In Memoriam: Past President Marvin Specter, Founder of NAFE

May/June 2019

NSPE Today
In Memoriam: Past President Marvin Specter, Founder of NAFE

Past President Marvin Specter, Founder of NAFENSPE Past President Marvin Specter, P.E., F.NSPE, L.S., passed away at the age of 91 on March 7, 2019, in Ponte Vedra, Florida.

Specter was born on November 9, 1927, in Welch, West Virginia, and grew up in Baltimore. At Johns Hopkins University he earned a degree in civil engineering and took part in ROTC. Later, he earned a master of science degree from Columbia University.

As NSPE president in 1982–83, Specter formed the Technology Policy Task Force to explain, in plain language, how the nation’s economy and social stability depend on effectively applying technology. “I believe that this country is ready for advice from engineers on how best to use our technology,” he wrote. “It is a time for competence, and we have the competence. It is a time for leadership. We have that also.”

The Society’s advocacy efforts during his presidency focused on water policy, hazardous waste management, strategic and critical materials, infrastructure, technology policy, and engineering education. NSPE also established a Recognition of Professionalism in Engineering Education Program, aimed at instilling professionalism in engineering students.

Among his many notable achievements, Specter founded the National Academy of Forensic Engineers to improve the practice, elevate the standards, and advance the cause of forensic engineering. NAFE became a chartered affinity group of NSPE—all NAFE members are also members of NSPE—and the two organizations have maintained close ties since then. In 2006, they issued a joint statement defining and supporting forensic engineering.

In 1990, Specter cofounded the Council of Engineering and Scientific Specialty Boards, an accreditation body of certification programs for professionals in engineering and scientific specialties. Today, CESB has 17 member organizations. NSPE and the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying are associate members.

Following college, Specter served in the US Marine Corps, the Marine Corps Reserves, and the Maryland State and National Guards. During his professional career, he worked for HNTB, Seelye Stevenson Value & Knecht, the US Army Corps of Engineers, and the Maryland State Roads Commission. Later, he worked in private practice as a consulting engineer in White Plains, New York, until 2017.

Among the honors Specter received is the NSPE Award—the Society’s highest honor—in 1986. In 2013, he received the National Engineering Award from the American Association of Engineering Societies for his leadership in the profession and the founding of NAFE.