Your course on earth is run, Joseph William Lengyel, Jr., and it can be said: “Well done.”
Life began 6 Feb 1941 as part of a working family; 30 years from the day of birth of our 40th President. As with this great President, the faith that girded him in shaking the foundation of our Cold War adversary is the same faith that girded you and brought you to the service of our nation. That faith galvanized your life early when you lost your mother—a mother whose devotion to you was so deep that she insisted on being transported to your first communion on a stretcher so she could be part of that momentous day. She left you shortly thereafter. Your father remarried and gave you two brothers who became bonded to you as strongly as any biological brothers could have been. The years of your youth were filled with junior high football (earning you a screw in your arm from an injury), baseball and a prominent place in Westinghouse High School, Wilmerding, PA. As a senior, you were president of Student Council, on the yearbook staff, and received a Certificate of Merit from the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.
The 1959 high school graduation summer was all too short as you entered West Point with the Class of 1963. Cadet days were full with the activities of a new life style and in preparation for your Army career. Four years of Corps Squad gymnastics on the parallel bars helped the team achieve the 1962 Eastern Intercollegiate championship. The foundation of your faith was nurtured and grew as a member, secretary and, later, president of the Cardinal Newman Forum. Interest in Academy publications found you on the staff of the Pointer and Howitzer until the duties of the First Class year necessitated resignation. Academic excellence was reflected in the wearing of stars for all but your Plebe year. Through it all, you always found time to tutor Cadets who were having academic difficulties. Classmates and the officer staff recognized your leadership qualities, and you were awarded the position of brigade adjutant. Cadet days came to a close, and you left the Academy as a new lieutenant, bound for the Officer Basic Course in your chosen branch, the Corps of Engineers.
Six years of service provided diversified engineering, construction, and management assignments in Alaska, Virginia, and South Viet Nam. Duties varied from bridge, military base, and air field construction to construction of air craft revetments and highway design for the country of Viet Nam. The Alaska assignment brought the added experience of the infamous 27 Mar 1964 earthquake. Graduate studies in transportation engineering at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, provided the expertise needed for many of these assignments. Your duties also included eight months as aide-de-camp to the commanding general, U.S. Army Alaska, and one year as director of military personnel at Ft. Belvoir, VA. Your military performance earned you numerous decorations to include two Bronze Star Medals, one for Valor, and three Army Commendation Medals, again, one for Valor.
Departure from the military brought you to the Pittsburgh-based Pullman Company as a project manager, involved in airport, railroad and traffic engineering for projects as diverse as the Las Vegas “Strip” and O’Hare International Airport. To further enhance your engineering skills, time was spent in achieving a master’s degree in environmental systems from the University of Pittsburgh.
Following an earlier experience as an officer of Green International, Inc., you rejoined as vice president to direct important engineering projects in heavy industry. Much of your effort centered in the area of wastewater, water storage and distribution, and hydropower plants. Your span of influence included study, design, procurement management, and construction management activities for this firm’s clients.
Trimark Engineers, as manager of design engineering, allowed you to provide your skills to many very large and well-known national and international corporations. Your stay with them was short, as you expanded your influence by joining SE Technologies, Inc. which moved you solidly into the worldwide arena with PPG Industries as a client. More importantly, this position introduced you to the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority (ALCOSAN) which serves nearly one million people of the Pittsburgh, PA metropolitan area.
In 1993, you became the executive director of ALCOSAN. Your efforts in planning, staff training, and safety programs resulted in a twelve-year, $50 million public authority project. Dedication to the service of people was one of the most rewarding results of your life’s work, from which you felt the greatest personal achievement, satisfaction, and pride. It gave you a satisfaction that was the crescendo of your professional career, earning you the professionally coveted “Service to People” award from the American Society of Civil Engineers.
But there was another side to you, Joe; the side of a family man and friend. You were ever so proud of your four children, who still recall your love for German Shepherds and the fun they had when the basement was full of puppies. There was great pleasure for you in drinking a Michelob and mowing several acres of grass surrounding your home. The Steelers black and gold were simply a transition from the black, gold and gray, but the loyalty and enthusiasm were the same. Sitting at Little League games befriending parents or dining with a hobo or a prince, you made all people feel that they were the most important person in the world. It was said that you could make any negative into a positive. You could step on a man’s shoes and never “mess up” his shine.
Joe Lengyel, “Your time on earth is done.” You are missed by your family, friends, and profession. It can truly be said that you lived, served and died for West Point. Be thou at peace, Joe; be thou at peace.
—George Bentz ’63