Read more about the WVU Tech alumni featured in our latest issue.
Shelley Watkins Porter, P.E., ’06
A registered professional engineer in West Virginia and Kentucky, Shelley earned her bachelor’s degree in civil engineering at Tech before going on to Marshall University to complete a master’s degree in engineering with a dual emphases in environmental engineering and engineering management.
Shelley was active at Tech, balancing her life as an engineering student with playing tennis and Greek activities. She said that Tech is where she learned the importance of resilience, discovered the value of personal skills in engineering and established friendships that changed her life.
“What I remember are experiences with the small knit community of students and staff. I met my husband Brandon at Tech and still maintain close friendships with my fellow civil engineering graduates and Alpha Sigma Tau sisters,” she said.
She says she enjoyed balancing the life of an engineering student with that of a student-athlete.
I enjoyed away match trips with the tennis team, weekend bonfires after muddin’, Dr. Kihn’s theatre productions, football games and Charlie Davis’ resident assistant trainings with board game socials. I loved Greek life and always looked forward to Big/Lil’ reveals, formals, Miss AST, Wednesday evening fraternity socials and especially Greek Week,” she said.
She also recalls the sense of family she found on campus, particularly among her fellow classmates and those that she worked alongside in the student ASCE chapter.
“Having friends in my major helped keep me stay focused and were a support group when struggling with Dr. Leftwich’s long structural analysis homework or preparing for the FE exam. While I wasn’t the top student student academically, I learned that hard work, persistence and soft skills development are just as, if not more, important to success as in engineering.”
After college, she began her career with an engineering firm in St. Albans, West Virginia, where she designed and managed water, sewer and storm water projects throughout the state. Now she works as an engineering project manager for West Virginia American Water, a subsidiary of the largest publically traded water utility in the country. She oversees projects for the company’s distribution and treatment works, which serve more than a third of the state’s water customers.
Shelley works with contractors and other engineers on capital improvement projects to automate treatment plants, build water storage tanks, replace and extend water mains and plan for future improvements. She also manages the company’s geographical information systems group.
“I get to come to work every day to serve the public in providing the most valuable resource they use every day: water. Without it, modern civilization as we know it couldn’t exist,” she said. “I find my work important to public health and, like many civil engineers who work in transportation, utilities and development, our profession is essential to support a growing economy in West Virginia.”
For her work in the field, Shelley has received a number of professional awards, including the 2012 West Virginia ASCE Young Civil Engineer of the Year Award; the American Water Works Association 2016 George Warren Fuller Award; the WV Water Environmental Association’s Select Society of Sanitary Sludge Shovelers’ Gold Shovel Award; and the Water Environment Federation’s 2017 Arthur Sidney Bedell Award in acknowledgement of extraordinary personal service to the WV Water Environment Association.
She previously served in leadership roles at the American Society of Civil Engineers, the West Virginia Water Environment Association and the Engineers Club of Huntington. She is the incoming president of the West Virginia Chapter of the Women’s International Network of Utility Professionals and is actively involved in the American Water Works Association. She leads WV American Water efforts in raising funds to support Water For People, and is actively involved in the Putnam County Chamber, Habitat for Humanity and STEM outreach efforts. She’s also a graduate of the Putnam Leadership Program and the Charleston Citizen Police Academy.
Now that she’s got firm ground under her in her career, she’s looking to the future of the industry. And in that view, she’s excited to see how new technology will change the game in water.
“I look forward to water and wastewater utilities’ greater utilization of technology for both the customer and within operations for real-time monitoring of systems and use of artificial intelligence in operations,” she said.
When she’s not putting her skills to work on projects throughout the state, Shelley also plays American Water’s mascot Puddles the Duck at festivals and library events.
Jim Estep, ’89
James has served as President and Chief Executive Officer of the High Technology Foundation since June of 2000, where he has led the organization through substantial growth and evolution.
