Honoring CEE Retirees

The Civil and Environmental Engineering Department would like to congratulate Dr. James D Bowen, Dr. Martin R. Kane, and Mr. Ted Brown on their retirement from the University. We thank them for their contributions to the department and all their work throughout the years. Best wishes to each of you as you start new journeys in life! Each of the retirees sat down and answered a few questions about their time at UNC Charlotte.

Question: When did you join UNC Charlotte?

James Bowen: I joined UNC Charlotte in January 1996 as a visiting professor in the Engineering Technology Department. I took a full-time tenure track position in the department that Fall.

Martin Kane: July 1, 1995, when the student population was 13,600.

Ted Brown: I joined UNCC in January of 1986 after leaving Cannon Mills Co. in Kannapolis.

Q: What are a few highlights of your career?

JB: More than 25 years teaching approximately 100 new Civil and Environmental Engineering students each year. I accept all of my students’ LinkedIn contact requests and have more than 500 of them as contacts. I have also graduated approximately 25 master’s students and two Ph.D. students.

MK: (1) Going to Spain for three years in a summer program [1999, 2000, 2001] with Civil & Environmental students along with Architecture faculty and students. I learned much about many things. (2) Creating the Mock Interview program. It started with CEE students in Senior Design only and I had help from Beth Krusch, who was Linda Thurman’s predecessor. Now the program is in Professional Development for all students in the college. (3) Getting to know many CEE students [estimate ~ 2500 students] during the 28 years I taught classes. There were students that knew what they wanted from CEE and some that needed some coaxing and coaching to keep them on the path to graduation and on to becoming a Professional Engineer. I have taught 16 different courses from ENGR1202 to CEGR6182/INES8090. Among many others.

TB: My career here at UNCC started out working in the Facilities Department, known then as the Physical Plant. I worked as an Electrician II and was able to reunite with many old friends from Cannon Mills Co, as well as learn the names and faces of new people.

Q: What are your favorite memories and/or most memorable moments?

JB: A favorite memory was helping the Department add a Civil Engineering Ph.D. degree. There were many documents, meetings, and presentations along the way, but the drive to and from Chapel Hill with our Engineering Dean Bob Johnson, and the final presentation to a committee of the UNC Board of Governors was particularly memorable. I remember being shoulder to shoulder with the Dean in a very large conference room on a very hot summer day, answering questions on potential students and budgets and our plans for the program, and then discussing what they asked and what we said as we made the long drive back to Charlotte. I am proud to say that we’ve now had several years’ worth of Civil Engineering PhD. graduates from the program.

MK: All of the people that I interacted with in and out of the CEE department. Golfing with Johnny Graham, David Bayer, and Terry Rhodes. Wine tasting with Gergely’s, Helene Hilger [Arnie], and the Ogunro’s. I am sure I am missing some people. The Holiday Parties my wife and I hosted for many years for the CEE department and friends.

TB: I moved from Facilities to the COE in 1992 and began serving the faculty and students in the Engineering Department. There I met new friends and acquaintances, some easy to get along with and some not so easy. Lots of projects along the way like a Solar Decathlon where the COE helped other departments on campus to fabricate and assemble a house totally off the electric grid and to disassemble it and ship it to California for a solar competition.

Q: What changes have you seen while at UNC Charlotte?

JB: There have been huge changes since 1996. The University was 8000 or so students and had roughly a third of the buildings we have now. A student and faculty parking lot occupied the land that is now our Student Union building. Woods and mountain bike trails covered the northwest corner of campus where now sits most of our Engineering buildings, our football stadium, and my office in the EPIC building. I bike to work on a greenway trail or take the light rail from uptown. None of that existed when I joined in 1996. Our Department has added “and Environmental” to its name and is roughly five times as big as it was in the mid-’90s. In addition to adding the Ph.D. program mentioned earlier, we expect to add an accredited BS degree in Environmental Engineering in the next year or two. It has been quite a transformational change these past 27 years!

MK: The traffic signals on campus! I believe the only signal when I came in 1995 was at the entrance at the front of campus on HWY 49. The entrance has since been moved a bit farther to the south. All of the new buildings! One thing, in particular, stands out about the campus. It used to be the time between classes was 10 minutes. When the campus was expanding they [I still don’t know who “they” are] had to decide between 15 minutes and 20 minutes between classes. When the “other” side of the campus [Duke, Grigg] was being built I had a graduate student measure the distance by walking from the Smith building to Duke and back. The people in the Ivory Tower speculated that the distance was “about half a mile.” The distance was [and is] 6600 feet.

TB: I’ve seen the university grow from a cow pasture with a few buildings to a campus of 25+ buildings and a student body of 30,000 students.

Q: What were the greatest successes or accomplishments in your working history?

JB: Getting tenured and promoted in the Civil Engineering Department in 2003 after moving from Engineering Technology in 2000 was a special accomplishment. Leading the Civil and Engineering Department as Interim Chair in 2017 and 2018 was another special accomplishment. I was also proud to receive the College of Engineering’s graduate teaching award in 2004, and the undergraduate teaching award in 2007. This Spring I was pleased and surprised to be nominated again for the undergrad award. My fingers are crossed on that one!

MK: I will leave it to the people that should know me to decide that.

TB: My greatest success here at UNCC is making it to the end of the road with 37 years and 6 months of service. Things have not always been rosy. I’ve searched the job ads many times wanting to leave the university for another job. But many of my friends encouraged me along the way to stay the course and finish a winner.

Q: What were the greatest challenges you faced at work? How did they help you grow as an individual? What advice would you have for other employees facing similar challenges?

JB: My early career challenges were those typical for an assistant professor, how to be both an effective teacher and a productive researcher, while at the same time finding time for my young children and a working spouse. The time demands were daunting, and at times felt overwhelming, but thankfully I loved (mostly) my job. I learned to obsess less and enjoy more, and that has helped. Learning to adapt and adjust my teaching and my research into, through, and out of COVID has also been a huge challenge. That Fall semester of 2020 was I think the most demanding of my career. I think we all did several semesters’ worth of work in those few months! I can’t imagine how hard it must have been for our junior faculty.

Q: What are your post-retirement plans?

JB: My wife Carol and I are moving this summer to a house in Vermont we’ve owned since 2009. After we both retire in June we’ll be celebrating the marriage of our son Kyle, who will be married “down in the valley” in Manchester Vermont. He and his wife-to-be plan to live and work in Boston, about three hours away from our home. Retirement plans include traveling, cycling (a lot), music playing, plus some long-needed home repair/renovation, and time spent getting to know the people and places in Vermont.

MK: I will continue to strive to be a kind and fun-loving person. I will continue to teach and support young engineers. I have many books that I want to read. I have a woodworking shop that has not seen enough of me lately.

TB: As I transition to a more quiet lifestyle in retirement, I hope to enjoy life more and try to catch up on missed good times. I hope to enjoy nature and all it has to offer. I want to hone my fishing skills a bit more and become a Grandpa to my yet-to-be-new Grandson. As I sail off into the sunset, I’ll remember the names and faces of the good folks who were nice to me, and forgive and forget the ones who weren’t so nice. Overall it’s been a good run!!