Class of 1981 Gary Derlan is CEM's Outstanding Alumni

Event Date: October 22, 2021
Congratulation Gary Derlan on being named CEM's 2021 Outstanding Alumni

Over the course of a 35-year career that has spanned multiple

states, industries, and both the public and private sectors,

Gary Dernlan estimates he has crossed paths with

engineering graduates from more than 50 universities — and

there is no doubt in his mind that Purdue alumni rise to the


Growing up in Wisconsin, Gary always had an interest in

construction. A friend of his parents who owned a construction

company told him about the CEM program at Purdue, which

was just a year old in 1977 when he arrived in West Lafayette.

It was headed by a professor Gary still remembers fondly,

Donn Hancher.

Gary’s first job after graduation stemmed from one of those

internships. The position at Hall Contracting of Kentucky took

him to Ohio, where he was responsible for several coal-fired

power plants, and then to Georgia to oversee a wastewater

treatment plant. After a short stint at DuPont in the mid-1980s,

he switched gears to the public sector — serving first as

director of engineering, public works and public utilities for the

city of North Augusta, South Carolina, then as director of the

Palm Beach County (Florida) water utilities department.

Derlan says, “Without my education, very little of this would

have happened. Purdue gave me extreme confidence in my

abilities. I knew I was better prepared than my

contemporaries, and that allowed me to move up faster and

take on challenges that others wouldn’t.”

That included embarking on a number of “side projects” over

the years — primarily commercial and residential real estate

developments and investments. About 10 years ago, the

Dernlans decided to make those side businesses their full-time