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1991–2005 : Emp l oyee Owner sh i p
The 1990s were marked by continued change and growth, unique project
challenges, and increased national attention on the company and its
work. In 1992, a flood in Chicago’s downtown Loop area led to twenty
new projects for WJE. In 1993, the first terrorist attack on theWorld Trade
Center in New York City required the expertise of WJE staff to perform
damage assessment surveys. In 1994, the company inspected hundreds
of buildings after a massive earthquake centered near Northridge,
California. When a large piece of the ceiling at the Kingdome in Seattle
fell just prior to the start of a Mariners’ game in July 1994, WJE engineers,
architects, scientists, and technicians were asked to investigate the condition
of the coliseum roof and develop documents for re-roofing the dome.
One of the company’s most unusual and challenging assignments was
the reconstruction of the ill-fated TWA Flight 800, which exploded shortly
after take-off on July 17, 1996. The reconstructed aircraft segment was
featured in many television news broadcasts and publications.
The company’s architectural expertise was also sought by numerous
entities, both public and private, to investigate and repair many high-profile
buildings and historical structures, including the Reliance Building, a
National Historic Landmark in downtown Chicago, and the Kennedy
Center for the Performing Arts, a national memorial inWashington, D.C.
Additionally, WJE architects were involved in a variety of projects at
historic churches, civic centers, department stores, and state capitols
across the country.
As the expertise of WJE continued to grow, additional branch offices were
established around the country. The Detroit office opened in 1995; the
Houston office in 1997; the NewYork City and Minneapolis offices in 1998;
the New Haven and Boston offices in 2000; and the Los Angeles office in 2004.
In addition to the undertaking of a number of well-known projects
and establishing new offices, the 1990s witnessed further transitions in
leadership within the company. In 1992, John Hanson announced his
retirement as president of WJE after thirteen years of service to assume
a chaired professorship at North Carolina State University. The Board of
Directors elected Jerry Stockbridge, vice president of WJE, to succeed him.
Stockbridge led the company for five years, until his retirement in 1997. The
Board then selected Bill Nugent (top left), as the fourth president of the
firm and Gary Klein (center left) as chairman of the board. Both Bill and
Gary had first joined the firm as young engineers in the late 1970s.
The 1990s era was marked by great loss as well. In 1996, the company
mourned the passing of Dick Elstner. A principal and one of the three
original partners, Dick Elstner was respected as an insightful investigator
of structural failures and one of the country’s foremost glass experts.
Within the company, he was known for his perpetual optimism and
humor, and as a mentor of younger WJE staff.
As the twentieth century came to a close, the company approved a major
restructuring of the employee stock ownership plan, adopted ten years
earlier with the repurchase from USG. The new plan called for shares of
stock to be owned directly by employees. This approach provided for a
broader level of ownership, as employee-owners made a monetary
investment in the future of WJE for the first time.
With the dawn of a new century, new challenges and opportunities
continued to present themselves. In 2001, WJE responded to the Nisqually
earthquake in Seattle, and the horrific damage sustained in New York and
Washington, D.C., on September 11th. In 2005, more than seventy
employees from nineteen offices met the challenge of a large retail chain
to perform emergency inspections and retrofits on more than 300 stores
across the country. And in the late summer and fall of 2005, WJE
responded to the demand for engineers and architects to evaluate the
damage in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, andWilma.
John Hanson retired as
president of WJE; Vice
President Jerry Stockbridge
became president.
The Detroit, Michigan,
branch office opened.
Dick Elstner passed away.
The Houston, Texas, branch
office opened.
Jerry Stockbridge retired as
president; Bill Nugent became
president and Gary Klein
became chairmanof the board.
The New York, New York,
and Minneapolis, Minnesota,
branch offices opened.
The United States and its
allies defeated Iraq in the
Persian Gulf War.
William J. Clinton was
elected forty-second
president of the
United States.
The North American Free
Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
was ratified by the U.S.
On January 17, 1994, the
Northridge Earthquake
struck southern California.
On April 19, 1995, the
Alfred P. Murrah Federal
Building in Oklahoma City
was bombed.
On July 17, 1996, TWA
Flight 800 exploded and
crashed off Long Island.
On August 31, 1997,
Diana, Princess of Wales,
was killed in a car crash
in Paris.
WJE senior staff approved
a major restructuring of the
stock ownership plan.