Thayer in the Landscape
The work of alumni is in plain sight, if you know where to look.
By Karen Endicott
From bridges to buildings, from a ski slope to the Cotton Bowl, from overseeing construction projects to designing specialized components, Thayer alumni have left their mark on urban and rural areas across the nation and around the globe. In this photo essay, we take an eclectic look at alumni projects large and small that have become part of the built environment.
Glass Staircase, Apple Store
Elizabeth Hunneman ’05 Th’06 designed the high-strength stainless steel alloy fittings for the glass stairs in Apple’s flagship Boston store, located at 815 Boylston Street and completed in 2008. “Glass is very unforgiving. As a result, all connection hardware must be designed with precision to 1/1000th of an inch to transfer loads from one piece of glass to another or from glass to building structure,” says Hunneman, a design engineer and project manager at TriPyramid Structures Inc. in Westford, Mass. “In any one of these stairs, there are dozens of very different connection fittings, and each has a very specific purpose. In some cases, fittings that look identical when installed have completely separate functions and, for that reason, unique internal details.”
Voice of America Antenna
John W. Ballard ’55 TT’56 co-founded TCI International in 1968 to develop and apply the Method of Moments to antenna design. Making it possible to calculate radio-frequency current distributions on arbitrary arrangements of metallic conductors, the technique eliminated the painstaking iterative experimentation of traditional antenna design and construction. “Today almost all antenna design is based on the Method of Moments,” says Ballard, a Thayer overseer who is also co-founder, president, and CEO of Radio Propagation Services Inc. The Voice of America antenna in Yamata, he says, serves Japanese immigrants and their children in South America.
Niagara Generating Facility Biomass Conversion Project
Niagara Falls, N.Y.
The Niagara Generating Facility used to be a coal-fired power plant. In a two-year project completed in 2008, Scott Gardner ’92, managing director of US Renewables Group, oversaw the plant’s conversion from coal to biomass and tire-chip fuel. The transformation required retrofitting the boiler and building a “receiving, storage, and material handling system for up to 750 tons per day of wood chips on a site with only 5.5 acres, of which only 1 to 2 acres is available space,” he says. Another challenge: “weatherizing the system to withstand an upstate New York winter while supplying wood chips and tire chips to the boiler round-the-clock.”
AEOS Telescope Mirror Support System
Air Force Research Laboratory
Dan Malwitz ’77 designed most of the primary mirror support system for the AEOS 3.67-meter telescope atop Mount Haleakala in Maui. The system, he says, consists of a hollow steel weldment, 84 axial hydraulic actuators, 48 lateral hydraulic actuators and linkages, plus a number of counterweights to handle the pitch moment. “The point of this elaborate system is to support and control the 10,000-pound Zerodur (zero-CTE glass) meniscus without distorting it, regardless of elevation angle or telescope dynamics. It has to slew quite quickly — for a telescope — to track objects in low-earth orbit,” he says. The telescope is part of the Air Force’s Maui space surveillance system. Malwitz worked on the system while at Contraves USA, now L-3 Brashear. He is currently a staff design engineer at the space and defense group of Moog Inc.
First Commercial Cell Phone System
Randy Cooper Th’54 was a software engineer on the final test team for the central switch of the first commercial cellular telephone system in Chicago in 1984. “The main challenge was that it had never been done before by anyone,” he says. Cell phones have changed not only how we communicate, but what we see. “Those ugly towers are everywhere!” says Cooper.
Grand Lake, Colo.
Tim Osby ’89 owns Wahoo Docks, a Gainesville, Ga., company that manufactures customizable, high-end environmentally friendly aluminum boat docks for residential and commercial sites throughout North America. “We have a multitude of designs and specs that the docks need to adhere to based on the location — snow loads, oxidation environments, wind and wave action,” says Osby.
Echo Mountain Park, Colo.
The New York Times calls Echo Mountain Park ski area, 30 miles from Denver, Colo., the “new Neverland of freestyle stunt pilots.” Owned by avid skier Jerry Petitt ’67 TT’69, Echo Mountain Park lures youthful snowboarders and freestyle skiers with inexpensive lift tickets and over-the-top terrain. “There are no gently groomed slopes, no wide cruiser runs, not even a single mogul field,” raves the Times. “Echo is 100 percent terrain park — 50 acres of jumps, rails, boxes, picnic tables, stairs, mailboxes and pipe. With a good-times agenda, Echo aims to be the X Games proving ground for the young and indestructible.”
