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Ward Lecture Series 2014: John Stranix on Building Fields of Dreams

John Stranix

At Villanova University, National Engineers Week 2014 culminated with the College of Engineering’s Patrick J. Cunningham Jr. and Susan Ward ’80 Endowed Lecture Series. Alumnus John Stranix ’78 CE returned to campus to speak on the role of construction project management in “Building Fields of Dreams.” As the founder and president of Stranix Associates, LLC, a highly regarded large-scale engineering project management and owner representation firm on the East Coast, Stranix offered unique insight on the topic. Given his expertise in all aspects of engineering and construction, as well as operations, funding, community relations and regulatory issues, Stranix’s lecture was of interest to engineering and business students alike. More than 300 students attended his presentation.

Stranix began his lecture with a brief overview of his career history, sharing both his failures and successes. He offered valuable advice based on the lessons he learned from each:  

  • Work hard at everything you do.
  • Have fun while you’re working.
  • Don’t let setbacks set you back.
  • Always ask “What’s next?”

As he moved through his presentation, Stranix emphasized the role of project management throughout a job’s life cycle. He presented several of his largest projects, sharing the challenges that accompanied each, from the urban setting of the Verizon Center in Washington D.C. to the unique roofing structure for the United States Institute of Peace. “Regardless of what you face,” Stranix reminded the audience, “Get back on the horse and ride again.” He added, “Life for us as engineers is about much more than engineering. It’s about circumstances, people, teamwork, communication and relationships.”

Stranix spent the majority of his presentation talking about the building of Citizens Bank Park, home of the Philadelphia Phillies. He acknowledged the stress that comes with a hard and fast deadline like opening day for baseball season. He pointed out obstacles like weather, contaminated soil and even unruly Eagles fans that can impact a project’s progress. “I compare project management to conducting an entire symphony,” said Stranix. 

John Stranix with Craig James ’14 CE and Conor McAliney ’14 CE
John Stranix with Craig James ’14 CE and Conor McAliney ’14 CE

Before his lecture, Stranix and his wife Regina enjoyed lunch and networking with engineering students in the Multidisciplinary Design Lab (MDL), during which Director George Simmons offered an overview of current MDL initiatives, which are industry-sponsored senior design capstone projects. These projects included a drop foot device and related artificial muscle, sponsored by the McDonnell Foundation, and new methods for detecting flaws in castle nuts for SPS Technologies, a PCC Company. Mechanical Engineering graduate students Paula Torres and David Straple were also given an opportunity to share details about their Endoscope Handle Manipulator project, on which they are in collaboration with Temple University Hospital doctors.  

While those who were unable to attend the Ward Lecture missed out on free soft pretzels, a recording of Stranix’s presentation is available online