Walter E. Hanson envisioned a company that could change the landscapes of communities through local and global projects. He built a company that valued quality service, intellectual curiosity, integrity and leadership. Those core values have helped shape our company — a company that has retained the name of its founder and, more importantly, reflects his profound influence on employees and clients and the services we provide around the world.
As an educator, author, practicing engineer and business owner, Walt was instrumental in promoting and advancing the engineering profession, researching new techniques and theories and completing important engineering and infrastructure projects in Illinois and around the world.
As the co-author of “Foundation Engineering,” Walt’s knowledge about and insight into foundation design and construction has affected and influenced students and engineers worldwide. Walt co-authored the textbook with University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign professors Ralph B. Peck and Thomas H. Thornburn. “Foundation Engineering” is still used by practicing engineers and students and has been translated into several languages.
A consulting engineering firm established
In 1954, Walt founded Walter E. Hanson and Associates in Springfield, Illinois, in a partnership with two of his former University of Illinois students and civil engineers, Roland D. “Dean” Collins and Marcus J. Rice. The new company’s first job included designing 56 bridges on the Kansas Turnpike. The trio worked at the company’s first office, located at 401 E. Capitol Ave., focusing on bridge design and structural engineering projects in the Midwest.
In the 1960s, the firm opened its second office in Peoria, Illinois, and expanded its services to include foundation engineering and more broad-based civil engineering projects. Hanson also was instrumental in the build-out of AT&T communications facilities throughout the U.S. during this decade.
Joint ventures were formed during the 1960s and 1970s that allowed Hanson to grow in the industry, entering into railroad, intermodal and transportation work. One venture, Hanson-Rodriguez S.A., took the company to the Dominican Republic and expanded the firm’s hydro services. In 1972, Hanson became employee-owned, which remains one of the company’s defining characteristics. As Hanson’s staff grew, the company required larger headquarters and moved into a new building at 1525 S. Sixth St.
Hanson continued its growth, opening multiple offices across the United States. Environmental waste management services were added, and a joint venture in Seattle allowed the company to offer services for nuclear facility site characterization. As the use of computer technology increased in the industry, Hanson added computer-aided design and drafting services. With two acquisitions and a merger, the aviation and telecommunications divisions were formed, and the firm’s consulting work entered the architectural, electrical and mechanical fields.
A joint venture in Anchorage, Alaska, led to the creation of Hanson Alaska LLC. Other acquisitions include Jacksonville, Florida-based Bowen Civil Engineering, Texas-based Naismith Engineering Inc. and McHenry, Illinois-based Engineered Rail Solutions.
Projects and progress
Through the decades, the firm has been involved with many notable projects, including work across Illinois, such as the Old State Capitol State Historic Site’s underground parking complex, Lincoln Home restoration, Capital City Railroad Relocation project and Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, all in Springfield; Clark Bridge on the Mississippi River near Alton, Illinois; design of BNSF Railway Co.’s Willow Springs Intermodal Facility in Hodgkins, Illinois; two taxiway bridges at the MidAmerica St. Louis Airport at Scott Air Force Base near Belleville, Illinois; environmental impact statements for the Illinois High-Speed Rail Chicago to St. Louis program; and transmission line river crossings for Ameren Transmission’s Illinois Rivers Project in Illinois and Missouri.
Other projects in the U.S. include the design of the Ruck-a-Chucky Bridge in California; underpinning for the nuclear cogeneration plant in Midland, Michigan, and for the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority; BNSF intermodal facility in Memphis, Tennessee; site investigations for the U.S. Department of Defense Ground Wave Emergency Network; Paducah and Louisville Railroad bridge at the Kentucky Dam; Project Hoosier Safely Acting for Everyone Together (SAFE-T) in Indiana; broadcast facilities at One World Trade Center in New York; Alaska Railroad Corp. northern extension, which includes design of the Tanana River bridge in Salcha, Alaska; and the New York Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications Emergency Radio Communications System.
The firm’s engineers not only have worked in the U.S., they also have supplied consulting services on dozens of projects in more than 50 countries around the globe, including projects such as the Sabaneta Dam and Rincon Dam in the Dominican Republic, the Voice of America transmission facility on Sao Tome Island and facilities for other stations globally and a wide variety of liquefied natural gas facilities internationally.
Awards, recognition and leadership
Hanson and its employee-owners have been recognized in the industry with corporate, project and leadership awards. Hanson has been named on the Engineering News-Record’s “Top 500 Design Firms” list consecutively for nearly three decades. The company also has appeared several times on The Zweig Letter’s “Hot Firm List” as one of the fastest-growing architecture, engineering, planning and environmental consulting firms in the U.S. and Canada. In 2008, the firm was named on AARP’s “Top 50 U.S. Employers for Workers 50 and Over” list. Professional organizations such as the American Council of Engineering Companies, American Public Works Association, American Society of Civil Engineers, Illinois Engineering Council and National Society of Professional Engineers have honored Hanson and its employees, clients and projects with multiple awards.
In 2011, Hanson received the Secretary of Defense Freedom Award from the National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve. It is the federal government’s highest recognition of employers for the support of employees who serve in the National Guard and reserves.
The firm’s leadership has included Leo “Lee” Dondanville, P.E., S.E., president and CEO from 1976 to 1990; Eugene “Gene” Wilkinson, P.E., S.E., president and CEO from 1990 to 1999, chairman and chairman emeritus from 1999 to present; Sergio “Satch” Pecori, P.E., president and CEO from 1999 to 2016 and chairman from 2016 to present; and Jeff Ball, P.E., president from 2016 to present.