UA College of Engineering Honors 2019 Distinguished Fellows

UA College of Engineering Honors 2019 Distinguished Fellows

A group photo of the five inductees.
The 2019 University of Alabama College of Engineering Distinguished Engineering Fellows are Richard Allen Nail II, Annette Maddox Sledd, Joan Reichwein Smith, Samir Shah and Johnny James Howze III.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The University of Alabama College of Engineering honored five alumni by inducting them into its 2019 class of Distinguished Engineering Fellows.

Each year, the College of Engineering inducts a select group of alumni and friends as Distinguished Engineering Fellows. Recognition as a Distinguished Fellow is the highest commendation given to graduates and others who have strengthened the reputation of the College of Engineering through their efforts.

Since the recognition’s inception more than 30 years ago, fewer than 400 individuals have been recognized as Distinguished Engineering Fellows.

The 2019 class includes Johnny James Howze III, of McDonough, Georgia; Richard Allen Nail II, of Morris; Samir Shah, of Saratoga, California; Annette Maddox Sledd, of Huntsville; and Joan Reichwein Smith, of Huntsville.

The inductees were recently honored at a ceremony at the NorthRiver Yacht Club in Tuscaloosa. For complete biographies of this year’s Distinguished Engineering Fellows, visit

Johnny James Howze III
Plant Manager of Georgia Power’s Plant Scherer

Johnny James Howze III has worked at 10 Southern Co. energy sites and has earned several recognitions while leading the largest coal-fired power plant in America. Howze, a 1997 mechanical engineering graduate, joined Southern Co. as a summer student in 1990. After completing the Executive Master of Business Administration program at Kennesaw State University, he became the youngest plant manager in the history of Southern Co. when he took the helm of Plant Smith & Scholz in 2003. Howze also has been plant manager at Plant Branch and Wansley. Since 2014, he has been the plant manager of Georgia Power’s Plant Scherer, the largest coal-fired power plant in America. In this role, Howze is responsible for providing overall leadership for operations of four coal-fired units that can produce 3,700 megawatts of electricity and provide electricity to power approximately 2.7 million homes. Under his leadership, Plant Scherer earned the Southern Company Generation Exceptional Plant Award in 2016, and it was named the 2017 Powder River Basin Coal Users’ Group Plant of the Year.

Richard Allen Nail II
Executive Vice President of LBYD Inc.

With more than 24 years of management and design experience in all aspects of site development, project management and construction, Richard Allen “Rick” Nail II has provided comprehensive civil engineering services on projects throughout the Southeast. Nail, a 1994 civil engineering graduate, began as a project manager at LBYD in 2001, became an associate in 2002, principal in 2003, senior principal in 2009, and he has been executive vice president since 2012. He has worked on several projects at UA, including Stran-Hardin Arena, Coleman Coliseum and the Bryant-Denny Stadium North End Zone expansion. Nail has also worked on projects at FBI Quantico, FBI Redstone and Redstone Arsenal. He is a registered professional engineer in eight states and a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, accredited professional. Nail serves as a consulting city engineer for Gardendale and West Jefferson. He is chairman of the UA civil, construction and environmental engineering department’s board of advisors. He was recently voted chair-elect of the Capstone Engineering Society board of directors and is a member of the College’s leadership board.

Samir Shah
Operating Partner of Cervin Ventures

After graduating with a master’s degree in electrical engineering from UA in 1992, Samir Shah moved to the San Francisco Bay Area where he started a career in software testing. He held various individual and management positions from 1992 to 2000 at companies, such as The Wollongong Group, Attachmate Corp. and PointCast. In 2000, Shah joined Cymbal Corp., a boutique consulting firm founded by another UA graduate, Neeraj Gupta. In 2007, Shah founded a cloud-based software test management startup called Zephyr. Over the next 10 years, Zephyr’s products were used worldwide by more than 18,000 customers in 100 different countries. In 2018, he sold the business to SmartBear, graduated from the Stanford Executive Program in the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and he became an operating partner at Cervin Ventures, a seed-stage venture capital firm. In this position, he actively invests in leading edge technology companies based in Silicon Valley and works closely with 28 portfolio companies to help them build highly successful businesses. Shah is also a mentor at Stanford’s Venture Studio, assisting students and first-time entrepreneurs on innovation and company building.

Annette Maddox Sledd
Supervisor of NASA’s International Space Station Projects Office

Annette Maddox Sledd has dedicated her career to working in engineering management at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. She earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from The University of Alabama in 1982. In 1989, she graduated from the Florida Institute of Technology at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville with a master’s degree in engineering management. Sledd has taken on several engineering and management positions during her career at Marshall. Since 2011, she has supervised the International Space Station Projects Office, which is responsible for the management of on-going ISS payload and life support facilities, as well as continued development of hardware to support technology development and utilization of ISS. Her duties include addressing on-orbit anomalies, ensuring the pipeline of spare hardware is maintained for continued on-orbit crew support and research operations, and working with multiple NASA centers. Sledd provides performance plans and evaluations of more than 20 direct report employees, gives guidance for approximately 100 matrixed civil service team members, and she is responsible for the implementation of approximately $40 million in annual funding.

Joan Reichwein Smith
President of S-RAM Dynamics

Since she graduated from the Capstone in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in metallurgical and materials engineering, Joan Reichwein Smith has had an impressive career serving as a U.S. Army civilian and leading an energy technology development company. She spent over a decade with the Department of Defense leading interdisciplinary teams working in research, development, engineering and sustainment of new technology. She managed projects in excess of $50 million, addressing Black Hawk and Apache helicopter fleets, missile research and the Improved Turbine Engine Program. Smith was the first civilian ever selected to serve as executive officer to the Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center director. After receiving a Master of Business Administration from Vanderbilt University in 2018, Smith became president of S-RAM Dynamics, an energy technology development company that holds more than 50 patents with engine, refrigeration and energy efficiency applications. She has established a design, fabrication and test facility in Huntsville and led a proposal team to multiple contract awards. Under Smith’s leadership, S-RAM is developing technology for the U.S. Army and Air Force as well as commercial companies.


Alana Norris, engineering communications, 205-348-6444,