2001 Distinguished Service Award: Ralph Stephenson

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Ralph J. Stephenson
Engineering Consultant

When asked what circumstances in his life contributed to his success, Ralph J. Stephenson explained that his teaching experiences under the watchful eye of UW-Madison College of Engineering Professor Phil Bennett shaped his future. As the principal of his own engineering consulting company, Stephenson is still educating and training practicing professional engineers.

His educational contributions as an instructor for the college’s Department of Engineering Professional Development (EPD) span nearly 20 years. He has taught classes and offered training programs and seminars for EPD students. Stephenson received his bachelor’s degree from the Lawrence Institute of Technology in Highland Park, Michigan, in 1943. His master’s degree came later in 1948 from Michigan State University.

Stephenson served in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Army Infantry for nearly three years, during which he was responsible for field engineering and demolition projects as a line officer. He was commissioned first lieutenant upon discharge from the Armed Forces. Stephenson joined Smith, Hinchman and Grylls, Inc. in 1948. As a structural engineer for the firm, he performed a wide range of drafting and design activities, including the structural calculation preparations for a variety of steel, concrete and wood structures. From 1950 to 1958, Stephenson worked with Victor Gruen Associates, where he was vice president of the firm and project manager for the Kalamazoo, Michigan, mall, one of the first downtown malls in North America.

Stephenson joined H.F. Campbell Company, a design and build firm, in 1960. As a vice president, he was responsible for estimating, graphics and marketing. Two years later, he went into business for himself as a private consulting engineer. He has since handled several hundred commercial, institutional and private projects ranging in size from $100,000 to $400 million. He provides services in design and construction, project management, construction planning, project programming, plant location, land planning, and training and education for the planning, design and construction profession. He is also involved in partnering and alternative dispute resolution. Additionally, he has acted as a project consultant and director on several large land use studies, and has been retained by many owners and architectural, engineering and contracting firms as a technical management consultant for functional and organizational matters.

Stephenson has taught hundreds of technical and management seminars in the United States, Canada and Europe. He is the author of several magazine articles and two books, one on critical path method and one on partnering and alternative dispute resolution for the design and construction industry. Stephenson lives in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, with his wife, Betty.