Northridge Director Wins CSU’s Wang Award forAdvancing Student Learning, Energy Sustainability
Tom Brown, Cal State Northridge’s executive director for facilities management, has been named a recipient of the prestigious 2007 California State University Wang Family Excellence Award.
Established in 1998 by then-Trustee Stanley Wang, the award is designed to celebrate "CSU faculty and administrators who through extraordinary commitment and dedication have distinguished themselves by exemplary contributions and achievements in their academic disciplines and areas of assignment." Each recipient receives an award of $20,000.
"It is important for all segments of the campus community who contribute to the overall health and excellence of the university to be recognized for their work," said Northridge President Jolene Koester, "and for these reasons I am extremely proud Tom’s achievements were acknowledged by this prestigious systemwide award."
"What we accomplish here at CSUN is a result of many, not few, certainly not one," said Brown, a licensed engineer and a CSUN engineering science alumnus. "I hope then that the many students, staff, friends, and colleagues here and within the CSU that contributed to our success share with me the sense of pride and accomplishment that this brings." Brown was cited for his innovative involvement of CSUN’s students in its physical plant operations, "allowing them to integrate classroom learning and practical application while sharpening their project leader skills."
The executive director’s enthusiastic support of student learning was evident during the spring 2005 installation of Northridge’s $3.5 million environment-friendly solar electric system on the campus’ southwest side. Brown appointed Josh Gallo, a senior in electrical engineering, as project manager.
Brown’s action gave Gallo "the opportunity to come up with real solutions for real-life problems, just like any job I might find myself in after I graduate," said Gallo. A 2004 engineering graduate, Gallo now is a field engineer for DMJM Harris/AECOM, one of the country’s top engineering firms.
More than a dozen other engineering students, also part of the project team, helped re-design some of the project’s installation equipment to make the process more user-friendly.
Brown’s work with the students was saluted in May 2004, when the administrator received the Outstanding Administrator Award from the Associated Students of CSUN. In one of many other examples of his leadership in CSUN’s push toward energy sustainability, Brown was the "driving force" behind the design, fundraising and installation of the campus’ one megawatt fuel cell power plant, the first of its magnitude at any university in the world. The hands-on executive even invented components of the installation for which CSUN currently is seeking a patent.
The plant generates base load electricity for campus facilities, for heating the CSUN swimming pool and for surplus heat for buildings, showers and food service hot water. Its "green" operation lessens CSUN’s impact on the community, Brown pointed out when the plant was dedicated in February 2007.
"By incorporating the fuel cell plant into campus operations, we are reducing the university’s C02 emissions into the environment by 60 million pounds during its lifetime," he said.
As with the solar electric system, Brown helped find a way to provide learning opportunities for CSUN students. College of Engineering and Computer Science students are studying the carbon dioxide enrichment potential on plant life provided by the power plant to the university’s greenhouse.
Brown also helped facilitate the routing of carbon dioxide exhaust from the plant’s heat exchanger into an adjacent miniature sub-tropical rainforest, a rich educational source developed specifically to be sustained by the fuel cell plant’s operation.
Electrical engineering graduate student Shawn McConomy worked under Brown on the fuel cell project.
"The work on the fuel cell for me and Mikhail Yefimov, the other engineering student on the project, was a first hand experience on the full engineering process," said McConomy. "I finally realized why it is important to have at least a general knowledge of all engineering disciplines, not just electrical."
Brown began at CSUN as a building service engineer in 1982, and except for a brief period at MCC Powers in Buena Park, has steadily ascended through the administrative ranks from manager of mechanical services to his current position as executive director for facilities management.
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