Alumni and Students Gather at the Green & Gold Tailgate to Celebrate the 40th Anniversary

green and gold 2022 check in line

Faculty, students, alumni and staff check-in at the 40th Anniversary Green & Gold Tailgate event on the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering campus on September 23, 2022. (M Wallheiser/FAMU-FSU Engineering)

The FAMU-FSU College of Engineering celebrated its 40th anniversary on September 23, 2022 at a tailgate-style event on its Tallahassee campus. The celebration was designed to bring Rattler and ‘Nole engineers together for a party to reminisce and celebrate the joint college’s achievements over the last four decades. More than 700 people enjoyed live music, food and campus and lab tours on a Friday before both universities hosted home football games.

kids enjoy challenger learning center activities at the green and gold tailgate
Youngsters enjoy STEM activities from the Challenger Learning Center of Tallahassee. (M Wallheiser/FAMU-FSU Engineering)

The event kicked off with the unveiling of a historical timeline exhibit showcasing significant events in the college’s 40-year history. The FAMU-FSU College of Engineering was first established by the Florida Legislature in February 1982 as the college of engineering for Florida A&M University and Florida State University. The first class of 35 students from FAMU and FSU enrolled in August of that same year.

“We are making history as we speak,” said Suvranu De, dean of the college. “So, while we look back with fondness and pride over the last 40 years, I think what is most uplifting and interesting is the future ahead of us.”

One of the surprises at the event was the relationship between the musical entertainment for the event and engineering. There are 69 members of the FAMU Marching 100 and the FSU Marching Chiefs who are also engineering students. Both bands made appearances at the event—the first time ever at the college’s campus.

“I’m excited because today is the 40th, and we were so fortunate to have the both the Marching Chiefs and the Marching 100 join us,” said Rahni Wright, the community engagement project coordinator for the college. “One of the things we were so excited about, in terms of having both, is finding out that we have so many engineering students that are members of both bands. Having the FAMU Marching 100 and the FSU Marching Chiefs in the same spot doesn’t happen very often in Tallahassee. We are one of the few places that can happen and that happened right here.”


visitors to the civil engineering department at the green and gold event
Alumni reconnect with Lisa Spainhour, professor and chair of the college's civil and environmental engineering department. (M Wallheiser/FAMU-FSU Engineering)

Mischa Steurer, a researcher in electrical and computer engineering, played mandolin with his bluegrass ensemble, Coon Bottom Creek Band, and gave a personal touch to the party. The college’s new mascot, Goostavo, winged his way through the crowd to make a surprise visit at the end of the party.

Alumna Virginia Harmon remembers how welcoming the school was to a part-time student who was already in a career. Harmon got her master’s degree in environmental engineering from the college through FSU in 2007 and currently works with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Drinking Water Program.

“I had the privilege to return to school while working in the DEP Drinking Water Program, which regulates public water systems such as city utilities,” Harmon said. “The plan of study was ideal for career and as a graduate female student I felt remarkably comfortable with the environment here. My academic adviser, Dr. Tarek Abichou, continues to inspire me to this day. He said learning never stops, even after the degree is received and we continue to learn new things every day.”

Harmon had the chance to see the college’s new research facilities and visit with the faculty in her department.

allen saad, alumnus and suvranu de, dean at the green and gold event
Allen Saad, left, is recognized by Suvranu De, dean, as one of the first graduates of the joint college in 1985. Saad graduated with a BS in electrical engineering via FAMU. (M Wallheiser/FAMU-FSU Engineering)

Elliott McCaskill graduated from FSU in 2014 with a bachelor’s in chemical and biomedical engineering. McCaskill is a process and technology engineer for Prayon Inc., in Augusta, Georgia.

“My fondest memory, looking back, was all the late-night studying sessions with my classmates,” McCaskill said. “There was a sense of camaraderie, preparing for exams, working on senior design projects together. It was sink or swim. They were my family away from home. We got to know each other pretty well and we got really close through the years.”

Dean De recognized the earliest graduates of the college, including Willie “West” Wilson, one of four students from FAMU who graduated with an electrical engineering degree in 1985 and Tom Ballenger, the first FSU student to graduate with a degree in mechanical engineering from the college in 1985, as well as Norm Thagard, M.D., a former astronaut and naval aviator for NASA. Thagard, credited with starting the Challenger Learning Center of Tallahassee, was a professor in electrical engineering and graduated from FSU in 1965. Allen Saad graduated from FAMU in electrical engineering in 1985 and has had an impressive career at NASA and also part of the team that revolutionized tankless water heaters.

The event included exhibits and services from many organizations in Tallahassee, including the Challenger Learning Center; several engineering student organizations; special teams from the Leon County Sheriff’s Department: the Hazard Device Team, Tactical Dive Team and Hostage Negotiation Team; and the Florida Trucking Association. 4 Rivers Smokehouse, Metz/FAMU, and the City of Tallahassee Water Wagon also contributed to the event.


Graduates Sharing Memories

YOLANDA PUGH (BS Chemical Engineering, 1996) currently teaches math. “My fondest memory is hanging out with my classmates and studying hard. My favorite teachers were Dr. John Telotte, Dr. Frederick Forman, who taught us mechanics and Dr. Srinivas Palanki.”

BREDA ARNELL, (BS Industrial Engineering, FAMU, 1998) currently works in the department of mechanical engineering at the college. “After graduation, I went to Germany with the Army Corps of Engineers for a few years and came back to Tallahassee to earn my MBA. My fondest memory of industrial is the current friends I still have. Some of the faculty when I was an undergraduate is still here in 2022, and I still feel the support and the love at the college that I have always felt.”

MELISSA HOLLIS (BS Mechanical Engineering, FSU, 1989 and MS 1991) Hollis currently works as an engineer with the Florida Department of Transportation. “My fondest memory was the small classes. We got a lot of attention and the faculty was always there to help us out. Dr. Leon van Dommelen, taught us some of our numerical methods classes. Back in the early programming days we learned a lot from him back then.”

CHELZY MCCOY (BS Electrical Engineering, FSU, 2007) “My fondest memory was the wonderful professors I had. My favorite was Dr. Skinner, who passed away some years ago. He made engineering fun. Math was one of my favorite subjects and being able to use it to study in the field of engineering was a nice experience. He was very inspiring to me. Right after I graduated, he helped me find my first job with Trane Air Conditioning company. I then moved on to Gulf Power as an electrical engineer in the distribution department. I did several designs for residential and commercial customers.”

NIKKI DAVIS LEE (BS Electrical Engineering, FSU, 1998) earned a master’s in computer and electrical engineering from John Hopkins University. “My fondest memory of the college was participating in activities with National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE). I work in the intelligence community and currently have my own engineering consulting business. I’m a program manager for software development.”

CELORA JACKSON (BS Civil Engineering, FSU, 1988) Jackson worked as an engineer in the private sector for 10 years and currently at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. She also sits on the college advisory board. “The college was so family-oriented. It was so small at the time and the school was just developing. You felt special because you had everybody’s attention. The instructors were very supportive.”

LAQUITA LEE (BS Electrical Engineering, FAMU) Lee currently works with her husband’s family medical practice as a manager. “I had my first child in my fourth year of college. It was a five-year program and the support I got was amazing. I was able to come back, complete my classes, and got a job as a software engineer. I was a NASA scholar and interned twice at NASA when I was a student here. I ended up teaching high school math.”



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