Mississippi State alums recognized as 2024 BCoE Distinguished Fellows, Emerging Leader

March 7, 2024

The 2024 Distinguished Fellows from left to right: Derek T. Starling, Jr., Colin Tucker, Zachary T. Graham, Ray Dillon, Paula Jean Kardos, Bobby D. Sanford, George Malouf, Albert "Gene" Barnett, and Emerging Leader Tindall Morrison. Not pictured: Christy Tucker Oswalt and Matthew L. Oswalt.

Leaders from various industries were among the Mississippi State alumni whom the Bagley College of Engineering recognized for their accomplishments and commitment to the engineering field at the 2024 Distinguished Engineering Recognition Banquet.

Ten alumni were selected as Distinguished Fellows, while one alumnus was chosen as the fourth recipient of the college’s Emerging Leader award. The awardees are as follows.

Tindall Morrison

Tindall Morrison, a 2012 biological engineering alumnus, was selected as this year’s recipient of the college’s Emerging Leader award. A Starkville native, Morrison continued her education in Memphis, Tennessee, where she attended Southern College of Optometry and earned her Doctor of Optometry degree in 2017.  She joined the team at Ford Vision Clinic in Starkville and ultimately took over the practice in 2018, fulfilling her dream of having her own private practice set in her very own hometown. She has also become a contributing member of both the American Optometric Association and the Mississippi Optometric Association, which aim to improve eye care programs throughout the state and across the country.

Locally, Morrison has sought out channels that offer community and philanthropic service opportunities within both the Starkville community and Mississippi State University. She currently serves as a Starkville Chamber of Commerce Business Investor, an Ambassador with the Greater Starkville Development Partnership, and an active member of the Junior Auxiliary of Starkville. At Mississippi State, she visits with the University’s Pre-Optometry Club as a featured speaker and often hosts club members as shadows at her local practice.

The Emerging Leader award was first presented in 2019 and recognizes Bagley alumni who are under 40 but who have already made a tremendous impact in their profession or the community.

The ten alumni selected as 2024 Distinguished Fellows include:

Albert "Gene" Barnett

Albert “Gene” Barnett spends his time between his farm in north Mississippi and property in Orange Beach, Alabama. After graduating from MSU in 1983 with a bachelor’s degree in computer science, he went to work for System Development Corporation’s Huntsville, Alabama, office in support of the U.S. Army Missile Command’s Advanced Research Center (ARC). He conducted advanced software and systems-related experiments on unique, distributed computing testbed architectures built for the ARC. He also developed near real-time, graphically visualized simulations to demonstrate Strategic Defense Initiative concepts.

Barnett joined Nichols Research Corporation in 1987 as lead test engineer for various sensor data processing algorithms on experimental, micro-computing hardware platforms. In 1991, Nichols Research Corporation selected Barnett to establish a Technical Office in Vicksburg, Mississippi, to pursue a supporting role in developing the DoD High-Performance Computing Initiative. After successfully helping procure a role for Nichols Research in the Initiative, he joined a small startup, Military Technology, Inc., in 1996 as president of Mississippi operations to support technology transfer from the major Mississippi universities to Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama.

After a break from full-time career work to help with aging parents, Barnett rejoined the Huntsville, Alabama community in 2005 with Torch Technologies, Inc. He was tasked to utilize his legacy knowledge of the HELLFIRE weapon system to support testing for airworthiness and mission capability fielding of Advanced Technology Initiatives for Special Operations in the War on Terror.

He is married to Linda Baker Barnett and has two children and two grandchildren. He spends his time golfing and boating in Orange Beach, Alabama, while hunting and fishing on his small “recreational” farm in North Mississippi.

Ray C. Dillon

Ray Dillon spends his time between Little Rock, Arkansas and Starkville, Mississippi, having retired from Deltic Timber Corporation in 2017.

After graduating from MSU in 1977 with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering, he went to work for Crown Zellerbach Corporation in Bogalusa, Louisiana, as a process engineer and then its pulp mill superintendent, becoming mill manager for the company’s Pine Bluff, Arkansas Mill in 1987. In 1994, Dillon became Vice President of Mill Operations in Chicago and later Executive Vice President until the company’s sale in 2003.

In 2003, Dillon became President and CEO of Deltic Timber Corporation, headquartered in El Dorado, Arkansas, until the company merged with Potlatch Corporation in 2017 out of Spokane, Washington.

