Army Corps Civil Engineer Still Puts in the Hours at 92

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District
Published May 26, 2024
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Ronald St. Laurent at his desk in New York District's Engineering Division.

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Ronald St. Laurent converses with New York District Commander Col. Alexander Young in the Executive Conference Room.

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Ronald St. Laurent with New York District Commander Col. Alexander Young.

It takes a special person to be in the workforce after age 90. The New York District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has one: Ronald St. Laurent, a civil engineer in the Design Branch of Engineering Division, celebrated his 92nd birthday May 18.

Independent Technical Reviews

A U.S. Navy Veteran, he’s been a New York District employee for nearly 30 years. He performs independent technical reviews (ITR) of architectural-engineering construction documents looking for compliance of construction standards, practices and regulations. The plans and specifications must tell the construction Contractor to incorporate quality materials and equipment and require building performance for 20-year life or more of finalized improvements or structures. St. Laurent said some project documents have 200+ drawings and thousands of pages of specifications.

District Commander Col. Alexander Young stated: “When I think of Mr. St. Laurent, two words come to mind: ‘dedication’ and ‘service’. To be actively working at 92 is extremely rare. It’s even more impressive when you look at his production and military service. He’s both an inspiration and role model for others ─ we’re lucky to have him.”

Military Service

St. Laurent served in the U.S. Navy from 1952-54, training at the Builder’s School in California. He was assigned to the SeaBee battalion building and expanding runways at Andersen Air Base on the island of Guam ⎼ a U.S. territory in the western Pacific Ocean. (Seabees are an elite group of engineers that provide responsive military construction support to the Navy, Marine Corps and other forces in military operations, construct base facilities and facilitate defensive operations.)

Holding a degree in civil engineering from the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), prior to joining the Army Corps, St. Laurent worked in the private sector where he became a lead civil design engineer and project manager. Two notable projects include a Trident Submarine Base and designing the water supply system for Sadat City, Egypt, in the 1980s. (Named for the late president Anwar Sadat, Sadat City is a first-generation new urban community that has become one of the largest industrial cities in Egypt.)                                                              

Joining the Army Corps

St Laurent explained his SeaBee training and other experience, along with a degree in civil engineering, prepared him well when he joined the New York District’s Hazardous, Toxic, Radioactive Waste (HTRW) design team in 1995. He noted that HTRW personnel prepared all the assigned hazardous project designs in the late 1990s and early 2000s. St. Laurent said the former HTRW technical staff have been greatly reduced ⎼ now it’s just him and another employee.

Later he performed independent technical reviews. His early tasks focused on Fort Drum (a military base in northern New York) that included creating in-house designs from concept to ready-to-advertise projects. For one building he managed all disciplines involved. Today his technical reviews for Fort Drum include the runway and helicopter improvements, well field water supply development, and rehabilitating training ranges.

Enjoying Work

When asked what he likes most about his work, St. Laurent said “the total variety of everything I do,” beaming with gratification that his expertise is being utilized. His technical reviews accurately “tells the contractor everything the Corps wants them to do.”

In terms of memorable experiences, he spoke about design work 20 years ago for the Library Training Facility at Fort Drum ⎼ a military base in northern New York. It was a challenging project: the site required designing into a high embankment ⎼ contours had to be designed, constructed and placed exactly right so water would drain away from the building.

Military Construction

The U.S. Military Academy projects at West Point, New York, is another area of his work. There he helped rebuild Washington Hall and Barracks, Lincoln Hall, Eisenhower Hall and the Arvin Gym. Additional projects were medical facilities and the West Point Cemetery. Recently he was involved in technical reviews for the new Cyber and Engineering Academic Center (CEAC) ⎼ a state-of-the-art $225 million facility now under construction and scheduled for completion in 2026. When complete, it will provide a modern learning environment for Cadets at the Academy ⎼ some who may become  future leaders as many before them.

St. Laurent has also worked on projects in New Jersey: transforming Fort Monmouth into a vibrant shoreline community; rebuilding beaches; reigning in Green Brook that has a long history of flooding; and now underway in Jersey City, New Jersey ⎼ just across from Mid-Manhattan ⎼ a new environmental project is remaking Liberty State Park.

He also spoke about New York’s Harbor Deepening Projects where shipping channels were dredged to 50 feet to accommodate ever larger container ships calling on The Port of New York: “Fifty years ago, it was hard to imagine the outsize container and cruise ships that now routinely visit and leave through the revitalized Hudson River, said Laurent.”  

More recently, he’s been involved with the Air National Guard Combat Rescue Helicopter Training facility at Gabreski Airport on Long Island (70 miles east of New York City) and runway improvements at Thule Air Base in Greenland.

Family Heritage

St. Laurent is proud of his lineage, noting: “I am a product of my heritage and my experience.”

He resides in Cranford, New Jersey, a suburb 25 miles outside New York City. He follows in the footsteps of his father, a professional civil and electrical engineer born in England, and his mother who traces back more than 380 years to John of London in 1639 (a common sailing vessel at the time) delivering English passengers to Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Outside work St. Laurent spends time with his three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren (another on the way) during the summer. While he isn’t planning anything special for his 92nd birthday, he said the big birthday was his 90th when some 50 family, friends and Army Corps colleagues joined in celebration at his home.