His love of technology has led the organization to develop various cutting-edge and innovative technologies for its research and development customers. As president, he has overseen the growth of the organization into a $200 million enterprise and the development of the I-79 Technology Park in Fairmont, West Virginia, which has been recognized as one of the premier technology parks in the Mid-Atlantic region. The I-79 Technology Park has become home to several nationally critical programs of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) including the NOAA Environmental Security Computing Center (NESCC), the NOAA Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) program and the NOAA Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS).
“When I graduated it really bothered me that there were virtually no opportunities in West Virginia to pursue a career in computer science,” he said. “So, when I was later presented with an opportunity to help change that reality, I felt compelled to take it. I’ve been very fortunate to be able to both participate in an effort that is making positive institutionalized changes to the state’s economy while having the opportunity to work in areas of advanced technology.”
In 1986, James was awarded a military science scholarship from the United States Army and, upon graduation from WVU Tech in 1989 with a bachelor’s degree in computer science, he went on active duty with the Army as a commissioned officer. He then pursued graduate studies at WVU where, in 1993, he received a master's degree in computer science.
“As I think back on my time at West Virginia Tech, I think of the incredible people I met along the way. I really believe they were unique, high-quality individuals attracted to Tech by its strong reputation for science and engineering education because they strived for the best. I will always cherish the fact that I was able to be a part of it and that I have retained life-long friendships,” he said.
“I am of course biased, but my career has allowed me to interact with a lot of people all over the country and the world,” he said. “From that vantage point, I am convinced that Tech is a unique community of world-class people.”
He’s active in several business and technology efforts around the state. He serves as Chairman of the Mid-Atlantic Aerospace Complex (MAAC) and is a member of the West Virginia NASA Space Grant Consortium and the West Virginia Roundtable. He is a former member of the Glenville State College Board of Governors and the Fairmont State University Board of Governors. He has also served as a board member for the Mid-Atlantic Technology, Research & Innovation Center (MATRIC), a member of the Advisory and Enterprise committee for WVU’s College of Engineering and Mineral Resources and as chairman of the Technology Committee for the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce. In June 2005, Estep received a Congressional Achievement Award presented by former Congressman Alan B. Mollohan, U.S. House of Representatives, for the First District of West Virginia.
Jim built a career on bringing technology and innovation to West Virginia. And even with success under his belt, he says there’s still work to be done – work that will help boost the capability and prosperity of the Mountain State.
“Several new initiatives have taken root in north central West Virginia that have the potential to allow West Virginia to substantially participate in a revolutionary expansion of high performance computing and data science technologies that will fundamentally change society and the business sector,” he said. “Many fundamental concepts in computer science will evolve as part of this revolution, and I find that fascinating and am excited by the potential to participate in it.”
A native of Braxton County, West Virginia, James currently resides in Morgantown with his wife Melissa and three children.
John Lester, P.E., ’82
A native of Charleston, West Virginia, John graduated with a degree in electrical engineering from WVU Tech in 1982. Now he uses what he learned at Tech as Director of Lifecycle Services for the East Region for the Power & Water Solutions business unit of Emerson Automation Solutions.
In the years since graduation, John has built an incredible career, counting 15 years at AEP’s John Amos power plant and multiple positions at electrical construction and engineering firms. He joined Emerson in 2003 and now oversees the operations of more than 70 engineers in three regional offices for the Eastern US.
In all of this, he has kept a relationship going with his alma mater. He’s hired more than a dozen Tech grads and set up internships for WVU Tech students. This summer, he traveled to the Beckley campus to speak with students enrolled in the popular Camp STEM program (see more on page 12). He shared his story and how his career led him down paths one might not expect of an engineer.
He says that reaching out to young students about STEM is a no-brainer.
“We need smart young people to learn how things work and come up with ways to make them better,” he said. “Our society has come to depend on many things to just ‘be there,’ like electricity, water and the internet, but without people who understand how all of that works and what it takes to maintain it, everything can go away.”
“I think it is very important for the next generation of students to understand how things work. In my career, I have had to work with many different types of people from different backgrounds. People who understand how things work seem happier and more productive in their lives to me,” he said.
Beyond reaching out to youngsters, John says one of the most rewarding aspects of his career has been watching young engineers build successful careers.
