Missouri S&T Academy of Civil Engineers inducts 13 new members

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On May 15, 2024

Missouri S&T Academy of Civil Engineers 2024 inductees.

Thirteen professionals with ties to Missouri University of Science and Technology were inducted into the Missouri S&T Academy of Civil Engineers during an induction ceremony held Thursday, April 11, in Rolla. 

The academy recognizes outstanding alumni for their professional achievement and success. It also provides support and experience to help the civil, architectural and environmental engineering department at Missouri S&T to reach its collective mission and values.

New members are:

Dr. Bobby G. Wixson of Springfield, Missouri, earned a bachelor’s degree in geology and a master’s degree in biology from Sul Ross State University in 1960 and 1961, respectively, and a Ph.D. in aquatic biology from Texas A&M University in 1966. He served and was discharged as a Captain of the U.S. Marine Corps. in the Korean War. Wixson was professor emeritus of environmental health and civil engineering and dean emeritus of international programs at Missouri S&T, where he was a faculty member from 1967 to 1987. In 1987, he moved to Clemson University, serving as professor emeritus of biological sciences and dean emeritus of the College of Sciences until 1996. Wixson held positions in the International Society for Environmental Geochemistry and Health, Partners of the Americas, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and the U.S. Department of State as the Scholar-Diplomat in Technology (Environmental and Scientific Affairs). Sul Ross State University awarded Wisxon a Distinguished Alumni Award, Texas A&M entered him into the Academy of Distinguished Former Students and Missouri S&T presented him with the Outstanding Teaching Award and the Alumni Merit Award for Outstanding Teaching, Service and Research. He also received the Gold Medal for Interamerican Partners Program from the State of Para, Brazil, the Outstanding Leadership award from the Society for Environmental Geochemistry and Health, and the Julian J. Chisolm Jr. Award for Leadership. Wixson served as a reviewer and consultant for the National Science Foundation, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the United Nations Environment Programme, and has published eight books, 11 book chapters and 148 publications on topics ranging from heavy metals in the environment to aquatic pollution and hazardous waste management. 

Deanna Venker of St. Louis, St. Louis County chief operations officer, earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Missouri S&T in 1994. Her career journey began with internships at the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT), where she gained experience during the floods of 1993 and 1994. After graduation, she began a 22-plus-year career at MoDOT, becoming the youngest area engineer in the state at 29. Venker contributed significantly to high-profile projects in St. Louis, including the new Interstate 64, the new Mississippi River bridge, the City Arch River 2015, and the Seismic Retrofit of the I-64 double-deck bridge. As commissioner of traffic for the city of St. Louis, she managed a $10 million budget, implementing innovative measures like the city’s first traffic calming policy and a program to replace 55,000 streetlights with LEDs to enhance pedestrian safety. Venker joined St. Louis County government in 2019, eventually becoming chief operations officer under county executive Sam Page. She manages 11 departments and focuses on alignment, efficiency and effective collaboration to achieve departmental goals. Venker is as a costume director for productions with New City School and KTK productions.  She also extends her dedication to community improvement with her family through their property management company, with support from her father, Stephen Venker, a 1970 Missouri S&T mechanical engineering graduate, and her mother, Linda Venker. Venker is married to Chief Sam Dotson III, Amtrak’s chief of police, and their daughter, Delaney Venker, is a sophomore at Visitation Academy of St. Louis. Venker enjoys softball, white water rafting, zip-lining, and skiing. She and her husband share a passion for flipping and renovating properties.

