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Dennis Sugumele: Engineer of Distinction

Dennis Sugumele knows he made a wise decision in the 1960s to follow his cousin to college and then into engineering. His cousin was one of the first in their family to attend college, staying in their hometown of Philadelphia to study at Drexel Institute of Technology. Inspired, Sugumele followed suit.

“Drexel’s co-op program was a godsend,” Sugumele says. “It not only provided the opportunity to get about 19 months of practical industry experience with the Army Corps of Engineers, the city of Philadelphia and a number of engineering consulting companies, but also helped cover expenses through the salaries I received.”

Sugumele graduated in 1968 from Drexel Tech, now Drexel University, with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. He moved to Rochester when he landed a job with the state Department of Health as engineer in charge of the industrial water pollution program in an 11-county region.

He worked for the first two years out of an office on the 10th floor of the old Commerce Building, where the Joseph A. Floreano Rochester Riverside Convention Center now stands. After two years downtown, Sugumele transferred to a new state agency, the Department of Environmental Conservation, and moved to the DEC offices in East Avon.

Sugumele worked for the state for 11 years before joining Rochester Gas and Electric Corp. as manager of energy services. He spent 15 years at RG&E and another 15 with gas supplier Dominion Transmission (formerly CNG Transmission) as manager of interstate marketing.

The Pennsylvania native made the Rochester area his home for 40 years before moving to Virginia in 2008 to work at Dominion’s headquarters in Richmond. He retired in 2009 and formed a consulting firm, D.J. Sugumele & Associates LLC.

Engineering provided a foundation for Sugumele to explore variety throughout his career.

“The engineering profession has been very good to me,” he says.

Among Sugumele’s engineering achievements is leading the team that designed and implemented the RG&E Ginna Nuclear Power Plant Emergency Alert System, still operational after 32 years.

Sugumele is a long-time Rochester Engineering Society member who served on the RES board for 10 years and, in 2006, transformed the Engineers Ball into the present-day gala. 

He also has been a board member of Veterans Outreach Center and a volunteer reader for WXXI Reachout Radio. Sugumele and his wife, Marcia, a former Penfield town board member, have been involved with Camp Good Days and Special Times for years.

Philanthropy was part of Sugumele’s role at Dominion Transmission. The Dominion Foundation advisory board, of which he was a part, recommended and distributed grants of more than $100,000 annually in New York. The foundation has supported, among other institutions, the Veterans Outreach Center, Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, Memorial Art Gallery, George Eastman Museum and Rochester Museum & Science Center. 

“Maintain balance in your life,” Sugumele advises aspiring engineers, “ensuring an overall balance between job, family and community, and personal needs.”

Richard Zitrin is a Rochester-area freelance writer.

4/8/2016 (c) 2016 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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