Orange County Branch Newsletter
3 Georges With a Lot In Common
By Josue Vaglienty, P.E.
The 4th of July is just around the corner – always a great time to celebrate summer and our nation’s Independence Day, alongside our family and friends. This year, while you’re busy eating BBQ, enjoying a day at the beach, or watching fireworks – take a moment and consider this - If it wasn’t for the seven Founding Fathers, the 4th of July would be no more special than the 5th of July! More importantly, one of those Founding Fathers was a critical figure whose courage, influence, and leadership led the way in transforming 13 American colonies into the United States of America. That individual’s name was George Washington – a surveyor and civil engineer (as well as an incredible war hero and our country’s first president)! As it turns out, there are at least two other significant American civil engineers by the same name that you may or may not have known about:
George Washington Goethals (1858-1928)
Although not an American President, George Washington Goethals had an impressive career as a U.S. Army officer as well as a civil engineer. Early in his career, G.W. Goethals focused on the design and construction of canals in Alabama and the development of canal lock technology. His professional expertise and his successes in the Army became well known by other leaders, including US Presidents William Howard Taft and Theodore Roosevelt. It was these American Presidents that recommended that G.W. Goethals be promoted to Chief Engineer of the Panama Canal (1907) and subsequently as the 1st Governor of the Panama Canal (1914-1917).
George Washington Cullum (1809-1892)
Like G.W. Geothals, G.W. Cullum was a decorated serviceman who was also a civil engineer. He led many construction projects under his tenure with the Army Corps of Engineers to fortify defense establishments on both west and east coasts. His military career extended until he achieved the status of Colonel with the US Army. He even found time to be an instructor at West Point and wrote a book entitled Systems of Military Bridges (1863).
Obviously, you don’t have to have a name like George Washington to be successful leader. However, each of the three leaders were resourceful with their technical skills (as civil engineers) which helped them enhance their leadership skills over time. Also, each of the leaders were from different generations in American History. This gives me hope that more civil engineers will be remembered for their active leadership in their communities, in military service, and in government for generations to come.