Irvan F. Mendenhall, Past ASCE President, and Co-Founder of DMJM; Dies at Age 96

August 6, 2014

MendenhallIrvan F. Mendenhall, P.E., Pres.81.ASCE, and co-founder and chairman of the board of the Los Angeles consulting firm Daniel, Mann, Johnson & Mendenhall (DMJM), passed away July 29 at the age of 96. Born June 21, 1918, Mendenhall graduated from the civil engineering program at the University of California, Berkeley in 1941, just months before the U.S. entered World War II. Putting his engineering knowledge to work, he was commissioned in the U.S. Navy’s Civil Engineering Corps, better known as the Seabees, in 1942, first on the construction of Camp Perry military base in Virginia and later on construction of military installations throughout Europe. In 1945, Mendenhall returned to the U.S. and his hometown of Santa Maria, California, where he started his own engineering firm with 3 architects whom he had known before the war: Phillip Daniel, Arthur Mann, and Kenneth Johnson. Their humble beginnings did not remain so for long; in 1947 they moved their offices to neighboring Los Angeles, where they were poised to take advantage of the postwar construction boom. They soon incorporated the architecture and engineering aspects of the business under the same corporate umbrella and thus became Daniel, Mann, Johnson & Mendenhall. During these first few years the firm completed numerous projects involving public schools, large industrial facilities, transportation infrastructure, and sewer systems. In addition, Mendenhall’s work during the war and his involvement as a Navy reservist enabled DMJM to secure several significant military contracts involving navy airfields throughout southern California. Soon afterward, DMJM also secured contracts with the U.S. Air Force for projects in Tokyo, Japan. In the ensuing years, as DMJM grew with the spread of U.S. military bases across the globe, the company opened international offices in Okinawa, Guam, and South Korea. By 1981, when Mendenhall became president of ASCE, DMJM was one of the largest architecture and engineering firms in the U.S., with more than 1,700 employees. First involved with ASCE as a student while attending UC Berkeley, he made it a point to stay involved with the Society by attending meetings of ASCE’s Los Angeles Section. Mendenhall became president of the Los Angeles Section and went on to serve on several ASCE committees (Resolutions, Publications, and others), as District 11 director, on ASCE’s national Board of Direction, and as national vice president. According to the article “Profiles in Leadership,” published in the November/December 2002 issue of Civil Engineering magazine, Mendenhall stated that his “loyalty to the Society stemmed from its insistence upon high ethical standards.” In striving to make DMJM a global firm, it was no surprise that Mendenhall worked to make ASCE an international organization during his presidency, this accomplished by his traveling to Japan, China, Australia, and other countries. Among the highlights of his presidency was representing ASCE at a conference held in Devon, United Kingdom – the same place he was stationed with the Seabees 20 years earlier. A recipient of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce 1979 Achievement Award, Mendenhall has been[honored as Engineer of the Year by both the Consulting Engineers Association of California and the Los Angeles Council of Engineering Societies. He was also honored with an Engineering Award from The Beavers in 1981. Mendenhall concluded his interview with Civil Engineering magazine by stating how amazed he was at how significantly the profession had changed during his lifetime. Always preferring the slide rule over the computer, he said, “I was just using it the other day to run some important ratios.”

2 Comments
  • My earliest ASCE Official Register dates back to 1981 when I was active in the Associate Member now Younger Mmeber Forum. It was meeting folks like Irvan at the formative stage in one’s career that lead to lifelong involvement with ASCE.

  • Thank you Doug. That is a beautiful write up of my Uncle Irky. My Mother would be very proud of it as he was her brother. Uncle Irky lived the same number of years as my Mother, 96, who passed away in August 2008.

    All the Best,
    Ken

Leave a Reply

— required *

— required *