1971–1980 : Expand i ng Exper t i se
The reputation of Wiss, Janney, Elstner and Associates as a leading
investigative and testing firm continued to grow throughout the 1970s,
as evidenced by high profile projects such as the investigation of the
Bailey’s Crossroads apartment building collapse. The growth of the
new firm did not go unnoticed by the engineering community. In April
1972, the three partners were featured in a cover story for Engineering
News-Record entitled, “One Consultant’s Troubles Pays This One’s Fees,”
which highlighted the problem-solving nature of the work performed
by the firm (top left).
WithWJE’s national reputation for structural investigations well
established, the firm focused on expanding its areas of expertise. During
the early 1970s, WJE began to perform significant work for the growing
nuclear power industry, including structural integrity tests of nuclear
containment structures around the country. As part of the work on these
projects, WJE pioneered the use of computer-controlled data acquisition
systems for the measurement and recording of structural response.
WJE had also become increasingly involved in building envelope
investigations. While Dick Elstner had become a nationally recognized
expert in solving glass and curtain wall problems, the firm did not
yet have an established architectural group. In 1973, architect Jerry
Stockbridge (middle left) joinedWJE, generating a new area of growth for
the firm. Under Stockbridge’s leadership, the firm’s creative approach to
troubleshooting was used to diagnose and solve problems relating
to the architectural components of buildings.
By 1973, the firm had grown to twenty-five employees, with
billings surpassing $1 million for the year. To accommodate the larger
staff, a 20,000 square foot addition, including an expanded structural
laboratory, was constructed at the Northbrook office site. That same
year, the partners decided to sell their company to United States Gypsum
Corporation (USG). While the building remained the property of the firm,
employees officially worked for theWiss, Janney, Elstner division of USG.
Jack Janney remained withWJE under its new ownership until 1979,
when he retired as president and moved to Denver. That year also brought
changes for Dick Elstner, who relocated to Honolulu and opened the
secondWJE branch office; (the first had been opened in San Francisco in
1977). With Janney’s retirement, John Hanson (lower left), a structural
engineer andWJE vice president of operations who had joined the firm in
1972, was appointed president of Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc.
Supported by the capital improvements funded by USG and the
leadership of John Hanson, the company continued to grow. The firm
leased Annex I, a building adjacent to the Northbrook headquarters,
to provide much-needed office, warehouse, and laboratory space.
By the end of the 1970s, WJE employed more than eighty staff members.
The number of projects completed over the course of the decade had
more than quadrupled and annual billings approached $5 million.
Wiss, Janney, and Elstner were featured
in a cover story for
WJE had twenty-five employees and billings
surpassed $1 million per year. A 20,000 square
foot addition was constructed at the Northbrook
offices. The partners decided to sell the
company to USG.
The HP9830 computer, with 16k of memory,
served engineering and accounting functions
The twenty-sixth amendment to the
U.S. Constitution lowered the voting age
to eighteen years old.
President Richard Nixon visited China.
On June 17, five men were caught
breaking into the offices of the Democratic
National Committee in Washington, D.C.
U.S. participation in the VietnamWar ended.
President Nixon resigned from office. Gerald R.
Ford was sworn in as the thirty-eighth president
of the United States.
Harvard University dropout Bill Gates
co-founded a company called Microsoft.