The Rochester Engineering Society is honoring nine local leaders in their field Saturday at the 117th annual gala.
Founded in 1897, RES has held a gala every year since 1903 to recognize local engineers for outstanding community service. It also applauds activities that promote engineering excellence and leadership in the Rochester area.
In addition to the awards presentation, Saturday’s gala at the Joseph A. Floreano Rochester Riverside Convention Center will feature more than $20,000 in scholarships being awarded to local high school and college students.
The Engineer of the Year award and the Kate Gleason Young Engineer award recognize individuals in the field for outstanding professional achievements, community service and active promotion of engineering excellence and leadership in the Rochester area.
The Engineer of the Year award will be given to Donald P. Nims, a principal at Bergmann and the firm’s practice leader in the hydro power systems division.
The Kate Gleason Young Engineer award will be given to Brett Eliasz, the electrical discipline leader at Bergmann.
Being honored as finalists for the Kate Gleason Young Engineer award are Jessica F. Bull, project engineer/mechanical engineer at CHA Consulting; Jonathan Terrance, senior mechanical engineer and project manager at Optimation Technology, Inc.; and Caroline Wheadon, hydropower discipline leader and project manager at LaBella Associates.
Engineers of Distinction are Carl W. Eller, senior project manager at Cornerstone Environmental Group; James A. Kaniecki, senior structural engineer in the transportation division at LaBella; Steven Longway, vice president and project manager at LaBella and Rich Rappa, senior vice president, senior principal engineer and manufacturing and energy market leader at CHA Consulting.
Engineer of the Year
Donald P. Nims Jr. P.E.
Principal and practice leader of the hydropower group
Donald Nims has been a pillar of the Rochester engineering community for over 30 years.
Throughout his career, Nims has distinguished himself as a construction engineer, design engineer, project engineer, project manager and business leader for dam, highway, bridge and historic lock restoration projects. In his current role, he focuses on expanding Bergmann’s hydropower practice.
Previously, Nims served as Bergmann’s Director of Quality and Risk, working on risk management, strategic planning, contract negotiation and financial analysis. He has devised and implemented strategies for quality improvement, provided career development opportunities for staff, and improved cost efficiency without sacrificing quality.
Nims, a graduate of Clarkson University’s civil engineering program, began his career at Bechtel Power Corporation in Gaithersburg, Maryland. He moved to Rochester in 1985 to take a position with Clark Patterson Associates, where he completed the design of over 25 bridges and 20 miles of highway projects. From 2001 to 2005 he served as an associate principal at Wendel Duchscherer in Buffalo.
Nims says his most rewarding professional accomplishment has been working with a group of experts to design the historic rehabilitation of the Flight of Five locks on the Erie Canal, helping to transform the City of Lockport.
He has been involved in professional organizations as a past president of the Rochester Engineering Society and the New York State Society for Professional Engineers. There, he played a role in implementing mandatory continuing education and a new law for permissible forms of ownership.
In the community, Nims is on the Mary Cariola Children’s Center board of directors, scores tests at the Mathcounts competition for middle school students, interviews scholarship candidates, and speaks often to young engineers to encourage them to pursue professional licensure.
Kate Gleason Young Engineer of the Year
Brett C. Eliasz
Electrical Discipline Leader
Brett Eliasz works to promote continuing education in the Rochester engineering community while managing award-winning projects.
Eliasz started at Bergmann in 2004 as a design engineer and worked his way up, becoming electrical discipline leader in 2016. His work ethic was honed at a young age, from working on a farm in his youth to taking part-time electrician work during college, a job that provided invaluable hands-on experience as he pursued a career in electrical engineering.
A certified professional engineer in 12 states, Eliasz has led various power, lighting, security, fire safety, communication and audio-visual projects. He and Bergmann’s electrical team have contributed to award-winning projects such as the RGRTA Transit Center, Bergmann Tower 280 office renovation, and the restoration of Hayes Hall at the University at Buffalo. Eliasz is particularly proud of his work on the addition of specialty exterior lighting to Building 28’s Kodak Theatre at Eastman Business Park.
In his leadership role, Eliasz oversees a 10-person engineering team that coordinates hundreds of projects annually, providing assistance and quality checks on the majority of electrical design projects. Eliasz enjoys providing expertise and knowledge to his staff and the greater Rochester community. He leads technical seminars for senior and junior electrical engineering staff and provides guidance to younger engineers.
Eliasz joined the Rochester Engineering Society board in February 2018 and has begun contributing technical write-ups for the society’s monthly magazine, aiming to strengthen the engineering community’s overall knowledge. He also prizes community involvement. Eliasz works with young students at Dr. Walter Cooper Academy through the RES’ tutoring program and participates annually in the Rochester Clean Sweep program.
Kate Gleason Young Engineer of the Year Finalists
CHA Consulting, Inc.
Since joining CHA Consulting Inc., Jessica Bull has become a highly regarded engineer known for her outstanding leadership skills and passion for energy efficiency.
Bull has been promoted three times since starting with CHA in 2013 and has managed dozens of energy analyses and potential energy conservation measures for large manufacturing, industrial and commercial mechanical systems. Her work on behalf of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) has resulted in substantial energy cost savings for CHA’s clients.
