Tech engineers to analyze Titanic stresses for Discovery
Ann Spencer named Distinguished Alumnus in Pamplin College of Business
Prim Jones honored by College of Engineering
Three Virginia Tech engineering alumni and a current student have helped television's Discovery Channel address some intriguing questions about the RMS Titanic's tragic sinking on April 15, 1912.
Discovery aired "Titanic, Anatomy of a Disaster" on April 13 to commemorate the 85th anniversary of the catastrophe.
More than 1,500 lives were lost when the "unsinkable" ship went down after colliding with an iceberg in the North Atlantic during its maiden voyage. The wreckage was found in 1985, about 12,000 feet below the surface.
The April documentary included an engineering study of how and why the ship sank and broke apart. Using information from the expedition, three engineers at Gibbs and Cox -- all Virginia Tech alumni -- conducted a stress analysis of the Titanic's hull for the documentary.
Engineer James Belshan (aerospace and ocean engineering '95) worked with Christopher Geiman, a Tech cooperative education student for Gibbs and Cox in 1996, to construct a computer model of the ship. The model was designed to analyze stresses acting within the ship's hull, both before and after the collision with the iceberg.
Belshan and Linda Constantine (aerospace and ocean engineering '93, M.S. '95), another Gibbs and Cox junior engineer, modified the computer model to provide input from the documentary's producer, Gregory Andorfer. David Wood (aerospace and ocean engineering '85), manager of the Gibbs and Cox structures department, oversaw the modeling and stress analysis.
The stress analysis, Constantine says, helps explain why the Titanic broke up into three pieces -- how, for example, significant flooding in the forward part of the ship led to catastrophic failure of the hull.
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Ann Spencer (accounting '76, MBA '84), former associate vice president for personnel and administrative services at Virginia Tech was the eighth recipient and the first woman to receive the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Pamplin College of Business at graduation ceremonies.
The award reflects the college's appreciation for her many contributions to the college and the university, says Richard Sorenson, dean of the Pamplin College of Business.
During her years at Tech, Spencer reorganized personnel services around customer-service modules, brought an employee wellness program to the university, and was responsible for the installation of the first comprehensive human-resource system. Spencer retired in April for health reasons.
Spencer has participated in regional and national professional associations and in community affairs in addition to her job at Tech. She has served on the board of directors and on numerous committees for the national and Eastern associations of university business officers. She also has served on the boards of several community organizations, including Columbia Montgomery Regional Hospital.
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One of the first alumnae to graduate with honors in engineering returned May 10 to accept the Distinguished Alumnus Award from her college.
Mary Virginia "Prim" Jones (engineering '62) was honored for her willingness to serve as a role model for women in the engineering profession, said F. William Stephenson, dean of the College of Engineering.
"She is truly one of the pioneers of women in this highly competitive, highly technical arena. Her life is full of 'firsts,'" he said.
Among her many firsts, Jones was the first woman registered as a professional engineer in Virginia, the first woman appointed by the governor to serve on the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors, and the first to receive her alma mater's University Distinguished Achievement Award. She currently works as the technical director for all new business initiatives at the Solid Propulsion Division at Atlantic Research Corp. (ARC) in Gainsville, Va. Jones remains the only woman at ARC to have held two of the four director of engineering positions.
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