ECE Distinguished Alumni – Fall 2021

David S. Akers

David S. Akers

David completed his Bachelor’s and the course work for his Master’s degree and moved to Florida to work for E-Systems, St. Petersburg Division as a communications systems engineer.  He became lead systems engineer on an Air Force UHF SATCOM tactical terminal program that produced a series of UHF SATCOM radios used by segments of all U.S. Military services.  During this time he completed his thesis requirement for his Master’s degree.  His exposure to the business elements of these projects created a path to being promoted to Program Manager.  He successfully managed several multi-million dollar programs and was lead in the business development and capture of an international SATCOM terminal program.

In 1998, David left E-Systems and joined a startup called SmartSAT as Director of Programs.  SmartSAT’s primary business is supporting the communications requirements of the U.S. warfighter with an emphasis in UHF SATCOM and related products.  He managed both the program management and engineering of numerous projects in UHF SATCOM, guided missiles and communications protocols for the U.S. Government.  In 2001, SmartSAT was selected to provide the Danish Navy with UHF SATCOM as part of NATO directives.  David spent several months in Denmark providing installation and training support to Danish Naval personnel.  In 2011, David became President and an owner of SmartSAT.  In this capacity he has continued to actively participate in the engineering and design efforts required to produce high quality products and services at SmartSAT.

David has worked with engineers from many different countries.  He says that his education at MSU was excellent at preparing him to work with a wide diversity of engineers and in many engineering disciplines.  David is one of a line of MSU graduates in his family, his father, mother and oldest brother are all graduates of MSU.  His father, Dr. Jim Akers, taught in the Electrical Engineering Department for over 20 years.  His mother, Dr. Sara Akers was the Director of Nursing at the Mississippi University for Women.

David has two children Connor and Kenton.  Connor is currently studying Computer Science at the University of Saarland, Germany.  Kenton is studying Computer Aided Design and Computer Programming at the St. Petersburg College.  David is an avid cyclist and swimmer and has been swimming with a local community aquatics team for the past 20 years.

William O. (Billy) Ball, Sr.

Billy Ball

Billy is a nationally recognized electric power system leader and experienced board member.  He served 35 years in the electric utility industry and retired in 2019 as Executive Vice President and Chief Transmission Officer of Southern Company Services. He was responsible for all aspects of Southern Company’s multi-state electric transmission system. He previously served in executive roles over Transmission Design and Construction, Transmission Planning and Operations, Technical due diligence on business development projects, and Safety and Health policy.

Billy helped form and served as Chairman of the Board of the North American Transmission Forum (NATF) and the Eastern Interconnection Data Sharing Network (EIDSN). He was a member of the Board of SERC, Mirant Asia-Pacific, and Jamaica Public Service Company.  Billy served on the U.S. Department of Energy Electricity Advisory Committee, National Institute of Standards and Technology Smart Grid Federal Advisory Committee (SGFAC), Consortium for Electric Reliability Technology Solutions (CERTS) Industry Leadership Council, and Chaired the NERC Members Representative Committee.  Billy has testified in state and federal regulatory hearings and before a U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee.

He holds a bachelors degree in Electrical Engineering from Mississippi State University (MSU) and an MBA from the University of Southern Mississippi. He is a member of the Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame, a Distinguished Fellow of the Mississippi State University James Worth Bagley College of Engineering, and serves on the MSU Engineering Dean’s Advisory Council.

Billy and his wife, Cindy, reside in Birmingham, Alabama, have four children, and are very involved in various ministries of Briarwood Presbyterian Church.  They sponsor the Billy and Cindy Ball Legacy Scholarship at MSU and the Southern Company Diversity Scholarship in the Bagley College of Engineering is named in his honor.

Bruce Deer

Bruce DeerBruce Deer has enjoyed participating in the evolution of technology since graduating from MSU in 1979. Recently, consulting has allowed him to begin the transition into retirement from the fast-paced high-tech innovative world of engineering and communications. Last October he told Trilogy Communications in Pearl, MS, he had done as much as he could as their consultant.  Trilogy agreed.  That’s when he accidentally found himself hired as Trilogy’s full-time CEO.  He’s currently using his entrepreneurial skills to help launch new products and become more profitable.

After graduating MSU in electrical engineering, Deer was hired by Eastman Kodak.  Unfortunately for Kodak, he quickly realized the production of film and chemicals would fall way to digital photography. With great engineers being highly sought, General Dynamic moved him to Ft. Worth, Texas, as a project engineer for F-16 fighter jets, working primarily on digital communications systems. This allowed him to excel amongst a cadre of engineers from prestigious schools across the nation, never feeling at a disadvantage.

The most satisfying part of Deer’s career was developing new and innovative technologies.  He especially enjoyed the benefits of world travel with Lockheed Aerospace and later Skytel where they developed the first wireless two-way messaging service. Both provided him opportunities to design new technology and see its use in the world.  It was even more exciting seeing the original design come full circle when it was replaced with something new.

More recently, Deer provided executive services to Spread Networks.  Spread built an ultra-low latency fiber network between Chicago and New York City for high-frequency trading firms.

Deer has been married to Teresa for over 42 years where Madison, MS is home.  They have two grown children and three granddaughters. He enjoys golf twice a week, mowing his lawn as if it’s a golf course, fishing, and taking Winston, their Yorkie rescue, for boat rides. But those granddaughters hold the keys to his heart…even if 4-year-old Anna tells him, “Poppa, you’re not very good at singing.  I’m just not sure boys should sing.”