The Foremen Were People Like my Father

Wayne Chiapperini: Started in 1967 in Nuclear Engineering

My first boss was a man named Robert Holby – Bob Holby – and I thought so much of him, I named my first son after him. He was just a tremendous person. He guided me.

On the first day, they showed me around, all that stuff. At about noontime, Bob comes over and says, “Here’s a little project we’ve got to do. Work on it.”

Believe me, it was nothing. It was an angle iron holding a pipe or something. All I had to do was calculate the stress in the joint, the weld. My mind went blank. I know this is nothing. It’s just basic civil engineering, structural analysis, but I couldn’t break through that.

I’m sitting there and Bob came over. I said, “I don’t even know where to begin on this.” He goes, “Sigma equals m over a,” and then I just burst out, “Oh! Okay!” and it all just started coming together.

It was almost an unwritten rule: don’t go down to the subs. Most of the guys stayed up on the Hill. But how do you know what something is unless you’re down there crawling around? That was my trademark. My father had his own construction business so I respected the trades.

The general foremen were people like my father. They didn’t have the opportunity to go to college. They were smart people and they knew how to do their stuff. I learned so much. I owe them so much.

Bob was like me. He was a very practical engineer. He could do the calculations like anybody.

He treated you with respect as a young engineer and we talked – we just developed a friendship. Even after I got laid off in the ’70s, he was always interested in what I did.