PASADENA, Calif.--One way to measure how well educational institutions teach their students is to see what imprint their alumni leave on the world. Since 1966, the California Institute of Technology has acknowledged graduates who have made remarkable accomplishments.
This year, five graduates--leaders in film, industry, and academia--have been honored with the Distinguished Alumni Awards, the highest honor the Institute bestows upon its graduates. Selections are made by a committee of senior administrators, faculty, and alumni and confirmed by the Board of Trustees. An award may be in recognition of a particular achievement, a series of achievements, or a career of accomplishment.
The 2008 Distinguished Alumni are Ray Feeney (BS '75, engineering), Alexis C. Livanos (BS '70, engineering, MS '73, engineering science, PhD '75, engineering science), William H. Press (MS '71, physics, PhD '73, physics), Arthur D. Riggs (PhD '66, biochemistry), and Warren G. Schlinger (BS '44, applied chemistry, MS '46, chemical engineering, PhD '49, chemical engineering).
Ray Feeney has worked to provide leading-edge scientific and engineering solutions to the film industry since the 1970s. The new technologies offered by Feeney and RFX Inc, the company he founded just three years after graduating from Caltech, helped produce groundbreaking visual effects for both feature films and television. In conjunction with leading filmmakers and software engineers, Feeney has helped to pioneer and implement numerous new technologies, many of which have become standard techniques currently in use throughout the entertainment industry. He has received a myriad of awards in his field, including an Oscar in 2006 for lifetime achievement for contributions toward the science and technology of filmmaking.
Alexis C. Livanos, a native of Greece, says he came to the United States in the mid 1960s "because of NASA and the excitement of space exploration." He spent the next decade at Caltech studying physics and engineering, then worked his way through the aerospace industry to his current position as the corporate vice president and president of Northrop Grumman's space-technology sector. He is also on the board of directors for the Space Foundation, the California Chamber of Commerce, the National Defense Industrial Association, and the Graduate Aeronautical Laboratories (GALCIT) Advisory Council at Caltech, among many other organizations. Last week he was named a member of the National Academy of Engineering and this year the GALCIT Aerospace Historical Society honors him with the International Von Karman Wings Award. Livanos's leadership in research and development has resulted in unprecedented improvements in the capability of government and commercial space systems. He has pioneered innovations in microelectronics, high-power spacecraft buses, and advanced communications payloads.
William H. Press has pursued a variety of career paths since attending Caltech. At the age of 28, he became a tenured professor in physics and astronomy at Harvard University and held that position for 20 years. In that time, he published more than 150 papers and was the senior author of Numerical Recipes, a textbook on scientific computing that now has more than 350,000 copies in print. In 1998, he left his position at Harvard to become the deputy director for science and technology at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where he was responsible for ensuring the scientific quality of the laboratory's technical programs. Press is now embarking on yet another path, as a computational biologist at the University of Texas at Austin. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Arthur D. Riggs, emeritus director of the Beckman Research Institute at City of Hope, has been a pioneer in the field of epigenetics, a branch of genetics that seeks to understand the changes in gene function that occur without changing the DNA sequence. Prior to this, his work in the 1970s resulted in the bacterial production of human insulin, which helped launch the genetic-engineering revolution and the biotechnology industry. Later, his work in recombinant antibodies set the stage for their successful use in treatment of cancer and other diseases. Most recently, Riggs became a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 2006.
Warren G. Schlinger, another alumnus who spent nearly a decade at Caltech as a student, has played a large role in the development of chemical technology involved in coal gasification. After graduating from Caltech, he taught at the Institute for four years and then joined Texaco Inc., where he worked for the next three decades. He made vital contributions to the processing of oil shales, desulfurization technology, and coal gasification technology, particularly the development of combined cycle power generation. He also wrote 65 patents while at Texaco. He is a fellow of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and received the society's Chemical Engineering Practice Award. He has also been a member of the National Academy of Engineers for about 20 years. His latest position at Texaco was as the director of the Montebello Research Laboratory, but he has since retired.
The five recipients will each receive an engraved Tiffany bowl and a framed calligraphy certificate, and their names will be displayed on a plaque at the Caltech Alumni House.