Skip to content Where Legends Are Made
College of Engineering

2024 Fellows

Dr. Gary April

Dr. Gary April is a former head of The University of Alabama College of Engineering’s Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering. He first joined the College as an assistant professor in 1969 and went on to serve the department for more than 40 years. During that time, he ascended into numerous leadership roles within the University and externally. Most notably, he served as the state of Alabama’s director of the DOE/EPSCoR program from 1992 to 2008. While at the University, April led sustainability efforts through several innovative research projects focused on finding new ways to convert biomass and reduce waste. Additionally, April’s team conducted comprehensive investigations on the interactions between man-made reacting systems and natural bodies of water in the South.

Despite his many accomplishments as a researcher, April fell in love with the teaching component of his job. He made it a priority to get to know students on an individual level and took the initiative to explain concepts in a way that resonated with them. April credits these efforts with his progression as a teacher throughout his career and is proud of the success it engendered for his students.

April received numerous awards and accolades for his work, including the Service to Society Award and Outstanding Professor Award from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, as well as the T. Morris Hackney Endowed Faculty Leadership Award from UA’s College of Engineering.

Upon his retirement in 2007, April was designated as a professor emeritus of chemical engineering by The University of Alabama’s Board of Trustees. In the following years, he continued to teach part-time. In 1987, he became one of four founding members of the Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame, which celebrates the tradition of innovation and achievement of engineers throughout the state. Even in retirement, April has used his platform to honor engineers and foster an appreciation for the profession in the department, at the University, and beyond.

April is originally from Metairie, Louisiana, and received his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees from Louisiana State University. He and his wife, Lynne, currently reside in Northport and have three children and four grandchildren.


Artis Brown

Artis Brown is the vice president of ExxonMobil’s Global Basestocks and Waxes business. Throughout his 28-year career with ExxonMobil, he has demonstrated his ability to successfully run multi-billion-dollar businesses and held assignments across the United States and Asia Pacific. He has experience working across a broad range of fields, including engineering, sales, marketing, supply chain, strategy, planning, manufacturing, organizational behavior, and diversity.

Brown started his career at ExxonMobil in Houston, Texas, as a project engineer in 1996 and was later promoted to senior project engineer. He continued on a path of growth, moving to Fairfax, Virginia, to take on several roles in the retail fuels area. He then moved to Boston, Massachusetts, in 2005 as the area manager for company-owned assets in New England. He lived in Singapore from 2010-2013, where he was the Asia Pacific sales manager for industrial and wholesale fuels.

He became the U.S. finished lubricants sales director in 2015, where he would deliver record earnings. He was assigned as the fuel executive in 2018 before moving to the coordination and economics division in Beaumont, Texas. In 2022, he became the chief of staff for ExxonMobil’s chief operating officer. In this role, Brown worked closely with the COO and the CEO’s leadership team in the areas of strategy development and external messaging. He received his current vice president appointment in January 2024.

Brown earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from The University of Alabama and an MBA from the University of Memphis. During his time at UA, he was president of the National Society of Black Engineers and the Engineering Executive Council. He was also named the UA National Alumni Association’s Outstanding Senior and received the Penny Allen Award for outstanding contributions to student life.

He is passionate about helping others and is highly sought out as a mentor and advisor. He serves as a member of the Capstone Engineering Society Board, ExxonMobil’s Black Employee Success Team’s Advisory Board, and Stillman College’s Board of Trustees. Brown was recently named one of the “Most Influential Executives in America” by Savoy Magazine.

His greatest pleasure is spending time with his wife, Kim, and their two sons, Hunter and Hendrix.


Rodney Chester

Rodney Chester is the chief executive officer of Gresham Smith, a leading architecture, engineering, and design practice that provides creative solutions for clients. As CEO, Chester is responsible for the alignment of Gresham Smith’s leadership in order to execute the overall strategy and operations of the firm in pursuit of smart, sustainable growth that provides opportunities for employees and value to its clients.

