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Thaler receives engineering’s most prestigious award

Posted July 24, 2019


David S. Thaler P.E. L.S., long-time board member and former president of Maryland Society of Professional Engineers (MDSPE), joined a select group of extraordinary engineers in July when he received the 2019 National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) Award.

Described as the most prestigious engineering award in America, the NSPE Award is given to “an engineer who has made outstanding contributions to the engineering profession, the public welfare and humankind.” Previous recipients include President Herbert Hoover, a successful mining engineer before he became president, and Dr. David Steinman, the renowned structural engineer who designed many famous bridges, including the Mackinac Bridge linking Michigan’s Upper and Lower peninsulas, then the longest suspension bridge in the world.

“I am humbled and honored to stand in the shadow of the luminaries who have preceded me,” said Thaler, who received the award at a packed luncheon during the NSPE Annual Conference in Kansas.

“David is a tireless advocate and voice for the engineering profession,” said Michael Aitken, 2018-19 NSPE President. “Be it his leadership positions within NSPE and numerous other societies or representing the interests of professional engineers both domestically and internationally, he embodies the NSPE Award in making outstanding contributions to the profession, public welfare, and humankind.”

“David is an icon of the engineering profession in Maryland and he has been a key player, senior advisor and mentor within MDSPE for many years,” said James Mirabile, MDSPE President. “The NSPE Award is a great and well-deserved honor for him.”

NSPE’s announcement of the award highlighted the extraordinary range of  Thaler’s accomplishments since he became a professional engineer in 1971. 

As the founder and president of D.S. Thaler and Associates Inc., Thaler has led the firm through the completion of more than 4,000 residential, commercial, industrial and institutional land development assignments throughout the Mid-Atlantic, including large, challenging, environmentally complex and politically sensitive projects. Thaler notes that you can scarcely drive any road in the Baltimore region for more than a few minutes without passing a project the company designed. 

Thaler’s impact has reached well beyond the county and even the Mid-Atlantic. 

His work on environmentally challenging projects has led to innovative designs, including his invention of the Super Silt Fence — a fiber-blanket construction fence that can control sediment runoff on steep sites. It has been adopted by construction companies internationally.

Thaler’s accomplishments, however, stretch well beyond construction and development projects to a wide variety of endeavors, such as his eight years of military service. Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Thaler forged a partnership between MDSPE and the Maryland National Guard to provide specialized professional engineering services in times of natural disasters or civil emergencies. He retired with the rank of Colonel and was awarded Maryland’s highest military honor, the Distinguished Service Cross.

Thaler’s “founding the Maryland Engineering Emergency Response Team after 9/11 stands out as a stellar example of his commitment to not only the engineering profession, but to public welfare,” Aitken said.

Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Thaler travelled to Russia to participate in the Rule of Law Project – the first initiative to privatize real property in the region since the Russian Revolution. 

Closer to home, he identified an original instrument used by Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon in their iconic 1762-67 survey, proved its provenance, raised funds for its restoration, then ceremonially presented it to the National Park Service as a “Gift to the Nation” from the engineers and surveyors of America.

He has published more than 250 articles and five books, and has lectured at more than a dozen colleges and universities, including The Johns Hopkins University, Lehigh University, the University of Baltimore School of Law, and the University of Maryland School of Architecture. Thaler is an H.L. Mencken scholar, having published multiple books on the renowned journalist and satirist. He is also a distinguished bagpiper. Thaler has served as the Pipe Major of the Baltimore Police Department Ceremonial Unit and performed at numerous funerals of police officers, firefighters and service members who died in the line of duty, including funerals at Arlington National Cemetery,

Throughout his career, he has worked to improve legislation and regulations impacting the engineering profession and has served as founding president of the Land Development Council of Maryland, chair of the Baltimore County Chamber of Commerce, and an active member of several professional and technical societies.

However, “the activity that has made me the proudest is mentoring so many young people and helping them build careers in engineering. I have also worked hard and successfully to bring more women into engineering,” he said.

“It’s so important to give back to the profession,” Aitken said. “David is a prime example of how mentoring students and serving as a role model for the next generation of engineers can not only help the profession grow, but also foster growth in your personal development as a professional engineer.”








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