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Friends of the Ware Lab

Joseph F. Ware, Jr.

Joe and his wife Jenna Ware co-founded the Laboratory with Hayden Griffin, Ph.D. in 1998. For complete biographical information, please visit About Joseph Ware, Jr.

picture of Joe Ware and some of the planes he worked on

Arthur Klages

Arthur Klages grew up in Long Beach, NY. In 1938, he joined the Corp of Cadets at what was then Virginia Polytechnic Institute (VPl). While at VPI, he joined the Highty Tighties and Phi Kappa Phi honor society. In 1942, Klages graduated with a BS in Industrial Engineering and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant. He then served in the Army for three years during WWII.

When he returned from military duty, Arthur Klages worked for Western Electric as a Time Study Engineer. Within a year, he had decided to move into the apparel industry to improve the production lines. Over the next decade he worked at three different companies ending up as a plant manager in Greensboro NC, where he developed an auxiliary unit to work with industrial sewing machines. Klages contracted the machines out and sold them through a distributor. At the same time, Klages went to night school to become a machinist at a local community college. In 1960 he used his own shop to start Burlington Handbags. He worked there until 1986 when he retired. During his spare time, he worked to make dies, build and automate the machines in his shop.

After retiring, Arthur Klages put more time into the shop manufacturing the sewing machine units that had done so well. In 1997 he finally decided to sell off the inventory and move to a retirement community. The question was then, what to do with the machines in his shop that had served him so well. Around that time, the dean of the College of Engineering, F. William Stephenson, came to visit Mr. Klages. He generously offered the machines for students use in the Ware Lab. Some of these machines are still being used by the student design teams today.

Arthur Klages' son Andy graduated from Virginia Tech in 1983 with a BS in Industrial and Systems Engineering and an MS in Computer Science from the University of New Mexico. He currently works as a Software Engineer for Avaya in Westminster CO. Christine Staley, Klages' daughter, graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1981. She currently lives in Pasadena, CA and works as the Production Supervisor for American Idol.

Dr. Robert A. Comparin

Dr. Robert A. Comparin was head of Virginia Tech’s Department of Mechanical Engineering from 1983 to 1993. During his tenure, and even after his retirement, he was instrumental in the creation and support of hand-on student based programs. In particular, Professor Comparin created the original student “Car Factory”, the precursor to the Joseph F. Ware, Jr Advanced Engineering Lab. He also served as the faculty advisor for Formula SAE from 1995 to 1996.

Dr. Comparin inspires students by visiting the Ware Lab to talk about current projects, sharing stories of when he was involved with the Formula SAE team during his time at Virginia Tech. He is a source of encouragement to all who work at the Ware Lab!

Mrs. Susan Cortes

Susan Cortes served as director of the Ware Lab from 2005 to 2008. During her tenure Susan coordinated a full renovation of the Ware Lab Facility and greatly increased corporate and individual sponsorship. Susan took time out of her busy schedule to attend at least two Ware Lab related competitions each year and helped to increase the diversity of the facility’s student population.

Susan received her M.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from Virginia Tech and her B.S. from West Virginia University. During her time as a graduate student, Cortes initiated the autonomous vehicle program at Virginia Tech and supervised the design and construction of the first autonomous vehicles. She was also instrumental in taking Ware Lab teams to the Virginia State Fair and winning top display honors each year!

Susan started her career at AT&T, Bell Labs in Mesquite, TX. During her 10 years in the telecommunications industry, Susan worked as a design engineer, technical manager, new product introduction specialist and product manager.

Cortes portrait

Dr. O. Hayden Griffin

Dr. Griffin served as the director of the Ware Lab during its first nine years and was instrumental in establishing the facility in 1998. Dr. Griffin served as chair of Engineering Education from 1997 to 2005 and has been a faculty member of Virginia Tech since 1985, starting in the engineering science and mechanics department. While at Virginia Tech, Hayden was involved with multiple aspects of the engineering department, serving as a graduate advisor, consultant, instructor, and faculty advisor for the BAJA SAE team! He is currently serving as engineering chair at East Carolina University.

Hayden Portrait

Mr. Marvin and Mrs. Susan Johnson

The Johnsons are frequent visitors and avid supporters of the Ware Lab.  Mr. Johnson is a Virginia Tech electrical engineering alum and is president of Associated Power, Inc. in Los Angeles, California, and Mrs. Johnson is an alum of Radford University.  Due to their continuous support, Ware Lab competition teams are able to do exceptional work in the design, building, and testing of over 20 undergraduate projects throughout the facility!

Johnsons portrait

Mr. Jerry Lucas

Jerry Lucas was manager of the Ware Lab from its creation in 1998 until 2003. Jerry performed project management responsibilities during the full conversion of the military laundry facility to the current Ware Lab facility and, along with Dr. Griffin, helped get Ware Lab off to a great start. He was known for his abilities as a mentor and machine shop instructor and for being able to assist teams with technical problems as they arose. He was always very welcoming of student groups during tours and helped to greatly increase Ware lab outreach to community colleges, universities, and K-12 groups.

Mr. Derwin Stafford

Derwin Stafford was the machine and welding shop manager for the Ware Lab from its very beginnings in 1998. As many who worked with him know, Derwin was the backbone of the Ware Lab facility, faithfully doing his job well beyond expectations. He maintained a safe and efficient lab and encouraged everyone by just being in good spirits all of the time. He earned the respect of all who worked in the lab and demonstrated that much of what makes for good engineering training comes from those who build and fabricate what is designed in addition to what is learned in the classroom. He personally taught hundreds of students over the last 13 years the fine art of machining and one could see by his engagement that he strongly believed in what he was doing.

Derwin passed away un-expectantly on January 6 of 2012 of a heart attack. His impact on the Ware Lab and Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering was tremendous and he will be sorely missed. Derwin was with Virginia Tech for 20 years prior to his passing.

Derwin portrait

Contact the Ware Lab

320 Stanger Street, Mail Code 297, Military Building, 203, Blacksburg, Virginia 24061
Phone: 540-231-5837, The Ware Lab Tour Guides