"It's very important for experienced engineering professionals to take the time to teach and share with the next generation because we had a lot of people do that for us as up-and-coming engineers,” he said.
"I try to take some of the new ones under wing and keep an interest in them to get them past the initial shock of what it means to truly be an engineer. And as I've gotten older I like to see the people that I've helped develop advance. There are several people that I've hired and helped along the way that have built really great careers," he said.
When John thinks back on his days at Tech, it’s the relationships he remembers.
“Overall, the sense of family that developed as you progressed with the other students and the faculty, even though I was a commuter, was something I always remember,” he said.
He also recalls the impact of his classroom learning and open access to instructors.
“I really liked the hands on work in the labs and the projects and still recall the programming of the PROMS’s to do the traffic light and trash compactor control. Those projects along with others in the controls areas made me want to pursue something in the controls area and started me to where I am today.” He said.
“While we did not realize it at the time, we had exceptional access to the professors and the Deans and they really cared about the students. But I also recall there were no free passes. You earned everything you received,” he added.
Although he’s marked a long career, there’s still work to be done in the field. What’s he excited about in the future? A way to store power not yet thought of.
“Power storage is the Holy Grail in the power generation industry. The bright engineers who find a cheap, efficient, environmentally friendly way to store and recall power are the next big game changers,” he said.
John spends his free time with Terri, his wife of more than 30 years, at their home in Huntersville, North Carolina. He’s an avid golfer and the go-to “project guy” for family, friends and the local golf course. He’s a licensed professional engineer in North Carolina and West Virginia.
Stacey Fragile, ’96
Stacey Daniel Fragile, J.D., is a 1996 graduate of WVU Tech where she earned a bachelor's degree in industrial relations and human resources, an Associate of Arts degree in general studies, and minors in economics and sociology. She graduated from the West Virginia University College of Law in 2000 and was admitted to the practice of law in West Virginia that same year. She is also admitted to practice before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and the United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia. Ms. Fragile is an attorney with The Law Office of Stephen P. New, L.C. in Beckley, West Virginia, where she fights for those who have been injured due to the wrongful actions of others.
Ms. Fragile’s previous work experience includes four years with the West Virginia Office of Administrative Hearings where she served in various roles, including Acting Director of the agency, a position she was appointed to by former Governor Earl Ray Tomblin on January 6, 2016 and remained in until August 2016. Ms. Fragile spent eight years with the Fragile Law Firm with her husband, Matthew and father-in-law, Pat, in Beckley, where she focused on the needs of families and children in the Circuit Courts and Family Courts of West Virginia. She has also held positions with McQueen Harmon & Murphy, LC and as a Judicial Law Clerk for the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, Tenth Judicial Circuit in Raleigh County.
While at Tech, Ms. Fragile was a majorette and an active member of Alpha Sigma Tau National Sorority. Ms. Fragile is currently the Vice President of Chapter Development for the Tech Golden Bear Alumni Association, of which she is a lifetime member. In addition to her work for the TGBAA, Ms. Fragile is on the Board of Directors for the West Virginia Dance Company and serves as the cheer coach for both St. Francis de Sales Elementary and Middle Schools, the chapter advisor for the Omicron Chapter of Alpha Sigma Tau sorority and the troop leader for the St. Francis de Sales Junior Girl Scout Troop. She has also previously served as a member of the West Virginia State Bar Young Lawyers Executive Committee, the Saint Francis de Sales School Board and the Just For Kids, Inc. Board of Directors.
Originally from Whitesville, West Virginia, she now lives in Beckley with her husband Matthew and their two daughters, Daniella and Alessandra.
Dr. Traci Acklin, ’94
Dr. Traci Acklin knew she’d be a physician from the time she
was very young. She grew up in Charlton Heights, West Virginia, and graduated
from WVU Tech with a bachelor’s degree in biology in 1994. She chased her dream
career to Morgantown, where she went on to earn her M.D. from the WVU School of
Medicine and serve as a pediatric resident in the University’s Charleston
In the 15 years since, Dr. Acklin has worked as a pediatrician at Montgomery Pediatrics in Montgomery General Hospital. She is a solo practitioner with a physician assistant at the only pediatric office in a multi-county area.
