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Three ODU Engineering Graduate Brothers Pursuing Careers at Babcock & Wilcox in Lynchburg

At a nuclear operations company in Lynchburg, Va., there's the potential for an alumni reunion every day for Old Dominion University's Department of Mechanical Engineering Technology.

What's more, the three employees who are ODU engineering alums share something else: a last name.

The Camper brothers, Henry, Gary and Carl, were all hired by Babcock & Wilcox between 1984 and 1991. And they're all still there, along with another brother, Eric, the burgundy and orange turkey of the family (a Virginia Tech graduate).

"When two or more of us are seen together, I hear comments like, "There are more Campers here than at a KOA campground," laughed Henry (second from right in photo), who started working for B&W in 1984, after earning his M.E.T. degree from ODU in 1982. His is currently senior principal engineer in the Quality Control Department.

"I just laugh at those comments, they're all in fun. I just think they are jealous they're not Campers too!"

Headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., Babcock & Wilcox has been involved in the research and development of nuclear fission, and its relevance to national security, since the 1940s.

It has major operations in Ontario, Canada, Barberton, Ohio, and Mount Vernon, Ind., in addition to its Lynchburg and Charlotte sites. Its Lynchburg operation has 2,400 employees.

Gary Camper (second from left in photo) was the first brother to start working at the company's Lynchburg location, in June 1984, currently serving as Quality Control Department Manager.

He said the family's story with engineering, and with B&W, starts at Virginia Western Community College in Roanoke, where each received two-year associate in applied science diplomas, in mechanical technology.

"That was the foundation for transferring to ODU to complete the B.S. degree," Gary said. "The M.E.T. degree was such a great fit with the B&W Lynchburg location, because of the appropriate mix of classroom theory coupled with the practical hands-on applications that really prepared us for a manufacturing environment."

And once they got in the door, each of the Campers has made a career at B&W Lynchburg.

"B&W Lynchburg was so appealing because of the manufacturing nature of the plant, and the proximity to our childhood home and parents about an hour away. It is such a great place to work that makes something that matters ¬- by helping with the defense of our great country," Gary said.

Carl, lead engineer in the Development Engineering Section at B&W, said ODU's mechanical engineering technology program prepared all of them for making sound engineering decisions in an environment where safety is paramount.

"The M.E.T. program also provided a more hands-on approach to problem solving by integrating courses that directly related to industry," said Carl (far right in photo; ODU retired engineering professor Gary Crossman is far left).

"Many years have passed since the three of us graduated, and technologies related to the engineering field have changed as well. The M.E.T. program has continued to modify its curriculum to keep pace with industry changes."

While it's easy to imagine nonstop hijinks between four brothers in the same workplace, B&W's operation in Lynchburg is large, and each of the brothers works in different areas of the facility, on different product lines.

"When we do see each other, we usually just make quick eye contact or a short wave and move on. I guess the main advantage is the ability to contact each other readily when the need arises," Henry said.

Company nepotism rules keep any of the brothers from transferring to a part of the plant where another brother was a supervisor.

Babcock & Wilcox Nuclear Operations Group (B&W NOG), headquartered in Lynchburg, owns and operates manufacturing facilities that supply specialty materials and components to the U.S. government. Winfred Nash, President of B&W NOG is also an alumnus of ODU's Batten College of Engineering and Technology.

This article was posted on: November 10, 2010

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