“During these five years, I worked hard to earn my place in the engineering community, and luckily I have found the perfect home at CHA,” Bull said.
Bull earned a psychology degree from Binghamton University and worked as an insurance agent until deciding to change careers, turning to the engineering field. She went back to school, earning an associate’s degree in engineering science from Broome Community College and then her bachelor’s and master’s in mechanical engineering from the Rochester Institute of Technology.
Bull devotes time to the Society of Women Engineers as an outreach chair and board member and is also a member of the Association of Energy Engineers and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers. She was recently selected to present a workshop at the World Energy Engineering Congress.
Bull participates in the Habitat for Humanity Women’s Build as a fundraiser and builder. She works to bring more young women into engineering, speaks to classes about STEM careers and has organized an Explorers Post for high school girls to learn about different areas of the field.
“I try and reach as many young women as possible to let them know that engineering is not just a viable and lucrative career, but one that is rewarding,” she said.
Jonathan A. Terrance
Senior mechanical engineer and project manager
Optimation Technology Inc.
Jonathan Terrance is known for his expertise in glass batch projects, work ethic and commitment to inspiring youth to pursue engineering.
As a senior mechanical engineer and project manager for Optimation Technology, Terrance manages multiple glass batch projects domestically and internationally. He is involved in developing proposals, travels to multiple locations for equipment inspections and testing, has supported installation at glass facilities in Asia and has begun mentoring a recently hired engineer to continue growing Optimation’s glass batch business. He has managed projects ranging up to $1.5 million and has served as engineering manager on several larger projects.
Terrance began by learning the fundamentals of designing and engineering glass batching systems and has grown into one of Optimation’s most knowledgeable engineers and leaders on those projects. Through his continued growth within Optimation’s glass business, he has strived for continuous improvement and efficiency and is working on developing a training manual that can be used to bring new engineers up to speed.
While he currently focuses on glass, Terrance has experience in a variety of mechanical applications, including consumer products, oil and gas, high-pressure test systems, food processing, and material handling.
A father of three, Terrance believes in the importance of inspiring future generations to become engineers. He was inspired by his own grandfather, a retired iron worker who helped erect the Rochester skyline and shaped his work ethic, commitment to family and personal humility. Terrance coached a FIRST Lego League Jr. team for Rochester School 52, teaching a team of kindergarteners about simple machines and their use in everyday life. Together, the team created a Lego model of their school building.
Terrance is a member of Friends of Ganondagan and the American Indian Science and Engineering Society.
Hydropower discipline leader
As leader of LaBella Associates’ hydropower unit, Caroline Wheadon skillfully leads a group of five managers and engineers in a growing sector.
Since coming on board in January 2014, Wheadon has built LaBella’s hydropower business into a dedicated team that generates nearly $1 million in annual gross revenue. The growth of hydropower projects during her time at LaBella led to the formal creation of a dedicated hydropower discipline in 2017 with Wheadon leading a team of six project managers and engineers.
Colleagues say Wheadon is known for a combination of advanced technical knowledge and communication and organizational skills. She values open communication among her colleagues, setting aside an hour every two weeks with each of her direct reports to give them her undivided attention.
In addition to supervising the hydropower unit, Wheadon currently manages several projects including RG&E’s $70 million project to upgrade and expand Station 2, a hydropower plant located at the base of High Falls scheduled for completion in 2025. She has led several other notable hydropower projects over the last decade.
Before joining LaBella, Wheadon worked as an environmental engineer in New York City and New Jersey, then worked as a contract engineer to Rochester Gas and Electric and New York State Electric and Gas. Throughout her career, she has built her experience by regularly requesting additional assignments and tasks to expand her knowledge.
Wheadon believes in promoting the engineering profession to students. She has hosted students for externships and job shadow programs, serves as an ambassador for her alma mater at college fairs, and discusses higher education and STEM careers at local schools.
A mother of two young daughters, Wheadon serves as a parent volunteer at her child’s school and is part of a group of working mothers who adopt families for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Engineers of Distinction
Carl W. Eller
Senior Project Manager
Cornerstone Environmental Group
Over his 40-year career in environmental and geotechnical engineering, Carl Eller has focused on projects that improve communities and the environment.
Eller, a senior project manager at Cornerstone Environmental Group, is heralded by his peers as a pillar of the local engineering profession, an ethical practitioner, and a role model for younger engineers who leads by example.
Eller has been active in the Rochester engineering community since 1975, working at several other firms before starting at Cornerstone in October 2011. He manages projects at the environmental consulting company and provides technical expertise for Cornerstone projects in several states. Previously, he managed the environmental departments of Erdman Anthony and Associates, Fisher Associates, and the Rochester office of Eckenfelder.
Having participated in a wide range of geotechnical and environmental projects during his career, Eller feels fortunate to have been involved with local projects including the Strong Museum, Hampton Corners Mine environmental permitting, and New York State Superfund projects.
“I do not have a single greatest engineering achievement, but rather look back and hopefully see a career where I might have made a difference and helped coworkers, the environment, and the community as a whole,” he said.
