Archive for the ‘Mary Ellen’s Meanderings’ Category

My 9-11 Heroes

Friday, September 9th, 2011

by Mary Ellen Eagan

I must admit that there’s been so much hype leading up to the 9/11 anniversary that I’ve been dreading the idea of reading yet another blog post on the subject, much less writing one.  But here I am.

My daughter (who was four years old in 2001) came home from high school yesterday with an assignment to “interview someone” on the impacts of 9/11 on America, her parents, etc.   As is often the case with her homework, I deflected the responsibility to my husband, who railed about George Bush’s response that day and the loss of civil liberties that we’ve experienced since.

One of the questions in my daughter’s interview was whether we knew anyone who was directly affected.  So over the last few days I’ve been thinking a lot about my two 9/11 heroes, and how their lives were changed forever:

  • Betty Desrosiers is Director of Aviation Planning and Strategy for Massport.  I’ve known her for many years, and our professional lives most often intersect at public meetings or other venues where Betty (and Massport) are working to mitigate the impacts of Boston Logan Airport (or Hanscom Field) on the surrounding communities.  Which includes noise, of course.   As part of her strategic planning responsibility, Betty developed Massport’s Family Assistance Center, which quickly fills a critical void in an emergency by providing information, aid, comfort and compassion to friends and family of individuals involved in a transportation disaster. Betty activated and directed the Family Assistance Center at Boston Logan on 9/11 and maintained the center for many days after the terrorist attack.  
  • Mike O’Neil was my first real boss and mentor.  In 1979, I was a counselor at Camp Marycrest in Grande Isle (VT) and Mike was Head of the Waterfront.  I learned much from Mike: how to tie a bowline, how paddle a canoe well enough to teach campers (my first practice at consulting, I guess), and other extra-curricular activities that the camp nuns shouldn’t have known about (but somehow did).  I lost touch with Mike for many years, but we reconnected at a Marycrest reunion a couple of years ago (turns out he also got a lot out of that summer, most importantly meeting his wife).  Mike has served as Fire Chief in both South Burlington and Burlington, and is now Emergency Management Director for the State of Vermont (a busy job the last couple of weeks in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene!).  In 2001, though, Mike worked at Ground Zero for four weeks, starting on 9/12.  Mike’s reaction to Osama Bin Laden’s death and his story was chronicled in the Burlington Free Press

It occurs to me that what I’ve chosen to remember about 9/11 is not the pain or fear caused by the attacks, but the humanity and goodness demonstrated by so many people in their response to that day.  That is what patriotism means to me.  And this post is for them.


Congratulations Carl!

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

by Mary Ellen Eagan

Last Friday, HMMH celebrated the retirement of one of its founders, Carl Hanson.  The celebration included about 80 current and former colleagues, friends, and neighbors.  Here are just a few of the tributes that were given:

For years, working with Carl meant running into people who not just knew Carl, but called themselves his friends.  At Carl’s retirement party, his friends flooded HMMH to pay tribute to his illustrious career.  And what distinguised friends they were!  Carl has been such a great mentor to me on life, acoustics and beer choices.  I am grateful to have had the opportunity to spend so much time with him and would be proud to consider myself one of his “old friends”.  Enjoy your time!  – Jason Ross

I’ve known Carl for over 30 years and during that time he has been a good friend as well as my rail noise and vibration mentor.  In the early days, we bonded while spending many hours in various out-of-the-way places “waiting for a train.”  I will miss his presence here at HMMH as he moves on to a new phase in life, and wish him clear tracks ahead! – Dave Towers

For those who don’t know me, I am the current head of the rail group at HMMH.  I stand very tall on the shoulders of giants like Carl Hanson and others in the room.  I echo many of the sentiments here, and Carl has certainly taught me an enormous amount over the years about acoustics and rail.  I have many great stories I could tell, and have enjoyed working with Carl over the past 16 years.  However, the most important thing I feel that Carl has taught me is to enjoy life, and have fun.  I’ve always admired Carl’s ability to work hard and be focused, but to also have fun, both at work and outside of work.  Work is important, but having fun and enjoying life are important also.  Thanks for everything Carl, it’s been great.  Enjoy retirement and don’t be a stranger.  – Lance Meister

Carl has been a supervisor, mentor, colleague, friend and friend to me since the early 1970’s, when we were both in the environmental noise group together at BBN. Over the past 39 years, we have spent many hours discussing project details, proposal strategies and even establishing noise impact criteria for the Federal Transit Agency. We worked particularly closely together in Houston in the 1980’s where our paths crossed on noise assessment and abatement studies for both Houston Metro and TxDOT. During my trips with him there, Carl made sure we sampled the best food and music Houston had to offer. Also, since Carl and I are both winemakers, we’ve shared many techniques, experiences, successes and failures over the decades. I’ll miss him at the office, but I know that I’ll be seeing him from time to time, at least for a wine tasting! – Chris Menge

I’ve been thinking about HMMH’s choice of a clock as a retirement gift.  On one level it seems rather ironic – especially for a consulting firm, where the basis of our trade is selling hours.  On the other, it is perhaps a reminder that the greatest gift of retirement is time – to spend as you wish.  As someone who just does not have enough hours in the day to give to everyone who wants it (and absolutely zero time for me) I am very jealous of the freedom that must come with not having to “clock in” on a daily basis.  We all know that Carl has many passions and interests and will be using his time wisely and happily – in fact, scheduling both this celebration and our 30th anniversary party has been a challenge because of his busy schedule!  We wish him well and look forward to seeing him around for an occasional project – or happy hour.  Or both.


