What is your ASCE Story?
With so many ways to get and stay involved in ASCE on the local, section, national, and global level, we asked our Section leaders and volunteers, “What is your ASCE story?” Here are their responses:
Posted July 2021
Name: Craig B. Thompson PE
ASCE Texas Section role: Branch/Section Relations Committee Chair
Current “Day Job”: Assistant Vice President and Senior Project Manager, Hanson Inc
How it started: I had moved from Houston to Corpus Christi and started to work for a local firm that did general civil consulting. Several of the Principals were heavily involved with ASCE and other professional and technical organizations. One of the Principals was in the leadership of the local Branch and suggested that I attend a local meeting. I started attending the monthly meetings and about 6 months into it, I looked around the room and saw some people I remembered from school, several leaders in the community, and generally people that I enjoyed being around and wanted to be associated with. I guess that is one of the big components of the term of “networking” (not sure if young folks use this word anymore?). It was then that someone, at a meeting, asked if anyone was interested in serving as the Newsletter editor…yep, we had a hard copy newsletter back then! I said, what the heck, and raised my hand. A year later the Branch President, who was the head Engineer at the Port of Corpus Christi, asked me if I would be interested in joining the Board as the Treasurer. How could I say no.
Getting involved with the Section Board: I met so many friends and colleagues during my time on the Branch Board progressing through to Branch President. After I rolled off the Board, the Section Director position opened up and I volunteered to go to the Texas Section meetings twice a year and represent the CC Branch. I found it really stimulating to be around so many leaders from throughout the state. Is served as the Section Director until 2005 but was hooked to the ASCE Section Meetings. I started attending them on a regular basis and would often be asked to sit in as the CC Branch representative at the Board meetings if the Section Director could not attend.
Texas Section Meetings: In 2006 I was asked to be a co-Chair for the CC Branch’s planning Committee for the Texas Section’s 2008 Spring Meeting. I said yes, not knowing how much work would be involved. There were trials and tribulations, discussions and discourse, and by the end were all incredibly stressed out. But the Section Meeting came and went off like clockwork, everything went so smoothly. It was truly one of the hardest and yet the most rewarding events I have ever been involved with to that point in my career. I was hooked, I had served all the local leadership roles, been involved in planning the Section Meeting and was ready for whatever was next.
What was next: During the lead up to the 2008 Section Meeting I got a call, a quick ask from a Past President, asking if I was interested in serving a role on the Section Board of directors. I said yes…like I said, I was already hooked! I accepted the role of VP Education. I remember when I attended the board meeting that fall in Dallas, I met so many great people like Susan Roth and Mark Assad (both preceding me as VP ED), Ken Rainwater, Nancy Cline and Ricky Borque (Past Pres, President and Pres-Elect) and so many others. I really enjoyed being involved in the VP Ed role, working with the Student leaders, the Steel Bridge and Concrete Canoe events, in fact I met one of my favorite people who was involved with the Texas Tech steel bridge group – Audra Morse. There was an event in the Spring of 2009 in South Padre that probably defined my role as VP Ed. Some of the student branches were looking to separate their events from the Section Meeting, especially the Concrete Canoe away from the Spring Meeting. I argue that the Section needed to be involved with the Students and pledged my support and the Section’s support from here on out. We needed them and they needed us…boy was that sentiment about to be tested!!
Along the way: After I rolled off the board, serving my 2 years as VP-Ed elect and VP-Ed, I continued to attend the Section Meetings and in 2010 the CC Branch actually had an opening at Section Director and asked for me to serve again in this position…I jumped on the chance. What I didn’t realize is that there was a tidal wave of change about to take place and I was about to unknowingly place myself right in the center of it! The CC Branch found out that the ExCom was suggesting a change in the Section Meeting format – looking at a once a year, large meeting format, not rotating around the State. The CC Branch was not happy. So many of its Branch leaders had come from the Section Meeting Planning Committee, so much of the Branch funds had been garnered through the shared revenue we had with those meetings once every 5 years, and generally we just thought it was going to neglect the smaller, local branches. I showed up to the Spring meeting with a letter from myself and endorsed by the CC Board that stated the reasons for our displeasure with the idea. There were several discussions that week, including some emotional ones during the board meetings. I spoke my mind about how important the small branches were, about how the extreme change away from the branch rotation, away from the student events, away from local planning committees would deeply affect the students and small branches. In the end, I was asked to sit on a committee with Jack Furlong, Sean Merrell, and Art Clendenin. Out of this committee came the CECON and Student Symposium framework which dealt with the need to focus on professionals in the Fall and developing a Student-driven meeting in the Spring centered around the 2 major events, at that time. A win-win, a real victory for the Texas Section – students and professionals alike.
