An after-school part-time job at FE Krocka & Associates unexpectedly led to a fulfilling career in civil engineering and academia for Bruce Berdanier ’76. When he told Fred Krocka that he wanted to become a sociologist, psychologist or minister – careers that would have Bruce working directly with and serving people – Fred told Bruce that engineers serve people by solving their problems. With Fred’s encouragement, Bruce entered Ohio State University, majoring in Civil Engineering. After graduation he returned to Shelby as a project engineer at Fred’s firm.
Bruce completed his master’s in Environmental Engineering from Purdue University and then bought Fred’s firm with Ray Lenczowski, later founding Village Engineering, Ltd. with John Medley. He served as Shelby’s city engineer from 1992 to 1996. By 1995 Bruce had earned his Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering and Hydrogeology from Ohio State. Observes Bruce, “Having had the opportunity to improve Shelby’s public water system and to work with the Black Fork River’s challenges helped prepare me for my life’s work in water quality, waste water treatment, chemicals in public water systems, and environmental issues.”
Bruce was named assistant professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City in 1996. While teaching there, he researched the lack of safe water and basic sanitation globally and traveled to Haiti to do feasibility studies where he found a desperate need for clean water and sanitation. Bruce began working in Haiti in 1995 and started regularly taking students to Haiti to work on water and sanitation projects in 2000.
Beginning in 2000, Bruce taught eight years at Ohio Northern University, becoming an associate professor of Civil Engineering. He became professor and head of Civil & Environmental Engineering at South Dakota State University in 2008. Many of Bruce’s students have joined him annually on water supply and sanitation projects in Haiti’s Artibonite Valley. He also has directed an Engineers Without Borders program in Bolivia since 2009 to develop water and sanitation for a rural village and college. Bruce demands excellence from his students and together their interests extend far beyond classroom walls, making a difference in the lives of students, a university, a community, and the world. Bruce has authored nearly one hundred technical papers and publications and has done presentations on water quality and wastewater treatment worldwide. He was a Fulbright Research Scholar in Jordan, is an American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Fellow, has received a National Certificate for Outstanding ASCE Faculty Advisor and was recognized by the Toledo Section of ASCE as Engineer of the Year. He is currently professor and dean of the School of Engineering at Fairfield University where he recently led development of a new degree in bioengineering and has helped create five-year pathways for students to accomplish both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering.