The 2016 Salute to Engineering Excellence Draws an Enthusiastic Crowd to Glamorous New Digs

At a glittering, jam-packed celebration, more than 200 members of the Newark College of Engineering (NCE) community gathered for the 18th annual Salute to Engineering Excellence to pay tribute to their own – high-flying seniors setting off on careers, alumni who have already made their mark on the world, and professors and staff who inspire and support ambitious NJIT engineers year after year.

The gala, which honors the college’s enduring traditions while also touting exciting new directions, marked a festive first this year: the fete took place off-campus at the Newark Museum, providing party-goers a view of elegant Islamic art on the walls as they reconnected and nibbled hors-d’oeuvres.

“It’s a fascinating time to be a part of NJIT,” said Robert Cohen, chair of the NCE Board of Visitors, who pointed with pride over the course of the evening to the accomplishments of its students, their successes on the job market and to the university’s substantial, ongoing contributions to research and development in fields such as healthcare and digital communications.

Two of those contributors, Peter J. Abitante ’90, (left) the vice president of reconstructive implant product development at Stryker Orthopaedics, and Brian G. Kiernan ’70, the retired vice president and chief scientist at Interdigital Corporation, shared this year’s ‘Outstanding Alumnus’ award.

Calling NCE “our heritage and the bedrock of the university,” NJIT President Joel Bloom noted the seminal research taking place on campus at hubs such as the Rehabilitation Engineering and Research Center, which is developing the next generation of robotic exoskeletons to improve mobility and independent functioning for people with spinal cord injuries, Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and stroke.

The undergraduates honored at the event – selected from each NCE department for their standout academic performance as well as their involvement in the NJIT community – represented the full range of NJIT ingenuity and determination.  Mohammed Elassa, from the Department of Biomedical Engineering, for example, is heading off to medical school next fall to become an emergency room physician. Philip Zurek, from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, will begin a Ph.D. program at the University of Colorado. Kimberly Lam, from the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, has been hired by Lockheed Martin as a systems engineer. Lam was also named this year’s Madame Mau Outstanding Female Engineering Student and NCE’s outstanding senior overall.

“It was so hard to select from among them,” NCE Dean Moshe Kam (right, with student Kevin Alvernaz) acknowledged earlier in the day as he presented Lam the college's top award, while chuckling about his own, slightly less lofty GPA as an undergraduate.

In remarks later that evening, Kam expressed his intent that NCE’s value extend well beyond its graduates’ first eighteen months out of college and initial job, which he called an over-scrutinized metric, and provide them “the strength that will sustain them for an entire career … and resilience for the long haul.”

The alumni awardees affirmed this – and more – in their personal accounts.

Calling NJIT a “life-saver” that allowed him to combine work and education and gave him “the highest quality education in engineering,” Abitante went on to credit the university with “teaching me how to be an engineer – how to solve problems, and not just those in a textbook, but life’s problems.”

Recalling an earlier era at NCE, “when we all wore jackets and ties and went to class from 9 to 5, five days a week,” Kiernan (left) credited the school with teaching him “to take a large problem and break it down into little stuff – a way of thinking that applies to everything.”

E. James Prendergast, executive director of IEEE (whose NJIT chapter was named this year’s outstanding student organization) pointed to the central role that engineering will play in the future of the planet as a booming global population scrambles for finite resources.

“Humankind faces weighty challenges in the coming years,” Prendergast remarked, “and they won’t be solved by politicians.”

Proceeds from the event will benefit the NCE Dean’s Fund. For the full list of awardees, click here.