Through a servant leadership approach—leading with empathy, fairness, and respect—he has focused on building a strong company culture while promoting teamwork and collaboration across Gresham Smith’s markets and offices to ensure a “one-firm” perspective. He also promotes the firm’s core purpose of planning, designing, and consulting to create healthy and thriving communities.

Chester has spent his entire 26-year career at Gresham Smith. He has served on the company’s board of directors since 2015 and as board chair since January 2023. Prior to his role as CEO, he served in a variety of leadership positions at the firm, including chief operating officer, senior vice president of firmwide operations, division vice president, office leader, principal, project manager, and engineer of record in the firm’s transportation business. Chester takes an active role in making an impact on the industry through his involvement in the American Council of Engineering Companies, where he currently serves as national board director, chair of the National Workforce Committee, and board member for the state of Tennessee chapter of the ACEC.

He is also committed to improving the local community through his service as a board member of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce and as board chair for GraceWorks Ministries, a local nonprofit charitable organization.

Chester is a licensed professional engineer in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi, and is an alumnus of Leadership Brentwood. He earned his Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in civil engineering from The University of Alabama, where he remains actively engaged as an advisory board member for the College of Engineering. He has been recognized as an Engineering Fellow of the civil engineering department, the highest commendation awarded to graduates who have strengthened the reputation of the program through career achievements.

Chester and his wife, Michelle, currently reside in Brentwood, Tennessee.


Jeff Gronberg

Jeff Gronberg is the chief executive officer of deciBel Research, a small business based in Huntsville, Alabama, that specializes in the research, development, and advancement of weapon systems and sensor technologies. The company designs, develops, integrates, tests, and fields advanced system concepts, algorithms, and applications through high-fidelity modeling and simulation, sensor system design and analysis, threat engineering, and sensor test support. During his career, Gronberg has worked on defining and implementing advanced technical solutions for various commercial and government customers to solve challenging problems. His current and previous clients include the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Intel Community, the Federal Aviation Administration, The North Face, J. Crew, FedEx, and others.

Gronberg earned his Bachelor of Science in aerospace engineering at The University of Alabama. He also completed the Executive Development Program at the University of Tennessee. Gronberg is a member of the board of trustees of The University of Alabama

System, the UAH Foundation Board, the Redstone Regional Alliance, and the Huntsville Hospital Foundation Board. He is also a graduate of the Leadership Greater Huntsville Flagship Class 26 and Connect Class 2 and a current member of Leadership Alabama Class XXXIII.

Prior to joining deciBel Research, Gronberg was the vice president of aerospace engineering at Analytical Services Inc. and the director of engineering analysis at Teledyne Brown. Before focusing on federal government and defense, he spent the first part of his career in commercial consulting, which took him to a variety of locations, including Atlanta, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, and Orlando, among others.

He has been recognized with several awards and accolades throughout his professional career, including the National Defense Industrial Association’s 2016 Kathleen P. Shridhar National Small Business Executive of the Year Award, the 2015 Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce Russell G. Brown Executive Leadership Award, and the 2017 Huntsville Association of Technical Societies Joseph Moquin Professional of the Year Award.

Gronberg and his wife, Amy, have two adult children and currently reside in Huntsville.


J. Gaston Large III

J. Gaston Large III has spent his entire career with Alabama Power and is currently the distribution engineering supervisor in Hueytown, where he manages operations including system improvements, installations, reliability, engineering, and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers crew personnel. Before this role, he worked as the distribution engineering supervisor in Haleyville, where he managed operations and system improvements.

Large is the current chair of the board of directors of the Capstone Engineering Society and a past chair of the CES golf tournament committee. He has been a member of the dean’s ad hoc committee, which assists in developing strategies for increasing enrollment and retention of underrepresented populations in the College of Engineering. Large is also an active participant in the College’s Mentor UPP program, through which he mentors undergraduate engineering students.

He is a member of the Region 3 Professional Executive Board for the National Society of Black Engineers and is actively involved in the West Alabama and Birmingham communities. He is also a board member of the Tuscaloosa YMCA, and he has worked with Girl Scouts of West Alabama as a troop cookie manager.

