Stevens Ascends to ASCE Presidency; Natale Lauds the Society as Voice of the Profession; Gigaprojects Examined

October 10, 2014
“Increasing public awareness of what civil engineers do is key to our ability to gain support for the work we need to do to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public,” ASCE President Robert D. Stevens said in his inaugural address. Photo Credit: David Hathcox

The ASCE presidential torch was passed to Robert D. Stevens, Ph.D., P.E., F.ASCE, as he was officially sworn in by outgoing president Randall “Randy” S. Over, P.E., F.ASCE, at the Annual Business Meeting on Day 3 of ASCE’s Global Engineering Conference in Panama.

“As I’ve met with our members and others around the world during my year as president-elect,” said Stevens in his inaugural remarks, “[I’ve become] even more confident that ASCE, with its 162-year history, is well known and highly regarded everywhere.”

Upon becoming ASCE president, Stevens reflected on some of the experiences and decisions that have greatly impacted his life.

“I remember things that happened in my childhood that helped shape my decision to become a civil engineer,” Stevens shared with the audience. “At a young age, I used chalk to draw roads on the sidewalks in front of our house. As we pedaled our little cars on my handcrafted roads, I made sure that everyone stopped at the stop signs and followed all the rules of the road. Obviously, I must have known even then that order was needed to maintain public safety.”

Reflecting on his interest in both music and engineering, Stevens recalled his days at the University of Akron, from where he graduated: “I had a great advisor who suggested I continue with civil engineering and do music as an avocation. What great advice that was. To this day I play piano and organ in church and love doing it. I also thoroughly enjoy civil engineering. Civil engineering has been a great career choice for me.”

Outgoing ASCE President Randall “Randy” S. Over, left, passes the gavel to incoming President to Robert D. Stevens. Photo Credit; David Hathcox

Outgoing ASCE President Randall “Randy” S. Over, left, passes the gavel to incoming President Robert D. Stevens. Photo Credit; David Hathcox

Focusing on his presidency, Stevens told the audience, “Starting now, I want to ask each of you to think of yourselves as ambassadors for civil engineering in your communities. Increasing public awareness of what civil engineers do is key to our ability to gain support for the work we need to do to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public. We need to share with our family and friends a little more detail than just naming our profession.”

With ASCE membership over 145,000 and growing, Stevens pointed out how important it was to have young professionals join the Society and bring their new ideas to help the profession become more adept at using and adapting to the rapid changes in technology.

“That’s why becoming president of ASCE is such an honor,” Stevens said to his fellow civil engineers. “I present the great work of ASCE and our profession to audiences all over the world. And this is a wonderful profession…. It offers so many opportunities to grow in new directions. Let me encourage you to take advantage of those opportunities – no matter how daunting they may seem at first. Keep growing as a volunteer within ASCE and as a professional in your career. Your future and our future will be the better for it.”

State of the Society


“We can be very proud of the image that ASCE presents to the public,” says ASCE Executive Director, Patrick J. Natale. Photo Credit David Hathcox

In his final State of the Society address, ASCE Executive Director Patrick J. Natale, P.E., CAE, F.ASCE, told the Annual Business Meeting audience that ASCE is truly the “voice of the civil engineering profession” because of its infrastructure and sustainability advocacy, initiative to Raise the Bar for civil engineering education, global strategy to engage with partners around the world, support of new technologies, financial stability, and, through the ASCE Foundation, encouragement of philanthropy.

“We can be very proud of the image that ASCE presents to the public,” said Natale, who at the beginning of next year will become vice-president of Business Strategies at Hatch Mott MacDonald. “Serving as the executive director of this Society for the past 12 years has been the most meaningful professional experience of my career.

“Working together we have made great strides. From the Report Card for America’s Infrastructure to the standards that shape how we design and build civil engineering works, our efforts have helped protect the health, safety, and welfare of our citizens.”

When he became ASCE’s executive director in 2002, Natale saw that one of the most critical tasks was to help ASCE restructure its operations to deliver the highest-quality products and services to its members, while navigating some challenging economic conditions.

“I’m proud to say that the efforts of a hard-working staff team and volunteer leaders have built a solid financial foundation for the future,” he said. “We’ve managed our operating budget and investments to grow and maintain a healthy reserve.”

Natale also noted how proud he was that the ASCE Board of Direction named current Deputy Executive Director Thomas W. Smith III, to take his place as the new executive director effective January 1, leaving the Society in excellent hands.

“It seems only fitting that my ASCE career began in 2002 with the celebration of the Society’s 150th anniversary and concludes by sharing in the historic celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Panama Canal, one of the great global civil engineering landmarks,” concluded Natale. “It has been an honor and a privilege to play even a small role in the history of our great profession. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to have served you as executive director, and I look forward to continuing to serve ASCE as an active volunteer once I retire.”

Managing Gigaprojects


Past ASCE President, Patricia D. Galloway gave a thought-provoking presentation on how to manage mega projects and gigaprojects in Latin American by applying lessons learned from other mega and giga projects from other parts of the world. Photo Credit: David Hathcox

Another highlight of the day was a Distinguished Lecture Series presentation by ASCE Past President Patricia D. Galloway, Ph.D., P.E., Pres.04.ASCE, who gave a thought-provoking lecture on managing gigaprojects in Latin America.

“Megaprojects and gigaprojects alike face multiple risks that must be closely managed if they are to achieve success, including both project execution (or internal) risks and project contextual (or external) risks,” explained Galloway, president and CEO of Pegasus Global Holdings, Inc. “Project execution risks mainly concentrate on those risks surrounding delivery and operational risks, technological risks, financial risks, and procurement or contractual risks. Project conceptual risks are those risks that are external to the project itself and, in the global infrastructure megaprojects of today, consist of economic, political, environmental, and social or cultural risks.

“It is these last 3 risks that give rise to the potential for the greatest delays and cost overruns…if not recognized and managed early in the process.”

Despite what she termed as a “potential slowdown of the Latin America economy as a whole,” Galloway observed that Latin America is home to some of the world’s largest infrastructure projects, including the Panama Canal expansion.

Find out what happened on Day 4 at the Global Engineering Conference 2014.

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