Generations of Success: Stephen Boswell '89 Leads the Engineering Firm his Grandfather Founded

1/10/2013

When Stephen Boswell ‘89 drives to work — or nearly anywhere else in the Northeast, for that matter — he feels secure knowing his engineering firm likely designed or improved many of the roads and bridges he’s driving over.

Boswell, a Board of Trustees member, is President and CEO of Boswell Engineering in South Hackensack, New Jersey — one of four Boswell generations in his family to become licensed professional engineers. He now leads the firm after a mid-career change and a cross-country move back to New Jersey, where he earned a double master’s and then a Ph.D. at Stevens.

Boswell Engineering has always been a family affair: Stephen’s grandfather David founded the firm in 1924 as a two-employee field office doing surveying and civil engineering, and Stephen’s father Howard continued the tradition. His daughter Kristen, the first fourth-generation licensed engineer in the nation, until recently designed all aspects of transportation systems and managed the full spectrum of the firm’s services provided to municipal clients. Bruce and Kevin Boswell, brothers of Stephen and also licensed engineers, serve as corporate Vice Presidents.

With satellite offices in White Plains and Albany, New York, the company is renowned for its design and management of roadways, bridges, and water and wastewater treatment facilities. Over the past two decades, the firm has been involved in billions of dollars’ worth of work in the northeastern U.S. on state and interstate roadways and bridges, including projects for the Port Authority of NY & NJ; the New Jersey Turnpike; the New York State Department of Transportation; and the New York State Thruway Authority.

The firm also operates one of the nation’s few underwater engineering divisions with licensed engineers, providing subaqueous inspection and remediation design to bridges and waterfront facilities as close to home as the Hudson River and as far afield as Hawaii.

“We are extremely diverse,” says Boswell.

Boswell wasn’t always in charge of the family company. After completing bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biology and chemistry at NYU and William Paterson University, he moved to California to work as a process engineer. In 1987, at the request of his brother Howie, Stephen returned east and assumed the position as the firm’s COO. Today Stephen continues the legacy of his grandfather and father.

“I needed to learn about engineering, because I was not working as a civil engineer,” he recalls. “And Stevens did a phenomenal job of training me.”

Taking night classes while serving as COO, Boswell completed a double master’s in civil engineering in 1989, then continued on to a Ph.D. in environmental engineering in 1991. His thesis described a novel technology for removing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and radon from drinking water. While Boswell never prototyped the technology, he says it still makes good business and public safety sense for a water purveyor to test it one day.

In addition to sitting on the Board of Trustees, Boswell has given regularly and generously back to Stevens in order to support the dreams of future engineers.

“It was ingrained in us when we were growing up that, when you can give back, you do,” he says. “I have been fortunate enough to be able to do so.”

Boswell’s support includes gifts and pledges to athletics programs, Stevens’ Altorfer Academic Complex, the construction of the Babbio Center, and — more recently — to a scholarship fund that has provided and will continue to provide much-needed financial assistance to undergraduates majoring in engineering, particularly civil engineers.

“Civil engineers build the transportation networks that get us safely to work and back home again,” he explains. “Engineering is important, and Stevens is fantastic at delivering an engineering education. I received a terrific graduate education, and the undergraduate program is even better, one of the best in the nation.”

Boswell’s own experience as chief executive bears that out.

“We hire a lot of Stevens graduates,” he points out, “and I have never once been disappointed in the intellectual preparedness of a Stevens graduate. Not once. If you completed a degree at Stevens, you have proven both your intellectual capability and your perseverance.”

Boswell says he strongly supports Stevens’ plans, with the leadership of President Nariman Farvardin, to strategically grow the student body, faculty, and campus.

“He is the right person, at the right time, for Stevens,” concludes Boswell. “He is impressive, and he is leading us in the right direction.”