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State of Nebraska Board of Engineers and Architects

History of the Nebraska Board of Engineers and Architects

In the 1920s and 1930s, Nebraskans witnessed several unfortunate events including a dam collapse, flooding caused by new but unproven water systems, and a newly-built schoolhouse crumbling at its foundations. These incidents, despite false starts in 1913 and 1921, served as the catalyst for the creation of a board responsible for protecting the health, safety, and welfare of all citizens and visitors in Nebraska through regulating the practices of engineering and architecture.

The State Board of Examiners for Professional Engineers and Architects was created by the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature through Legislative Bill 14, and established the Nebraska Engineers and Architects Regulation Act. Senators Lester Dunn of Lancaster, A.L. Miller of Kimball, L.B. Murphy of Scotts Bluff, E.M. Von Seggern of Cuming, Amos Thomas of Douglas, Ernest A. Adams of Douglas, and John Knickrehm of Hall were the bill’s sponsors.  Governor Robert “Roy” Cochran signed the bill to enact it into law, which became effective on August 16, 1937.

In its first year, the Board consisted of three engineers and two architects.  The five original board members were professional engineers Roy M. Green and David L. Erickson, both of Lincoln; Albert L. Turner of Omaha; and architect board members William L. Steele and Charles W. Steinbaugh, both of Omaha. These board members initially forgot to license themselves, and as a result, later created their own license numbers: B-1 through B-5.

The first architect license (A-1) was issued to James C. Stitt of Norfolk, and the first professional engineer license (E-1) was issued to Governor Cochran, who received a civil engineering degree from the University of Nebraska in 1910.  Governor Cochran was also a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Nebraska Engineering Society.

In 1984, the Act was changed to allow one licensed faculty member each from the University of Nebraska’s College of Engineering and the College of Architecture to serve on the board as non-voting members.  Ernest Moore was the first architect representing the architecture college, and Keith Newhouse represented the engineering college.

In 1998, following a major overhaul of the Act, education board members were given full voting privileges, and a board member representing the public was also added.  William Tringe of Holdrege was the first public board member.  In addition, 1998 saw the Board change its name to its current name: the Nebraska Board of Engineers and Architects.

The first woman board member was architect Melinda Pearson, who served from 1994 through 2004.  In 2017, board officers were for the first time all held by women: public member Krista Kester as Chair, professional engineer Jennifer Klein as Vice-Chair, and architect Lenora Nelson as Secretary.

Two Nebraska board members have served as presidents of the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES): Dale W. Sall, 1999-2000 NCEES President, and Michael J. Conzett, 2015-16 NCEES President.

On June 25, 2019, the Board awarded the first and, to date, only honorary license to Thomas Rogers Kimball.  Kimball served as the American Institute of Architects President from 1918 to 1920, and from 1919 to 1932 served on the Nebraska State Capitol Commission.  Kimball supervised the 1920 design contest that selected Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue as architect of the Nebraska State Capitol. Kimball died in 1934, three years before the board was created, and consequently never had the opportunity to become licensed in Nebraska.  The honorary license certificate was presented to Kimball's descendants in conjunction with Kimball’s induction into the Nebraska Hall of Fame.

Today, the board is comprised of four professional engineers, three architects, and one member of the public.  Since 1937, the board has licensed more than 5,600 architects and 20,500 professional engineers. To be licensed, architects and professional engineers must meet rigorous education, experience, and examination standards. The Act also mandates that architects and professional engineers must be involved in the design of buildings and structures of significant size or complexity.