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Tandon’s Chi Epsilon chapter marks 70 years of civil engineering excellence

Chi epsilon board members

Left to right: Andrew Li (Vice President), Victor Alvarez (Secretary), Carol Shlyakhova (Marshal), Erik Kazazi (President), Danny Chen (Treasurer), and Allie Bazinet (Editor)

On June 25, 1949, Brooklyn Poly (now the NYU Tandon School of Engineering) became the 31st Chi Epsilon Chapter in the nation.

Founded at the University of Illinois in 1922, Chi Epsilon, the national civil engineering honor society, recognizes and honors civil engineering students and professionals and now has 137 active chapters at universities across the U.S. Members are elected based on four traits considered by Chi Epsilon to be essential in a successful engineer: scholarship, with candidates drawn from only the top third of their class; character, with the dedication to uphold the integrity and responsibility of the civil engineering profession through service; practicality, with a drive to improve the world through innovative and impactful solutions; and sociability, with the ability to forge connections between members while engaging the broader engineering community.

The Greek letters Chi Delta Chi (the name of the junior honor society in which Chi Epsilon is rooted) still comprise its motto, and they symbolize, as well, the English motto “Conception, Design, and Construction,” the three phases of every creative project. As the Chi Epsilon website explains: “Conception is inventive; it perceives the opportunity to do something and recognizes the means of accomplishment. Fitting that means of accomplishment to the specific case and planning a definite method of work is Design. Construction is the actual building. It makes a reality of the idea of conception and the plan of design. Conception requires imagination and intelligence. Design requires education and practical experience. Construction requires energy, determination, and perseverance.”

Students from Tandon’s civil engineering program, which had long stressed those same concepts, became enthusiastic members of the new Chapter; a large percentage of those early members were veterans returning from World War II and attending Poly with the help of the G.I. Bill, and they served as a great inspiration to other aspiring civil engineers, including Alumnus and former Polytechnic Board Member Don Weisstuch P.E. (’57, ’62).

Weisstuch, who is also a Fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Institute of Transportation Engineers, and the Society of American Military Engineers, recalls that the vibrant Chapter was in full swing when he arrived on campus in 1953. He had been fascinated by a career in Civil Engineering from an early age, thanks to witnessing the construction of the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn and the hours he spent climbing on bridges under construction. He was gratified to be elected as a Chi Epsilon member in his junior year — and even more so when he was elected president his senior year (‘56–57). “Becoming a member of Chi Epsilon taught me a lot,” he recalls. “In organizing chapter events I learned to work with people effectively, and the concept of being of service to the profession and to society stayed with me throughout my entire career. I’m happy to know that Tandon students are still active in the organization; they’ll be going out into the world and reflecting well on both our school and on civil engineering as a whole.”

At Tandon, current Chi Epsilon members mentor and tutor civil engineering students, enthusiastically participate in the school’s concrete canoe and steel bridge competition teams, and take on various leadership roles “Our Chapter’s service requirements and the leadership opportunities the group presents are formative for our members,” faculty advisor Anne Ronan explains. “Almost 800 people have been inducted into the chapter since it was formed seven decades ago, and cumulatively, they’ve had an enormous impact on our profession and our world.”

“Many of our department’s faculty members, including Anne Ronan, became Chi Epsilon members back when they were students themselves at various schools,” Department Chair Magued Iskander says. “Membership will always be indicative of high levels of commitment, dedication, and achievement, and I’m very proud of Tandon’s strong representation in the organization.”