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Alumni Q&A: Civil Engineer Edward Fitzpatrick Jr.

Written by: Allison Preston

A civil engineering veteran and Army Corps veteran, Edward B. Fitzpatrick Jr. has over 50 years’ experience in the field. He shared his wisdom with civil engineering senior, Julian Mancini, who has quite a bit in common with Fitzpatrick. Both are from Long Island, New York, and chose to attend the University of Notre Dame. They were also drawn to the profession by their fathers, who practiced civil engineering. Fitzpatrick opened up about his education at the University of Notre Dame, the early days of his career, and the advice that led him to success.

Mancini: What were some of your favorite classes while studying at Notre Dame?

Fitzpatrick: Structural Design courses. They really helped me when I started my own business and helped me to understand the design of the structures I was building. What I learned from my professors at Notre Dame helped prepare me for the jobs I had later on. It took me a little longer to learn because it was something new to me. But on the job, it all came back to me.

Mancini: You’ve experienced a lot of different fields within civil engineering; you’ve done design, construction, consulting. Which of those did you enjoy most?

Fitzpatrick: My Dad did design work all his life and I told him I was interested in construction. His advice was, for the first eight or ten years just work on design. And his reasoning was because, as you go through construction and issues come up, you have a better idea of what went wrong because you were part of the design. And I have to say, that’s one of the smartest things my Dad ever told me. When problems came up during a project that were design related, I had answers to it. And the other advantage is that maybe along the way you’ll find somebody that’s interested in backing you.

But I always enjoyed the water, and I really loved marine construction. If you go to New York City, there’s a whole seawall built around Battery Park. I built that whole thing. I didn’t do the design, but when issues came up with the project, my background in design and knowledge of marine construction helped me to solve problems and lead the engineers. 

Mancini: What are some of the large-scale projects your firm has completed?

Fitzpatrick: My firm completed about $1.4 billion in heavy construction. We built the 18-miles of the Dade County elevated transit system in Florida, completed a section of the New York City subway in Queens and a section of the Atlanta subway system. We completed several bridges including a bridge over the Hackensack River, a bridge over the Passaic River for the New Jersey Turnpike, across Narragansett Bay, and completed several bridges for the New York Central Railroad.

Mancini: You’ve also worked on smaller projects, I saw that you worked on the schools and churches in the Diocese of Rockville Center on Long Island.

Fitzpatrick: This was in the 80s. My dear friend, Bishop Ryan, heard about me and called me one day. He loved construction and said he thought the diocese was losing money on a construction project. He said I want you to look at two churches for me. I couldn’t say no to him.

During a six-year period, we had constructed or expanded over 40 churches, numerous rectories, schools, and gyms. All of them were completed on time and within budget.

Mancini: What job were you most proud of?

Fitzpatrick: I built an ocean outfall across Great South Bay into the Atlantic Ocean. The way my partner and I had built it, from what I know, nobody else in the country has built something like this.

Mancini: What advice do you have about getting past challenging points in your career?

Fitzpatrick: There were two Dominican priests I had as theology professors when I was at Notre Dame. They were both World War II chaplains. They were the best theology teachers I had. I remember they said, “As you go through life you’re going to be asked to do something you know is wrong. You’ll know it’s wrong if you go home that night and are ashamed to tell your family what you did.” I took that philosophy through my whole career.

Mancini: Knowing several engineers throughout your years working, what would you say to Notre Dame civil engineering students who are preparing to graduate?

Fitzpatrick: My advice would be to think about what you want to do. I knew I wanted to be in construction. You may want to be on the design side of engineering your whole life. If that’s what you want to do, that’s what you should do. When I came home for Christmas in my last year of undergrad I had five job interviews. Nobody asked about my grades, they asked me what courses I had taken, and I received five offers.

Mancini: What advice do you have for civil engineers who would be interested in starting their own firm like you did? That’s something I hear from peers and other engineers. They would be interested in starting their own firm rather staying in a large firm, but they don’t know how to do it.

Fitzpatrick: I always wanted to start my own construction company. The first thing is you need money. I had the money indirectly through Notre Dame. After working for other firms I had a guy a class ahead of me, Don Matthews say, “We want you to start your own construction company so you can build all the piers on Staten Island. But in the meantime, start bidding on the kind of work you like.” They helped finance me to get started. I worked with the banks, I got loans, but it’s tough to start.


Edward B. Fitzpatrick, Jr. is the retired owner of Fitzpatrick McGoldrick and Associates. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1954 and now serves on the Advisory Council for the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering & Earth Sciences at the University of Notre Dame.

Mancini


Julian Mancini is a junior civil engineering major at Notre Dame from Huntington, New York. He is Vice President of Notre Dame’s student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers, also serving as a captain of the AISC/ASCE Steel Bridge team and as a member of the PCI Big Beam competition team. He hopes to become a structural design engineer in New York.