John C. Smith III of St. Louis, vice president and market leader at Alberici Constructors Inc., earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering from Missouri S&T in 1997 and 2001, respectively. A member of the Alberici staff for 16 years, he leads the Energy and Renewables markets at Alberici, as well as Integrated Project Support Services. Smith began his professional career 26 years ago at HNTB Corp. as an engineer focused on delivering critical infrastructure throughout the Midwest. He led projects of up to $200 million including roads, bridges and the Metrolink cross county extension. Throughout his career, Smith has participated in over $3 billion of completed construction projects across the U.S., including the $200 million Meldahl Hydroelectric Project in Foster, Kentucky, and Alliant Energy’s $35 million Ottumwa Bottom Ash project. He currently oversees the $495 million Wichita Northwest Water Treatment Facility in Kansas. Smith enjoys sharing his knowledge with the next generation of builders, especially recent Missouri S&T alumni. He has participated in numerous career fairs to meet with Miners and discuss the careers and fields available at Alberici and in the construction industry. He has also a guest speaker for S&T chapters of ASCE and AGC. A member of the Missouri S&T Board of Trustees, Smith serves on the S&T Career Development Council, Missouri Consortium for Construction Innovation board of directors and the National Center for Construction Safety at the University of Kansas. He and his wife, Alicia, live in Edwardsville, Illinois, with their sons Kyle, Ryan and Drew. He enjoys spending time with his family, attending sporting events and coaching youth baseball. 

Jonathan Robison, principal engineer at GeoEngineers Inc., earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 1997 and a master’s degree in civil engineering with a geotechnical emphasis in 2003, both from Missouri S&T. As a student, he was active in Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, intramural sports and other campus activities. A licensed professional engineer in 15 states, Robison is internationally recognized for his work in trenchless engineering, particularly with the direct pipe and horizontal directional drilling (HDD) construction methods.  He has authored or co-authored over 20 peer reviewed papers and publications about trenchless and geotechnical engineering and construction. Robison chairs the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Trenchless Installation of Pipelines (TIPs) Committee and chaired the MOP committee for the recently published Direct Steerable Pipe Thrusting MOP #155, leading an international group of engineers, geologists, contractors, equipment manufacturers and academics in the development and writing. He serves on the board of the Trenchless Technology Center at Louisiana Technical University. Robison’s work includes geotechnical evaluations and trenchless engineering for many long and otherwise industry-significant trenchless crossings of sensitive features and other obstacles such as the Mississippi, Missouri, Illinois, Delaware, St. Clair, Rio Grande, Niger and other rivers; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regulated levees; lakes; wetlands; railroads; highways; landfalls in the Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic and Pacific Oceans; and others. Highlights include leading the design and construction engineering teams for the MO-ACEC Grand Conceptor Award-winning I-84 directional microtunneling crossing in Pike County, Pennsylvania, and the first direct pipe permitted by the Corps of Engineers to cross beneath a regulated levee in Port Arthur, Texas. Robison also leads over 30 engineers, geologists and other staff in offices throughout the U.S. in GeoEngineers’ Pipelines Discipline.  

Judy Wagner of Hillsboro, Missouri, director of public works for the city of Arnold, Missouri, earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Missouri S&T in 1991. She began her career as a maintenance intern with the Missouri Department of Transportation as a student. After graduation, she was hired full time as a construction inspector and was eventually promoted to resident engineer, the first woman to hold this position in St. Louis area. From 2002 until her MoDOT retirement in 2019, Wagner served as Franklin and Jefferson County area engineer, leading a large team on projects that include developing over $100 million in cost-sharing partnerships to construct large highway projects with local and state funding. She planned, prioritized and developed projects in the area. Wagner worked on the new Highway 21, Interstate 55, Highway 50 and Highway 100 widenings. She is most proud of leading a new major bridge over the Missouri River on Route 47 in Washington, Missouri. A member of Transportation Engineers Association of Missouri (TEAM) Programming Committee since 2011, she was elected TEAM Governing Board president-elect in 2022 and became president in 2023. Wagner co-founded the Jefferson County Safety First Coalition. A member of the American Public Works Association, she created a roadway asset management plan and led the rebuilding of the Public Works Complex. She is responsible for city facilities, fleet, streets and stormwater infrastructure. She assists and supports all departments and manages several grant projects. Wagner enjoys spending time with friends and family boating, traveling, four-wheeling, camping and relaxing around their pool. She volunteers for the KMA (Keeping Memories Alive) Foundation and other community fundraisers through the Festus Elks Club. She has been married over 32 years and has two grown successful children.