Dillon says the lessons learned growing up on a small family farm in Wathall County, combined with an outstanding education in chemical engineering, propelled him to success in each phase of his professional career. He’s been married to his high school sweetheart, Deborah Conerly Dillon, for 45 years. They have four children and five grandchildren. Dillon also serves on the Dean’s Advisory Council for the Bagley College of Engineering at Mississippi State University.

Zachary T. Graham

A 2001 computer engineering graduate and Tremont, MS native, Zachary Tyler Graham (Zack) was instilled with a love of computers early on by his father. He began his career at 3DLabs in Huntsville, AL, helping to design workstation graphics cards. In 2006, he joined Nvidia as a senior ASIC designer, primarily working on timing & power for graphics processing units (GPUs).

He made significant contributions, eventually settling in a leadership role, for many generations of GPUs on the cutting edge of workstations, gaming, and the AI revolution. As a natural problem-solver, Zack’s values aligned perfectly with Nvidia’s, leading to a fulfilling career. It was never really about building fast computer chips but rather solving challenging problems to positively impact the world through the use of technology and the power of innovation.

Zack grew up in Nashville, TN, and now lives in Birmingham, AL, with his wonderful wife Ashley Graham, son Jordan (5), and daughter Sophie (3). Recently retired, he now spends his time being a devoted father and more engaged with the community through various organizations to enrich the lives of friends, neighbors, and fellow engineers. Most recently, he is most proud of helping MSU computer engineering students by establishing the Rick Graham Peer Mentoring Endowment (in honor of his late father) and the Zack Graham CPE Endowed Scholarship fund.

George Malouf

George Malouf, a native of Rising Sun, Mississippi, lives in Madison County, Mississippi.  He is president of Malouf Construction – a Heavy Civil, Industrial, and Marine Contractor he founded with his wife, Kathy, in 1987.  Malouf Construction is a family and MSU affair where George and Kathy’s children, all MSU grads, now fill vital roles in the firm.

After graduating from Mississippi State in 1980 with a degree in civil engineering, George joined Bechtel Power’s mechanical group at a nuclear power plant in Mississippi.  In 1982, he accepted a position with Bechtel’s merit shop subsidiary, Becon Construction, on a coal-fired power plant in Muskogee, OK, initially as Field Civil Engineer and later as Lead Civil Superintendent.  The road called again as George had an opportunity to join Sundt Corp, Tucson, AZ, as project superintendent on municipal plant projects in Texas and Arizona.  George and Kathy returned to Mississippi at the end of 1985, first starting Peacock Malouf, Inc. with a partner and then Malouf Construction in 1987.

Before returning to Mississippi and founding Malouf Construction, all of George’s construction experience was on construction job sites, and he believes that his years working with these industry leaders and his early total focus on the field side of construction, coupled with his MSU Civil Engineering education were the foundation of Malouf Construction’s success.  Malouf Construction has developed a reputation for taking on the most complex projects where they self-perform the majority of the work and providing exceptional commitment and technical capability to their client’s projects.  Most of the firm’s industrial work is performed under a design / build delivery system.

George is married to Kathy Wilson Malouf, whom he met at MSU, and they have three children, Ann Marie, George Malouf Jr., and Rachel – all proud MSU grads.   Ann Marie, George Jr., and Rachel’s husband, Steven, are now principals in Malouf Construction.  When not in the office or on a job site, George enjoys spending time out of doors and anything to do with their six grandchildren.

Christy Tucker Oswalt

Christy Tucker Oswalt lives in Tupelo, Mississippi. She currently practices endocrinology at the North Mississippi Endocrine Center. After graduating from Mississippi State University in 1997 with a bachelor’s degree in biological engineering, she attended medical school at the University of Mississippi in Jackson. After completing her medical degree, she stayed in Jackson for an internal medicine residency, followed by a fellowship in endocrinology, diabetes, and metabolism. During training, she received a customer service award for compassionate care and became board-certified in internal medicine and endocrinology.

In 2008, Oswalt moved to Tupelo, Mississippi, to be close to family and Starkville. She started her medical practice at Endocrine and Metabolic Disorders Institute. She opened the North Mississippi Endocrine Center in 2009 and has enjoyed caring for her patients. In 2023, she began speaking for Jardiance with Boehringer-Ingelheim to have a greater impact on diabetes care in North Mississippi. Oswalt owes much of her success to the lessons learned at Mississippi State. Multi-tasking and good study habits helped her complete her engineering degree in three years (1994-1997) with a 4.0 GPA. This was instrumental in her acceptance to medical school. Oswalt is married to Matt Oswalt, and they have three children. She and her family enjoy attending games at Mississippi State. She is a member of Harrisburg Baptist Church where she serves as a greeter and in childcare. She enjoys youth sports photography and volunteers her time to photograph activities.

