Rhode Island Engineer Receives Organization’s Highest Honor

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Stacey A. Ober
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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

L. Robert “Larry” Smith, P.E., F.NSPE, received the National Society of Professional Engineers' most prestigious award for professional engineers at the recent 2014 annual meeting in Washington, D.C. He was recognized for the many contributions he has made to the engineering profession, for his work as a civil and forensic engineer, and the numerous volunteer leadership roles he has undertaken on behalf of NSPE and the engineering profession over the past four decades.

Smith is a 1966 graduate of the City College of New York, where he earned a civil engineering bachelor’s degree with honors. He has received the Engineering Alumni of the City College Award and been inducted into Tau Beta Pi, Chi Epsilon, and Blue Key. He received a master’s in engineering from Brown University in 1968 and entered the work force as a consultant. He was president of Waterman Engineering Co., the oldest civil engineering and the oldest surveying firm in Rhode Island. He sold the company after 25 years and has been practicing as a forensic engineer on a part-time basis for the last 10 years.

During his career, Smith has served as president of the Rhode Island Society of Professional Engineers, the Rhode Island Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers, and the Providence Engineering Society. To this day, he continues to serve actively on these societies’ boards as a past president. He was the recipient of the RISPE Young Engineer of the Year Award in 1979, the RISPE Engineer of the Year award in 1991, the PES Freeman Award in 1994, and the PES Humanitarian of the Year Award. His first service to the State of Rhode Island was in 1992, when he was appointed to the Board of Registration for Professional Engineers. He served four terms on the board and was appointed by three different governors, including two stints as chair of the board.

Over the years, Smith has served as the RISPE national director and as the Professional Engineers in Private Practice governor from Rhode Island. He has served on numerous NSPE and PEPP committees. He served as the PEPP northeast vice chair from 1987–89 and received the PEPP chairman’s Outstanding Service Award for his work. He was also the recipient of the NSPE-PEPP Merit Award in 1995.

Smith has also been heavily involved with the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying, where he has served on numerous committees and chaired the three big NCEES Exam Committees. He served as the NCEES northeast zone vice president and as national treasurer. He received two northeast zone awards, the NCEES Distinguished Service Award, and the NCEES Distinguished Service Award with Special Commendation. He is well known in the Rhode Island engineering community as the long time author of “Larry’s Corner,” an amusing look at the practice of engineering, which is published in the Providence Engineering Society’s newsletter.

Smith also serves on the North Providence Building Board of Review which he has chaired for 30 years. He has contributed a great deal of his personal time and money in promoting the profession and is often a speaker at various colleges. He is on the Civil Engineering Advisory Board at the University of Rhode Island and chaired that group for an extended period of time. He serves on the Engineering Professional Advisory Board at Roger Williams University and has served as that group’s vice chair. Outside of the engineering world, he serves on the boards of numerous charities. Smith has personally sponsored an annual tennis tournament for the Leukemia Society of Rhode Island for many years. He has also served on building committees for various religious and charitable groups.

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The National Society of Professional Engineers is a member-centric, nimble, future-focused, and responsive organization, serving as the recognized voice and advocate of licensed Professional Engineers. Through education, licensure advocacy, leadership training, multidisciplinary networking, and outreach, NSPE enhances the image of its members and their ability to ethically and professionally practice engineering. Founded in 1934, NSPE serves more than 35,000 members and the public through 53 state and territorial societies and just over 400 chapters. For more information, please visit www.nspe.org.

EDITOR’S NOTE: High-resolution photos of Smith and the awards ceremony are available in digital format.