Leo "Lee" Dondanville, P.E., S.E., didn't expect to spend his career working for one engineering firm. He had scheduled interviews with firms across the country after he finished two years of post-college service in the U.S. Air Force in 1956. When Walter E. Hanson called that year with an invitation to join his new company, Hanson, Collins and Rice, Lee decided Springfield would be the right place to start his civilian career.
In his early career with Hanson, Lee spent almost 20 years working on approximately 1,500 AT&T radio relay towers and blast-resistant cable sites across the U.S. His other project highlights included a multistory addition to Franklin Life Insurance Co. and the framing of Christ the King Catholic Church, both in Springfield, and the proposed Ruck-A-Chucky Bridge. Intended to span the American River near Auburn, California, it came with numerous challenges because of the necessity to anchor the cable-hung structure in the fractured rock of the surrounding mountainsides.
Despite his fondness for technical work, Lee was drawn to the human side of engineering management. That epiphany led him to his role as president and CEO of then-Hanson Engineers Inc., in 1976. "The thing I remember most about my career is the incredible staff we were able to attract, hire and keep," he said in 2015, adding that it takes a strong team to establish a company that inspires decades of employee service and loyalty.
Lee retired from full-time service in 1995, but that didn't stop him from visiting the office to recognize employees' tenure and successes. His most enjoyable task after retirement was serving as "company grandpa." It came with no salary, no authority and no responsibility, he said. "What a privilege."
Submitted by his Hanson Professional Services, Inc. colleague, Mandy Bekoin