Only a select few of us at CH2M HILL remember the year 1959, and those who do should be honored. That was over 50 years ago, and it was on May 15th of that year that Dr. José Ignacio García Bengochea began a long and celebrated career as a professional engineer with CH2M HILL in Gainesville, Florida. On Friday, May 15, 2009, we celebrated Dr. García’s 50th anniversary with our firm; and he remembers how it all began as if it were yesterday.
"My first day at work was at the office of Black and Associates, later Black, Crow and Eidsness, Inc. (BC&E) and now CH2M HILL. It was a small building at 700 S.E. Third Street, across from the old Gainesville Water Treatment Plant, both buildings long gone. My desk was in a back room, which also was our water laboratory, document copier, and lunch room. I had a phone on my desk and was indeed happy to have a job with a fine group of people. My employee number was 25. We were about 17 people, including four in Pinellas County and three in Boca Raton. My first assignments were to help Charles Black with the City of Titusville, our President Bill Crow with Pinellas County, and Fred Eidsness with St. Augustine and Matagalpa, Nicaragua."
At the time, Dr. García and his wife Carmen had four children (their fifth was born in 1963); and he was also working on a Master of Engineering Degree at the University of Florida. He later went on to earn a Ph.D. in 1963. Dr. García had earned a Ingeniero Civil Degree, a 5-year engineering curriculum from the University of Havana in 1950. This helped him when he came to the University of Florida where he was welcomed by Dr. A. P. Black, with whom he developed a very close mentor relationship.
Dr. García remembers the first years of his employment as full of tough challenges, working long hours, and relying on family to see him through the tough times. When BC&E was incorporated in the mid‐1960s, Dr. García was made a company minority stockholder and vice president. In 1970, BC&E was acquired by Hercules, Inc., a specialty chemical company attempting to diversify its portfolio of capabilities. Originally Dr. García was not in favor of the acquisition and deliberated about leaving, but later realized the benefit this change would hold for the company’s stockholders. Fortunately, this decision smiled upon the burgeoning career of the young engineer; and the first engineering project that Hercules assigned to BC&E was in his field. He quickly was promoted to project manager and client service manager status. The challenging work that came his way was completed on time and within budget. So he stayed on.
"We had 5 successful years with Hercules; but, in 1975, they decided to stay in their chemical manufacturing business and sell BC&E. Thanks to the friendship of Holly Cornell, one of CH2M HILL’s founders and, at that time, its president, with BC&E’s Fred Eidsness, we became part of CH2M HILL in 1976. Changes are usually not smooth; 1976‐1977 was sort of tough in Gainesville, and I again thought that I would leave the firm. After deep soul searching, I decided to stay with the firm that has become a top global company and one of the most ethical and best places to work for."
Dr. García briefly considered retiring in 1992 at the age of 65, after 33 years of active service with the firm. However, he stayed on as a part‐time senior consultant, providing much expertise and mentoring to younger staff on challenging projects. Our CH2M HILL staff feels honored to work with him; however, he often feels that he is the one honored, working for our company.
"I am indebted to many people in this firm and in our adopted country where I have received so much help, so many blessings, and I have enjoyed a long life. God has been very good to me, to my wife Carmen, and to our family. God bless this country and all of you."
Congratulations, Dr. García, on your 50th anniversary with CH2M HILL. We look forward to continuing to work with you for many more years!