Last year, the ASPE Board of Directors approved Life Membership status for Dallas/Ft. Worth Chapter member James Vertz, CET, FASPE. Life Membership status can be granted to a member, after nomination by their Chapter Board of Directors, if they have been a member in good standing continuously during the past 15 years and have demonstrated significant contributions to their Chapter and/or the Society. As you can see from the following, Jim certainly fulfills those qualifications.
Jim joined ASPE in 1980, and right away he became actively involved in his local Chapter, Dallas/Ft. Worth. During his long tenure he served as the Chapter’s Product Show Chair, Vice President, Membership, Vice President, Technical, and President. Jim was a Chapter Delegate to numerous ASPE Business Meetings and served as the Chair of the Host Committee when ASPE held its Convention & Expo in Ft. Worth in 2002. Jim also was heavily involved in the formation of the Lubbock High Plains Satellite Chapter in Lubbock, Texas and still serves as an Ambassador to the Chapter, helping arrange technical programs and performing other services when needed.
In 2014, Jim was elected into ASPE’s Kenneth G. Wentink College of Fellows, the highest honor ASPE bestows on its members.
Professionally, Jim worked in the Dallas office of Black & Veatch Corp. for 39 years until his retirement in October 2012. Working as a Mechanical Engineering Specialist, Jim was responsible for all plumbing, HVAC, and odor-control design and specifications involving water treatment and other facilities designed through the Dallas office.
Jim also was a Quartermaster with the U.S. Coast Guard for four years.
In His Own Words
Renn Burling, the Dallas/Ft. Worth Chapter Corresponding Secretary, spoke to Jim about his life and accomplishments.
Renn: Where and when were you born and where did you grow up?
Jim: I was born in Minneapolis in 1946 and lived there for five years. I moved to Dallas for six months and then to Houston where I spent the remainder of my teen years.
Renn: What was the world like when you were a kid?
Jim: We were waiting for the atom bomb to drop, hiding under our wood school desk as if that was going to help. Rock and roll was in, no air- conditioning in our house, black-and-white TV, space race getting started, no drugs or shootings, daddy’s law was final, play outside but be home in time for dinner.
Renn: What was the first car you owned?
Jim: It was a 1957 Studebaker Silver Hawk.
Renn: Where did you go to school and when?
Jim: Through high school I was in Houston, then one year at Texas A&M and one year at Alvin Community College.
Renn: Why did you want to join the engineering field?
Jim: After working one summer between college terms for a petrol chemical design firm, I had found my calling and took engineering design classes my third term that sent me on the way.
Renn: What qualifications have you held?
Jim: I hold a Senior Engineering Technician level grade in NICET.
Renn: What was it like when the Dallas/Ft. Worth Chapter first started? When did you join?
Jim: I joined in 1980 after attending meetings for about a year. The organization was alive with engineers and representatives who were very dedicated and enjoyed the interaction of the Society. Only one meeting was held each month in Arlington, with a sponsored bar and 125 to 130 members at each meeting.
Renn: How has being part of ASPE benefitted your career and personal life?
Jim: My former company supported my involvement in ASPE in allowing and sponsoring my attendance at the various events over the years. Having been a member of both ASPE and ASHRAE, I chose ASPE because I felt I got more out of the Society and the membership was more energized. I still enjoy the company I come in contact with at the meetings and the challenge of new chapter beginnings.
Renn: What do you think about where technology has taken us—both personally and professionally?
Jim: I started on the “boards,” as they say, doing manual drafting with pencil on linen. Mistakes were costly and very time consuming. Thank heaven for CAD. Now it seems that every element of the plumbing design has a link to more information attached. It is harder to keep up with the new production methods, and time is now the governing factor in getting the job out the door.
Renn: Can you use a slide rule? Do you think anyone under 50 even knows what a slide rule is?
Jim: I still have my slide rule from college, only recall the C&D scale to multiply.
Renn: What would you tell a young person who just began or is considering a career in plumbing design or engineering?
Jim: Take advantage of every avenue you can by joining the Society, attending technical meetings, and getting to know the manufacturers, as they bring a wealth of knowledge to the table. The only way you are going to learn this engineering trade is through on-the-job experience. Try to find that person in your office or the local Chapter who you can go to with questions. Remember: there are no stupid questions, only unasked ones.
Renn: What are your hobbies or outside interests?
Jim: I have a country place outside of Mineola on a private lake where I can just kick back, put the boat in, and pretend I can fish. I am also involved in the HOA here in Rowlett where I have served as President and am currently the Treasurer.
Renn: Tell us a little about your family life.
Jim: My wife and I met while I was stationed in Corpus Christi and have been married for 48 years. We have three kids, four grandchildren, and 1.5 great grandkids. My daughter is a paralegal, one son is a Dallas police officer, and the other is working in Rusk, Texas.
Renn: Are you a dog or a cat person, or both?
Jim: We have three dogs, and the cat next door comes over from time to time to poop on the lawn.
ASPE thanks Renn Burling for his help in developing this article.