2003 TTU Engineers of Distinction honored during Engineering WeekTwo men who set their minds early in life on becoming engineers received awards for their lifetime of excellence in the field by being named Tennessee Tech University's 2003 Engineers of Distinction.
Richard Melvyn Smith, the former chief of the Office of Engineering and Technology for the Federal Communications Commission, and David L. Davidson, president and chief operating officer of Barge, Waggoner, Sumner, Cannon Inc. of Nashville, will receive awards at the College of Engineering's annual Engineering Week banquet.
The Engineers of Distinction program honors alumni and others whose careers have contributed to or reflected credit on the college's academic program. The banquet serves as the culmination of the week's events highlighting TTU engineering students and faculty.
Richard Melvyn Smith
'63 B.S. Electrical Engineering
In 1963, Smith began his four-decade career with the FCC as a field engineer protecting and managing the radio spectrum. A signal detective of sorts, he traveled the country tracking disruptions in the use of radio signals through his expertise in radio-direction finding, electromagnetic compatibility and technical standards. He also was instrumental in design and building much of the equipment used for these operations.
After several promotions, Smith became the FCC's "top cop" as the Chief of Field Operations Bureau responsible for all FCC field offices and radio monitoring stations in the U.S., including Hawaii and Puerto Rico. He supervised all enforcement activities, including the identification of several high-profile "radio pirates" who illegally used radio waves to spread their message. His congressional testimony led to new laws and stiffer penalties for misusing radio signals.
In his last five years before retirement, Smith worked on two major technical standards projects while serving as the FCC's chief of the Office of Engineering and Technology. He worked to more closely regulate cell phone standards to reduce the fears about the correlation of cell phone use and brain cancer. His last project was the allocation of HDTV channels to the nation's some 1,600 television stations. Smith now works as an adviser to foreign telecommunications entities in Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Commonwealth of Independent States looking to privatize their industry.
A member of TTU's President's Club and active in his support of the College of Engineering, Smith was recently elected vice president/president elect of the Engineering Development Foundation. Smith and his wife, Patti, now live in Jackson County, Tenn. Their son and daughter-in-law, both attorneys in the telecommunications sector, live in Washington, D.C.
'73 B.S./ '75 M.S. Civil Engineering
"Making life easier for others" is how Davidson sums up his 28-year career in the civil engineering industry. He has been responsible for the structural design and project management of commercial, industrial, institutional and highway bridge projects for Barge, Waggoner, Sumner, Cannon Inc. since 1978.
After graduating from Tennessee Tech, Davidson joined a group of TTU professors and other professionals who operated a consulting firm in Cookeville. After three years, he joined his current company, became an assistant vice president and established a branch office in the Upper Cumberland.
Davidson eventually assumed the supervision of additional branch offices in Memphis and Huntsville. After several promotions, he was elected president and chief operating officer of BWSC in 2002. A native of Clarksville, Davidson says his sense of accomplishment with this work comes from the impact design and project management can have on a community. He says creating a drainage ditch for a sinkhole, managing storm water runoff, and creating areas that anchor proper development in a community are examples of how lives can be improved by civil engineering.
Active in professional organizations, Davidson was named the 1988 Young Engineer of the Year by the Nashville chapter of the Tennessee Society of Professional Engineers. He has served as president of the Consulting Engineers of Tennessee, the Nashville chapter of the Tennessee Society of Professional Engineers and the Nashville Post of the American Society of Military Engineers.
In support of TTU, he serves on the College of Engineering Dean's Advisory Board and the Civil and Environmental Engineering Board of Advisors.
Davidson lives in Brentwood, Tenn., with his wife, Delores.