Nashville friends and Auburn alumni pave the way for future engineers

Published: Jul 13, 2020 12:01 PM

By Lauren Winton

Put engineers in a room together and they will do what they do best: problem solve. That was the idea for the Auburn Engineering Alumni Council and the smaller, philanthropy-based Strategic Leadership Team, anyway.

Nashville natives Steve Cates, ’85 civil engineering, and Randy Chase, ’85 mechanical engineering, are members of both groups. And they say that their experiences as alumni giving back and remaining active has made a big difference, both for them and the students and faculty they have met.

“The Strategic Leadership Team has been great,” Chase said. “If anything, it is a wonderful experience to see the amazing alumni we have at Auburn Engineering. When I am at those meetings, I look around the room and I like to listen to what these great folks have to say. They have all had such distinguished careers and all feel the same way about Auburn—thankful for what the university has provided for them.”

Chase has most enjoyed the Strategic Leadership Team meetings because of the invigorating conversations the group has and the ways in which they challenge the college to do better, to be better.

“All of the individuals in those meetings care about Auburn,” he said. “They challenge Dean Roberts and the rest of the college to innovate more, to advance the mission. We all stand behind the dean’s drive for Auburn Engineering to be one of the top twenty engineering schools in the country, and I truly believe we can get there.”

Like Chase, Cates finds similar satisfaction and enjoyment from these meetings, as well as the twice-yearly gatherings of the Auburn Engineering Alumni Council.

“As a member of the Council, I have truly enjoyed watching it develop over the years. After Chris Roberts came on board as dean, I feel like he has led the conversation in such a way that allows the council to talk about what is missing at Auburn,” Cates said. “He has particularly emphasized the student-centered part of the college’s mission, and I think it is tremendous how these meetings allow us to take a deeper dive and figure out what Auburn Engineering can improve.”

Both Cates and Chase have other commonalities: they work in construction-related fields, live in Nashville and chose to come to Auburn rather than any Tennessee schools. They are also good friends.

“Steve and I met our first year at Auburn Engineering,” Chase said. “We have remained close friends ever since. I would say Steve sort of pushed me to reengage with the college, and it has been a very rewarding experience. I would say—and I’m sure Steve would agree with me—that Auburn provided the background and education I needed to be successful.”

And successful, Chase is indeed. Utilizing a pivotal experience he had one summer between semesters at Auburn as an intern in building construction, Chase launched his career in building construction. He now serves as the vice president of Nashville Machine Co.

In addition to offering sage advice through boards and councils, Randy and his wife Beth have supported all facets of engineering through their philanthropy, as well as their active involvement on campus. They have been loyal Keystone donors and hope to have a positive impact on students through their scholarship, giving to the Brown-Kopel Student Achievement Center, and general engineering support.

“Beth and I like to encourage students in whatever ways we can. We want to help others—allow them to find success in their careers and in other areas of their lives,” Chase said.

With a similar interest for helping others, Steve and his wife Lyn remain actively involved with Auburn Engineering to help position future graduates for success. The founder and CEO of Cates Builders enjoys giving back. He and Lyn are Keystone Society members, have given to the Brown-Kopel Engineering Student Achievement Center and support students through scholarship.

Cates also started his alumni involvement just after graduation. He credits his extracurricular opportunities while in school for his steadfast dedication to Auburn.

“I had so many great experiences while I was in school at Auburn—and not just academic experiences. I loved being a Plainsman. I got to host business leaders when they came to campus and find out their perspective in the business world. I traveled with the football team and hosted alumni events at away games. I worked in the president’s box. The experience enhanced my communication skills,” Cates said.

The former Plainsman was instrumental in creating the Keystone society, after seeing first-hand the impact philanthropy has on education.

“As an undergraduate, I was also the treasurer of the student government. I had to manage a large budget and the entire experience gave me a different perspective on the university,” he said. “As an alumnus, and having that different perspective, I was inspired to really help Auburn. I immediately joined Tigers Unlimited and then became involved with engineering. After we started the Keystone Society, Chris Roberts came on board as dean, and he asked me to continue to help. Dean Roberts has really done a great job.”

The list of similarities between Cates and Chase is long. It spans from their experiences as undergraduates to the impact that their Auburn Engineering education had in positioning them for successful careers. Now, as alumni, Steve Cates and Randy Chase share a hope that both current and future students as well as alumni will find equal opportunity through their time at Auburn.

Media Contact: Lauren Winton,, 334.844.5519
Randy and Beth Chase with Steve and Lyn Cates

Randy and Beth Chase with Steve and Lyn Cates

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