Two Alumni Inducted Into 35th Annual Hall of Distinction

The LSU College of Engineering honored two new inductees—Karen G. Brack and John A. Graves—at its 35th annual Hall of Distinction banquet, held Thursday evening at The Club at Union Square.

The Hall of Distinction, established in 1979, recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to the engineering profession. Criteria for election include distinguished professorial achievement, dedicated service to engineering and outstanding humanitarian activities. With the addition of Brack and Graves, there are now 80 total members.

“The College of Engineering is thrilled to welcome two stars in the field of engineering who embody the true characteristics and values of the LSU Engineer to its prestigious Hall of Distinction,” said Mary Julia “Judy” Wornat, interim dean of the College of Engineering. “Karen and John’s leadership, their significant contributions to the industry and to the College and their character are unmatched.”

Karen G. Brack

Brack is currently an Airborne Electronic Hardware Engineer with Boeing Commercial Airplanes. As the AEH process focal for Boeing, she is responsible for policies and training related to electronic hardware design assurance and certification of avionics equipment on Boeing airplanes. She is recognized expert in the application of the industry guidance standards including RTCA DO-254.

She has more than 25 years of experience in the design and verification of Application Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs)< Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) and digital hardware, and 14 years of experience in AEH certification following DO-254. Her design experience spans commercial, military and space avionics on a wide range of systems including flight controls, flight management, communication radios, navigation, satellite control, passenger cabin control and integrated modular avionics platforms. While at Honeywell, she was awarded patents for system architecture and microprocessor architecture aspects of a fly-by-wire flight control system.

As an active member of the international industry-wide DO-254 User’s Group, Karen has contributed to papers on applying electronics hardware design assurance to emerging electronic component technology.

She received her bachelor’s and master’s degree in electrical engineering at LSU and at University of California at Irvine, respectively.

John A. Graves
Graves was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and moved to Opelousas, Louisiana, at age six where he attended elementary and high school. He graduated from what is now Opelousas Catholic in a pre-college curriculum. His extracurricular activities included football, basketball, track and student government.

Graves lost his father as a junior in high school, which necessitated his having to provide his own college expenses. Having been inspired by President Kennedy’s challenge to put men on the moon, Graves was drawn to Aeronautical Engineering at LSU and enrolled in 1959.

Aeronautical engineering was replaced by civil engineering as he believed he might prefer the outdoors work environment offered by civil. Larry McKee gave John his first job in the engineering business as a rodman in a field survey crew. Maintaining a full time job while attending school, he graduated from LSU in the spring of 1965 with a BS in civil engineering. With his sights set on being in the consulting engineering business, Graves spent the next year taking selective, mostly graduate level course work in business administration.

Graves’ first full time job was with Edward E. Evans & Associates in 1968. Evans, a former LSU professor of structural engineering, founded the firm in 1953. John credits Evans as an excellent teacher from whom he learned a great deal beginning with structural work on the LSU Pete Maravich Assembly Center. In the early 1970s, Evans believed that he had serious health problems—which turned out to be less severe than anticipated—and effectively turned over the day-to-day operation of the firm to Graves.

Graves acquired full ownership of the firm in 1986, at which time the name was changed to Evans-Graves Engineers, Inc. Over 35 years of his work experience has been spent as a Principal of Evans-Graves Engineers, Inc., where he is responsible for plan production and management of all phases of projects undertaken by the firm.

To read each unductee's reflections, please visit our Hall of Disctinction page

In addition to honoring the two inductees, the College also presented the Donald W. Clayton Excellence Awards for outstanding undergraduates, graduates and mentors.

The Clayton Fund was established through a generous donation from 1959 graduates Donald W. and Gloria Pichon Clayton. The Clayton family’s endowment supports the College’s quest for sustained excellence in student education at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Clayton is also a 1993 Hall of Distinction inductee.

Clayton Engineering Excellence Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Student:

  • James Gegenheimer, mechanical engineering senior 
  • Yi Qin, electrical engineering senior
  • Oliver Vicknair, biological engineering senior

Clayton Engineering Excellence Award for Outstanding Ph.D. Graduate Student:

  • John Blears, petroleum engineering
  • Elizabeth Hurst, chemical engineering

Clayton Engineering Excellence Mentor Award:

  • Karsten Thompson, department chair of the Craft & Hawkins Department of Petroleum Engineering
  • Mary Julia “Judy” Wornat, interim dean of the College of Engineering


For more information, contact Sydni Dunn at 225-578-5706 or at