Large is a graduate of the Leadership Tuscaloosa program and the Alabama Power Company Leadership Development program. He was named the 2016 Omega Man of the Year by the Alpha Tau chapter of Omega Psi Phi. Large was also selected as a “60 for 60” honoree in recognition of the 60th year of integration at The University of Alabama and was presented the 2024 Distinguished Service Award by the Engineering Council of Birmingham.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 2003 with a concentration in computer engineering and minors in criminal justice and computer science. In 2008, he earned an executive MBA from Auburn University with a concentration in technology and supply chain management. He also holds a Six Sigma Green Belt certification.

Large and his wife, Khristy, reside in Tuscaloosa with their daughters, Addison and Ava.


Yvonne Thomas Stevenson

Yvonne T. Stevenson is the president and chief executive officer of Jackson Business Consulting, an acquisition and program management consulting firm supporting the U.S. Department of Defense, NASA, and federal government civilian agencies.

She previously served as the associate chief officer for information resource management at the U.S. Department of Agriculture for seven years. There, she led numerous divisions and provided executive oversight of the department’s $2.6 billion information technology investments that support programs across more than 29 USDA agencies and staff offices. Prior to working at the Department of Agriculture, Stevenson served as the deputy program executive officer for combat and mission support for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition. In that role, she led the acquisition of services for the Air Force and managed more than $100 billion in contracts. She also served as the special assistant for energy conservation to the under secretary of the Air Force. Stevenson is a retired member of the Senior Executive Service after spending nearly 33 years of her career in civil service.

Stevenson received a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from The University of Alabama in 1985. She also earned a Master of Science in business management from the Florida Institute of Technology and a Master of Science in science and technology commercialization from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a graduate of the prestigious U.S. Army War College Fellowship Program.

Her outstanding career achievements have been recognized with numerous awards, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary’s Honor Award for Excellence, the Office of the Secretary of Defense Award for Acquisition Excellence, the Army Meritorious Civilian Service Award, the Army Superior Service Award, and the David Packard Excellence in Acquisition Award, among others.

She currently serves on the board of visitors for The University of Alabama’s Honors College and the board of directors for the West Alabama Easterseals. She is a member of the 2024 Leadership Tuscaloosa Class. Stevenson is married to Reverend Dr. Raymond Stevenson, and they have three children and four grandchildren.


Sandy Stimpson

William “Sandy” Stimpson is the 108th mayor of Mobile, Alabama. Stimpson’s four decades of experience in the private sector and extensive community service provide a solid foundation for the type of practical change he has generated in just 10 years in office. Stimpson has ushered in a new culture at City Hall, emphasizing a commitment to transparency, effectiveness, and efficiency.

Since assuming office in 2013, Stimpson’s tenure has been marked by major achievements that stand to make a lasting impact for all citizens of Mobile. Stimpson and his team have executed transformative initiatives such as Map for Mobile, an unprecedented increase in the delivery of infrastructure improvements, and the city’s first supplier diversity program. The 2023 annexation grew the city’s population by 11%, making it the second-largest city in Alabama.

Stimpson’s leadership has led to an unparalleled reform of city finances. He and his team built upon responsible fiscal stewardship to put the city on sound financial footing, reducing bonded indebtedness by nearly $180 million and unfunded liabilities for pensions and benefits by $80 million, leading to credit rating increases from both Moody’s and S&P. During the same period, he has built and maintained a two-month rainy day reserve fund and awarded five raises for city employees.

He has served on the boards of the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce, the Alabama Policy Institute, the Business Council of Alabama, The University of Alabama President’s Cabinet, and the University of South Alabama President’s Cabinet.

After graduating from The University of Alabama in 1975 with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, Stimpson began a 40-year career in his family’s lumber manufacturing business. Starting at an early age, he worked his way up through nearly every position in the family business, including serving as its chief financial officer and, ultimately, its executive vice president.

Stimpson and his wife, Jean, have been married since 1975 and have four children and 14 grandchildren. They are active members of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Mobile.

The University of Alabama     |     The College of Engineering