The Bather Family
Like his father before him, Edward Bather, Jr. (CivE ’48) started his education at the University in civil engineering, was called into the military, and then returned to finish his degree.
In the case of Edward Sr., he was in the midst of an engineering program when World War I interrupted his education. Ed Jr. started in 1942, was drafted in 1943 to serve on a ship in the Philippines during World War II, and returned to graduate in 1948.
Bather says his father clearly influenced his career choice. “I got to ride on a survey crew when I was a little guy. That was fun and good,” he said. And like his dad, after graduation he went to work for the Minnesota Highway Department (now the Department of Transportation). But that’s where the similarity ended. After one summer and fall on a survey crew, he decided he didn’t like working for government.
So he switched sides. He went to work for the construction contractor Johnson, Drake & Piper, Inc., where he worked on highway construction in Florida, upstate New York, and New York City. For a kid from the Midwest, Bather said that New York City is kind of like the service. “You’re glad you’re in it, but you’re glad you’re over it,” he said. He asked to move and got assigned to the Twin Cities.
“The number one thing about engineers is they’re problem solvers. That’s what you’ve got to have an interest in doing—solving problems.”
--Edward Bather, Jr.
Then his career took a turn. He began selling construction equipment for Ziegler Co., figuring his technical background was an advantage. “I think it helped just being able to relate to clients,” Bather said. The move to sales provided a new perspective. “Being a salesman—I recommend it for just about any young guy to be able to knock on doors and have that kind of experience of a client relationship,” he added.
Meanwhile, his dad formed his own constructionconsulting firm just as the federal interstate system was being designed and built. “I felt he was in a position where he could afford me,” said Bather, who soon realized an important aspect of transportation was underserved in Minnesota—traffic engineering. Bather hired a graduate of Yale’s new traffic engineering program as well as another young engineer and formed BRW.
The firm grew to become a multi-discipline firm of about 100 people. Bather attributes its success to “being smart enough to hire people that are smarter than me. You’ve got to be able to do that. It’s where you get success—by having smart people.” Bather sold the business in 1974 and since has managed commercial space in the Edina, Minn. building the firm once owned.
Bather says an engineering degree is just as valuable as it was when he earned his. “I think it’s always been a great profession to work in if you have the inspiration to do it,” Bather said. “The number one thing you say about engineers is they’re problem solvers. That’s what you’ve got to have an interest in doing—solving problems.”
To help upcoming problem-solving engineers, Bather and his family founded the Bather Family Scholarship about 15 years ago, which pays all tuition to CSE for selected applicants. “These are students who have 4.0 GPAs,” said Bather. “You can’t find a B on their record.”
Staying on the engineering track
“It was a natural thing to go to the University of Minnesota,” said Edward Bather’s son, Ted. “I was strongly influenced by the fact that my family has quite a history there,” he said. And engineering was a natural choice too, because “I grew up in that culture.”
Throughout his teens, Ted Bather (AgEng ’80) worked for his dad on survey crews, counted cars, and laid out traffic counters. He also enjoyed working on two family hobby farms. So when it came time, he enrolled at the University in agricultural engineering.
After graduation, he joined Cargill and managed soybean-processing plants in Des Moines, Iowa and Lafayette, Ind. He left Cargill to return to Minnesota—“ tough decision, one of the toughest of my life”—and joined an engineering consulting firm that worked with Cargill. Through acquisitions, the firm became Londonbased AMEC, where Bather is now global account leader for Cargill projects, and manager of projects for AMEC’s Minneapolis office.
An engineering degree provides many benefits, just as it did when he earned his in 1980, says Bather—good employment opportunities and high pay. But an engineering career also provides a chance to respond to the “insatiable curiosity” many engineers have.
“An engineering career can be tremendously valuable for satisfying that hunger because there are endless opportunities of challenges and problems to be able to tackle,” Bather said. Most engineers want to know “how things work and how you can make things better. That’s really what engineering is all about,” he said.
One more Gopher in the family
Travis Bather (ME ’99)—Edward’s grandson and Ted’s nephew—was looking for a reason not to attend the University of Minnesota because so many of his family had. (His father graduated from the University’s Carlson School of Management.) He says the weather tipped his decision toward Minnesota. The day he toured the University of Wisconsin– Madison campus, it was cold, windy, and rainy.
As a student Travis Bather interned at the same engineering consulting firm where his uncle worked. He joined the firm and is now the mechanical and piping department manager for AMEC, managing a group of engineers and design technicians.
Like virtually all engineers, Travis Bather recommends that engineers-to-be should have rock-solid math and science skills. “Beyond that, do what you love to do and focus on doing it well. Try to gather as much practical and hands-on experience as you can. Never stop trying to learn and grow,” he said.