The Mines alumni association honors various individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the school and/or the alumni association. The 2017 recipients were announced at the M Club on Campus Holiday Party on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017.
Young Alumna Award – Dr. Kat M. Steele ’07
Dr. Kat M. Steele ’07 was selected for this award, presented to a young alumnus or alumna whose accomplishments have reflected favorably on the school and the alumni association. Kat earned her BS in Engineering in 2007 from the Colorado School of Mines and went on to receive her MS and PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University. As a student at Mines she was a member of the Blue Key Honor Society, Tau Beta Pi and a McBride Honors Program. Wanting to integrate her engineering and medical backgrounds, she worked in multiple hospitals including the Denver Children’s Hospital, Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. Kat currently is an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Washington. She leads the Ability & Innovation Lab, which integrates dynamic musculoskeletal simulation, motion analysis, medical imaging, and device design to understand and improve movement for individuals who have had a neurologic injury, with a focus on cerebral palsy and stroke. She also co-directs AccessEngineering, an NSF-supported program that aims to encourage individuals with disabilities to pursue careers in engineering and teach all engineers about universal design and accessibility to create more inclusive products and environments. To support this program, she co-created and teaches Engineering Innovation in Health, a year-long course which pairs teams of engineering students with clinicians and individuals with disabilities to work on design challenges. For her research and innovations, Kat has received a Career Development Award in Rehabilitation Engineering from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation CAREER Early Faculty Development Award, the American Society of Biomechanics Young Scientist Award and the 2017 Mines Young Alumna Award for her outstanding accomplishments.
Outstanding Alumnus Award – Raymond Priestley ‘79
Presented to an alumnus or alumna who has contributed meritorious service on behalf of the alumni association, the 2017 award was given to Raymond Priestley ‘79. Since graduating from Mines, Ray has continually been involved on and off campus, growing the reputation of Mines. It is because of this constant presence that Ray is the 2017 Outstanding Alumnus. Ray received a BS and PE degrees in geological engineering from the Colorado School of Mines and later earned an MBA in finance from the University of Tulsa. He started his career building underground storage for all types of materials; projects included the SPR (Strategic Petroleum Reserve), LOOP (Louisiana Offshore Oil Port) and WIP (Nuclear Waste Isolation Project). Most of his career has been focused in upstream oil and gas, exploring and developing both conventional and unconventional resources throughout North America. Ray has always been thankful for how his Mines training prepared him to take on numerous different roles during his career and to facilitate interaction between different disciplines. Ray has volunteered with the Mines Admissions office for many years to help recruit students to attend Mines, as well as serving on the Alumni Association Board of Directors, most recently as President. He was instrumental in implementing the dues-free membership model for the Alumni Association to connect more alumni back to Mines and to increase the power of Mines’ growing alumni network. His outside interests include adventure travel, cycling and photography, but he is never happier than when he is playing handyman, riding around on his tractor at his West Virginia Artist Retreat, which he and his wife opened several years ago. In 2013, his son, James, graduated from Mines with an MS in Hydrology.
Melville F. Coolbaugh Award – Walter C. “Butch” Waidelich, Jr. ‘84
This award is presented to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution toward improving the image and enhancing the reputation of the Colorado School of Mines. Waidelich graduated from Mines and earned a BS in Mining Engineering (’84). He later served as an Engineer Officer in the U.S. Army. In 1988, he joined the Federal Highway Administration’s Highway Engineer Training Program and served in progressive field assignments that led to him becoming the FHWA Division Administrator in Utah and California. He also served as the FHWA’s Director of Field Services–West. Since March 15, 2016, Butch has been the Executive Director of the FHWA, a role in which he manages the daily operations of the agency and its personnel. He also led the FHWA’s emergency responses to history-making hurricanes in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, making federal assistance available to help restore roads, bridges and other infrastructure damaged by the storms. In early 2017, Butch also served as Acting Deputy Administrator of the FHWA. In that role, he directed execution of the “Fixing America’s Surface Transportation” (FAST) Act. During this period, he also led the FHWA’s response to the I-85 bridge collapse in Atlanta. Previously, Butch served as the FHWA’s Associate Administrator for Infrastructure where he oversaw the development and administration of national highway programs, technical and program assistance for improving highway and bridge infrastructure, and federal highway program performance. He provided leadership and strategic direction to a professional staff of 100 highway, bridge and related engineering experts, as well as guidance to over 1,500 professionals throughout the agency in developing and implementing FHWA’s federal-aid highway program. More recently, he was a guest lecturer at the Colorado School of Mines and discussed U.S. transportation needs and the role of engineers in the 21st century.
Alumna of the Future – Allison Keator ’16, class of 2018
Alumnus/na of the Future honors students who strengthen and embody the spirit of the alumni association. Allison illustrates Mines enthusiasm by leading Orediggers Connect, a new initiative to facilitate connection and camaraderie between current students, alumni, faculty and staff at Mines. Orediggers Connect hopes to revise and expand upon the previous role of the Mines Student Alumni Association (SAA) and is currently in the planning and initial launch phase. Allison is currently a second year geology master’s student, graduating this spring. She also earned her undergraduate degree at Mines (BS Geological Engineering ’16; BS Petroleum Engineering ’16). Allison is originally from Indiana and is also heavily involved in the Mines AAPG Student Chapter as the current vice president. When not at school or work, she can usually be found on a hiking trail or ski slope. Allison will join EOG Resources as a geologist in Corpus Christi, Texas after graduation this May.