First Edition a Success, ASCE Convention Bids Farewell to Big Apple

October 16, 2015
ASCE members laugh during engineer-comedian’s Don McMillan “set” at the closing session of the 2015 Convention. PHOTO: David Hathcox for ASCE

“Engineers aren’t funny,” Don McMillan told the audience at the ASCE 2015 Convention in New York City. “Nobody’s ever met an engineer and said, ‘Ooooh, tell me a joke!’ ”

McMillan, though, is the exception, carving out a successful career as a stand-up comedian  after years as an engineer, and he had ASCE members at the closing general session roaring with laughter as the 2015 Convention closed on a light note and looked forward to an exciting 2016 Convention in Portland, OR.

McMillan used a series of PowerPoint slides, charts, and graphs to poke fun at the world from a uniquely engineer-centric point of view. It is a rare audience indeed that will enjoy adaptive-procurement jokes, but this was that audience. Adaptive procurement, so said McMillan, is “a civil engineering term for stealing,” much to the crowd’s delight.

New York City certainly was a big hit with 2015 attendees. Andrew Herrmann, P.E., SECB, F.SEI, Pres.12.ASCE, chair of the Convention Advisory Council, as well as the Metropolitan Section earned praise all week for their work in helping to organize and host.

“They put on a great show and made us feel at home,” said Chris Humphreys, P.E., M.ASCE, president of the ASCE Louisiana Section. “I enjoyed New York very much, and I plan to return. There’s so much to do, and the weather’s been great. The sessions were very good and informative. I enjoyed it all thoroughly.”

Engineer-Comedian Don McMillan delivers another punchline. PHOTO: David Hathcox for ASCE

Engineer-Comedian Don McMillan delivers another punchline. PHOTO: David Hathcox for ASCE

Steven Kaufman, a former Met Section president, enjoyed the chance to play host.

“I loved it,” Kaufman said. “I hope other people have gotten the thrill of being in New York. I’ve lived here my whole life, so I don’t have the same perspective as others who don’t live here. It’s interesting to hear from them and see the city through their eyes. It kind of gives me a sense of wonder that I normally don’t have.”

The technical tours Wednesday gave members a chance to further their own feeling of New York wonder before heading home. The afternoon tours included a trip along the Highline and a look at the Second Avenue subway construction.

Bruce Podwal, P.E., F.ASCE, has been to more than 20 ASCE annuals dating back to the 1960s. This was his easiest travel time, though – about a 20-minute walk from his Manhattan home.

“I like them always,” Podwal said. “It reinforces your understanding of what it is to be a civil engineer and it helps you both from the professional side as well as the technical side. The opportunity to meet with so many people from all around the world to hear what has worked for them and what hasn’t worked gives you the ability to learn and to grow in the profession.”

A principal goal of the new ASCE Convention format is to create consistency from year to year in themes and topics. Portland next year setting will give the Convention a different vibe, with DiLoreto touting his hometown’s engineering marvels, mountains, beaches, restaurants, and drawing the biggest applause, craft breweries.

“I’ve lived in Portland my entire life,” 2016 Convention Chair Greg DiLoreto, P.E., F.ASCE, Pres.13.ASCE, told the audience. “For me, it’s truly exciting to welcome all of you to what I call my city.”


While ASCE members are looking forward to the Portland 2016 Convention, Rachel Simpson, A.M.ASCE, already has her registration booked, as the winner of the ASCE Foundation’s “Phil’s Selfie” contest for the best picture taken with the Foundation’s hedgehog mascot.  Of the several selfies with Phil that she posted, the Birmingham Branch Younger Member won for her tweet of a photo with two New York police officers and Phil that won her the complimentary registration.

“‘I’m here for an engineering conference.’ Kind of explained it,” Simpson said she told the officers. “They were like, ‘We hope you win.’ They were really nice.”

The Foundation enjoyed a successful week of fundraising at the Convention, helped not only by Phil the Philanthropist but also by notable matching pledges from Foundation President Jon Magnusson, P.E., Dist.M.ASCE, and Foundation Vice-President and ASCE Past-President Bob Stevens, Ph.D., P.E., F.ASCE. Stevens will continue to match any gift made through the end of the year. Online donations can be made at the ASCE Foundation website.

As the ASCE Convention looks northwest from New York City to Portland in 2016, Simpson is already excited.

“It’s been really awesome. It’s been a lot of fun, learned a lot of new things,” Simpson said. “And now I’m coming next year too.”

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