After leading ASCE through some of its most challenging and successful years and after helping move the civil engineering profession in a more positive direction, Executive Director Patrick J. Natale, P.E., CAE, F.ASCE, announced at the ASCE annual conference, that he will be retiring on December 31, 2014.
“I love what I do and have a great time doing it,” says Natale, who began his tenure as executive director, chief staff officer, and secretary of ASCE in November 2002. “But for me it’s the same as with professional athletes like future Hall-of-Fame pitcher, Mariano Rivera. There comes a time when you have to go out and hang up your spikes.”
Reflecting for a moment, he added, “I feel like I am going out on top. ASCE is in great shape. I came here during difficult times. We were hurting financially and we had to do some serious modifications. Now, I think we have a fantastic staff, we have great leaders, we have dedicated volunteers and members, and we have a great future through our younger members and students.”
Among the things Natale lists as his as most profound and proudest accomplishments are putting ASCE more visibly on the map through engagement with other engineering organizations, the expansion of the Society’s Report Card, enhancing the image of the civil engineering profession, strengthening the ASCE brand, and moving ASCE’s Government Relations office to 101 Constitution Avenue on Capitol Hill.
In addition, Natale is widely recognized for his leadership in promoting public understanding of engineering, serving as an advisor to the National Academy of Engineering Committee on Public Awareness of Engineering, which launched a movement to transform the way engineers communicate with the public. He also served as a principal investigator on a National Science Foundation-funded project to attract young women to the engineering profession.
“These things did not happen because of something that I did,” confessed Natale, who will turn 66 next year. “It is building on prior successes. I have always believed that whatever you do, you can do it better. I think there were just a lot of things that we found ways to do better and part of that was building a very positive brand for ASCE.
“My father told me a long, long time ago, if you are going to do something, do it right and be the best of your ability. For the past 11 years I have tried to do the best for ASCE and the best for the profession. I really hope I made things better than before I got here.”
A graduate of the Newark College of Engineering with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and the New Jersey Institute of Technology with a master’s degree in engineering management, Natale also completed the Executive Management Program at Yale University. A licensed professional engineer in New Jersey, he is a certified association executive (CAE).
Before joining ASCE, Natale held a number of leadership positions with the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE), culminating in being appointed executive director in January 1999. While with NSPE, his crowning achievement was leading a massive reorganization effort that focused on increasing the value of membership within the organization.
Natale also held numerous top-level management positions with the Public Service Electric and Gas Company (PSE&G) of New Jersey. During his 28-year career with PSE&G, he was responsible for managing sales, marketing, strategic planning and customer service. While there, he led a corporate effort to develop the process and systems required for deregulating the energy marketplace in New Jersey.
More Challenges Ahead
Despite announcing his retirement, Natale says there are still a number of things he hopes to accomplish at ASCE over the next 14-plus months.
“Number one is our global strategy. I really think that is critical to the future of ASCE, the civil engineering profession and the quality of life globally,” says Natale, who returned in August from a two-week strategic mission to India and Indonesia. “I really think that will be a great opportunity, make a difference, and provide a benefit for the next 20 to 30 years and beyond.
“The other thing that we are working on now is the Dream Big! IMAX film and education project, in which we’ll highlight the excitement and accomplishments of engineering. I believe the profession needs that. Everyone says we need to be more visible and more public and I believe that our IMAX movie is going to show the grand scale of what engineers are capable of doing, the problems that we solve, and the ways that we make the world a better place. If we’re successful in our fund-raising, the IMAX project is going inspire a whole new generation to pursue engineering, and I think it is our obligation to do this kind of thing.”
Natale, who says he will remain involved in civil engineering activities and other projects, sees a bright future for the profession.
“It starts with the Vision for Civil Engineering in 2025,” he says, “but it does not end there. ASCE is the oldest national engineering society because it has a purpose. The Vision talks about making civil engineers entrusted by society to build a better quality of life, and we need to work to get there. What we will do beyond that, the sky’s the limit.
“Let me quote my friend [2005 ASCE President] Bill Henry, who used to start every presentation by saying, ‘It is great to be a civil engineer.’ I’m very proud to be one too.”