Deep-Water Marine Terminal and Frozen-Food Processing Plant
Thorsteinn Gislason Th’73 was a project manager and facility designer for a deep-water marine terminal and frozen-food processing plant that Coldwater Seafood Corp. constructed in Everett in the mid 1970s. The facility, seen in the lower center section of the photo, occupied some 150,000 square feet, with approximately 80,000 of that in the form of cold storage at -10 degrees F. “We were challenged by extremely poor soil conditions and the need to have very high load-bearing capability on the floors. After a geo-technical survey by experts it was decided to drill caissons to the level of bearing soil. Each caisson was individually designed, and they ranged in depth from 30 feet to less than 10 feet,” says Gislason, now managing director of Tigertraders, a Salem, N.H., importer and marketer of frozen seafood. The Coldwater facility he worked on now belongs to Preferred Freezer Services.
New York, N.Y.
When the 55-story Corinthian opened in 1988, it was Manhattan’s largest apartment building. With 1.1 million square feet containing 846 apartments plus commercial space and a garage, it occupies a full block between First and Second Avenues and 37th and 38th Streets. “The building towers over the Manhattan entrance to the Queens-Midtown Tunnel,” says Sam Florman ’46 Th’73, chairman of Kreisler Borg Florman, the general construction company that put the Corinthian on the map.
Cagayan de Oro Solar Photovoltaic Project
Edward C. Kern Jr. ’67 Th’68 founded Irradiance Inc. to accelerate the worldwide deployment of photovoltaic systems. In 2004 he served as the technical advisor for Asia’s first megawatt-plus photovoltaic system, the Cagayan de Oro Solar Photovoltaic Project in Mindanao. The project not only produced electricity, but achieved an extra goal, Kern says: making “clean solar power less expensive by using local materials and labor appropriate for developing countries.” Kern holds a doctorate from MIT and lectures there on wind and solar energy.
Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge
With its tower diamond design, the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge over the Cooper River in Charleston is the longest cable-stayed bridge in the Americas. Opened in July 2005, the span was designed to withstand ship collisions and Charleston’s seismic and hurricane conditions. Parsons Brinckerhoff Inc. worked on the bridge’s final design while Thomas O’Neill ’73 Th’74 was the firm’s chairman and CEO.
Los Angeles Metro Red Line
Los Angeles, Calif.
The Red Line is the heavy rail backbone of the Los Angeles public transit system. The two-track, steel-wheel subway serves the city’s most densely populated areas, providing high-speed service from Union Station in downtown Los Angeles to North Hollywood via the mid-Wilshire district, Hollywood Boulevard and Universal City. Parsons Brinckerhoff Inc. worked on the project while Thomas O’Neill ’73 Th’74 was the firm’s chairman and CEO.
International Arrivals Building
George Bush Intercontinental Airport
The International Arrivals Building of the George Bush Intercontinental Airport can process 4,500 passengers an hour. It is part of the Houston Airport System’s International Services Program, which doubled the airport’s capacity to 68 million passenger flights annually and streamlined customs and immigration processing. Parsons Brinckerhoff Inc. worked on the project while Thomas O’Neill ’73 Th’74 was the firm’s chairman and CEO .
Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge
The signature element of Boston’s Big Dig, the Zakim Bridge carries I-93 over the Charles River and provides a dramatic gateway to Boston from the north. The ten-lane Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge is the widest asymmetrical cable-stayed bridge in the world and the first hybrid cable-stayed steel and concrete bridge in the United States. Thomas O’Neill ’73 Th’74 was chairman and CEO of Parsons Brinckerhoff Inc. when the firm served as management consultant for the construction of the bridge.
American Airlines Maintenance Hangar
Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, Tex.
The Henry C. Beck Co., headed by Henry C. Beck Jr. ’38 Th’39, provided general contractor services on the 781,000-square-foot aircraft maintenance hangar for American Airlines. The building can simultaneously service seven wide-body aircraft. Beck was awarded the Outstanding Construction Award by the Texas Association of General Contractors. The company is now known as The Beck Group.
The Henry C. Beck Co., headed by Henry C. Beck Jr. ’38 Th’39, constructed the 68,000-seat sports facility in 1930 when it went by the name of Fair Park Stadium and Beck was known as Central Contracting Co. Throughout the years, Beck completed several renovation projects.
Cape Canaveral Launch Complex 34
Cape Canaveral, Fla.
The Henry C. Beck Co., headed by Henry C. Beck Jr. ’38 Th’39, completed the construction of the first launch facilities at Cape Canaveral in June of 1961 for the launch of the Saturn rocket. This $6.5 million project included $4.5 million of underground construction to strengthen the ground to withstand the tons of thrust initiated for a rocket launch
National Security Agency Building
Fort George G. Meade, Md.
