Ethiopia honors a Case engineer and a favorite son
With a pair of Case engineering degrees and a desire to serve, Aklilu Demessie ’77, MS ’81, made a splash in his profession and in his adopted hometown of Cleveland, where he became a champion of multiculturalism. Word made it back home, to Ethiopia, which recently recognized him with one of its highest honors.
Demessie, a retired senior engineer for United Technologies Aerospace Systems, in February received the Knight Grand Cross from the Ethiopian Crown Council. It was presented to him at the Army and Navy Club in Washington, D.C., by Prince Ermias Sahle Selassie, the grandson of Emperor Haile Selassie.
Demessie, who lives in the Cleveland suburb of Hudson with Zufan, his wife of 42 years, came to the U.S. as an American Field Service exchange student in the early 1970s. He graduated from Oberlin High School and went on to Case Institute of Technology, where he earned degrees in civil engineering and engineering mechanics.
He worked as a senior engineer and group leader at the former Goodrich Landing Gear for more than 30 years while contributing to the region’s cultural mosaic. He helped forge a Sister Cities agreement between Cleveland and Bahir Dar, Ethiopia, and served the International Community Council of Cleveland as its vice president. He also co-founded the Society of Ethiopians Established in the Diaspora, which raises scholarships for American youth of Ethiopian heritage.
More recently, he was instrumental in the creation of the Ethiopian Cultural Garden in Rockefeller Park, not far from campus. Upon its dedication in 2019, it became the first African garden in the 103-year history of the Cleveland Cultural Gardens.