Five Alumni Honored with Cockrell School Distinguished Graduate Awards

May 20, 2019

Established in 1957, the Distinguished Engineering Graduate Award is the highest honor that the Cockrell School bestows on its alumni. The five distinguished engineering graduates for 2019 are innovators, entrepreneurs and highly respected leaders in their industries and communities. Including this year's honorees, 286 alumni have been selected for this award, recognizing them as highly respected professionals, dedicated engineers and supporters of higher education. We honor them for their dedication and generosity, and we are proud to call them Cockrell School alumni.

Learn more about the 2019 honorees:

Portrait of alumnus Jimmy Canning, wearing a burnt orange polo

James W. (Jimmy) Canning

B.S. Civil Engineering 1979
Former Socioeconomic Manager, ExxonMobil

Jimmy Canning retired in 2017 as socioeconomic manager at ExxonMobil after more than 37 years of service. He continues to serve as a consultant to the company in the areas of socioeconomics and major project development.

After receiving his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from The University of Texas at Austin in 1979, Jimmy immediately began working for Exxon in West Texas. During his career with the company, he served in a variety of technical and managerial positions, including reservoir and production engineering, operations, tertiary technology, strategic planning, property acquisitions and divestments, quality, project management, external interfaces and socioeconomics.

Jimmy’s career highlights include the introduction of CO2 flooding in West Texas, the first deepwater developments in West Africa, major development and operations projects in Russia and Papua New Guinea, and the implementation and management of the Socioeconomic Center of Expertise at ExxonMobil.

Jimmy has served on and chaired the External Advisory Committee for the Cockrell School’s Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering (CAEE) and is currently serving on the Advisory Board for the Projects for Underserved Communities program at UT Austin. He is also a member of the Society of Petroleum Engineers and a licensed Professional Engineer, and he has been inducted into the CAEE Academy of Distinguished Alumni.

A frequent speaker and guest lecturer to UT Austin engineering classes and student organizations, Jimmy always enjoys mentoring students and has recruited Texas Engineers throughout his career at ExxonMobil. Jimmy lives in the Houston area with his wife, Kim, and is active in a number of community activities, from United Way and Habitat for Humanity to Food Bank and the MS 150. He loves spending time with family and friends, traveling (he has been to all seven continents) and attending UT Austin sporting events.

He is also this year's Cockrell School Commencement Speaker.

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karen hagedorn

Karen D. Hagedorn

B.S. Petroleum Engineering 1986
Development Manager, Esso Exploration Angola, ExxonMobil

Karen Hagedorn is the development manager for Esso Exploration Angola, where she is responsible for subsurface, subsea, facilities, commercial and digital technology support for Block 15 operations as well as Esso’s interests in Blocks 17 and 32.

Karen earned her bachelor’s degree in three years with highest honors from The University of Texas at Austin in 1986 and her master’s degree and Ph.D. from Stanford University in 1988 and 1993, all in petroleum engineering.

Prior to her current role at Esso Exploration Angola, Karen served as enhanced oil recovery research supervisor at ExxonMobil Upstream Research, operations technical manager for U.S. Lower 48 Production, asset manager for ExxonMobil Production Netherlands and U.K. Southern North Sea, joint interest manager for Esso Angola and production manager for ExxonMobil Alaska. Over the course of her career, she has worked on the design, implementation, operation and business analysis of commercial oil and gas recovery projects worldwide.

A distinguished member of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, Karen has also served on the advisory committees for the Cockrell School’s Hildebrand Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering and the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Department of Petroleum Engineering. In 2004, she was named an Outstanding Young Engineering Graduate by the Cockrell School, and, in 2006, the National Academy of Engineering honored her with a Gilbreth Lectureship —named in honor of Lillian Gilbreth, the first woman elected to the academy.

Karen resides in Luanda, Angola, and she loves to travel, read and watch college sports — especially football.

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dick perkins

Richard D. Perkins

B.S. Aerospace Engineering 1964
M.S. Aerospace Engineering 1966
Perkins Family Investments, LLC

Dick Perkins began his career with summer internships at Humble Oil & Refining Company in 1963 and NASA in 1965. His graduate research focused on the development of a light gas gun that could launch small projectiles at velocities up to 11,000 miles per hour for hypervelocity impact studies.

