Top Air Force and CH2M Hill Engineer, Distinguished Member Ahearn Dies

Distinguished Member Joseph A. “Bud” Ahearn, who oversaw major civil engineering projects across a 34-year career in the U.S. Air Force and a 20-year tenure with CH2M HILL, and was a founding sponsor of Engineers Without Borders USA, has died at 81.

In 2010, ASCE recognized Ahearn, P.E., Dist.M.ASCE, NAC, for his leadership with an Outstanding Projects And Leaders award in government. He was a former member of ASCE’s Industry Leaders Council and the Civil Engineering Forum for Innovation. He was named a Distinguished Member in 2008.

With the Air Force, Ahearn directed the development and operations of all 154 U.S. air bases worldwide. While serving in Vietnam, he commanded a combat engineering and construction squadron responsible for building and operating U.S. air bases in Southeast Asia. As a program manager, he oversaw deployment of Atlas, Titan and Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile systems across the United States and ground launched cruise missile systems throughout Europe.

Following his 1992 retirement as a major general, he joined CH2M HILL as vice chairman. Under his guidance, he oversaw design and construction of the third Panama Canal, 22 venues for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, and an $11 billion relocation of a joint U.S.-South Korea military base.
In 2011, he became a founding partner of the J3Leadership Group, a leadership development and performance consulting firm. “I’ve been a longstanding proponent of studying the art and science of leadership,” he said. “That came from a value call I made that the human art of engagement, art of influence, art of leadership, art of teamsmanship … of followership … of gentle personship [that] is every bit as significant over the lifespan as any technical skill you might pick up along the way.”

Ahearn was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2010. He was a former president of the National Academy of Construction and the Society of American Military Engineers. He received his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Notre Dame and a master’s in engineering administration from Syracuse University.


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