Jeffrey R. Needham, PE, SE (Retired)
Jon A. Schmidt, PE*, SECB
Wes Britson, PE, SE (Retired)
Thomas F. Heausler, PE, SE
Todd R. Brewood, PE, SE
September 11, 2001 will always be remembered for the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Flight 93. For the founders of the Structural Engineers Association of Kansas & Missouri (SEAKM), it will also be remembered as the day its founders signed the formation documents for the organization. They had gathered in a conference room at the Overland Park office of Needham & Associates during that fateful morning while the full scope of the events in New York, Virginia, and Pennsylvania were unfolding.
The four self-nicknamed "instigators" were Jon Schmidt, PE, SECB of Burns & McDonnell in Kansas City; Wes Britson, PE, SE of Professional Engineering Consultants in Wichita; Thomas Heausler, PE, SE of Heausler Structural Engineers in Kansas City; and Jeff Needham, PE, SE of Needham & Associates. It was only weeks earlier that these individuals became aware of their common interest in creating a group that truly represented the technical and professional interests of practicing structural engineers.
All four founders had a sense that existing organizations were not adequately addressing this need. In the case of Tom and Jeff, they had both worked for a few years in California where they gained an appreciation for the work of the Structural Engineers Association in that state, and they wanted to create something similar in the Kansas City area. Wes had been actively involved in the beginnings of the Oklahoma Structural Engineers Association (OSEA), and when he moved to Kansas, he saw a similar need for leadership of structural engineers both inside his firm and across the state and community. Jon brought his considerable organization and communication skills and was the "glue" that helped put the plan into action.
In a period during the summer of 2001, Jeff, Wes, and Jon all independently contacted the National Council of Structural Engineers Associations (NCSEA) in Chicago about forming a new state association. NCSEA was very helpful by putting these three in touch with one another and by assisting with the process and procedures required to form a new association. As President of the Structural Technical Group for the Kansas City Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), Tom joined the effort to help spread the word and facilitate a smooth transition.
In a series of meetings and phone calls the founders met, discussed goals, and dealt with the details of bylaws, dues, bank accounts, and numerous other issues. They arranged and conducted an Organizational Meeting in January 2002 at which the Charter Members established chapters in Kansas City, Saint Louis, and Wichita, formed several committees, and elected Jon as SEAKM's first bi-state President. He also served as its Delegate to NCSEA for several years. Wes was initially a Director representing the Wichita Chapter, then became SEAKM's second bi-state President. Jeff was the first bi-state Treasurer, and Tom was the first Kansas City Chapter President.
And thus, began the association of Structural Engineers in Kansas and Missouri. Beginning as the founders assembled in a conference room to sign the Articles of Incorporation, with the events of that September day on a television in the adjacent room. SEAKM was created on a day the four founders will never forget.