After serving three years as an officer in the U.S. Air Force, Monsees returned to the classroom, earning his master’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Illinois, learning his craft from some of the most respected civil engineering professors of the time.
After Monsees acquired his doctoral degree in 1970, he worked continuously in underground engineering for the next 40 years and knew or met virtually everyone in the underground construction industry in the U.S. and many worldwide.
“He had a sterling reputation for engineering open-mindedness and integrity, and someone everyone liked,” Hansmire said. “These were characteristics difficult to achieve in the hard business of heavy civil design and construction of tunnels and underground structures.”
His long list of accolades speaks volumes of his career and who he is as a human being. In 1991, Monsees was elected to the National Academy of Engineering, where he had served as chairman of the organization's Awards Committee. It is the highest honorary recognition in his field.
In 2011, he was recipient of the Golden Beaver Engineering Award. He also received the Lifetime Achievement Award from Tunnels & Tunnelling International magazine.
Monsees is survived by his wife Leda; daughter Brenda and her husband Scott Black; son Mark and his wife Joyce; four grandchildren: Rachel, Lauren, Christian and Nick; brother Ned Monsees and his wife Kathy; little sister Betty Jean and her husband Pete Siegel Jr. and sister-in-law Karen Monsees.
“Jim always said that if he had not found tunnel engineering as a career, he would have been a veterinarian,” Elioff recalled fondly of her longtime colleague and friend. “But Jim was destined for engineering greatness, and quite an inspiration for us all.”
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