In 1966, Dick married Judy Wason (B.S. Education 1966), and they have two grown children, Keith and Stephanie. After graduation, Dick was employed by General Motors Materials & Structures Lab, where he conducted high-strain-rate testing of materials including spacecraft ablators and rocks. He left GM in 1969 and joined Humble Oil, now ExxonMobil, as a reservoir engineer. In 1974, Dick left Exxon and formed a petroleum engineering consulting firm.

In 1977, Dick was a founding partner with Jerry Cox in Cox & Perkins Exploration Inc. Through 2013, Cox & Perkins located, drilled, completed and produced oil and gas prospects primarily along the Texas Gulf Coast.

Dick’s parents and all five of his siblings have attended The University of Texas.

Dick and Judy are on advisory boards for the Cockrell School of Engineering, the College of Liberal Arts, the College of Education, the President’s Development Board and the UT System Chancellor’s Council Executive Committee. They have financially supported various scholarships, endowments and, especially, student project programs at UT, from aerospace engineering’s Design, Build, Fly to liberal arts’ Shakespeare at Winedale. Dick has been awarded honorary FFA degrees from both the Texas and National FFA Associations in recognition of the Perkins’ support of the Spring Branch School District FFA. He is a registered Professional Engineer and a member of the Society of Petroleum Engineers.

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jim rawlings

James B. Rawlings

B.S. Chemical Engineering 1979
Professor, University of California, Santa Barbara

Jim Rawlings holds the Mellichamp Process Control Chair in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and is the co-director of the Texas-Wisconsin-California Control Consortium.

Jim received his bachelor’s degree from The University of Texas at Austin in 1979 and his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1985, both in chemical engineering. After graduation, he spent one year at the University of Stuttgart as a NATO postdoctoral fellow and then joined the faculty at UT Austin, where he served for 10 years before moving to the University of Wisconsin in 1995 and then UC Santa Barbara in 2018.

Jim’s research focuses on chemical process modeling, monitoring and control, nonlinear model predictive control, moving horizon state estimation and molecular-scale chemical reaction engineering. He has written numerous research articles and co-authored three textbooks, the first of which he began during his time at UT and is co-authored by John Ekerdt, the Cockrell School’s current associate dean for research and a professor of chemical engineering. This textbook — Chemical Reactor Analysis and Design Fundamentals — is in its second edition and has been used at more than 40 universities around the world.

In recognition of his research and teaching, Jim has received several honors during his career, including the William H. Walker Award for Excellence in Contributions to Chemical Engineering Literature from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), the Ragazzini Education Award from the American Automatic Control Council and election into the National Academy of Engineering. He is also a Fellow of AIChE, the International Federation of Automatic Control and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

Jim and his wife, Cheryl, reside in Santa Barbara. They have a grown daughter, Melanie, who is a dentist in Oregon, and a grown son, Blake, who is also a Cockrell School alumnus.

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Mike Walker portrait

J. Michael Walker

M.S. Mechanical Engineering 1968
Co-Founder and Former Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, Dril-Quip Inc.

J. Mike Walker was the co-founder of Dril-Quip Inc. and is the namesake of the Cockrell School of Engineering’s mechanical engineering department. He earned his master’s degree from The University of Texas at Austin in 1968 and his bachelor’s degree and Ph.D. from Texas A&M University in 1966 and 1974, all in mechanical engineering. He graduated at the top of his undergraduate class, earned a National Science Foundation fellowship to attend UT Austin and taught engineering mechanics at Texas A&M while earning his Ph.D., all of which spoke to his belief in the importance of higher education.

After serving in several positions at ExxonMobil, McEvoy Oil and Vetco, Mike co-founded Dril-Quip, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of offshore drilling and production equipment, in 1981. When he retired from his role as chairman, president and chief executive officer in 2011, Dril-Quip had a stock market value in excess of $4 billion and more than 2,200 employees around the world.

In the fall, Mike made transformative gifts to both of his alma maters, providing critical resources that will help UT and Texas A&M design new technologies and launch engineering leaders for decades to come. He chose to invest in both schools because of the powerful impact that his academic experience had on his life and career. In recognition of his gift, the Cockrell School celebrated the official naming of the J. Mike Walker Department of Mechanical Engineering in September 2018.

In 2009, Mike was named a distinguished graduate of the department that now bears his name. On Dec. 27, 2018, he died at the age of 75. He is survived by his wife, Donna, and their three grown children, Lawrence, Amanda and Melinda.

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