Steve Devine: Structural engineer relishes 30 years of diverse design projects

June 2017

“One thing I didn’t realize as a student is that civil engineering is remarkably diverse,” says Steve Devine (’84 C E, ’86 M.Eng.). “I’ve been amazed by that throughout my entire career.”

When Steve completed his master’s degree, he had a strong interest in structural engineering in building design, however the aerospace field was booming and he received many job offers at major aerospace companies across the country. Ultimately, he chose to join McDonnell Douglas in Huntington Beach, CA, where he spent two years as a stress analyst for expendable launch vehicles (rockets) that launched satellites as well as space craft.

“Since I was a teenager, I was interested in aviation—both flying and learning about the structures of aircraft—so it was an exciting first step in my career,” says Steve.

Even though he had secured his ‘dream job,’ there where aspects about the aerospace field that were not professionally fulfilling so he decided to change careers and explore the building design world.

“I was very fortunate to get a job at consulting structural engineering firm Robert Englekirk, Incorporated, one of the top structural engineering firms in Los Angeles,” says Steve. “In addition to overseeing his company, Robert was an associate professor of structural engineering at UCLA, so he was well-known and we had opportunities to work on high visibility projects.”

After two years at Robert Englekirk, Steve relocated to the East Coast and joined Paulus, Sokolowski and Sartor (PS&S), a firm offering multi-disciplined, full-service engineering design and environmental consulting services. At that time PS&S was involved in many of the new casinos in Atlantic City. Steve completed a series interesting but small assignments including a new addition to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown and small parts of various casino designs but yearned to be a part of a larger project. He approached PS&S leadership about being involved in more high visibility project if the opportunity came along.

“What’s the worst that can happen?” asks Steve. “You really have nothing to lose, other than trying to get what you want. And you’re definitely not going to get it, if you don’t try.”

Steve’s inquiry paid off and soon he found himself being assigned to a major ground up corporate headquarters building for American Home Products (now Pfizer). The project totaled over 500,000 square feet and was one of the first “fast track” design projects to be completed.

“I call Pfizer’s headquarters my ‘zero to hero’ project,” says Steve. “It was an extraordinarily large, very high visibility, complex, and fast-paced project, and we were shorthanded, so I worked many a long night and took a lot of hits because there were things I still didn’t know. It was a steep learning curve but it paid off; no pain no gain.”

In 1992, Steve joined multi-disciplined consulting engineering firm Bala Consulting near Philadelphia, where he later became the structural department head and vice president at age 42.

As a result of Steve’s early rise to executive leadership, he was recruited by Cubellis, a top-earning international architecture and engineering firm headquartered in Boston, to become the national director of structural engineering. In that role, Steve oversaw structural engineering projects throughout the U.S, as well as Dubai, the largest and most populous city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and earned his professional engineer license there.

When Cubellis shuttered its doors as a result of the 2008 financial crisis, Steve and several fellow colleagues of Cubellis’s Philadelphia office formed Environetics Design Inc., an architectural and engineering firm that grew from 25 to over 60 employees over the next seven years.

In April 2016, Environetics merged with NORR, a full international design firm offering architecture, engineering, interiors, and planning services on a variety of building types worldwide.

Today, Steve is a principal in structural engineering at the organization. Steve says he is very fortunate that while NORR is a full service AE firm, he still provides outside structural consulting services to some of the biggest name architectural firms in and outside of Philadelphia. In recent years Steve has provided structural engineering for many of the new commercial buildings constructed in the Philadelphia Navy Yard including a very extraordinary building that leans 22 degrees designed by the world famous architects, Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) out of New York City.

He adds that four of the five engineers who report to him are Penn State graduates either undergraduate, graduate or both.

“I would put a Penn State Engineering education up against the so-called best in the country. Why mess with success?” he laughs.

On a more serious note, Steve offers some sage advice for students who are considering a career path similar to his: “Structural engineering is a very complex field and having a solid understanding of the fundamentals as well as more complex subject matter is crucial. If you make a mistake in this business it can be either really expensive to fix, or in worst-case scenarios, it can be deadly.” In Steve’s opinion, to be a structural engineer today, a master’s degree is really a necessity rather than an option.

A licensed professional engineer in eight states and the UAE, Steve is actively involved with his alma mater as a board member of the Penn State CEE Alumni Society.

He resides in Haddonfield, NJ, with his wife, Kathy. They have a daughter, Christine.

—Stefanie Tomlinson

Steve Devine

Steve Devine