While a junior structural designer at Anderson Nichols & Co., Frederick T. Comstock ’48 Th’48 worked on concrete slab and expansion details for the National Security Agency building. The original low, sprawling structure, situated to the right of the dramatic modern additions, was completed in the 1950s. “At the time,” says Comstock, “it was thought to be second in size to the Pentagon.”
As the engineering technician at the City of Sandy, Ore., Elizabeth French ’99 Th’00, ’01 was responsible for designing and managing the 2008 construction of the Sandy Civic Plaza. In addition to accommodating community gatherings, festivals, and farmers’ markets, the plaza functions as a demonstration area for environmentally friendly construction. “Most of the surfaces are constructed from permeable pavers, with a 10-inch rock course underneath for storage of storm water,” says French. “Based on this project, I have now developed the city’s specifications for permeable pavers for pedestrian areas.”
Water Tank for Solar Powered Water Distribution System
Participating in Engineers Without Borders, Tia Hansen ’05 Th’06 has been working as project manager and resident engineer overseeing construction of a water tank in a rural area of Tanzania. “The biggest problems that I faced in this project were the lack of construction knowledge, particularly in reinforced concrete construction, and materials acquisition and transportation,” she says. “We ended up having to float 13 tons of materials across a river in small canoes and teaching local masons how to make concrete blocks and use them to build reinforced concrete structures.”
Wire Bridges, Nepal
Engineer and entrepreneur Edward “Skip” Stritter ’68 is chairman of VillageTech Solutions, a nonprofit that provides energy and access for people in rural Nepal. One of VillageTech Solutions’ projects is constructing wire bridges across the deep river canyons that isolate villages and make travel treacherous. Each wire bridge consists of a human-powered carriage that runs along a cable strung between anchor towers. Holding up to five or six people and their goods, the carriage is propelled by rope in the hands of passengers and bystanders. “These bridges are built at the request of a village — usually because they have a lot of school kids who need to cross the river. Costs range from $15,000 to $25,000,” says Stritter’s colleague David Sowerwine, who co-founded the organization with wife Haydi Sowerwine in 1996. “The villagers have no money, but can work hard. We raise the funds, we supervise, they build.” Villagers are also getting construction help from Thayer students, including M.E.M. candidate David Drennan and Mike Wood ’10.
LEED-Certified Buildings at Grand Valley State University
As vice president for finance and administration at Grand Valley State University (GVSU) in Michigan, Tim Schad ’70 Th’71 decided that all new construction would be LEED certified. “In 2001–2002 this was not as obvious as it is today — not everyone believed in global warming or the need to build energy efficient buildings,” he says. “But this made us a leader. GVSU has built more LEED-certified buildings than any other college or university in the United States.” Schad, who also owns Nucraft Furniture Co. in Comstock Park, Mich., notes that GVSU was started by Dartmouth alum William Seidman ’71.
Food Safety Laboratory
James M. Tanaka ’81 of the Department of Transportation was project manager for the design and construction of the $15.5 million, 20,000-square-foot laboratory for theAlaska Department of Environmental Conservation . Completed in 2006, the state-of-the-art facility enables researchers to provide surveillance of seafood, food, water, air, soil, and zoonotic diseases from wild and domestic animals.
University of Alaska
James M. Tanaka ’81 is project manager for the design and construction of the Department of Health and Social Services Virology Laboratory, a public health research facility at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. “The virology laboratory has been designed to function successfully in Fairbanks’ sub-arctic climate — where summer temperatures reach 90 degrees F., and winter temperatures fall to 65 degrees F. below zero — to be highly durable and maintainable, and to provide for the intensive mechanical and electrical requirements for laboratory bio-containment in the most energy efficient means possible,” says Tanaka. The project is scheduled for completion in early 2009.
I-130 Mississippi River Bridge
William B. Conway ’52 Th’54 was principal-in-charge for the construction of the I-130 crossing, the nation’s longest cable-stayed bridge when it was completed in 1978. Conway retired in 2007 from the chairmanship of Modjeski and Masters Inc., a St. Louis, Mo., structural engineering firm specializing in bridge engineering. He is a recipient of the John A. Roebling Medal for lifetime achievement, an award sponsored by Roads & Bridges magazine.
Lucy Gibson Th’88 helped construct a hiking trail underpass below I-91 in Newbury to complete a section of the Cross Vermont Trail.
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