In preparation to write this short article, I went back through the journals on the Utah Engineers Council (UEC) website and read many of the messages written by past chairs of this organization. I was impressed that these remarkable engineering professionals had agreed to take on additional responsibilities to serve in a volunteer organization. I am humbled to find myself among their ranks.
I am sure that many of them, like me, saw the significant part the UEC plays in the advancement and recognition of engineering in the State of Utah. Chief among the ways the UEC accomplishes this mission are the scholarships awarded to engineering students to assist them in their career goals. These students, by pursuing an engineering degree from an accredited program within the State of Utah, have placed themselves apart from their peers. They have chosen the harder path with its attendant differential equations, materials science and senior design projects; a path that surpasses in difficulty and real world applications most of those chosen by fellow undergraduate students in other majors.
A remarkable thing happened in the run up to the previous year’s UEC Banquet. The speaker we had engaged as our keynote, Martin Frey, posed a challenge to the board: If we could increase the number of scholarships we awarded from four to nine, he would waive his customary speaker’s fee. That year we ended up presenting thirteen.
More remarkable yet, is that the same number of scholarships, thirteen, were again presented at our banquet this year. The challenge offered by Mr. Frey, a Utah trained engineer, reflected the theme on which he spoke: doing hard things. It was this ethic that drove him as he ascended the world’s seven summits and navigated the seven seas. And it is the ethic that motivated the UEC to break new ground and increase, more than three-fold, the number of scholarships historically awarded during our annual banquets.
This theme of doing hard things is a good fit for our profession and those who aspire to enter it. It certainly describes the students who were our scholarship winners this year; each one was an impressive mix of academic acumen, curiosity and moral character (read how each of them, in the press of their schoolwork, still find time to volunteer, work…perform in symphonic orchestras and illustrate comic books). And it likewise describes the engineers and educators who were our nominees – all of whom could serve as navigational stars for our young scholars as they prepare to embark on their professional journeys.
Two of my own navigational stars to guide me in my engineering travels, were my father and his father. My dad, Gary, a BSEE graduate from the University of Utah, demonstrated an engineer’s steady disposition and deliberate and thoughtful approach to everything he undertook. His father, Lynn, while never formally trained, was the indispensable engineer for the city of Blanding, Utah where he lived out his days. His practical knowledge of power generation, automotive design and refrigeration cycles had many townsfolk convinced he was the machine whisperer. Both his son and grandson, with their degrees and certificates, would be the first to admit being bested by this small town mechanic and technician in their engineering intuition.
In conclusion, I would like to acknowledge and thank several individuals. This is an endeavor fraught with risk, since any such listing might fail to include the contributions of some of the key people who have added to the success of the UEC.
I gratefully acknowledge those who founded this council and have perpetuated it over the years, including my immediate predecessor, Charles Vono, Col. (ret). It has been my good fortune to follow him through the executive committee and work in the clean-tilled earth and well-ordered furrows he leaves behind (to paraphrase another grey-bearded wise man*).
It was a pleasure to work with Max Gandy, who dutifully discharged the responsibilities of treasurer with much greater skill than I did the year before. Roberta Schlicher was a welcome addition to the executive committee and her work as the banquet committee chair was a model in organization; I want to thank her and her committee members for a very successful event this year. Jake Browning has expertly managed the finances of the UEC, as its current treasurer, while looking nothing like the accountants you see on TV. Brian Warner as our awards committee chair, David Cline as our scholarship committee chair; Angie Tymofichuk and Michael Smith as our membership and legislative chairs, respectively, together with their committee members: Thank-you. Sophie Hansen and Juli Burton with The newsLINK Group have provided invaluable support for the UEC and we look forward to working with them in an expanded role next year.
At the end of this year, our executive secretary, Susan Merrill, will retire after 23 years with the UEC. She has been our institutional memory, our compliance officer for keeping us within our bylaws (and Robert’s Rules of Order), and a respected colleague and friend. We will miss her.
I am grateful for the participation of all of our member societies and their representatives on the board. You provide a wonderfully fertile and competent source of volunteers and leadership to perpetuate the mission of the UEC. And finally, thank-you for the generous support of our many sponsors; your financial and in-kind donations are the fuel that keep the UEC moving forward.
If you are an engineer working in a demanding field, please consider the invitation that may be extended to you to participate in the UEC. Yes, there is a lot on your plate. You may still have children at home and other obligations to attend to. But this is something you can do and still keep your day job; that is why it’s called a “council” – a group of capable people all sharing the load to meaningfully advance engineering in Utah.
* “It is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule.” (Gandalf in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Return of the King , 155)
Jed Lyman, PE, is the current Chair of the Utah Engineers Council and a past president of the ASPE Intermountain Chapter; he is a principal at Van Boerum & Frank Associates, Inc. (VBFA) where he works as a mechanical engineer.