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Inspired: A signature structure sparks Jared Thoele’s pursuit of engineering career

a photo of jared thoele
Jared Thoele, P.E., S.E., celebrated 10 years of service with Hanson in 2021. He provides structural design, construction observation and bridge inspections for roadway and railway projects nationwide.

Little did he know at the time, but a memorable trip to Alton, Illinois, following the Great Flood of 1993, would spark an interest in bridge building for then-6-year-old Jared Thoele.

“Like many other structural engineers, I grew up playing with Legos and Lincoln Logs,” Jared said. But it was the trip to Alton, which had experienced a devastating, record-breaking flood, that captured Jared’s attention and interest in bridges and structures.

“I still remember driving down to Alton with my parents to witness the effects of the flood for ourselves. As we were driving through the area, I saw a bridge under construction and thought it was the coolest thing.

“What I don’t remember is the conversation I had with my mom; however, she reminds me all the time. She tells me that I asked her who designed and built that bridge, and I told her that I wanted to work for them,” Jared recalls.

Interest in bridge building spans decades

Decades earlier, another young man had his first glimpse of bridge engineering and of his future career while growing up in rural Kansas.

clark bridge
The award-winning Clark Bridge over the Mississippi River in Alton, Illinois, was designed by Hanson and completed in 1993.

Walter Hanson observed intently as the state highway department constructed a new bridge over Salt Creek near the Hansons’ family farm. Watching that structure develop impressed the young Hanson. Years later, he became the engineer of bridge and traffic structures for the state of Illinois. And, in 1954, he started his own engineering company that came to be known for bridge design: Walter E. Hanson and Associates, known today as Hanson Professional Services Inc.

Thirty years later, Walt’s firm was hired by the Illinois Department of Transportation to design the new Clark Bridge in Alton. The bridge was under construction when Jared and his family visited Alton in 1993.

The 4,620-foot-long, cable-stayed Clark Bridge was the first bridge in the U.S. to feature a combination of dual-lane cables supported by single pylons. One of Hanson’s most high-profile, award-winning projects, the bridge and its construction story were captured by the Public Broadcasting Service on its NOVA program, “Super Bridge.”

Education and career come full circle

As the Clark Bridge took shape and rose from the Mississippi River, so did Jared’s dream of becoming a structural engineer. As the years passed, his Lego and Lincoln Log creations became more complex. Eventually, he pursued his dream, earning bachelor’s degrees in civil engineering and physics and a master’s degree in civil engineering.

In May 2011, Jared joined Hanson — the firm that he had told his mother all those years before that we wanted to work for as a structural engineer. “It’s funny how things come full circle sometimes,” Jared said.

a photo of jared thoele on a job site
Jared poses at the top of the Clark Bridge in Alton, Illinois, during a bridge inspection. When he was younger, the Clark Bridge project inspired Jared to pursue a career as a structural engineer.

Jared went on to earn his professional engineer license in 2015 and his structural engineer license in 2016. As a structural engineer, he has provided structural design, construction observation and bridge inspections for roadway and railway projects across Illinois and nationwide. These projects include the Springfield Rail Improvements Project in Springfield, Illinois, the McClugage Bridge over the Illinois River in Peoria and Tazewell counties, the Clark Bridge in Alton and the Glenn Highway bridge over the Eagle River in Anchorage, Alaska.

Jared also works to strengthen his technical and leadership capabilities and volunteers to serve the engineering industry and his community. He has served the Illinois Society of Professional Engineers’ (ISPE) Capital Chapter in several roles, including president, and organized the chapter’s annual golf outing to fund scholarships. Jared also is a member of the American Council of Engineering Companies’ (ACEC-IL) Illinois Department of Transportation Bridge Committee and the Illinois College Engineering Advisory Board. In 2021, he participated in the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Springfield program with co-worker Paige Remmert.

He was named Young Engineer of the Year by ISPE’s Capital Chapter in 2018 and received the 2021 Young Civil Engineer of the Year Award from the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Central Illinois Section. And he’s one of six finalists for ACEC-IL’s Emerging Professional of the Year Award, which will be announced in February.

“I have always enjoyed the critical thinking and complexity associated with structural engineering,” Jared said.

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