William F. Brumund

For his record of outstanding achievement and leadership in geotechnical engineering, both in the U.S. and abroad, the Schools of Engineering are proud to present the Distinguished Engineering Alumnus Award to William F. Brumund.

President and Chief Executive Officer
Golder Associates Corporation
BSCE '64, MSCE '65, PhD'69


On being a student


I always thought I'd be a civil engineer. My father was a civil engineer, and I'd visited construction projects with him since I was old enough to wiggle.

As a student at Purdue, I was naive and impressionable. I was a reasonable student, but I had to work very hard. I was in the honors program, and by testing out of some courses, I was able to get a bachelor's degree in three and a half years.

My major professor-Dr. G. A. Leonards-had a profound impact on my life. After I was offered a fellowship from the University of Illinois, he encouraged me to stay here.

What impresses me about Purdue is the quality of the faculty members and their attention to teaching sound engineering fundamentals. At the rate at which technology is changing, engineers have to make the commitment to lifelong learning. I'm not concerned that engineering programs don't turn out a student who can step right into a particular job-the most important thing is to learn the fundamentals. An engineer graduating from school in the 1960s could go 20 years without learning something new. In the 1990s, you could go maybe five years.

On his professional career


Teaching and consulting-I like them both. After graduation I decided to take an academic position at Georgia Tech, where I gained tenure, taught, and worked on sponsored research, but I've got a practical bent. I liked consulting assignments. I enjoy solving real problems in real time. As a consultant, you have to be good technically but be able to relate to and understand the problems of a client. You learn to appreciate different technical and business needs. I have a much more catholic view of the world now, as opposed to when I was a student. I've had the opportunity to work on projects and live in the Middle East, Europe, South America, the Caribbean, and Southeast Asia. Has my view of the world changed? It's as different as chalk and cheese!

It's very satisfying to have a technical career that you're happy with-that allows you to travel and be successful-and to still have a solid and cohesive home life. I have an understanding wife and two great children. I work with a great bunch of colleagues who are at the technical forefronts of their fields. I've never dreaded going to work. I've enjoyed the ride.

On the future


Some questions of concern are how can the U.S. engineering community be competitive on a global scale? How are environmental regulations going to evolve and develop worldwide? Our company is involved in engineering projects in North America, Europe, Southeast Asia, and Australia. To be able to compete in the marketplace, we need the brightest, most innovative engineering professionals.

We need to educate students so that they have a superior grasp of the engineering fundamentals. It's easier to take employees with technical backgrounds and increase their general and business skills than to increase the technical understanding of people who are primarily generalists. Learning another language is important, too.

No one discipline has the breadth and capability to solve today's problems in our business. They're too complex and multidisciplinary. The challenge is to orchestrate the involvement of people who have very different skills and get them to focus as a team on the problem at hand.

1985:
Named president and CEO of Golder Associates Corp. (holding company for Golder Associates companies, which specialize in geotechnical projects). Responsible for management, strategic direction, and technical quality of Golder Associates' activities worldwide.

1983:
Appointed president of Golder Associates Inc. (U.S. operating company of Golder Associates companies). Responsible for management, strategic direction, and technical quality of firm's activities in U.S. Projects included mine waste impoundments, wastewater-treatment facilities, and building foundations in U.S. and abroad.

1975:
Became principal of Golder Associates, Atlanta, overseeing firm's administrative and technical activities in eastern U.S. Also responsible for geotechnical and mining studies in Brazil, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, U.A.E, and the Caribbean.

1973:
Joined Golder Associates as associate in charge of Atlanta office.

1969:
Joined Georgia Institute of Technology as assistant professor of civil engineering; was promoted to associate professor.
BSCE '64, MSCE '65, PhD '69, Purdue.