Growing up in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, James Meister enjoyed math and science — yet he never expected he would become a nuclear engineer. Rather, Meister assumed he’d be a carpenter, as his father, grandfathers and three uncles were. He learned about the hands-on challenges engineers face as he watched his father and uncles quickly redesign their own homes as their families grew. At that point, Meister also realized carpentry was not his calling. He enrolled at UW-Madison and earned his bachelor’s degree in nuclear engineering in 1978.
He took a job at Sargent and Lundy Engineers in Chicago, where he helped design and build two-unit pressurized water reactor nuclear power plants for Public Service of Indiana and for Commonwealth Edison. He also was project engineer at the Commonwealth Edison Braidwood Generating Station and site manager at the Byron Nuclear Generating Station. Ultimately, he became project manager for both stations.
Meister joined Commonwealth Edison — now Exelon — in 1994. With 17 nuclear reactors in Illinois, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Exelon Nuclear is the largest operator of nuclear power plants in the United States and serves 5.4 million customers. Meister initially was engineering manager at the Braidwood station and later participated on a team that restarted Unit 2 of the LaSalle County Generating Station after an extended shutdown. After serving as LaSalle station manager, he became engineering vice president for Exelon Nuclear in 2001.
He currently is vice president for operations support in the Exelon corporate office. Meister says he is most proud of his role on the executive leadership team that transformed Commonwealth Edison from the worst nuclear operator in the United States into Exelon, a company that now is the best U.S. operator.
Meister holds a senior reactor operator certification for the Braidwood station and is a graduate of the Institute of Nuclear Power Operators senior nuclear plant manager course. He also is a graduate of the Naval Postgraduate School Center for Homeland Defense and Security Executive Leadership Program.
He met Connie Robertson in their first class at UW-Madison and the two married in 1978. Two of their children, Carrie and John, are UW-Madison graduates, as is Carrie ’s husband Scott, while third child Craig currently attends UW-Madison. Meister enjoys spending time with family, boating, golfing, attending UW sporting events; and watching John, Scott and now Craig play in the UW Marching Band.