under age 35.

John H. Dayani, BE’69, PHD’76
John Dayani graduated from Vanderbilt with bachelor’s and doctoral degrees in electrical engineering. He is married to School of Nursing alumna Elizabeth Crow Dayani, BSN’71, MSN’72. Together, they have provided support for the National Commodore Club, the School of Nursing and various funds at the medical center. Additionally, John has served on the Department of Biomedical Engineering Advisory Board and the School of Engineering Board of Visitors. Dayani is an entrepreneur who has invested in several successful startups. With his wife, he launched American Nursing Resources, which now has 23 offices. Additionally, he founded Medifax/Medquest, a medical records documentation outsourcing firm; Total eMed/Medical Logic, an internet electronic medical records company; Cardiovascular Care Group, which supports physicians with outpatient catheter lab and cardiology resources; and Vanderford Capital Advisors, a web-based application for stock market analysis and investment and wealth management services. The Dayanis are parents to alumnus John H. Dayani Jr., BE’94, EMBA’01.

Richard J. Statuto, BE’79
Richard Statuto received a bachelor’s in chemical engineering. He served as a Reunion volunteer in 2003-04 and has provided charitable support for university priorities and the School of Engineering. Statuto completed his MBA at Xavier University before launching his career at Proctor and Gamble. He currently serves as the chairman of Premier Inc., a health care technology company dedicated to improving clinical best practices. A member of its board of directors, he previously served as the board chair from 2013 to August 2019. From 2005 to September 2018, Statuto served as the president and CEO of Bon Secours Health System and as an advisor to Bon Secours Mercy Health. Previously, he served as president and CEO of St. Joseph Health System. Statuto currently serves as an executive advisor for LRVH, a Boston-based venture capital firm. He previously served as a member on the boards of Kmart, American Red Cross and Catholic Medical Mission Board.

Ashish S. Vazirani, BE’86
Ashish Vazirani received his bachelor’s in mechanical engineering and participated in the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC). He stays connected to Vanderbilt as a CoRPS alumni interviewer, and he served on the Reunion committee in 2016 and 2021-2022. Vazirani provides charitable support for the School of Engineering, as well as the Naval Office Education Program, the NROTC Discretionary Fund and the ROTC Alumni Gift Fund. After graduation, Vazirani served in the U.S. Navy as a submarine officer before pursuing a Master of Engineering at the McCormick School of Engineering at Northwestern University and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. Currently the acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness for the U.S. Department of Defense (USDOD), he serves as the principal staff assistant and advisor to the Secretary of Defense. Among his roles prior to joining the USDOD, he was principal of A2O Strategies LLC, where he advised high-growth, mid-size and large enterprises, both commercial and nonprofit, on the development, implementation and execution of growth strategies. Vazirani has served as executive director and CEO of the National Military Family Association (NMFA), where he provided oversight and direction for advocacy and programming to support military families.

Erika B. Wagner, BE’00
Erika Wagner graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering. She and her family have provided support across the university, including funds to support the band, the Blair School of Music and the School of Engineering. Wagner also served as a Career Connect Adviser from 2016 to 2021. Wagner earned a master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a Ph.D. in bioastronautics from the Harvard/MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology. She is an alumna of the International Space University and an associate fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Wagner currently serves as senior director of emerging market development for Blue Origin, a developer of vehicles and technologies to enable human space transportation. Prior to joining Blue Origin, Wagner worked with the X PRIZE Foundation as senior director of exploration prize development and founding executive director of the X PRIZE Lab@MIT. She was a member of the board of the American Society for Gravitational and Space Research, and NASA’s Planetary Protection Independent Review Board. Today, she serves as a trustee of the Museum of Flight, as well as a member of the National Academies’ Space Studies Board.

2024 Circle of Distinguished Friends Honoree

Shannon Addison, BS’02
Shannon Addison graduated from Vanderbilt’s Peabody College of education and human development in 2002 after majoring in psychology and human and organizational development. Shannon and John Addison are ardent supporters of the university through both volunteerism and philanthropy. They have provided support for the school’s Board of Visitors Initiatives endowment and Board of Visitors Scholarship fund, as well as annual gifts to the school and the College of Arts and Science, and they serve on the School of Engineering’s Campaign Cabinet. Additionally, Shannon served as a Reunion Committee member in 2022 and a VU Connect Career Adviser from 2014 to 2018. She became an attorney after completing her law degree at Emory University in 2005. She is currently a community volunteer, and she supports philanthropic causes in Houston, where the family resides. These include Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital, DePelchin Children’s Center and Junior League of Houston.

Vanderbilt School of Engineering and Board of Visitors Dinner with awards
Vanderbilt School of Engineering and Board of Visitors Dinner with awards