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Civil Engineering Alumnus Named Georgia Engineer of the Year

Raymond J. Wilke, UC CEAS civil engineering alumnus, was bestowed the 2016 Georgia Engineer of the Year in Government Award for his outstanding contributions to the engineering profession, the public welfare and humankind.

Date: 3/14/2017
By: Ashley Duvelius
Phone: (513) 556-9181
Ray Wilke (left) with his wife and family at the awards ceremony.
Ray Wilke (left) with his wife and family at the awards ceremony.

University of Cincinnati College of Engineering and Applied Science civil engineering ’81 alumnus, Raymond J. Wilke, PE, ENV SP, CFM, CPESC, M. ASCE, is the recipient of the 2016 Georgia Engineer of the Year in Government Award. Boasting more than 35 years of experience in a wide array of civil engineering, environmental, water resources and transportation projects, Wilke is being recognized for his outstanding contributions to the engineering profession, the public welfare and humankind.

“Our communities depend on and need professional engineers who are passionate about their work. Wilke’s professional innovation and cost saving projects, and his ethical leadership in civil engineering ensures that the citizens of Georgia receive the best engineering services that help protect our communities and keep our environment healthy, safe, and thriving for future generations,” says Jo Ann J. Macrina, PE and past winner of the Engineer of the Year in Government Award.

Wilke currently serves as Senior Watershed Director of the Department of Watershed Management for the City of Atlanta. He previously held the roles of deputy commissioner, principal, senior director, chief engineer, chief building official, city engineer, program manager, lead designer, design project manager and construction project manager as both a consultant and owner’s engineer.

Wilke reflects, “For me, receiving this award affirms my ability to demonstrate that service to the public is an honor and requires every bit as much knowledge, skill, and energy in the public sector as it does in the private sector where I have spent most of my career. Government service is noble and very rewarding when we can perform to our given talents. It also makes me proud to say that I am a UC Bearcat as I can attest to the strength of the engineering programs at UC.”

Wilke has managed and designed numerous projects for municipal, state, federal and industrial owners across 13 states and Washington, D.C. He is currently registered in three states and his expertise spans from large and small projects in the commercial/industrial to municipal/government sectors. He states his proudest projects include the design of Beltline Freeway for the Oregon Department of Transportation; the design of California State Route 237 widening in San Jose, Calif.; the design of a bike path along the Columbia River for Clark County, Wash.; the design and construction of the Loudon Oil Field Tertiary Recovery Facility in Effingham, Ill.; and the design of constructed wetlands for Fulton County, Ga.

Wilke at a job site in GA.
Wilke at a job site in GA.

Wilke is a Certified Floodplain Manager, a Certified Professional in Erosion & Sediment Control, an Envision Sustainability Professional and a Certified NPDES Trainer by the Georgia Soil & Water Conservation Commission. He has authored several papers and presented at more than six national engineering conferences on topics of stormwater, floodplains, asset management and utility management.

Wilke is the member of many professional organizations such as Tau Beta Pi, Chi Epsilon, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the Georgia Association of Water Professionals, and the American Water Works Association. He serves as the Professional Engineer member of the State Water Well Standards Advisory Council and was a Past President of ASCE Georgia Section. He currently serves as Past-President of the Georgia Engineering Foundation.

He has been the recipient of numerous awards including 2004 Civil Engineer of the Year by ASCE, Georgia Section; 2009 Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement Award for the Natural Environment by ASCE, Georgia Section, for his role in the award winning design of the Snapfinger Creek Streambank Stabilization and Constructed Wetlands project at Pine Lake, Ga.; and the 2004 Best Development Project by the Citizens Commission on the Environment for his leadership of Quality Assurance/Control for the award winning design of the Trammel Crow Park Wetlands Project for Fulton County.

Additionally, Wilke has served as Chief Engineer of Development for Fulton County as a private consultant. His efforts in this position culminated in Fulton County Government declaring May 22, 2000 as “Raymond J. Wilke Appreciation Day.” Subsequently, Wilke performed program and construction management work for the county on more than 45 facilities, transportation and water/wastewater capital program projects.

He asserts, “By far, I am proudest of the engineering teams that I have led through the years in various locations and circumstances and the rapport that I have kept with many of those folks over the years. We worked hard together in an atmosphere of mutual respect and professionalism in the service of our customers and the public — our role as civil engineers. I had many great teachers, coaches and mentors through the years and now trust that my current and more recent staffs have seen me in that light.”

