College of Engineering & Mines

Updates for students, alumni, supporters and constituents

Three new members join CEM’s prestigious Alumni Academy

CEM’s highest honor bestowed upon alumni to three inductees at annual Alumni Academy Ceremony

Alumni Academy inductees pose for a group photo
From left to right: Donald L. Hynek, Barbara O’Toole, and Robert Post Johnson.

On Friday, October 6, 2023, the University of North Dakota College of Engineering & Mines celebrated the achievements of three distinguished alumni during the annual Alumni Academy Induction Ceremony. Family, friends, and colleagues gathered at The Opal Event Center in Grand Forks to observe the induction into the Academy, the highest honor the College of Engineering & Mines bestowed to alumni. This year’s group of inductees includes Donald L. Hynek, Robert Post Johnson, and Barbara O’Toole.

Person speaks at a podium
Donald L. Hynek

Donald L. Hynek // Civil Engineering ’71

Donald L. Hynek graduated with his Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering in 1971. After graduating, Don began a 31-year career with Texaco, Inc., and quickly moved into various management positions, including Manager, Gulf of Mexico Operations, General Manager, UK Project Development, Regional Manager, Asia Pacific Operations, and retiring as General Manager, International Project Development in 2002. From 2003 to 2007, he was the president of Hynek Consulting, LLC.

When asked why he chose to pursue the field of Civil Engineering, Don recounts that he knew he wanted to do outdoor work and that early crop surveying work piqued his interest and set him on the path to a Civil Engineering degree.

An influential figure at UND, he recalls Professor Ronald Apanian and how much he enjoyed his classes. Ron indicated that job opportunities for Civil Engineering graduates were plentiful, with a wide range of career paths from forest services, highway department, Firestone Tire, and oil companies, to name a few. Additionally, graduates would get 5-6 job offers.

Post-retirement, Don has been very busy; he has volunteered for 18 years with Habitat for Humanity, provided leadership and service within his church, and served on various advisory councils, some international, like Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, Scotland, as just one example.

Together, Don and his wife, Sandy, established the Don and Sandy Hynek Civil Engineering Endowment at UND.

Person speaks at a podium
Robert Post Johnson

Robert Post Johnson // Geology ’70, ’73

Robert Post Johnson followed in the footsteps of several family members and attended UND. He had brothers, uncles, and other family members who had preceded him to UND. It was a family tradition.

After graduation, he began his career as a coal geologist at Hunt Oil Company in Williston. In 1975, only two years after graduation, he became the owner of Harris, Brown & Klemer, Inc. In 2015, he founded Kyte Mineral Properties, LLC and PetroStrive Production, LLC.

He knew he always wanted to pursue a career in the sciences, but he needed to figure out whether he could make a living with a geology degree. He spent time researching geology paths in the Bud Holland Library, which is now located in Leonard Hall. He was “hooked” when he began studying the maps and oil fields.

When asked about his UND memories, he quickly recalls being excited about Dr. Walter Moore’s classes. He fondly recalls Bud Holland, along with many memories of Leonard Hall.

In 2017, Bob received the Arthur Gray Leonard Award for outstanding contributions to the field of Geology. This award is given to esteemed alumni by the leadership of the Harold Hamm School of Geology.

Person speaks at a podium
Barbara O’Toole

Barbara O’Toole // Mechanical Engineering ’86

Barbara O’Toole obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of North Dakota in 1986. When asked about her choice of university, she explained that her oldest brother, along with several cousins and other relatives, had attended UND, making it an obvious choice for her. She decided to study mechanical engineering, which was a suitable option for her as she had grown up exposed to a lot of work on the family farm.

Barbara reminisces about her time at UND with great fondness, especially two professors who had a significant impact on her life: Professor Graywald and Dr. Naismith.

Following graduation, Barbara began her career as a Senior Design Engineer for Modine Manufacturing in Racine, Wisconsin. Later, she went on to work for The Joiner Rose Group in Dallas, TX.

In 1991, Barbara founded Advanced Environmental Concept (AEC), Inc., a specialty commercial interiors contractor, with $3,000 and a determination for success, a trait she learned while growing up in rural North Dakota. Today, she is the CEO of AEC, a $25 million/year business located in Dallas, TX, employing over 100 people.

Barbara has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the 2004 NFL Films Design/Build Excellence, the 2010-2015 Exxon Mobil Campus Design/Build Award, and the 2021 AIA/TEXO Design Build Champion for Bark & Build Charity. She has also been acknowledged as one of Dallas Business Journal’s Largest Women-Owned Businesses in 2013, 2018, 2021, and 2022.

According to Barbara, her greatest accomplishment is the people she has had the privilege to mentor. She has always been motivated to take one day at a time, and she measures success in terms of happiness, achieving goals, and helping others succeed in both business and life.

A large group of people pose for a group photo
Numerous members of the Alumni Academy joined in celebrating the Academy’s newest inductees.

A legacy of leaders

As we celebrate the induction of Donald L. Hynek, Robert Post Johnson, and Barbara O’Toole into the Alumni Academy, it’s essential to remember that their remarkable stories not only inspire the generations that follow but also serve as a testament to the incredible talent that emerges from the College of Engineering & Mines. Each inductee’s plaque will be displayed in the Alumni Academy Hall of Fame located in the Upson II Building, where future graduates can find inspiration from the diverse journeys of the college’s alumni.

Their paths serve as a reminder that with determination and unwavering dedication, one can reach unparalleled heights and leave an indelible mark on the world. As we honor their achievements, we also look forward to the bright futures of the aspiring engineers and mines of UND, who these exemplary alumni will inspire.


Written by Paige Prekker  //  UND College of Engineering & Mines