As a former senior vice president at Southland Industries, Dave Peters was one of Southland’s greatest contributors – not only regarding technical innovations, but also for his passion for recruiting talented engineering students. After Dave passed away in 2011, the ASHRAE David C.J. Peters Scholarship was created to honor his accomplishments and dedication to rising young engineers. For several years, this scholarship has been awarded to some of the industry’s most promising engineering students.

This year’s scholarship winners are Mary Taylor and Jacob Upton. Mary is an architectural engineering student at Penn State University. Originally from the Greater Pittsburgh area in Irwin, PA, she chose the mechanical option of her major to fuel her passion for creating sustainable environments.

Jacob Upton is a mechanical engineering student with a concentration in HVACR at Cal Poly. Originally from Southern California, Jacob is graduating soon and looking forward to learning everything he can about the industry, as well as applying all that he has learned in the past four years.

How did you become interested in this industry?

[MT] Since I was little, I had an interest in how things worked and why they worked that way. I liked to take things apart and compare similar systems or watch my dad put things, like our sink, back together. I knew that I wanted to be an engineer, but the decision I really needed to make was what kind. I had an interest in architecture and buildings, as many in my major do, so I decided to declare architectural engineering.

After spending a year or so in the major, I began to realize I had an interest in mechanical systems and the climate of buildings. After taking two classes in the mechanical option, I decided that I was most interested in the HVAC industry because that is where I could learn how to make buildings more sustainable for the environment, more comfortable for the occupants, and more efficient for the owner.

[JU] I originally wanted to go into chemical engineering, but after interning with a chemical water treatment company after graduating high school, I realized that the parts of the experience I enjoyed were HVAC related. The following year, I began at Cal Poly as a materials engineering major. I got involved with the Sales Engineering Club where we had an HVAC manufacturer’s representative present on what their corporation did, as well as internship opportunities.

Throughout the duration of the presentation, I began to see that I enjoyed more of the thermodynamics aspect of the mechanical industry. I interned with that manufacturer’s representative that summer and utilized the resources I had there to talk about the industry and consider the possibility of switching into mechanical engineering. I really loved the experience I had during that internship, specifically being able to see the various angles of the industry. Once I returned to school that fall, I switched my major to mechanical engineering, and got involved with ASHRAE and other student organizations.

What activities and/or associations are you involved in at school?

[MT] Over the past four years I have been involved in quite a few organizations here at Penn State. I volunteered my time with the Penn State Dance Marathon, serving as both a Rules and Regulations Committee member and as a dancer this past year. During my first three years of college, I was a member of Engineers without Borders and ultimately served as secretary during my sophomore and junior years. I have been involved with Penn State’s US Green Building Council group over the past two years, and have become more involved with Penn State’s ASHRAE branch. Most recently, I have served on the ASHRAE executive board as the webmaster and will be serving next year as vice president. I have also been involved with the Student Society of Architectural Engineers, serving on the executive board for three years as a parliamentarian, mentoring vice president, and most recently president. On a national level, I have served as the vice president of the National Student Officers for the Architectural Engineering Institute.

[JU] I try to keep myself busy with just about anything that I can do. I’m the president of Cal Poly ASHRAE club and an officer of the Cal Poly Sales of Engineering club. I’m also involved with my local church quite a bit, and stay active with intramural softball and soccer.

What are your favorite hobbies/activities outside of school?

[MT] Outside of school, I really enjoy being outdoors and doing activities like hiking, biking, and gardening or being indoors to bake and listen to music. My family and friends really enjoy the baking part.

[JU] I play a lot of soccer in my free time with my friends and roommates. We try to go to the beach often to play spike ball, and I also enjoy having large groups of friends over to cook dinner and hang out.

What are your goals after graduation?

[MT] My goal after graduating from Penn State is to join a design firm that works on sustainable systems for many types of enclosures. I hope to work as a mechanical designer and be known for increasing the efficiency of a building and decreasing its carbon footprint, as well as creating a healthier environment for the occupants.

[JU] I’m graduating in June, and am getting married six days later. We’ll go on our honeymoon for a few weeks following that, and then I start a full-time position in August. I am very excited to experience all of these things and start working. I’ve been waiting to graduate since I started college, so I’m very much looking forward to jump in with a company I’ve been fortunate enough to have interned at twice and officially begin my career!




  • Emily Spicher

    Multimedia Copywriter

    As Multimedia Copywriter, Emily Spicher assists in developing, controlling, and protecting the brand voice of Southland Industries, its underlying businesses, and its subsidiaries to ensure consistency, professionalism, and accuracy of all written content. Emily works closely with the Multimedia Copywriter to conceptualize, write, and edit all copy going out to external and companywide internal audiences.

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