CEG Industry Blog

A Tribute to William Fife, P.E.

Achieving an enduring legacy in engineering and aviation is no small feat. But that is exactly what William Fife, PE, has done.

📅   Thu July 10, 2014 - Edition
Lenore Janis, President and Executive Director, Professional Women in Construction (PWC)


Pat and Bill Fife, P.E., proudly hold the 2014 Civil Engineer of the Year Award.
Pat and Bill Fife, P.E., proudly hold the 2014 Civil Engineer of the Year Award.

Each month CEG is presenting a blog contributed by members of Professional Women in Construction (PWC). Founded in 1980, PWC is a nonprofit advocacy and support organization dedicated to the advancement of professional, managerial and entrepreneurial women in construction and related industries. PWC has chapters nationwide.

I first met Bill Fife 24 years ago, when he had a senior level position with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, General Manager of Aviation Planning and Technical Services. PWC was founded in 1980 and admitted men as full members in 1985. Bill was one of a growing number of men to join us and we were thrilled to have someone of his caliber and expertise become a part of the organization. We soon found out that he intended to not just be a member, but an extremely involved, active and integral part of the organization.

Impressed by our events and wholly supportive of our goals, he pulled me aside at an event and volunteered to put together a seminar on transportation. I was amazed that Bill would be willing to put in the legwork involved in such a venture, and that the prestigious PANYNJ would feature the headliners from the Authority and outline its massive projects under the aegis of PWC. He was given full charge of the first and all subsequent programs for over 20 years and has even agreed to serve as moderator each time.

The annual transportation forum expanded and Bill managed to get top ranking officials, including several commissioners and deputy commissioners, from numerous other agencies – federal, state and city including the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), MTA and NYS DOT as well as top brass from the private sector including JetBlue Airways. In 2002, Bill was elected to the board of PWC and served for three consecutive terms. He now heads up the PWC Emeritus Board. He has organized another stellar program for us, the upcoming Transportation Forum on July 29 which will feature Michael Horodniceanu, president, MTA capital construction; Veronique (Ronnie) Hakim, executive director, NJ Transit; Stephanie Dawson, acting chief operating officer, PANY&NJ; Joan McDonald, commissioner, NYS DOT; and Polly Trottenberg, commissioner, NYC DOT.

No tribute to Bill is complete without mention of his wife, Pat –soul mates for 46 years, theirs continues to be a love story that few could hope to emulate.

Bill, on behalf of the PWC board, its members and its participants, I send you our congratulations on your much deserved award and extend our wholehearted thanks for the crucial role you have played and continued to play in putting PWC on the industry’s map as a leader and trendsetter.

Fife Achievements Take Flight with ASCE Award

Achieving an enduring legacy is no small feat. Doing it in engineering and aviation is that much more remarkable. Yet that is exactly what William A. Fife, PE, has done. And the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Metropolitan Section has recognized Fife’s extraordinary efforts with its most coveted award, the 2014 Metropolitan Section Civil Engineer of the Year Award. On June 19 at their annual dinner dance, the Metropolitan Section bestowed the award on Fife for his “character, professional integrity and years of outstanding service to the civil engineering profession.”

“Bill Fife is a unique professional, who I had the pleasure of getting to know and work closely with during my years as the Port Authority Director of Aviation (1981-1989),” explains Retired Director General, Airports Council International World Robert J. Aaronson. “His intelligent, laser-like focus on the problem at hand led to creative and effective solutions. And his commitment and loyalty to the organization and its leaders always was a certainty.

“He has probably has done more than any other individual to forge powerful networks among airport planners and designers throughout the U.S. and the world. The evolution of peer reviews that he has guided has proved invaluable to the industry and to individual airports, as they have more effectively invested billions of dollars in their infrastructure and optimum passenger handling.”

Now a consultant to the aviation industry to Weidlinger Associates, IBEX Construction and other firms, Fife began his career with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANY&NJ) in 1967. He served the PANY&NJ for more than 30 years, rising to become General Manager of Aviation Planning and Technical Services, as well as Deputy General Manager of JFK International Airport. After leaving the PANY&NJ, he became Corporate Vice President and Director of Aviation for AECOM, where he served for more than a decade. But wherever Fife has gone, he has left an indelible mark of achievement. His effort in the peer review process serves as a great example.

For more than 25 years, Fife has chaired the global Peer Review Group (PRG) of airports, an organization with participants from Boston, Regan National, Dulles, Miami, Toronto, Montreal, Las Vegas, Paris, and London, among others. Virtually inventing the peer review process for airports, Fife’s PRG provides invaluable opportunity for airport executives and consultants to exchange strategies and ideas, saving the industry millions of dollars annually. People within aviation and beyond mark the advances Fife has contributed.

“I have had the pleasure of knowing Bill for nearly 30 years, and I’ve always been truly impressed with the visionary contributions that he has made to airport projects around the world,” adds Executive Chairman John Dionisio of Fortune 500 firm AECOM. “During his 10 years with AECOM and our legacy company DMJM Harris, Bill’s innovative leadership made a significant impact on our aviation practice, our company, and the overall industry. His 40-plus years of outstanding contributions to the civil engineering profession are most certainly good cause for celebration. Bill is an extraordinary professional.”

Others agree. Fife’s energetic and altruistic commitment to the aviation industry has been recognized many times. He has received numerous awards internationally, including a Certificate of Appreciation from the United States Department of Transportation Federal Aviation Administration Eastern Region (FAA) in 2003. Articles he’s written have appeared in major industry and non-industry publications. And CNN has turned to him as their aviation industry expert. But one particular quality sets Fife apart from many who have accomplished great things.

“A truly outstanding professional is one who not only excels in terms of their own accomplishments and industry know-how, but also constantly strives to learn from, nurture, inspire and connect their colleagues. Bill is an outstanding case in point,” explains Aileen Cho, senior transportation editor for Engineering News-Record (ENR). “During my entire career at ENR, Bill never stopped connecting me with other key industry players in the transportation world—not just airports—and helping me learn how to cover my beat as optimally as possible. I can sincerely say that he deserves every honor and recognition accorded him.”

Fife earned a BS in electrical engineering from Manhattan College, an MS in industrial management from Polytechnic University, a division of New York University, and an MPA in public management from Long Island University’s CW Post Campus. Today he lives in Merrick, Long Island, with Pat (née DeAngelis), his wife of 46 years. They have three children and five grandchildren.

Achieving an enduring legacy in engineering and aviation is no small feat. But that is exactly what William Fife, PE, has done. And on June 19, the ASCE Metropolitan Section recognized that accomplishment with the 2014 Metropolitan Section Civil Engineer of the Year Award.