She sees pediatrics as a great blend of internal medicine with a side of lightness and hope from kids not often found in adult medicine. She is grateful for the opportunity to work with an underserved population to improve their health, educational potential and lifestyle. She considers herself lucky to be involved in helping guide families to a happier healthier future.
A third-generation Tech graduate, Dr. Acklin chose the
university because she wanted a small college feel with a strong undergraduate
biology program that would prepare her to go on to medical school. Dr.
Acklin looks back on her time in the biology department fondly and considers her
instructors part of her extended family. For her, Drs. Ferrara, Gaertner,
Wellstead and Parks could not have been better educators or role models. She
was in the founding year of Dr. Ferrara's "Women in Science" program,
where she tutored in several courses through the work study program and taught
During her career, Dr. Acklin has instructed students at WVU, the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine and the University of Charleston. She has received numerous professional awards, including the West Virginia Academy of Pediatrics Pediatrician of the Year award on 2011 and the 2012 American Academy of Pediatrics Exemplary Service award.
She is currently vice president of the West Virginia chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. As president elect of that organization, Dr. Acklin will assume the presidency next April. She is part of a leadership group within the National Academy that determines the direction of the Academy’s efforts and has been part of a working group that visited Capitol Hill to advocate for children’s health issues such as Zika, Medicaid funding and lead poisoning.
Dr. Acklin lives in Charleston, West Virginia with Brian, her husband of 20 years. The two have three sons - Benjamin, Philip and Brady – and spend their time juggling busy schedules while raising kind, confident and happy kids. In their spare time, the family spends time at Snowshoe Mountain hiking, mountain biking and skiing. The couple has also been imparting their love of travel, food and interest in other cultures to the boys.
Michael A. Miller, ’76
Mike was born on April 18, 1954 near Sissonville, West Virginia. He is the oldest son of Clifford E. “Corky” and Nancy C. Miller and has two brothers, Steve and Jeff Miller. Mike attended grade, junior high and high school at Sissonville. In high school, Mike was a member of the National Honor Society and active in sports, playing football, basketball, wrestling and track. He played football for two years under the legendary Sissonville coaches, Joe Sawyers and Bob Dawson. In his senior year, he was coached by West Virginia Tech Hall of Fame member, Forest Mann.
In 1972, Mike enrolled at West Virginia Tech, based largely on the advice and help from Coach Mann, to study for what he thought was a career in engineering and to play football under Coach Charlie Cobb. It became apparent to Mike very soon after arriving at Tech that football and engineering were not an easy mix. Football won out and he changed his major to accounting. During his time in Montgomery, Mike lettered in football for four years and obtained his bachelor's degree in accounting, becoming the first in his family to obtain a college degree.
After graduation in 1976, Mike began his work career at American Water Works/West Virginia-American Water Co. as a junior accountant. He retired thirty-five years later as Regional Vice-President and Treasurer of the Southeast Region of American Water Works Service Co. After retiring from the water company, Mike began a second career working for the West Virginia Public Service Commission, where he is currently employed.
In 1982, Mike married the love of his life, Renita Moore of Elkview, West Virginia – a marriage blessed by two wonderful children, Sarah Bailey and Doug Miller, who both reside in the Sissonville area. That union has now been blessed with three wonderful grandchildren: Evan Miller, Claire Bailey and Arianna Bailey.
After graduation from Tech, Mike has held many roles supporting various Tech endeavors. He is a past member of the Tech Board of Advisors, past President of the Tech Foundation and past Treasurer of the Golden Bear Athletic Club. In 1998, Mike was recognized as the Alumnus of the Year by the College of Business, Humanities and Social Sciences. In those various positions involving Tech, Mike was involved in activities that raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to support both academic and athletic scholarships, including organizing the Golden Bear Golf Classic for 13 consecutive years.
In the last year, Mike’s life took on an even higher calling through his announcement that he had been called to preach and he is currently in the process of being certified by the United Methodist Church as a Certified Lay Minister.
