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In memorium: Joseph (Bud) Ahearn

Allison Preston • DATE: July 18, 2018

Retired Air Force Major General and former Senior Vice President for CH2M Hill, Joseph (Bud) Ahearn was 82 when he passed away at his home in Centennial, Colorado, on Tuesday, July 10.

Born in 1936 in Galesburg, Ill., Ahearn joined the Air Force in 1958 and rose through the ranks to become the senior civil engineer before retiring as a Major General in 1992. He earned several awards throughout his military career, including the Order of the Sword, the highest honor the Noncommissioned Officer Corps of the U.S. Air Force can bestow. Additionally, he received the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star and the Meritorious Service Medal.

Previously, Ahearn was the senior executive of engineering firm CH2M Hill. He also served as the vice chairman of the board, president of the transportation business group, eastern region manager, federal programs director and principal-in-charge for two major transportation corridor projects in California and a multi-billion dollar military base for U.S. and Korean forces in South Korea.

Ahearn graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a bachelor of science in civil engineering in 1958. He also graduated with a master’s of science from Syracuse University in 1967 and completed an advanced management program at Harvard University in 1988.

As an alum of the University of Notre Dame, Ahearn continued to be an active presence in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences (CEEES). He led Challenges and Innovation seminars on sustainable human development and was appointed as an advisory board member to the College of Engineering as well as the CEEES department. Furthermore, Ahearn supported the Joseph and Nona Ahearn Professorship in Computational Science and Engineering and established the Ahearn Family Donor Advised Fund.

Ahearn also created the Ahearn Family Directorship of the Notre Dame Engineering Grand Challenge Scholars Program, which seeks to prepare students to address the grand challenges they will face as engineers. The program encourages students to engage in transformational learning and research activities they are passionate about, inspiring them to the highest levels of scholarship and service as a reflection of their responsibilities as engineers and the Notre Dame mission.

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Ahearn's guiding philosophy was to "live life with purpose."

In addition to his military and professional roles, Ahearn was also elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2010, was a governing board member of Engineers Without Borders U.S.A., the president of the National Academy of Construction, a distinguished member of the American Society of Civil Engineers and a past national president of the Society of American Military Engineers. He was also a member of several military and civil engineering professional societies.

His other accomplishments include lifetime achievement awards from the Society of American Military Engineers, the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Construction Industry Institute.

Ahearn is preceded in death by his wife of 51 years, Nona Maria (Fallon) Ahearn. He is survived by his children, Stacia Ahearn Andrews, Gianna and Dave Zeh, Trienel and Jim Hickman, Fallon and Abbey Ahearn, and his sisters, Marcia (Ahearn) Gemmingen and Mary Janice (Ahearn) Zucchero, as well as several grandchildren.

Gifts in memory of Ahearn may be made to the University of Notre Dame in support of the Notre Dame Engineering Grand Challenges Scholars Program or Engineers Without Borders.

University of Notre Dame
Joseph A. Ahearn Memorial Fund
1100 Grace Hall
Notre Dame, IN 46556

Engineers Without Borders
1031 33rd St Suite 210
Denver, CO 80204