LAWRENCE — Two alumni and a longtime engineering faculty member from the University of Kansas School of Engineering will be honored with the school’s highest award in a ceremony set for 6 p.m. May 4.
Sam Gilliland, Greg Grimm and Tom Mulinazzi will receive the Distinguished Engineering Service Award (DESA). The award goes to individuals who have maintained close association with the school and have made outstanding contributions to the engineering profession and to society.
“Each of this year’s winners exemplify the spirit of this award and exhibit qualities that are hallmarks of a KU School Engineering graduate — leadership, ingenuity and service,” said Arvin Agah, dean of KU Engineering. “We are honored to have these individuals as part of the Jayhawk Engineering community.”
The School of Engineering Advisory Board has given the Distinguished Engineering Service Award annually since 1980. The award is made on the basis of an individual’s contribution to the public good, governmental service or the educational system, or contributions to the theories and practices of engineering, research and development in new fields of engineering or direction of an organization that has made exceptional contributions in design, production and development.
About the Honorees:
Sam Gilliland played a critical role in universally changing the nature of booking travel, making the process more efficient and cost-effective. As CEO of Sabre Holdings, he pioneered the travel industry’s entry into online booking for corporate travel and launched first-generation products that became industry standards. His engineering roots and passion for solving problems with innovative solutions resulted in several significant achievements and substantial industrywide technological advancements throughout his career.
Gilliland earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from KU in 1985 and later earned a master’s in business administration from the University of Texas-Dallas. Over the course of his nearly 40-year career, he has worked across multiple industries and engineering disciplines — all of which leverage software technology.
He worked in aerospace and defense, travel and tourism, equity and fixed income investment, private equity, and IT and enterprise service management. In each industry, Gilliland served in roles as varied as engineer, head of marketing and sales, chief operating officer, president, chief executive officer and chairman of the board.
He started at Sabre in 1988, where he held various senior management roles in sales, marketing and business units, including CEO of Travelocity.com, before being named president and CEO of Sabre in 2003.
In that role, he managed a worldwide enterprise consisting of nearly 10,000 employees and billions in revenue and bolstered his reputation as an innovator and strong, energetic leader. He worked across the industry to get acceptance on the use of self-booking technology and the business models that would enable it to become the standard for how corporate workforces plan and book their travel today.
Under his leadership, Travelocity transformed from a U.S.-centric airline ticketing website to a global, multi-product travel marketplace, one of the most recognized brands in the travel industry.
As director of global manufacturing partner management at Google, Greg Grimm leads a commercial and operations team that manufactures thousands of high-performance compute and storage servers and network switches every week to keep up with growing demand in the company’s data centers around the world.
Grimm earned his degree in electrical engineering from KU in 1985 and later earned a master’s in business administration from the University of Denver. From his days at KU through his current role with Google, Grimm has exhibited an entrepreneurial spirit grounded in excellent technical skills with a tenacious approach to addressing challenges large and small.
His expertise in areas of data center technologies, global electronics, logistics supply chains and manufacturing partner management have helped Grimm emerge as a thought leader in realizing data center hardware and supply chain solutions. His contributions have enabled many Fortune 100 original equipment manufacturers, such as Cisco, to realize rapid growth, reduce costs via outsourcing and build resiliency in their supply chains in support of their strategies.
At Google, Grimm’s global manufacturing knowledge, leadership and expertise provide significant, daily contributions that ensure the company’s services — such as Search, Maps, Photo, Gmail, YouTube and many other free applications — continue to function smoothly with required capacity. These services are critical to and enhance the lives of billions of people every day. Grimm has also played a key role in the critical, large-scale deployment of machine learning infrastructure at Google as AI takes a dramatic increase in corporate and public consumption and aims to disrupt many technologies and services.
Through innumerable professional and service activities, Tom Mulinazzi has earned a reputation as the KU School of Engineering’s unofficial goodwill ambassador.
Since arriving at KU in 1979 as a professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental & Architectural Engineering, Mulinazzi has a track record of unbroken service to the department, the engineering school, the university and the state of Kansas.
One of his most prominent roles within the School of Engineering was associate dean of engineering — a title he held on a part-time basis from 1987 to 1990, then full-time from 1992 to 2001.
As associate dean, he worked on the admission and dismissal of undergraduate students. Colleagues said he was always sympathetic, helpful and fair to students experiencing academic and personal issues. He spent extensive time and effort to help struggling engineering students successfully complete their degrees. He also took a serious and steadfast approach to certify each student’s graduation status. Several years after his retirement, he continued to volunteer his time and expertise to advise students in the department.
Among KU Engineering faculty, Mulinazzi has a decades-long track record as one of the school’s greatest recruiters. He was always happy to meet with prospective students, often accompanied by their parents. During those visits, he would get acquainted with the student and provide guidance well-suited to their talents and interests.
Mulinazzi relished opportunities to interact with Kansans. He traveled across Kansas to make presentations to local residents in 68 counties and more than 85 municipalities. He frequently discussed the importance of appropriate, clear and easily understood traffic signage, critical for highway safety. His dedication insured signage met legal standards and helped the public travel safely.