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Hanson couple excels at love and engineering

They met in a differential equations class when the desire for a date masqueraded as a request for tutoring. Fast forward a few decades, which have included 35 years of marriage and two daughters, and you will find them leading numerous roadway and other infrastructure projects at Hanson’s regional office in Jacksonville, Florida.

“We often joke about how we met,” Hanson Senior Project Manager Chantal Bowen, P.E., said of her husband, Senior Vice President and Senior Project Manager Jeff Bowen, P.E. “Jeff asked for some ‘tutoring help.’ He did not need tutoring.” 

Photo taken in 1981 of a man and woman embracing on stairs
Jeff and Chantal Bowen met in 1981, during their college years at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

A decade with Hanson

Hanson welcomed Jeff and Chantal in 2013, as part of its acquisition of Bowen Civil Engineering Inc. The couple also worked together for several years at RS&H in Jacksonville after graduating in 1985 from the University of Florida in Gainesville, each with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. 

“Working together was not something we had planned to do,” Chantal recalled, “but times were tough back then, and we were just happy to be offered jobs.”

Before joining Hanson, they spent a lengthy stretch of their careers at different firms, as Jeff spent nearly 28 years at RS&H, including 10 years as a senior vice president, while Chantal departed after seven years to found Bowen Civil Engineering.

“I’m proud of Chantal for successfully running a small engineering firm for 18 years and being recognized as a leader in our regional industry,” Jeff said. “However, what stands out to me the most is her ability to balance work and family and how she has served as a role model to our daughters. She has been successful not only at work, but at being there for our family. I can recall her missing very few swim meets or volleyball games.”

Chantal admires her husband’s way of turning clients into friends. “I have watched him gain the respect, trust and friendship of so many people. He would much rather pick up the phone to call someone than send that easy email, and those one-on-one discussions go a long way. Through his relationships, his leadership and the leadership of others in Florida, Hanson has become a common name in the engineering community throughout our state.” 

Photo of six people, with two holding award plaques.
Jeff Bowen, second from left, and Chantal Bowen, center, accept the Outstanding Special Project Award from the American Council of Engineering Companies of Florida (ACEC-FL) for the Florida Department of Transportation District 2 State AIA/San Marco Intersection Improvements project in May 2022 during the ACEC-FL Transportation Conference in Orlando, Florida.

Engineering in the blood

In their time with Hanson, Jeff and Chantal have worked separately on many projects but have recently converged on some, including joining forces to help the Florida Department of Transportation’s (FDOT) District 2 apply for state and federal funding for high-priority roadway resiliency projects in Northeast Florida in the wake of Hurricane Ian. They will also team up for an upcoming State Road A1A trail project in Vilano Beach, Florida.

The couple has found that sharing an occupation and an employer can translate into difficulty leaving work at work.

“We try not to talk about professional matters during off time, but I must confess I am the culprit when it happens,” Chantal said. “Fortunately, Jeff is good at redirecting the conversation.”

“Yes,” he agreed. “I’m usually the one who has to say, ‘OK, it’s after 5!”

Engineering hasn’t permeated just their dinners, though; it’s colored their family.

“Three of our younger family members have followed our path,” Jeff said, “including our daughter, Kelsey, and two of our nephews.” One of those nephews is Hanson Assistant Vice President and Florida Disciplines Manager Clint Smith, P.E., CFM, who also works within the infrastructure market at the Jacksonville office.

“We encouraged math and sciences with our two daughters, Kelsey and Taylor, who became a chemical engineer and a physician assistant, respectively,” Chantal said. “Our nephew, Clint, mentioned the other day that we influenced him to pursue engineering when he was young.”

Better together

Chantal noted that their mutual love for engineering has enriched their relationship. “We complement each other well,” she said. “Where I may be weaker, Jeff is strong, and vice versa. Recognizing that has helped us to support each other when needed. 

Couple embraces outdoors at restaurant table
This year, Chantal and Jeff mark 10 years working at Hanson. 

“I love that we can share the friendships and good times we’ve experienced at Hanson — the project wins, the success stories, the social events and working as a team with everyone,” she added.

When it comes to the future, neither Jeff nor Chantal would change much about their tandem journey.

“As time goes on, we hope to remain a part of this wonderful and exciting field as long as we bring value to Hanson and maintain client relationships that go beyond engineering,” Jeff said.

“We hope to continue to help Hanson grow statewide,” Chantal agreed. “Whether a project is a transportation corridor, a recreational park, a new campus dormitory or a fire station, I hope our end results are always happy clients and projects that offer the public safe usage and passage.”

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