Then came the call: I was driving back from the Valley and received a call from Ralph O’Quinn. Ralph was Past President and had moved out of state but still one of favorite people. He was soft spoken, but you knew when Ralph spoke it was important. I took the call and after a few minutes catching up he asked me if I had ever given thought to going further on the Section board. I told him that I thought my days were up after I through a “temper tantrum” at the Section Meeting in College Station about the meeting format a couple years earlier. Evidently not and I said yes, again, and started the next journey with ASCE…this time as President Elect.
You can contact Craig at [email protected] or (361) 814-9900 ofc / (361) 442-5424 cell.
Submit your ASCE Story to [email protected].
Posted July 2021
Name: Audra Morse PhD, PE, BCEE, F.ASCE
ASCE Texas Section role: Nominating Committee Chair and Past Texas Section President
Current “Day Job”: Professor and Department Chair, Civil, Environmental and Geospatial Engineering, Michigan Technological University
As a student at Texas Tech University, I supported the steel bridge and concrete canoe teams, which created a path to being asked to serve as secretary and president of the student chapter.
Fast forward to when I became a faculty member at Texas Tech. The ASCE Student Advisor advisor at the time, Ken Rainwater (also a former Texas Section officer and President) was looking for help and someone to take over the reigns as faculty advisor. So Ken asked if would be interested in serving as the ASCE student chapter advisor. I happily accepted as I loved ASCE when I was a student. As part of the Texas Tech custom, faculty advisors traveled to meetings and student competitions with the students. So I went everywhere with the students. In fact, I wasn’t much older than the students so I was often thought of as one of the students. Per a look in the mirror, the gray in my hair suggests that would not happen anymore! Regardless, I began making presentations at the Section meetings and getting involved in Section activities impacting student competitions.
I think the first person who asked me to consider getting involved at the Section level is the late Vernon Wuensche, who asked me to chair a committee. At that time, he was serving as VP of Educational Affairs. If my memory serves me correctly, that is when I first met Susan Roth, who was VP Education-elect at the time! If Vernon had not asked me to consider the opportunity, I never would have thought to volunteer myself. I think I would have assumed the Section had all of the volunteers it needed. In hindsight, I know that is not right. I should have spoken up to show that I was interested in serving the Section. Thank goodness Vernon was looking out for the Section.
Some time later, I was asked to serve as the VP-Education. I wish I could say it was because I was the perfect committee chair; however, I cannot say that was true. However, what mattered is that I showed up and participated. Ultimately, my service as VP-Education made it possible for me to be eligible to serve the Section in the capacity of President. Again, I would love to say I was extraordinary in that role-I cannot. But, I believe my willingness to show up, serve the Section, the profession and my colleagues was valued.
One of the best decisions I have made in my career is to say yes to the opportunities ASCE has provided. The Section was patient enough to let me grow into the roles for which I had an opportunity to service. The Section and the officers before me gave me the benefit of the doubt and let me learn from both my successes and failures. I’d like to hope that the benefit to the Texas Section is many fold greater than the personal benefits I have reaped.
So, in reflection, I had no way of knowing that Ken Rainwater’s request to serve as the Texas Tech ASCE Student Chapter advisor would have such a profound impact on my life. Thanks Ken!
You can contact Audra at 906-487-3240 or [email protected].
Submit your ASCE Story to [email protected].
Check back here as more member stories are added to learn how to get the most from our TexASCE membership and how engaging in your ASCE community can help advance your career in civil engineering.
Submit your ASCE story to [email protected].