A poet, a general and a judge, all engineers by training with diverse, illustrious careers to follow, were among the 11 Newark College of Engineering (NCE) graduates recently inducted into the NCE 100, the alumni hall of fame established this year as part of the College’s celebration of its centennial.
“The range of what our graduates have done is very wide,” noted NCE Dean Moshe Kam, at a ceremony in Eberhardt Hall, the campus’s oldest building, that touched on NCE’s origins in the industrial age and the confident role its graduates currently play in shaping the new, technologically dynamic era of nanotechnology, robotics and advanced manufacturing.
Yuriy Tarnawsky ’56, an electrical engineer and poet, General Ellen Pawlikowski ’78, a chemical engineer and a retired four-star general in the U.S. Air Force and Sohail Mohammed ’88, an electrical engineer and New Jersey Superior Court judge, joined eight of their fellow inaugural inductees, whose graduation years spanned more than three decades, for an evening that began with accolades and ended with anecdotes and fine dining.
The honorees were recognized for singular accomplishments: “a significant contribution with a tangible positive effect on society or the profession – through authorship and composition; high-impact research, discovery or artistry; or major long-term and widely recognized leadership of organizations or groups beneficial to the public.”
The induction kicked off a year-long celebration of NCE’s 100th anniversary, which will feature awards ceremonies, galas, historical tributes and engineering competitions to commemorate the school’s “Century of Public Service Through Engineering.”
Kam began the evening with a brief history of the College, beginning with the founding of its precursor, Newark Technical School, in the manufacturing hub that was 1880s Newark, which hungrily absorbed its technically skilled graduates.
“To be a standout among the alumni of Newark College of Engineering is quite a challenge. NCE has quite a history of success … and we’re not resting on our laurels,” noted Bloom, who pointed to the university’s new standing in the top tier of research institutions, the stellar academic records of incoming students and, at the other end, their success on the job market, which has earned NJIT the coveted number one spot in the nation for economic and social mobility.
For the inductees, the campus gathering unleashed a flood of memories: of hard, exacting work punctuated by moments of inspiration.
“Professor Bob Rose had recently obtained the first digital computer at NCE: an IBM machine that was programmed with paper tape. I worked with Professor Rose to write my first program to calculate a mathematical function. Later, this computer programming experience would help me at Bell Labs,” recalled inductee A. Michael Noll, a former engineer, professor, dean and author.
Noting the grit and determination it took to earn an engineering degree at NJIT, he added of his fellow alumni, “Over its century of existence, tens of thousands made it through and graduated, and they all should be honored for their significant careers and accomplishments.”
“To this day, I recall the math courses I took with Professors Foster, Zatskis and Fithian, and I remember the almost religious experience, a true epiphany, I underwent when learning about entropy in the course on thermodynamics,” Tarnawsky said at the dinner following the ceremony, while also noting how his training as an engineer had informed his literary style.
“My technical background has had a profound impact on my writing, causing me to devote much attention to language and form,” he said, adding that his novel Three Blondes and Death “is based on a numerological principle rather than plot, and is written in an artificial language which is a proper subset of English. The latter is rigorously defined and consists almost exclusively of simple sentences. Some critics have called it as having been “engineered.” I have brought its seeds, without a doubt, from NCE.”
“Since I was here as an undergraduate, taking six to seven courses per semester and working three jobs to make it through, I have seen tremendous changes. The contributions of the NJIT community, including our students, faculty and administration, have transformed a good teaching institution into a premier research institution,” said Nirwan Ansari, Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering at his alma mater. “Being able to participate in and contribute to this transformation as a student and a faculty member means a lot to me, making me forever a proud Highlander.”
News of the event spread quickly. The following night, as part of his introduction before the screening of a documentary on his life and literature, the crowd at the Ukrainian Institute of America in Manhattan was informed that Tarnawsky “was just inducted into the hall of fame at NJIT.”
The inaugural class of the NCE 100 includes:
*Nirwan Ansari, who graduated summa cum laude in 1982 with a degree in electrical engineering, is now a distinguished professor of electrical and computer engineering at his alma mater, where he specializes in green communications and networking, cloud computing, multimedia communications and broadband networks. Over his career, Ansari has been granted 36 U.S. patents in these areas. He has served on the editorial and advisory boards of several popular scientific publications, including the IEEE Communications Magazine.