Kenneth William McDonald of West Point, New York, professor of engineering management at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, earned a master’s degree in engineering mechanics and a Ph.D. in geological engineering, both from Missouri S&T. He holds a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the United States Military Academy as well as master’s degrees in character education, Christian ethics, geography, and city and regional planning, and an MBA in information systems. After graduation, McDonald began a 28-year Army career deployed to combat zones including Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan and was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. Notable assignments include deputy commander and chief of staff for the New York District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; deputy commander and provincial liaison of the South District, Gulf Region in Basrah, Iraq; and deputy commander of base operations for the 19th Theater Support Command in South Korea. McDonald served at the Army Engineer School at Fort Leonard Wood, directed the Center for Nation Reconstruction and Capacity Development and was a military academy deputy department head. He studies capacity development, planning and consequence management, and engineering ethics and has 

brought in over $1 million in research, published over 70 technical articles and reports, given over 20 conference presentations, and written or edited 10 books or books chapters. He was a commissioner for the ABET Engineering Accreditation Commission and an executive board member for the Society of American Military Engineers and the American Society for Engineering Management. His honors include Fulbright Scholar/Specialist, National Society of Professional Engineers Federal Engineer of the Year, David E. Grange Best Ranger Competition – Best Team, Federal Executive Board Award for Valor.   McDonald and his wife, Col. Deborah J. McDonald, have two children also in the military, Maj. Anna E. Mendoza and Capt. Joshua G. McDonald.

Otto Lynch of Nixa, Missouri, vice president and head of power line systems for Bentley Systems in Madison, Wisconsin, earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Missouri S&T in 1988. In 2000, he started Power Line Systems, serving as owner, president and CEO until 2023. Lynch has served in the American Society of Civil Engineers on the Industry Leaders Council, the Committee on America’s Infrastructure, the Public Policy and Practice Committee, and the Energy, Environment and Water Policy Committee. He is currently chair of the SEI Electrical Transmission Structures Committee and vice chair of the ASCE “Minimum Design Loads for Structures Supporting Overhead Power Lines and Wired Telecommunications Infrastructure” and of the ASCE 10 “Design of Latticed Steel Transmission Structures.” He is also current chair of the Changes to the NESC Working Group. Lynch has authored numerous papers and articles, participated in several interviews and podcasts, and delivered many lectures in his field of expertise, including conducting overhead line design training sessions for over 8,000 engineers. He received ASCE’s Walter P. Moore Jr. Award, was elected ASCE fellow; was elected fellow of the Structural Engineering Institute and received the ASCE Gene Wilhoite Innovations in Transmission Life Engineering Award. Lynch and his wife, Johnna, have been married for over 33 years. They have a son who is a junior at S&T and a daughter who is a senior at Oklahoma Baptist University. 

Paul Rydlund of Rolla, Missouri, earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in geological engineering from Missouri S&T in 1994 and 1996, respectively. He has held multiple roles in the U.S. Geological Survey at local, regional and federal levels. Rydlund is a national leader in hydrologic studies and GPS survey technology used to study flooding and flood inundation mapping across the United States. The federal liaison officer for FEMA Mission Assignments, he works within the USGS Water Hazards Program and Hydrologic Networks Branch in advisory and technical roles among USGS national programs. Rydlund oversees flood studies and activities for the USGS Central Midwest Water Science Center in Illinois, Iowa and Missouri, and he has overseen studies in smaller, underserved rural Missouri communities. He specializes in hydrology, hydraulics and geodetic surveying and has authored many publications in these disciplines. He is also active in professional organizations on committees that make national impact in shaping technical policy and methods. Rydlund is also a member of the Missouri Floodplain and Stormwater Managers Association board of directors and is licensed as a Certified Floodplain Manager and Professional Land Surveyor in Missouri. Active with the CArEE department, he helps coordinate research work for students, provide internships and strengthen collaboration between Missouri S&T and the USGS. He has been active in student mentoring, generating opportunities at USGS and publishing with faculty and students. Rydlund is a certified professional personal trainer and group exercise Instructor and is certified in fitness nutrition, sharing his expertise through local health facilities. He is also a leader in the Kiwanis International Club of Rolla, Camp David of the Ozarks and the Rolla Multisport Club. 

