Photo of awardee

Ronald Klemencic

Magnusson Klemencic Associates
BSCE ’85

In recognition of his work as an award-winning international structural and civil engineer throughout the United States and around the world, with a focus on high-rise and mixed-use designs.

Ronald Klemencic has reached the pinnacle of his career, literally and figuratively. His first building project was a city in his sandbox at the age of five. Today, he is president of Magnusson Klemencic Associates, overseeing 180 engineers and working on hundreds of concurrent projects in nearly every state and 20 foreign nations. His firm has received over 330 awards for excellence while designing projects worth over $73 billion. His career has soared, even as he confesses to being fearful of heights.

Klemencic earned his BS in civil engineering from Purdue in 1985 with top honors, and his master’s degree in structural engineering from the University of California at Berkeley in 1986. Throughout his career, he has acquired a reputation as an “idea guy,” offering creative engineering solutions, value-added innovations, and an innate ability to see the big picture.

As a kid, Klemencic did not know he wanted to be an engineer, but knew he wanted to build buildings. Two uncles, who were civil engineers, convinced him engineering was for him. “I got the warm-and-fuzzies when I visited Purdue. That was the best place for me.

“I got an extraordinary education; the faculty taught the courses, whereas at some schools the undergrad courses are taught by graduate students. We got our education directly from the masters. It was quite profound.”

He has served on Purdue’s Civil Engineering Advisory Board and is currently doing research with professors Mark Bowman and Michael Kreger at the Robert L. and Terry L. Bowen Laboratory for Large-Scale Civil Engineering Research.

Regarding his acrophobia, he says, “As a structural engineer, I have a profound respect for gravity! I’ve always been afraid of heights.

“We work around the globe on things that are very tall and very complicated.” His international tall-building projects circle the globe, including the 112-story Doha Convention Center Tower in Qatar; 49-story 21st Century Tower in Shanghai; the 73-story High Cliff Apartments in Hong Kong; and the peer review of the 1-kilometer-tall Kingdom Tower in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

“It used to be I wanted to design the world’s tallest building, but for me, I really enjoy working with super-smart people. I love being challenged by my colleagues — my playmates, so to speak.

“I continue to be delighted daily by the talented people I get to work with — even my competitors. I get to play the game at a very high level. I travel around the world, interacting with the very best contractors, architects, engineers, owners in the business. It’s very satisfying.

“It is a tremendous honor to be recognized and singled out by my alma mater. I am deeply grateful and very emotional about the whole thing.”

As for today’s engineering students, Klemencic says, “Out of Purdue they’re great; very solid, very grounded, with good fundamental skills. Around the country, that’s not so much the case. We recruit in a very targeted way; Purdue is one of the schools on the list.” 

Career Highlights

1992-present President, Magnusson Klemencic Associates
2008 Structural Engineer of the Year (Tall and Special Bldg.)
2008 Top 25 Newsmaker of the Year (Engineering News Record)
2002 Purdue University Civil Engineering Alumni Achievement Award
1986-92 KPFF Consulting Engineers
1982-86 Bechtel Power Corporation (co-op student at Purdue)
1986 MSCE, University of California-Berkeley
1985 BSCE, Purdue University