*Ehsanollah “Ehsan” Bayat, who graduated in 1986 with a degree in electrical engineering technology, is the founder of The Bayat Group, a diversified services company operating in Afghanistan that is involved in media and telecommunications, energy, mining, construction, security and logistics. In 2006, he and his wife, Fatema, established The Bayat Foundation, a public charity dedicated to the health, education and well-being of the people of Afghanistan, including the construction of 13 maternity hospitals.
*Heinz P. Bloch, who received a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1962 and 1964, respectively, is an engineer and author in the areas of failure avoidance, machinery maintenance cost reduction and machinery reliability improvement. He retired from Exxon Corporation in 1986 as Exxon Chemical’s Regional Machinery Specialist for the U.S. and has served since as a consultant and trainer in failure avoidance, root cause failure identification and reliability improvement.
*Gerard J. Foschini, who graduated with a degree in electrical engineering in 1961, is a telecommunications pioneer, renowned for his contributions to the science and technology of multiple-antenna wireless communications and his impact on modern technology, including cell phones, wireless devices and Wi-Fi. He held the position of Distinguished Inventor in Bell’s Wireless Research Laboratory in Crawford Hill, New Jersey, until his retirement in 2013.
*Sohail Mohammed, who graduated with a degree in electrical engineering in 1988, is a judge for the New Jersey Superior Court. Prior to his appointment to the bench in 2011, he played a pivotal role as a liaison between law enforcement authorities and New Jersey's Islamic community after the 9/11 attacks. He worked with the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of New Jersey and the FBI on building relations and providing outreach to the Muslim-American community.
*A. Michael Noll, who received a degree in electrical engineering in 1961, is a former engineer for Bell Labs and Professor Emeritus at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California, where he was also served as the dean from 1992 to 1994. He is a pioneer in digital computer art, 3D animation and tactile communication and author, who has written about choreography and computers and about computer-generated three-dimensional movies.
Ellen M. Pawlikowski, who graduated in 1978 with a degree in chemical engineering, is a retired general for the United States Air Force, who received her fourth star when she took command of the Air Force Materiel Command in 2015. Only the third woman in the history of the Air Force to achieve that rank, Pawlikowski oversaw an agency whose mission was to provide “warfighter support through leading-edge science and technology, cradle-to-grave life cycle weapon systems management, world-class developmental tests and evaluations, and world-class depot maintenance and supply chain management.”
*Pierre Ramond, who graduated with a degree in electrical engineering in 1965, is a distinguished professor of physics at the University of Florida who is credited with initiating the development of Superstring Theory. The winner of the 2015 Dannie Heineman Prize for Mathematical Physics, Ramond generalized to all particles the notion that the basic building blocks are not point particles at all, but tiny string-like objects that vibrate to form the particles.
*Paul Sarlo, who received a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in civil engineering in 1992 and 1995, respectively, is chief operating officer of Joseph M. Sanzari, Inc., a general contractor specializing in heavy construction, site work and utilities. He is also a New Jersey state senator, elected in 2003 to serve the 36th Legislative District, and the former Assistant Majority Leader of the Senate. He has been the mayor of the borough of Wood-Ridge since 2000.
*Yuriy Tarnawsky, who graduated with a degree in electrical engineering in 1956, is a writer and linguist who is also a former electronics engineer and computer scientist for IBM Corporation. Tarnawsky is one of the founding members of the New York Group, a Ukrainian émigré avant-garde group of writers, and co-founder and co-editor of the journal New Poetry. His fiction, poetry, plays, translations and criticism in both Ukrainian and English have been translated into nearly a dozen languages.
*Martin Tuchman, who received a degree in mechanical engineering in 1962, is chairman and chief executive officer of the Tuchman Group, a firm with holdings in real estate, banking and international shipping. While working for the Railway Express Agency (REA) as an automotive engineer following graduation, he and other shipping engineers developed the standard for intermodal containers and chassis to allow for interchangeability of equipment in every model rail, truck and ship, as well as for structural integrity. Put in place by the American National Standards Institute, it is still in use today.