Post-52 – Training (Part 3)

Early in 1994, shortly after the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Office of Engineering’s Utilities, Railroads, and Special Projects Branch had distributed the “Highway/Utility Guide,” it came to my attention that the FHWA’s National Highway Institute (NHI) was planning to develop a two-day training course based upon it and had entered into a contract with the University of Alabama (UA) for development and teaching of such a course. Dr. Dan Turner (pictured left, Head of UA’s Civil and Environmental Engineering Department) and Dr. Jay Lindly (pictured right, UA Civil Engineering Professor in the UA Department) were assigned to the contract. I didn’t know how this all came about, but I was designated to be UA’s Office of Engineering contact.

Drs. Turner and Lindly set out to develop the course. The “Highway/Utility Guide” was the basic resource. It contained lots of information about accommodating utilities on highway right-of-way. Dan and Jay began by identifying the primary information they wanted to present and prioritizing it in some manner. They did this in part by interviewing subject matter experts from highway and utility organizations. The goal was to develop basic information that should be known by every State DOT utilities manager. I asked them to be sure that Subsurface Utility Engineering was included. 

Once they had this blocked out, they began developing slides to illustrate the major points.  They were well aware from their experience teaching university civil engineering courses that good instructors do NOT read the slides but rather discuss the intent of the points made on the slides. I don’t believe they even had a script because they had a massive amount of information stored in their minds that they could draw from. Hence, every presentation was not the same.

Once finished, they tested the course with a pilot presentation at the North Carolina DOT. It went very well. I remember that as soon as the course was finished, Jay started packing up their suitcase of slides and other equipment and Dan asked me to drive him to the airport to catch a plane. As we started out, he told me we were just barely going to get there. Minutes later we approached a golf course and Dan told me he needed to make a stop there. He had apparently played golf there the day before the course began and had forgotten to get a scorecard for his collection. He went in, got a scorecard, and we raced to the airport. He was out of the car when we reached the gate, almost before it stopped with his suitcase and golf clubs and he hurried inside. Fortunately, there was no security at the airports in 1994, so Dan raced straight to the gate and made his plane with seconds to spare. 

Dan taught me a two good lessons — keep your priorities in order and don’t sweat the small stuff.