Old Book Tells Long Story of Excellence

THE STORY OF EXCELLENCE IN CIVIL ENGINEERING is a long one within Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geo- Engineering (CEGE), and it can be found in the pages of the Chi Epsilon Membership Log. Chi Epsilon, the national honor society for the Civil Engineering profession, was established in 1922 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The University of Minnesota was chapter number three (Illinois Institute of Technology was number two), installed in 1923. The chapter has maintained the same membership log book through all its 94 years. Its binding is worn and its pages are yellowing, but the stories it harbors are still lively.

The old book lives in the Chi Epsilon Student Chapter Office, which is perched like an eagle’s nest above the student study lounges in the Civil Engineering Building. The loft-like room was renovated in 2013, financed by a Chi Epsilon member, James Weinel and his wife Sharon. James Weinel (chapter member #435) was initiated in 1955. The Weinel’s also sponsor the James and Sharon Weinel/Chi Epsilon Scholarship, which is given to senior Chi Epsilon students in CEGE who display academic excellence. This year’s recipients are Paul Fritton and Sami Kinnunen.

Ora Leland

The second page of the membership log book shows the signature of Ora Leland (chapter member #34), who was a faculty member when he was initiated in December 1923. Leland went on to be the Dean of Administration in the Institute of Technology (now known as the College of Science and Engineering). His long career included Surveyor General of Florida, US Coast and Geodetic Survey, professor at Cornell University, project engineer at the JG White Corporation, member of the Alaska Boundary Survey, and representative of the US on the Costa Rica-Panama Boundary Commission. In 1932, Leland was elevated as the third National Honor Member, an elite group—only 64 members recorded as of May 2016—that deserves “the supreme level of recognition on the basis of their distinguished and pre-eminent accomplishments in the field of Civil Engineering, and their outstanding contributions to the object and purpose of Chi Epsilon

Chapter member #234, initiated in 1944, should be familiar to current students. Robert Rosene is the namesake of the Robert and Joyce Rosene Student Lounge and the Rosene Room for Student Activities, which houses the ASCE Student Office. Dennis Martenson is member #601.

Membership in Chi Epsilon is recognition of academic accomplishment, but it was always intended as much more. In addition to academic accomplishment, the club encourages personal characteristics of character, practicality, and sociability. Chi Epsilon offers members lifelong opportunities to continue developing in a professional manner. It is clear from the contributions of the members highlighted that each has made a big impact.

The influence of other Chi Epsilon members plays out in a more personal way. Isabel Panek, a member just initiated in 2017, found the signature of her father, Mark Panek, who was initiated as a Chi Epsilon member in 1990. Panek is following in her father’s footsteps, pursuing a career in civil engineering and striving for excellence through Chi Epsilon.

Chapter president Sami Kinnunen is completing his degree in environmental engineering. For Kinnunen, giving back is one of Chi Epsilon’s most valuable lessons: “Chi Epsilon gives its members the opportunity to engage in a structured form of giving back to the community. We gain experience through organizing events and communicating with various local organizations.”

UMN Chi Epsilon members

Member Noah Germolus appreciates the way Chi Epsilon helps him balance: “Chi Epsilon has been for me a way of honoring the community. Fundraising for elementary classrooms, cleaning up litter, and hosting blood drives have allowed me to keep career and conscience close at hand.”

Paul Fritton highlighted the long-term benefit of his involvement: “Chi Epsilon has helped me to connect with other highly motivated and like-minded students to form a team that can effectively promote civil engineering as well as serve our community. Through the group, I’ve been able to get to know other students at a deeper level and build bonds that will last well into the future.”

The current UMN Chi Epsilon members: (top row) Joshua Pierce, Riley Brown, Noah Germolous, Marah Sobczak, Corin Treat, Katelyn Olson; James Butler, Sami Kinnunen (white shirt with tie); Ryan Heath, Paul Fritton, Carl Duebner; and new members: Isabel Panek, Matt Kluthe, with advisor Lauren Linderman (white collar, glasses); Anna Dourgarian, Tessa Nordman, Tyler Szeto; Adam Pleschourt; in front: Eric Elert, Paul Mako, Chun Nok Kwan. Not pictured: Nathan Bausman, Jack Cottle, Diego De Bedout, Coledon Drew, Morgan Kuehn, Jacqueline Nowak, and Rena Weis.

You are invited to share your memories of Chi Epsilon by writing to cegenews@umn.edu.