On a more personal note, I want to thank Carl for everything he has taught me.  Many of you may not know this, but once upon a time, I did rail noise work.  In fact, I spent most of a sweltering summer measuring noise in downtown Houston and along the Southwest Freeway corridor.  I learned a lot about how transit is planned, the differences between transit noise and aircraft noise, and how to interact with clients.  However, the thing that I most admire about Carl – during that trip and consistently over the last 27 years – is his sincerity and acceptance of every person he meets.  Carl is the least judgmental person I have ever known.  Perhaps it is his Midwestern charm – or my East Coast cynicism (I am quite sure that Carl is the first person I’ve ever known from Iowa, maybe the entire Midwest), but his ability to always see the best in everyone is something I find incredibly admirable and something to aspire to.  I will miss those reminders.  And the margaritas.   – Mary Ellen Eagan


Signe and Carl Hanson

Carl Hanson, Nick Miller, Bob Miller


Founded on an Idea

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

by Mary Ellen Eagan

“HMMH solves complex problems affecting our environment.”

This is our firm’s mission statement and guiding principle. As we celebrate our 30th year, I think it is helpful to recall that HMMH was founded in 1981, when the aviation industry’s most vexing environmental challenge was clearly noise.  At that time, more than five million people lived within DNL 65 dB contours throughout the US.  Today that number is about 250,000, and JPDO projects it to be just over 100,000 by 2025.

Noise-Impacted Population v. Enplanements (Source: FAA, 2011)

What are the most pressing environmental challenged facing airports today?  They are many, and include: air quality, energy, sustainable design, climate change adaptation planning, to name a few. Noise is still a sporadic issue, but limited mostly to situations where changes have occurred or are being contemplated, like the implementation of Performance Based Navigation procedures and other NextGen technology.  HMMH is now active in all these areas.

I’m often asked to explain why HMMH has expanded its services over the past few years, and I point to the need and desire to help our clients address these 21st century environmental challenges.  We have learned much from our noise experience, and have added technical expertise in other scientific disciplines.  We believe we have much to offer.

There is an article in last week’s Economist analyzing IBM at 100.  The author attributes IBM’s success over the last century to being built around an idea rather than any particular product or technology.  IBM’s strategy of “packing technology for use by businesses” has allowed it to make multiple wholesale technology shifts as the market and world changed.   The author compares IBM to product-based firms such as Dell and Cisco, which are struggling to move beyond their core technologies.

So if I had one wish as we come to the close of our fiscal year and look toward the future, it is that people could see HMMH beyond it’s reputation as “noise experts” and more as trusted advisors who are passionate about solving complex problems.

Coming Home

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

by Mary Ellen Eagan

I spent Memorial Day relaxing – first on Martha’s Vineyard, then on my hammock, finally with friends in our mother-daughter book group.  I spent very little time honoring the fallen men and women who served in the armed forces.  But I don’t know any.  And that’s my point:  I believe that one of the reasons the US is engaged in so many armed conflicts around the world is that the people making those decisions are not the ones whose kids are dying.  For that matter, nor are most of the people who elect those decision-makers.  We have not been asked to sacrifice, and Memorial Day is for most of us just the official beginning of summer.  But for others, every day is Memorial Day. 

One of those is Jacob Davis Mendelow.  I met Jacob in 2008, when our TRB Environmental Impacts of Aviation Committee met in Toronto, and was hosted by Steven Davis-Mendelow, Jacob’s dad.  Jacob had just returned from his final tour in Iraq as a U.S. Marine, and was clearly struggling with re-entry into civilian life.  This weekend, the CBC aired a documentary about Jacob and his current work teaching psychology students about his own struggles with post traumatic stress disorders – not as therapy for himself but to help them be better practitioners.  One of the more poignant statements Jake makes in the documentary is “If I’m alive I’m going to keep working my butt off…  Every time I don’t get an ‘A’ at university I get upset because I feel as though I let down the guys who died and didn’t get to go to school.”   Jacob’s desire to make the world a better place is what drove him to join the Marines; he is now bringing that same passion to his teaching.  He is a remarkable man, and we can all learn much from him.

Arlington National Cemetery

Jim’s Little Yellow Book

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

by Mary Ellen Eagan

I spent the weekend in a conference room in Florida, developing and rehearsing a 15-minute qualifications presentation for the Palm Beach County Department of Airports.  Sounds like your idea of fun?  I have to say, though, that it was a most rewarding couple of days, because it reminded me that I’m privileged to work with some wonderful people who live those lofty corporate values we claim to aspire to, but seldom achieve.

In this particular case, I was working with a bunch of guys from CH2M HILL, who were preparing a rising young star for his FIRST BIG INTERVIEW.  The patience, grace, and humor they demonstrated in mentoring their protégé was remarkable, and reflected not only on their own personalities, but the corporate culture that is captured in CH2M HILL founder Jim Howland’s Little Yellow Book

Source: CH2M HILL

In our rush to “get stuff done”, we don’t often think about how we’re doing it.  Many thanks to Pete, Phil, Chip, and Tom for reminding me of what’s really most important, and why I enjoy working with such great people.

And we won!  Congratulations, guys.