Matthew L. Oswalt

Matt Oswalt lives in Tupelo, Mississippi, and is a physician at North Mississippi Allergy and Asthma Center.

After graduating from MSU in 1997 with a bachelor’s degree in biological engineering, he completed medical school at the University of Mississippi School of Medicine in 2002. He completed a residency in pediatrics at the University of Mississippi in 2005. After completing residency he served for one year as the chief resident of pediatrics. He then entered a fellowship in allergy/immunology at UMC and completed training in 2008. He founded the North Mississippi Allergy and Asthma Center in Tupelo in 2008 and has been a physician at this clinic since then. The clinic also has a satellite in Starkville.

As a third-generation Bulldog, Oswalt is proud of MSU and its traditions. He is extremely grateful for the rigorous engineering curriculum, which prepared him for the dedication and perseverance required to complete medical school and training.

Oswalt is married to Christy Tucker Oswalt, and they have three children. Christy is an endocrinologist in Tupelo. He is a member of the Tupelo County Club and Harrisburg Baptist Church. He has served on the Tupelo Historical Preservation Commission.

Paula Jean Kardos

Paula Jean Kardos (nee Runge) is a native Mississippian. She was born in Gulfport and grew up in Perkinston. She now hails from the family farm and ranch in Magnolia, Texas. She is currently a Personnel Safety Management System Deployment Advisor for ExxonMobil Corporation.

After graduating from MSU in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, Paula Jean joined ExxonMobil Development Company (EMDC) in Houston, TX. She held a diverse portfolio of roles throughout her career involving engineering, safety, and management that spanned the globe from the Permian to Russia Far East, Alaska to Australia, Belgium to South Korea and many others. Starting as a facilities engineer for FEED through Construction on the GPLNG Project, she moved from Naperville, IL, to Nederland, TX. Paula Jean spent nearly three years commuting to Russia as the Arctic Projects OIMS Manager. Her roles as the Projects SSHE Delivery Advisor for Unconventional & Heavy Oil VP portfolio and Human Performance & SSHE Leadership Advisor for the Corporation took her from the forests of northwest Canada to the swamps of southern Louisiana. Paula Jean served as the ExxonMobil on-campus MSU Recruiting Team Captain for many years and is a member of the Mississippi State Mechanical Engineering Advisory Board.

Paula Jean is married to Brian Kardos (Northwestern University – B.S. chemical engineering, M.S. biomedical engineering, All-Big Ten Football OL). They are blessed with two young sons (who show off their strong engineering skills with how fast they disassemble things) and a new addition expected in May! They are active in the Epiphany of the Lord Catholic Church and tend to an ever-increasing number of chickens, ducks, guineas, geese, and turkeys on their home ranch – all of them ringing cowbells.

Paula Jean’s lifetime love of learning was ignited at Mississippi State. In her desire to pass along what she learned to future generations, she established the Brian Kardos & Paula Jean Runge-Kardos Mechanical Engineering Endowed Scholarship.

Bobby D. Sanford

Beginning a career in the oil industry with Halliburton Services in 1973 during the oil boom in Mississippi, Bobby gained real-world experience before returning to college in 1986. Upon completing a bachelor's degree in petroleum engineering from MSU in 1990, he began a second phase of work experience in the oil and gas industry with Chevron in Denver, Colorado. Working in the Rocky Mountain division allowed him to acquire knowledge in all aspects of drilling and oil and gas production. With his background in cementing, he transitioned to a position in Houston, TX, which allowed him to travel domestically and internationally to project-specific tasks for Chevron.

Continuation within Chevron meant that, once again, another move was warranted. While in Louisiana, Bobby worked on Gulf of Mexico projects regarding production, completion, and workovers. He gained valuable experience, which then permitted him to transition from Chevron USA to Chevron Overseas in Kazakhstan as a field operation engineer for four years before returning to Chevron USA in Louisiana, where he retired. However, his retirement only lasted for an abbreviated time before other energy companies contracted with him for various projects.

