Stevens Alumnus Updates Biden on Jersey Damage

4/25/2013

A Stevens alumnus was part of the team who briefed Vice President Joe Biden on Superstorm Sandy damage to the Jersey Shore coastline.

Dr. Harry Friebel, Ph.D. ’05, a coastal engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) North Atlantic Philadelphia District (NAP), was asked to act as a technical expert and to brief Biden during the vice president’s tour of Shore areas in mid-November 2012.

“I found Joe Biden to be very genuine. He was comfortable to talk to and friendly, and I found that he was really listening to what we had to say (about the damage to the Jersey Shore),’’ Friebel said. “Even though Biden is from Delaware, he said (in a news conference) that he spent his summers in Ocean City, N.J., so he has ties to the New Jersey shore.’’

The NAP district of USACE encompasses from Manasquan Inlet to Cape May Point for the New Jersey area. Friebel, of Berlin, N.J., who enjoys surfing in his free time, has been a coastal engineer with USACE for nine years. He said he loves his job.

“I work at the beach. Any day in the field is better than a day in the office and the field for me is being at the beach. What could be better?’’ he said.

The New Jersey native earned his undergraduate and master’s degrees at Florida Institute of Technology, located in Melbourne, Fla., a few miles from the beach. Friebel enrolled there, thinking he would become an airline pilot. But one day, while in a course at Florida Tech, several engineers from different fields of engineering came to speak to students. When the ocean engineer spoke, Friebel said it all fell into place.

“I said to myself, ‘Wait. I can get paid to go work on the beach? This is for me,’’’ he said, relishing the memory.

He said he came to Stevens for his doctoral degree for several reasons, one of which is the ocean engineering program at Stevens. Another was the chance to return to his home state.

“I always had that itch to learn more. I liked school and I knew Stevens had a great ocean engineering program. I applied and I was fortunate enough to receive a fellowship.’’

“When I applied to Stevens, I was fortunate enough to receive a research assistantship at the Davidson Lab under Dr. Thomas Herrington ’89.  I did receive a 1-year fellowship from an outside organization (Link Foundation) but my main and primary support at Stevens was the research assistantship,’’ Friebel said.

He said he found out about the Biden briefing a day before the visit and he had to quickly arrange for child care for his young children, so he had little time to get nervous or stress over it. The vice president is the highest ranking official he has worked with in his career, he said.

“The joke is I have nowhere to go from here but down,’’ he said.

Read more about Stevens and Sandy at /news/sandy.

Photo credit: White House Photo by Sonya N. Hebert