Sidney O. Dewberry, P.E.
When did you know that you wanted to be an engineer? At about age 14, when I was influenced by an older brother who was studying electrical engineering through the International Correspondence School.
What is your favorite book? The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand.
When did you get your PE license? In 1956, when I attained my EIT and PE within one month of each other.
What is your proudest engineering accomplishment? Probably the literally hundreds of projects I designed in and around northern Virginia. The converting of a raw piece of land into housing or something for commercial, industrial, entertainment, recreational, or whatever use was and is a very rare experience. Utilities, roadways, and/or supply sources could often be a real challenge, not to mention the political opposition that often had to be overcome.
Who was your biggest professional role model? Mark Greenhorne of Greenehorne & O'Mara was my early mentor and teacher, and a wonderful role model.
What do you think about changes over the years in the requirements for becoming a licensed engineer? I don't like the continuing education requirements, as I think they have turned into a fundraising tool for the various professional organizations, instead of being a real effort to keep the professionals up-to-date on the latest developments.
The National Academy of Engineering has produced a list of its top 20 engineering achievements of the century. What would you say was the top engineering achievement of your lifetime? I think air transportation is the greatest engineering achievement of the 20th century. Not only the airplanes themselves, which are a marvelous engineering achievement, but all the support facilities as well, such as the airports that have been built around the world and the navigation equipment for airborne aircraft. If the billions of passenger miles traveled each year was by rail, car, or ship, I wonder if the safety, speed, and cost would be nearly as good.
If you had the opportunity speak to a room full of young engineers, what advice would you give them? When I was a young supervisor of engineers, and I entered what was then called the "drafting room," all I wanted to see was elbows and exterior postures—in other words, everyone with their heads down and working. You young engineers need to do just that if you really want to get ahead!
If you had to do it all over again, what would you change? I would insist on more education at the undergraduate level—more courses in creativity, communication skills, and business, as well as the basic sciences.
Sidney O. Dewberry, P.E.