Bobby attributes his MSU background to opening numerous doors and connections within the oil industry, both domestic and international. MSU petroleum engineers are located worldwide and have significantly contributed to the industry. As a result, an endowed scholarship in engineering has been established in his name to help future public school Mississippi graduates experience the rewards of a college education.

Bobby is married to Regina Procell Sanford, an MSU graduate from the College of Education. Likewise, a second endowed scholarship was established in education. Upon retirement, they moved to northern Mississippi because of the proximity to and involvement with MSU.

Derek T. Starling Sr. 

Derek Tyrone Starling Sr., a resident of Madison, MS, is a Principal at SOL Engineering Services, a leading firm specializing in professional engineering, research and development, project management, and quality management. Starling's extensive academic and professional journey is marked by exemplary leadership, notable achievements, and a commitment to excellence.

In 1988, Derek earned his Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering from Mississippi State University, complemented by a Minor in Mathematics. His engineering foundation was established at Holmes Community College, where he graduated in 1986 with an Associate of Science in General Engineering. This led to his induction into the Holmes Community College Hall of Fame in recognition of his outstanding academic achievements.

A visionary entrepreneur, Derek co-founded SOL Engineering Services, LLC in 2001 and has since served as its Co-Founder and Principal. SOL Engineering Services has supported the Research & Development, Test and Evaluation mission space since 2005 with various DoD entities. He was Corporate Director of Quality and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) at Proliance, Inc. from 2001 to 2003. Derek also served as the vice president of Magnolia Management Group from 1995 to 1998 and in various engineering and management roles with the Baxter Healthcare Corporation from 1989 to 1995.

Derek's dedication to excellence is reflected in numerous accolades, including the Mississippi Small Business Administration's Person of the Year award in 2015 and the designation of SOL Engineering Services as a Small Business Administration 70th Anniversary Legacy Business in 2023—one of only sixty-eight nationwide.

As a licensed professional engineer in multiple (6) states and certified as a Certified Quality Engineer and a Project Management Professional, Derek exemplifies a commitment to professional development. In 2022, he was inducted as a Society of American Military Engineers Fellow. His affiliations with esteemed organizations like the National Society of Professional Engineers, Project Management Institute, and the American Society for Quality underscore his dedication to maintaining the highest standards in his field.

Derek is married to Daphenia Knight Starling and has one son, Derek Jr.  Beyond his professional achievements, Derek is deeply committed to community service and mentorship. He serves on various boards, including the MSU Department of Industrial and System Engineering Advisor Board, the Society of American Military Engineers - Vicksburg Post, the Holmes Community College Foundation, and the Mississippi Urban League Board of Directors.

Colin Tucker

Colin Tucker is the Director of Technology Development for Aerojet Rocketdyne's Missile Solutions sector. In this role, he prioritizes, develops, and integrates technologies across the advanced programs' hypersonics, missile defense, and solid rocket motors portfolios.

After graduating from MSU in 1994, Colin was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force and spent more than 25 years focused on numerous academic and technology development activities. He retired as a Colonel in 2019. Colin's last active duty assignment was in the Pentagon, serving as the Military Deputy to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Science, Technology, and Engineering, responsible for prioritizing and managing the Air Force's annual $3.6 billion science, technology, and engineering program.

Additional assignments include being the lead hypersonics officer on the Air Staff, where he successfully spearheaded efforts to transition hypersonic technology from the Science and Technology community to the warfighter. Before the Pentagon, Colin was the Lead Systems Integration Engineer for the F-35 Lightning II, responsible for systems integration for the $400 billion Joint Strike Fighter program. He also served as the Director of the Aeronautics Laboratory at the United States Air Force Academy, where he taught courses in aeronautical engineering, thermodynamics, propulsion, and research techniques.

Colin remembers his time at MSU fondly. He credits his solid rocket motor independent research project, conducted with MSU's Keith Koenig, preparing him to successfully pursue his graduate degrees. Colonel Tucker is a third-generation military officer and credits his father, Major Kelly Tucker, with encouraging his academic pursuits and inspiring him to serve our great nation.

Colin and his wife, Allison, currently reside in Madison, Alabama, and have three children: Andrew (MSU 2020), Emily (MSU 2022), and Abigail (enrolling MSU Fall 2024). Colin has served on the MSU Aerospace Engineering advisory board since 2007.

The Bagley College of Engineering is online at www.bagley.msstate.edu and can be found on FacebookTwitter, Instagram and YouTube at @msuengineering.

Mississippi State University is taking care of what matters. Learn more at www.msstate.edu.

By Camille Carskadon