An Alumnus Gives Back to a Department That Changed His Life

The Grove School of Engineering is home to over 3,300 students pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees in a broad range of areas including biomedical, chemical, civil, computer, electrical, and mechanical engineering, computer science, information systems, and translational medicine.

Thanks to the philanthropic support of donors like Professor John J. Eschemuller, P.E., ‘70, Grove has developed into an academic home for world-class faculty who conduct innovative research, which further strengthens our academic programs, supports the creation of innovative new curriculum, and fosters interdisciplinary collaborations. 

Ege Yorulmaz ‘21 interviewed Professor John J. Eschemuller, P.E., who is a long-standing supporter of the Civil Engineering Department and The City College of New York. They discussed his experiences in the department and the College when he was a student, the important trends in civil engineering, the importance of donations to future students' careers, and reminisced on the history of The City College of New York.

Why did you choose civil engineering when you were selecting a major?

Well, interestingly, I originally started studying architecture at Brooklyn Tech. When I entered City College, I started in the School of Architecture. And after two years, I switched over to civil engineering, which I guess is not unusual. A lot of students do change their major as they pursue their degrees and get more involved with their education. So, I found civil engineering more my calling and more rewarding to me. I did enjoy my studies in architecture, but I found that civil engineering was really my calling. I completed the last three years of my studies in civil engineering at City College and graduated with my five-year degree in civil engineering and went on to fulfill my career in that civil engineering discipline. But I always use my architectural experience so that didn't go to waste.

In civil engineering, what do you see as important trends, not just for CCNY or New York, but for the United States’ infrastructure needs?

Unfortunately, the infrastructure in the United States is very old, and in many cases falling apart, as you've seen with the recent collapse of the condo in Florida, which was a catastrophe. But there are also many bridges, tunnels, roads, airports, water supply systems, sewer systems and all those heavy civil projects, dams, etc. that need repair, upgrades, and improvements. When you look at the history of the United States, in recent years there's very few new power plants, refineries, or major processing plants being built in the US. There is a rather desperate need to upgrade what we have and keep it in good working order while also keeping it safe for the public, and to improve the infrastructure of the United States so we can move forward in the world as we have done in the past.

Do you have any unforgettable memories? Do you have a story that you always tell from your college days?

I have a lot of good memories and a lot of good friends. I’m still acquainted with quite a few of my classmates that I went to school with and are lifelong friends. Many of us went to Brooklyn Tech and then went on to study at City College. So, we have a lot of camaraderie and years together. But in terms of memorable moments, I’ve had some excellent professors. They really were very dedicated to the students and always available to consult and answer questions and be there to lend a helping hand whenever it was needed, whatever it may be, whether it was technical or just supportive in nature. I received the Charles Rathbun Award while I was at City College for excellence in structural design and civil engineering, which I was very proud to have been recognized to receive. And other than that, the five years went by fast and it was a great experience. I did receive two scholarships while I was at City College, even though the tuition was for free, there were scholarships being offered by the American Society of Civil Engineers, and the New York Association of Consulting Engineers. And I was fortunate enough to win both those scholarships. As I think I may have mentioned to you, or at least as in my bio, unfortunately, both my parents were rather sick and hospitalized when I was growing up. My father was a disabled veteran from the war and in a Veterans Hospital and my mother unfortunately suffered from traumatic rheumatic heart fever and was in the hospital a good portion of her life. So, I had to fend for myself and go to work to keep a roof over my head and pay the bills. So, scholarships like those helped, even though tuition was free to pay bursar's fees, books, laboratory materials, and helped cover the other costs that one needs to survive. So, I was very grateful for those scholarships, even though the tuition was free at that time.

Do you have anything else to add?

Well, I've been back to City College to attend some of the Civil Engineering reunions over the past several years, I guess there were two of them, I recall very vividly. I had the opportunity to meet with some of the current students to see what they're all about, along with their studies. Obviously, the ethnicity and mix of the college students have changed over the years, but the need is still the same. The quest for an education, their quest to live their American dream and fulfill their careers. So that was inspiring to see. And I was very happy to share some time with them. And it's one of the things that inspired me to make the donations that I have, as well as set up the scholarships as I have. I would like to encourage all the alumni at City College to strongly consider setting up some scholarships, if they're in a financial position to do so, to give something back tto the college and next generation of students, for the free and wonderful education that we received. It's a very rewarding experience to see that you're helping somebody to be able to get the education they're working very hard for and allow them to move ahead with their dream and their career.


 

Since 1847, The City College of New York (CCNY) has offered a world-class education in the heart of the most diverse city in the world. Our students, staff, and faculty work together, each day, to address the greatest issues of our time, just as generations of our alumni did when they were students at City College. The power to transform what students learn in the classroom, and apply it to communities both locally and globally, is what makes CCNY such a unique institution of higher education.

We are grateful to donors, such as Professor John J. Eschemuller, P.E., who proudly support City College through scholarships in support of the Brooklyn/CCNY Initiative and the Department of Civil Engineering. By giving to CCNY through the Foundation for City College, we can create opportunities for students to use to complete their college careers.