News Releases

Cockrell School of Engineering names its 2008 Distinguished Graduates

AUSTIN, Texas--Five alumni were elected Distinguished Engineering Graduates of The University of Texas at Austin and honored Dec. 6 during fall commencement ceremonies.

The Cockrell School’s Engineering Advisory Board makes the annual selections, which are based on outstanding professional records, public service, support of education, and other significant achievements.

The 2008 Distinguished Engineering Graduates are: Creekside Industries Chairman Peter R. Buenz, Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commissioner Catherine P. Foerster, Japan Bridge Engineering Center Executive Director Satoshi Kashima, Moncrief Oil International owner Richard W. Moncrief, and NASA International Space Station Program Manager Michael T. Suffredini.

Peter Buenz earned his bachelor of science degree in chemical engineering from The University of Texas at Austin in 1960. After three years as an officer in the U.S. Navy and seven years with ARCO Chemical Company, he joined a non-engineer fraternity brother in 1970 to establish Chemical Exchange Industries, the forerunner of Creekside Industries. Their business model was to purchase processing facilities no longer needed by major chemical companies and adapt them to produce specialty and commodity products using innovative processes. Buenz amicably split the business with his partner in 1993, and his share became Creekside.

The specialty chemical market is a constantly changing business. Products often have short half-lives, and over its history Creekside has had to develop new products and adapt existing processing equipment to meet changing market demands. Creekside Industries is headquartered in Houston and has plants in Baytown and Houston. The company is a $100 million per year business with more than 100 employees.

Buenz and his wife, Claire, are strong supporters of the Cockrell School of Engineering. They have established several endowed scholarships in chemical engineering and maintain a keen interest in the department’s programs. He has been a member and chairman of the Chemical Engineering External Advisory Committee and is now a member of the Cockrell School’s Engineering Advisory Board. He is also a Friend of Alec and a member of the Littlefield Society.

Buenz and Claire live in Baytown, Texas, where he is president of the Baytown Area Water Authority and past director of the Harris-Galveston County Subsidence District. He is active in the Presbyterian Church. They have a daughter and four grandchildren living in the Austin area.


Cathy (Paciotti) Foerster grew up in Corpus Christi, Texas, and graduated as valedictorian of W. B. Ray High School in 1973. She earned a mechanical engineering bachelor’s degree with highest honors from The University of Texas at Austin in 1977 and then joined Exxon Company USA. She left Exxon in 1979 to work for ARCO, where she held a variety of positions in engineering, operations and management until ARCO was acquired by BP in 2000. Foerster left BP in 2002 to work as an engineering consultant for various clients, including BP and the state of Alaska. In 2005, the Governor of Alaska appointed her to serve as the engineering commissioner for the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which is similar to the Oil and Gas Division of the Texas Railroad Commission.

In 2005, Foerster was named an Outstanding Mechanical Engineering Graduate of The University of Texas at Austin, and in 2008, she was named to the Athena Society, a national organization of business professionals who are recognized for mentoring young women.

She has maintained an active spiritual life and volunteered in areas that support positive youth development. Foerster has dedicated countless hours to mentoring students and promoting their interests in math, science and engineering. She has also mentored many young engineers and led young women through the unique challenges of the oil and gas industry. Foerster is active in the Texas Exes Alaska chapter and is a Friend of Alec. She is also an avid reader, outdoorswoman and swimmer.

Foerster married her college sweetheart, Keith, and they have two sons, Kenny and Nate. Kenny is in medical school at the University of Washington and Nate is a musician and music teacher. Both are Eagle Scouts.


