MONTGOMERY — Continuing an annual tradition of honoring distinguished alumni, West Virginia University Institute of Technology (WVU Tech) has announced Dr. Aaron Morris and Sarah “Sally” Smith as 2014 Alumni of the Year, and will induct Doug Epling, Damieon Mills, Mike Morrison, Dr. Leonard C. Nelson and Ronnie Rice into the WVU Tech Athletic Hall of Fame.
WVU Tech has honored Alumni of the Year since 1949. Honorees are selected for their recognition and successful stature in their chosen profession, a strong dedication to their communities and a commitment to serving as role models for all Tech alumni.
Aaron Morris, Ph.D., ’01, is a roboticist, author of 17 publications, co-inventor of four patents and successful tech entrepreneur. He works in the Reality Solutions group at 3D design software company, Autodesk, which purchased Morris’ tech startup, Allpoint Systems, in 2012. He graduated from WVU Tech summa cum laude with a double major in computer science and electrical engineering. He holds a doctorate from the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University.
Sarah E. “Sally” Smith, J.D., is a partner in the Charleston office of Bowles Rice LLP. She is a member of the WVU Tech Board of Visitors and the Charleston Area Alliance Board of Directors. Smith has served on a variety of economic, educational and legal boards, and by gubernatorial appointment on the Kanawha County Correctional Officers Civil Service Commission. She has been recognized by Best Lawyers in America and as a Bar Foundation Fellow. Smith graduated summa cum laude from WVU Tech and earned her J.D. at the WVU College of Law.
The WVU Tech Athletic Hall of Fame has been honoring notable athletes, coaches, administrators and contributors since 1956, and will add five new names to the Kelley Hall of Fame Room wall:
• Douglas Epling has contributed to WVU Tech athletics for two decades. Owner of Mountain Edge Mining, Legacy Resources and Hanover Resources, Epling has served as the West Virginia state boxing commissioner, chairman of the Beckley Police Commission, board member of the West Virginia Parkways Authority and a Board of Visitors member at WVU Tech. WVU Tech’s baseball program currently uses the Douglas M. Epling Stadium in East Bank.
• Damieon D. Mills, ’02, was a WVU Tech wide receiver and quarterback from 2000-02. He was an all-conference player both years and currently stands third on the school’s all-time receiving list. In the early 2000s, Mills served as a receivers coach and special teams coordinator at WVU Tech. He is currently the head basketball coach at North Central High School in Opelousas, La.
• Mike Morrison, ’64, played tight end and defensive end at West Virginia Tech from 1960-64, where he served as team co-captain and earned SIGMA EP all-American tight end accolades. Morrison’s coaching career includes football, wrestling and track in Ohio and West Virginia. He eventually went on to serve as Fayette County’s athletic director.
• Dr. Leonard C. Nelson served as the president of then-West Virginia Institute of Technology for 25 years and is the namesake of the WVU Tech College of Engineering and Sciences. The university’s longest-standing president, Nelson was a member of several prestigious national honor societies. As president, Dr. Nelson supported the efforts of noted basketball coach, Neal D. Baisi, who led a nationally recognized team in the 1950s and 60s, and from whom WVU Tech’s athletics center gets its name.
• Ronald K. Rice, ’59, played baseball at WVU Tech from 1955-59 during which he batted over .300 each year. He also kicked for the WVU Tech football team in his senior year. Rice’s football coaching career took him to high schools in West Virginia, Ohio and Virginia until he accepted an assistant coaching position for the University of Maryland football team in 1970.
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WVU Tech will host a reception and dinner to honor these alumni on Friday, Nov. 14 in Montgomery. Tickets can be purchased by calling 304-442-1025 or e-mailing Tech-Homecoming@mail.wvu.edu.
(Cunningham is the director of university relations for WVU Tech.)