Paula Hart of St. Louis, principal and owner of Hart Engineering, earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Missouri S&T in 2000. After working for several St. Louis area firms, she founded Hart Engineering, LLC in 2007. The company has expertise in a variety of aspects of civil engineering design and has successfully completed many projects in the St. Louis area for a variety of clients, including MoDOT, municipalities, Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District, Missouri American Water Co., developers and individual residents. Hart Engineering’s culture was featured in a December 2019 APWA Reporter article titled “A Workplace Revolution: Creative Employment at Any Stage of Life.” Hart is quoted saying “an entire demographic of employees exists out there with underutilized skills.” She has created a unique culture – a workforce comprised of primarily part-time employees who seek flexibility with balancing work and personal life. Her creative organizational model provides for a diverse workforce and inclusive environment. Hart carries her desire to lift people up into her volunteer activities by tutoring, mentoring, coaching and serving her profession through active involvement in the American Public Works Association, Engineers Club of St. Louis, and Missouri S&T. She was named Young Engineer of the Year by the Engineer’s Club of St. Louis in 2012 and the Missouri S&T Civil Engineering Exemplary Young Alumna in 2019. She received the Exceptional Performance in Diversity Award by the National American Public Works Association (AWPA) in 2020, was named Professional Engineer of the Year for Missouri APWA in 2020 and currently serves on the St. Louis County Planning and Zoning Commission. Hart and her husband, Shawn, a 2001 Missouri S&T civil engineering graduate, have two teenage children.  

Pete Burton of Kansas City, Missouri, retired senior associate geotechnical engineer and geotechnical department manager for Burns & McDonnell, earned a bachelor’s degree from Missouri S&T in 1985 and a master’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin in 1987, both in civil engineering. Burton began work as a geotechnical engineer for Burns & McDonnell in 1988 and completed 33 years of service before retirement. He provided support and expertise for all aspects of geotechnical engineering on projects in all the company’s practice areas. His expertise included foundation systems, geotechnical structures and geotechnical site services. Burton provided geotechnical expert witness and legal services and for the last nine years of employment, he was the geotechnical department manager, overseeing geotechnical operations with over 25 direct-report employees. A member of the Burns & McDonnell Principal Group, he provided senior-level leadership and mentorship throughout the company, authored and co-authored technical papers for publication in journals and conference proceedings and provided presentations at associated conferences. He has prepared and provided presentations for undergraduate and graduate classes, seminars and ASCE chapters at several regional universities and the KC ASCE Geo-Institute chapter. As a student, Burton played on the rugby team and played classic rock-n-roll on Friday afternoons as a DJ for KMNR radio station. He holds several positions at Stilwill United Methodist Church. Burton and his wife, Cindy, a 1984 S&T chemical engineering graduate, have two daughters, Rachel and Anna. He enjoys skiing, hiking, camping, canoeing, playing pinball and darts, and good beer. 