Wilke with his wife, Georgia, and two daughters, Vanessa and Liezl.
Wilke with his wife, Georgia, and two daughters, Vanessa and Liezl.

Wilke was born and raised in Westwood, a suburb of Cincinnati. He is the oldest of six kids to Heinz and Ann Wilke. The seed of a future prospect in civil engineering was planted during Wilke’s eighth grade Career Day at St. Martin Catholic School. Recognized by teachers for having an aptitude for math and science, a career in computers and accounting was suggested to him. However, Wilke had read a career guidance book and discovered the world of surveyors which piqued his interest with its combination of math/science and outdoor work.

He recalls, “My parents discussed the various careers I noted in the book, educated themselves, and asked, ‘Why not be a civil engineer?’ They seem to have more education and prestige, and overall seem to require more talents and handle big responsibilities vs surveyors. My own research furthered these findings, and so it was set — I would pursue a degree in civil engineering — the Master Builders.”

Upon graduating from Western Hills High School, Wilke began his academic career at the University of Evansville (UE) in Evansville, Ind. Pete Rose, who was also a Western Hills High alum, was Wilke’s childhood hero, and though he dreamed of being a Cincinnati Reds baseball player, he states his pitching was not quite up to major league par. In its stead, Wilke lettered as a freshman collegiate soccer player and pursued civil engineering first at UE.

Though he enjoyed his solo adventure in southern Indiana, Wilke quickly learned that UE was not an accredited civil engineering program and therefore, he would have to wait an astonishing eight years to take the PE license exam. Graduates of an accredited program, such as UC, would only wait a mere four years to be examined.

“Knowing how important a PE license is for civil engineers who design and build infrastructure on which the public and our nation relies, I knew it was time for me to return home to UC and the fine school I had opted out of to be on my own for a couple of years,” explains Wilke.

As the founder of cooperative education in 1906, UC CEAS better suited Wilke and his “Wilke Work Ethic.” While attending UE, he had sought out and secured his own co-op position with the State of Indiana’s rehabilitation of aging railroad trackage. UC encouraged, assisted and placed Wilke in mandatory co-op assignments with the Chief Engineer of the Western Pacific Railroad in San Francisco, Calif.

Ray at the Cincinnati Reds Fantasy Camp.
Ray at the Cincinnati Reds Fantasy Camp.

Wilke describes, “Chief Engineer Yund, a fellow UC alumnus, took me under his wing and saw to it that I was given a different assignment each quarter. I went from surveying, to track design and finished working in field ops — maintenance-of-way under the District Engineer in Sacramento, Calif. I like to say that engineering school does not equip you to become an expert overnight or make you that much smarter than others. It teaches you a disciplined approach to problem-solving, which you can apply to most any problem or situation. Between these varied co-op experiences and my civil engineering professors — like my Department Head, Dr. James McDonough as well as Professors Bodocsi and Basehart — who gave us the theoretical and practical insights into hydraulics, hydrology, concrete and steel, along with engineering economics and construction management, I felt ready to take on the world when I graduated!”

After graduating with his BS, Cum Laude, in civil engineering in 1981, Wilke’s first career positions were with Production Development of Exxon Co., USA in Texas, Land Development design in San Jose, Calif., and finally, water/wastewater consulting in Atlanta, Ga. He went on to complete his MBA at Georgia State University and with the support of his wife, Georgia, and their two daughters, Vanessa and Liezl, he began his own firm in 1997, GeoRay, Inc. Prior to his venture, he was a Manager of Civil Engineering for a regional, multi-office consulting firm and Lead Civil Engineer for an international consulting firm.

Today, Wilke enjoys working to increase scholarship needs awareness and funding as Past-President of the Georgia Engineering Foundation and in partnership with the University of Cincinnati Foundation. He has served on the CEAS Advisory Board and hopes to serve in a national office with ASCE.  As a strong advocate for infrastructure funding at the Federal and State level, Wilke visits Congress and the Georgia Legislature annually while in session.

The future’s world of possibilities is what excites him now. Wilke fondly remarks, “Very soon is less work and more play. My family and I love to explore and travel. We have been to all 50 states with our two daughters and have visited every Major League Ballpark. I plan to return again next year for my third Cincinnati Reds Fantasy Camp at Baseball Heaven in Goodyear, Ariz. My wife and I have trips planned to Europe and a Panama Canal cruise… But perhaps I’ll even run for State Office one day.”