Satoshi Kashima earned his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in civil engineering from The University of Texas at Austin, where he was a Fulbright student from 1968 to 1973. While at the university, he built and tested to destruction a highly realistic model of the first post-tensioned concrete segmental bridge built in the United States—the JFK Causeway Bridge in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Following the completion of his doctoral degree, Kashima went to work for the Honshu-Shikoku Bridge Authority, a Japanese governmental corporation, from 1974 to 2002. While he had design and construction responsibilities for a wide range of long span suspension, cable-stayed and truss bridges, his career has been fundamentally devoted to planning, designing, constructing and operating the longest suspension bridge in the world, the 3,911-meter Akashi Kaikyo Bridge in the Kobe area of Japan. In 1998, when the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge was finished, Kashima was awarded the prestigious Emperor’s Cup for his contribution to its completion. In 1999, he was the recipient of the Japan Society of Civil Engineers Award for the technical paper describing this work. Kashima served as executive director of the Honshu-Shikoku Bridge Authority from 1999 to 2002.

In 2003, he was named executive director of the Japan Bridge Engineering Center, whose main focus is to inspect and diagnose Japan’s national road bridges.

Since 2004, Kashima has been a member of the road bridges technical committee of the World Road Association and will chair the committee from 2008 to 2011. He was inducted into the university’s Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering Academy of Distinguished Alumni in 2003.


Richard Moncrief is a third-generation principal in Moncrief Oil, a family-owned oil and gas exploration and production company with headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas. He earned his bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering from The University of Texas at Austin in 1965.

He participates in U.S. oil and gas exploration and production with his father, W.A. “Tex” Moncrief, and his brothers. In 1970, Richard Moncrief formed Moncrief Oil International, Inc. (MOIL) to expand into the international arena of oil and gas exploration and production. In 1975, MOIL established production in the Gulf of Suez for the State of Israel. The Alma field was relinquished to Egypt in the Camp David Accords. In 1992, MOIL became involved in oil and gas projects in the former Soviet Union. Over the next 15 years, MOIL acted as an agent for U.S. Eximbank’s first loan in Russia and obtained ownership in a Russian gas field and Azerbaijan oil fields. The Azerbaijan oil fields have been sold to a Chinese oil company and the Siberian gas field is currently the subject of litigation in Texas and German courts.

Richard Moncrief currently serves on the board of trustees for the Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth’s world-renowned American art collection; the William A. and Elizabeth B. Moncrief Foundation, which contributes to many educational, health, civic and cultural organizations; and The University of Texas Development Board. He served as the 2007-08 chair of the All-American Wildcatters Association, an oil industry fraternity of oil and gas producers. He previously served on the boards of the Independent Petroleum Association of America, JPMorgan Chase Bank, The University of Texas Endowment Campaign and the U.S./Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce.

Richard Moncrief is a member of the Littlefield Society and a Friend of Alec Life Member.


Michael Suffredini earned his bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from The University of Texas at Austin in 1983 and today is manager of NASA’s International Space Station Program. In this role, he is responsible for the overall management, development, integration and operation of NASA’s International Space Station Program, a $2.5 billion per year, 16-nation program. Suffredini also leads policy development, international partner negotiations and the overall safety and health of the crew and on-orbit vehicle of the International Space Station Program.

He joined NASA in January 1989. Prior to assuming his current role, Suffredini held various positions managing NASA’s International Space Station Program operations. These positions included deputy program manager and manager of NASA’s International Space Station Operations Integration, Vehicle Development, and Payloads Office. He also served as assistant manager of the Space Shuttle Program.  NASA’s International Space Station Program encompasses the design, manufacture, testing and delivery of complex space flight hardware and software and its integration with modules from international partners into a fully functional and operating permanently staffed space station. The research facility on-orbit assembly began in 1998 and has been continuously staffed since the first resident crew entered the station on Nov. 2, 2000.

Suffredini has received many special honors and awards, including a 1994 Certificate of Commendation, the 1998 NASA Exceptional Service Medal, the 2003 Space Flight Awareness Leadership Award, the U.S. President’s 2005 Rank of Meritorious Executive, the 2006 Yuri Gagarin Medal awarded by the Cosmonautics Federation of Russia and the 2007 NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal.

Born in Corpus Christi, Texas, Suffredini now lives in Houston. He has two children, John and Christine.