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Meet the Grads: Billy Cawthorne, It’s a family thing

A portrait of Billy Cawthorne

Billy Cawthorne will be graduating this May from the Statler College with a degree in mechanical engineering. (Submitted photo)

For graduating senior Billy Cawthorne, West Virginia University has always been at the forefront of family time.

Story by Adrianne Uphold, Graduate Assistant

Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources


“I grew up a huge Mountaineer fan – every Saturday in the fall a football game was on TV,” Cawthorne said. “I’m pretty sure Country Roads was the first song I ever learned to sing, and I even had a WVU themed bedroom.” 

A Milford, Michigan, native, Cawthorne will be graduating in May with a degree in mechanical engineering from the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources.

Throughout Cawthorne’s time at the Statler College, he has focused a majority of his energy into EcoCAR, a four-year competition that gives engineering students the chance to design and build advanced vehicles with the goal of minimizing the environmental impact of personal transportation.

Cawthorne first started as a team member for EcoCAR in spring 2019, during the second half of the first year of the current competition.

“I’ve been a part of the team since before we even had a vehicle to work on and it has been awesome to see the progress we have made to get to where we are now, even having to deal with COVID for more than a year now,” Cawthorne said. “The experiences I have had with EcoCAR have been so valuable. I’ve been able to be a part of the engineering process from essentially start to finish.”

Cawthorne has had the opportunity to design components for the car, planning out schedules to accomplish goals, writing technical documents on the progress of the car, leading groups of other students to work on an element of the project, writing and executing testing plans, and of course, turning wrenches in the garage. 

“I can’t say I had an expectation of what sort of an engineer I would be by the end of my time with the team, but I can say that EcoCAR has 100 percent prepared me to hit the ground running and have a successful career as an engineer,” Cawthorne said. “On top of the engineering side of things, I have met some of my best friends through the team.”

His father, Bill Cawthorne, graduated from WVU with bachelor’s degrees in computer and electrical engineering, and both a master’s and doctorate degree in electrical engineering. He is the current General Motors mentor for the WVU EcoCAR team. 

“It was a little strange at first being on the team with him as the mentor, I think there was a bit of a reputation that came with being ‘Bill’s kid,’ but as I got to know the team better that went away, and now, I feel like I am a member of the team just like anybody else,” Cawthorne said. “It’s very funny to me because they only see the EcoCAR side of him, and not the personal side where he is not particularly intimidating.”

While Cawthorne is ready to walk across the stage and receive his diploma, his younger brother, Matt Cawthorne, will be completing his freshman year at WVU. Matt is studying mechanical engineering, creating a family legacy of engineers within the Statler College. Cawthorne’s mother, Jennifer, met his father while studying physical therapy at WVU.

“When Billy was looking at colleges, Jennifer and I knew he would be in good hands at WVU, but he needed to choose the school that best fit him,” Bill Cawthorne said. “After one official campus visit, WVU felt like home to him, and his choice became rather easy. After Billy’s four years in Morgantown, we would all agree, WVU still indeed feels like home. So much so, that Billy’s younger brother Matt also make the choice to attend WVU.”

After graduation, Cawthorne will be moving to Michigan to work full-time at General Motors in the TRACK program. 

“For the first two years I will be on four six-month rotations with different teams to get a feel for things and see what group I would want to work after the two years,” Cawthorne said. “I am super excited to work for General Motors. They had definitely been on my mind for a long time as a company I would like to work for.”

Cawthorne isn’t stopping his education just yet. He plans to obtain his MBA online while working for General Motors. 

“Overall, I have really loved my time at WVU, and I know I’m going to miss Morgantown when I don’t come back next fall,” Cawthorne said. “I have received a great education and been a part of an excellent team in which the experiences I had ultimately have led to me getting a fantastic job. I have met people who will be lifelong friends. It has been a great four years and I can’t believe how fast it went.”



Contact: Paige Nesbit
Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
304.293.4135, Paige Nesbit

For more information on news and events in the West Virginia University Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, contact our Marketing and Communications office:

Phone: 304-293-4135