Greg Saunders, ’88
Greg Saunders was born to Richard "Hoover" Saunders and Susie Saunders in Charleston, West Virginia. The oldest of two siblings, Greg was raised in the tight-knit community of Rand, West Virginia, where he grew up loving sports and admiring some of the greatest athletes in the state who were from that community. His mom instilled in him that "education and good grades take priority over athletics."
Greg played basketball at DuPont High School for Coach Jim Fout, DuPont's all-time winningest coach. There, Coach Fout instilled in him the idea that "if you're not working hard on your game every day, someone is, and they will pass you by." He started for DuPont his junior and senior years and was named to the All-KVC First Team both years. Greg was in the Top 10 in scoring, assists, steals and free throw percentage in both seasons in the KVC and was Honorable Mention All-State both seasons.
Greg was recruited to West Virginia Tech by the late Coach Tom Sutherland. After arriving in Montgomery in the fall of 1983, he continued to work hard in both the classroom and on the basketball court. As the point guard, Greg helped lead Tech to the 1986 WVIAC Tournament Championship where they defeated the University of Charleston for the Title. That year, he was named the WMON Most Improved Player because of his solid play at point guard. With a team record of 23-10, he led the team in assists, steals and free throw percentage. More importantly, he only turned the ball over 47 times out of 32 games played while playing close to 37 minutes a game.
In 1987, his senior year, Greg was named Captain. He shot 49.6% from the field, 50% (50 of 100) from behind the 3 point line and again led the team in assists and steals. Greg was named the MVP of The Lenoir-Rhyne Tournament in Hickory, North Carolina. He also earned The 1987 George Springer Award, WVIAC's Outstanding Sport and the 1987 Sparky Adams Competitors Award. He was also voted by the students as the 1986-87 Mr. Golden Bear Homecoming King.
In 1988, after graduating with a bachelor's degree in business management, Greg went to work in the banking and finance industry for 28 years. There, he received numerous awards from his company. On March 23, 2008, Greg made the best decision that anyone can ever make. He accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior and began attending Abundant Life Ministries in Charleston, West Virginia. There, he met the woman that God had ordained for him to love and spend his life with, the former Robin Taylor. Robin and Greg were married on August 8, 2009, one year exactly after they met. Greg was ordained a Minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ on December 13, 2014 and received his bachelor's degree in theology on June 21, 2015.
He and Robin reside in Hurricane, West Virginia.
Joseph Martin, ’00
Before attending West Virginia University Institute of Technology, Joseph Robert Martin was a 1994 graduate of Tabb High School in Yorktown, Virginia. During his high school athletic career, he was selected to the Virginia High School AA All-State team for both football and baseball.
Joe attended WVU Tech from 1994-2000. He graduated with an Associate of Science in printing technology and a bachelor’s degree in printing management.
While attending WVU Tech, Joe was a two-sport athlete, playing both football and baseball. During his four years as a football player, Joe's accomplishments include: 2nd all-time reception leader with 164 receptions, 2nd all-time in receiving yards with 2205 yards and 1st all-time in kickoff return yards, averaging 25.5 yards per attempt. Joe started every game during his four-year football career at WVU Tech and was named a WVIAC All-Conference player.
While on the baseball field, Joe maintained a lifetime batting average of .314 with the Golden Bears. He was a two-time WVIAC All-Conference player at centerfield. Joe was awarded the Orndorff Award in 1998 for the most outstanding student-athlete attending WVU Tech.
When Joe's playing days ended, he became the assistant coach for the WVU Tech football team where he worked as a receivers coach. Joe was also the head coach for the women's soccer team in their 2000 inaugural season.
Joe is currently a press operator for Berkshire Hathaway Media Group Print Innovator/Freelance Star newspaper in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Teaming up with his brother, John, they formed the York River Renegades travel baseball organization. Joe has showcased teams for Cal Ripken baseball, Nations baseball, USSSA baseball, Cooperstown All Star Village and Triple Crown. His latest endeavor is starting the Virginia Revo showcase baseball team for up and coming high school players.
Joe currently resides in Yorktown, Virginia with his sons Joel and Xavier, stepson Skyler Salters, and daughter Julianna.