Clifford Whitcomb, professor of practice in systems engineering (right), was presented the Navy Superior Civilian Service Award by Oleg Yakimenko, distinguished professor at the Naval Postgraduate School.

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Whitcomb receives Navy Superior Civilian Service Award

For strengthening national defense through his research and for mentoring other engineers to do the same, Clifford Whitcomb, professor of practice in systems engineering at Cornell, received one of the highest awards bestowed on civilian employees of the U.S. Navy during a ceremony at the Statler Hotel on the Cornell campus Thursday, Jan. 26.

The Navy Superior Civilian Service Award is granted to civilians who make contributions in a variety of areas ranging from successful project leadership and scientific achievements to unusually heroic acts.

Whitcomb spent nearly 20 years on the faculty at the Naval Postgraduate School, serving as a chair of the Systems Engineering Department and director of the Institute of Systems Engineering. He was designated as a distinguished professor at the school, an honorary title recognizing exceptional scholarly activities that have made outstanding contributions to the school’s mission.

“Dr. Whitcomb is a great colleague to have – professional, knowledgeable, effective, reliable, always on top of things and willing to help others,” said Oleg Yakimenko, a distinguished professor and long-time colleague who presented Whitcomb with the award.

The award reads, in part: “Dr. Whitcomb’s exceptional leadership, work within academia, relevant research, and devotion to the Naval Postgraduate School was unsurpassed. [He] spearheaded the departmental Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology accreditation in 2010, and reaccreditation in 2013, for both resident and distance learning programs. Additionally, he mentored over 60 faculty and staff members and oversaw more than 500 graduate students and 11 doctoral graduates.”

The citation continues, “As a renowned researcher within Systems Engineering, he secured millions of dollars in reimbursable funds that have led to improved ship design and construction, shipyard production methods, and submarine and surface ship modularity for the United States Navy. Furthermore, in support of the Office of the Secretary of Defense and Naval Research, he created system-of-systems architecture for meteorological and oceanographic models and unmanned aerial systems.”

From left: Navy Captain Scott A. Hardy; Clifford Whitcomb, professor of practice in systems engineering; and Navy Major Edwin B. Powers.

“I figured something was up when I saw a few people with Navy uniforms and then I saw Oleg,” said Whitcomb, who was not told of the award before arriving to the ceremony. “I'm really honored for this award and the time I spent in the Navy because I served 24 years active duty – before that, as a submarine officer and engineer, and then 20 years working for the Department of Navy, so I really appreciate this recognition.”

Whitcomb has more than 35 years of experience in defense systems engineering and related fields with over 23 years of experience in academia. He has been a principal investigator for the U.S. Navy Office of Naval Research, Office of the Joint Staff, Office of the Secretary of the Navy, and the Veteran’s Health Administration. He is a fellow of two engineering professional societies: the International Council on Systems Engineering – for which he served on the board of directors – and the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers.

He was previously a professor and the Northrop Grumman Ship Systems Endowed Chair in Shipbuilding and Engineering in the Department of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering, and held academic titles at the University of New Orleans and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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