Eller mentors and develops younger Cornerstone staff members and is an active member of multiple professional organizations. A past president of the Rochester section of the American Society of Civil Engineers, he was named ASCE Rochester Section Engineer of the Year in 2003 and made a life member in 2016. Eller also helped found the annual Engineering Symposium in Rochester, which has grown over 15 years to attract 450 attendees and nearly 40 presenters.
He and his wife, Janet, have been married 46 years and have two sons—both engineers—and five grandchildren.
Senior Structural Engineer, Transportation Division
Throughout his long career, James Kaniecki has been known for supervising award-winning bridge projects, being active in the community, and mentoring younger engineers.
Kaniecki, a licensed professional engineer in New York with over 40 years of experience, has worked at LaBella Associates since 2005. He previously worked at Bergmann Associates, Steve M. Saiki P.C., and Erdman Anthony and Associates. Kaniecki was named Civil Engineer of the Year by the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Rochester section in 2011.
An expert at transportation projects who engineers highway, rail and pedestrian facilities, Kaniecki recently worked on the design for Rochester’s Amtrak train station, leading a challenging project in which he supervised structural design of the pedestrian tunnel below the railroad tracks, the high platform between the tracks, and the concourse structure. The project received an ACEC NY Diamond Award in 2018. He also serves as a mentor to junior staff.
According to Kaniecki, his greatest engineering achievement was designing the twin concrete bridges on Rochester’s Outer Loop over the Genesee River, running through Genesee Valley Park. This was the first segmental, balanced cantilever, concrete box girder bridge built in the Northeast.
Outside of his project management duties, Kaniecki mentors young and mid-level staff members and develops rapport with his team members.
“Engineering is a very exciting and rewarding career,” he said. “Engineers, through their inventions and design, make a positive impact on everyday life.”
Community involvement is important to Kaniecki. He is a deacon, choir member, finance committee member and property maintenance crew member at Penfield Presbyterian Church. He has also volunteered with Habitat for Humanity.
Kaniecki received his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Tri-State College and his master’s from the University of Minnesota. He and his wife, Tamara, have two grown sons.
Senior Electrical Engineer and Vice President
As business development and marketing manager for LaBella Associates, Steven Longway is recognized as a natural leader with a relentless work ethic, business sense and commitment to his work.
Longway has worked for LaBella Associates since 2006 after beginning his career as an electrical engineer for the Federal Aviation Administration. He was promoted to electrical discipline manager in 2011, then to his current role in 2017.
Since coming to LaBella, Longway has worked on projects in facilities, utility power systems and renewable generation. He helped to advance LaBella’s work in high-voltage power systems and has developed a diverse client base. In his current role, he focuses on building new business and expanding LaBella’s existing business.
Longway secures client relationships and project work across LaBella’s divisions, but continues to play a significant role in the growth of the electrical discipline, which has dramatically increased in both staff size and its scope of services provided over the past few years. He also continues to manage projects.
Colleagues say Longway takes pride in his work, mentors and motivates his team members, and is widely recognized and respected in the local electrical engineering community.
Longway recently began working with the Rochester chapter of the Design-Build Institute of America and has regularly donated time to share the various facets of the profession with high school and college students. Recently, Longway has presented on sustainable design techniques for a Rochester Institute of Technology class, served as an industry mentor for Webster Central School District’s Young Entrepreneurs Academy, and is assisting Houghton College in developing course content and offerings as they start an electrical engineering program. As a parent of two young children, he is active in Cub Scouts and his school district’s parent-teacher organizations.
Richard F. Rappa
Retired senior vice president
CHA Consulting Inc.
Over his long engineering career, Richard Rappa has promoted energy efficiency through various projects and as program director to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).
Rappa retired in January from CHA Consulting, where he served as senior vice president as well as president of CHA Canada. He started at the firm in 1999 to begin a manufacturing market, expanding his practice to energy conservation work. Under Rappa’s leadership, CHA has become a prominent technical service provider to utility and state-based energy efficiency programs. CHA’s manufacturing group is now ranked the eighth largest in the United States in project revenue by Engineering News Record.
Rappa began his career working for Mobil Chemical Company’s plastic packaging division in Macedon for 12 years. He then worked for Bausch + Lomb’s contact lens division, leading the development and implementation of high-volume, low-cost manufacturing for disposable lenses in the United States and Ireland, before returning to Mobil as Director of Global Engineering and Environmental Health and Safety, working to expand Mobil’s facilities worldwide.
Rappa is a member of the International District Energy Association, Association of Energy Engineers, Association of Facilities Engineers, and the Manufacturing Association of Central New York. In 2016, he was named AAE Energy Engineer of the Year for the Northeast region.
Rappa has volunteered with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s Rochester chapter for over 15 years. In 2007, he initiated and continues to administer CHA’s Adam L. Lawas Scholarship, presented annually to an engineering student.
Rappa believes in helping others in the engineering profession. “Throughout my career I have always shared my knowledge for the continued development of those in the engineering profession, not only within the companies I’ve worked with, but also locally, statewide, and nationally through many technical associations.”
Amanda Renko is a Rochester-area freelance writer.