Robert Markland of Columbia, South Carolina, former Distinguished Professor emeritus of management science at the University of South Carolina, earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Missouri S&T in 1963. He also earned a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in math from Washington University in St. Louis. Markland held faculty positions ranging from instructor at Washington University and progressing through professor at Arizona State University; associate dean and director of graduate studies at the University of Missouri-St. Louis; chair of academic affairs, director of graduate studies, professor of management science and associate dean at Moore School of Business; and management science chair and associate dean at the University of South Carolina. Markland has served the USC Business Partnership Foundation as executive director, vice president, president and program chair of the Decision Sciences Institute, and vice president of the Institute of Management Sciences Publications. A longtime United Way volunteer, he also volunteers with the food bank and the zoo’s horticulture and gardens in Columbia, South Carolina. Through his church, Markland took six humanitarian and relief trips for hurricanes Sandy and Katrina to rebuild homes and provided humanitarian relief in repairing and rebuilding homes in West Virginia, Kentucky and other Appalachia areas. He authored or co-authored over 130 publications on mathematical programming, production scheduling, manufacturing and service operations management and received the AMOCO Excellence in Teaching Award, the Best All-Around Professor Award and the Alfred G. Smith Excellence in Teaching Award and was named Decision Sciences Institute fellow. Markland and his wife, Mylla, have been married 58 years. They have two sons and 10 grandchildren. He enjoys horticulture and landscaping and volunteering in his community. An avid sports fan, he enjoys golf, tennis, skiing and long-distance running, and he has completed three marathons.

Robert Schiffer of Saint Charles, Missouri, a construction manager with the U.S. Department of State, earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Missouri S&T in 1998 and a Master of Building Construction degree from Auburn University in 2020. A dedicated public servant, he has answered the nation’s call by serving both domestically and overseas with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Department of State Overseas Buildings Operations. Schiffer has earned numerous distinguished honors from the U.S. Department of the Army and the U.S. Department of Defense. His published research on mental health and suicide in the U.S. construction industry combined with his work with the Associated General Contractors of Missouri and other national organizations has helped raise awareness and identify areas where additional efforts are needed to provide effective mental health treatment and suicide prevention programs. As president of the St. Charles Junior Baseball/Softball Association for 10 years, Schiffer led efforts to provide affordable, inclusive youth baseball and softball to all children in his community. He also as a judge for the eCYBERMISSION STEM Competition and volunteered during National Engineers Week. Schiffer and his wife, Sarah, have been married for 23 years. They have two daughters, Isabella and Olivia, and have called Missouri home for the last 25 years. In their free time, the Schiffers camp in Missouri’s state and federal parks and enjoy spending time with their pets. Schiffer enjoys playing golf, hunting and shooting sports, an interest that began as an active member of the Missouri S&T Trap and Skeet Club.

The late Ron Rolfes of Town and Country, Missouri, former senior vice president of operations for Clayco Construction Co., earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Missouri S&T in 1987. Before joining Clayco, Rolfes served in project management roles at Wachter Construction Co., Di Carlo Construction Inc. and J.S. Alberici Constructors. He joioned Clayco in 2004 as a project director then transitioned into an operational oversight role. As senior vice president of operations, Rolfes oversaw Clayco’s projects. He also led young operations talent for over five years, identifying promising project engineers and offering them career development and training guidance. Rolfes was deeply involved in the Construction Career Development Initiative, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded by Clayco in 2015 in response to the events in Ferguson, Missouri, and was one of the first team members to engage with students in the construction cluster, providing insights into career pathways in the industry, from trades to college degrees and facilitating job shadow visits. He was also instrumental in organizing CCDI’s inaugural job fair event in 2016. Rolfes began working with Pedal the Cause, which raises funds for cancer research, in 2010 when Clayco formed a team. In 2011, he joined Team Clayco with a goal of getting in shape and supporting the quest to find a cure for cancer.  Little did he know that in 2012, he would be diagnosed with cancer himself.  Despite the challenges of his own cancer diagnosis in 2012, Rolfes continued to raise finds and participate in the event for another decade. He died in March 2022. Rolfes coached youth sports, served on the Cellphones for Soldiers committee and was in the M Club at Missouri S&T. Rolfes and his wife, Julie, have four children, Tripp, Tanner, Tessa and the late Thomas.

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