“He is one of the kindest people I have ever known, either in my professional or my personal life,” Engineering and Construction Division Chief Steve Williamson said. “While some can learn this quality, I think he was born with kindness in his heart. It has served him well. It has served our district well.”
Williamson is one of several people with great things to say about recent Memphis District retiree Structural Engineer Phillip Pinkston. After an astonishing 48 years of combined federal service, Pinkston has decided to hang his hat, celebrating both the end and beginning of two of life’s most rewarding chapters.
To celebrate his well-deserved retirement, we’re taking a look back to acknowledge all he accomplished, hear from the people he positively impacted, and more.
Pinkston grew up in Lexington, Kentucky. After high school, he remained in Lexington to attend Central Kentucky Vocational/Technical School, earning a diploma in drafting.
He spent two years with the Army Depot in Lexington before moving to Memphis, Tennessee, to work for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Throughout the next 46 years, Pinkston would hold the positions of civil engineering technician, engineering draftsman, and finally, structural engineer.
Pinkston also attended the University of Memphis and graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering in 2009.
In his final role as a structural engineer, Pinkston said his favorite thing about working in this field was developing final structural designs and seeing them through to completion.
“The first project I worked on was Huxtable Pump Station,” Pinkston remembered. “Construction of the pump station was nearly complete, but there was a levee slide at the pump station. I made a field trip to the site with the geotechnical engineers to see the slide and came up with a plan to repair it.”
Pinkston said another special project had to do with a Bayou Meto project where he designed the Colonel Maynard bridge.
“This was my first major project after receiving my engineering degree,” he said. “My responsibility was to design the bridge super structure and the challenge was to design the bridge using the AASHTO’s (American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials) newly implemented bridge design code.”
Pinkston accomplished much in his 48 years, crediting his former supervisor, Joe Keithley, for encouraging him to pursue a career in engineering in the first place. He also said Mike Sheridan and Tanya Wells were his mentors, saying they worked with and taught him structural engineering after graduating from the University of Memphis.
But what personal characteristics helped him through his nearly 50 years of service?
“Discipline, determination, hard work, and respect for others are some personal characteristics, but my faith and trust in Jesus Christ has helped me throughout my career,” he explained. “The verse of scripture that I turned to throughout my career has been “Colossians 3:22-24”.”
Finally, he said his favorite thing about working for the Memphis District is simply the people.
“What I value most about the Memphis District is the people whom I have had the pleasure of working with,” he said. “God has given me great coworkers and supervisors to work with throughout this District.”
And to say his coworkers and supervisors feel the same about him would be an understatement. The following are comments from those he worked with throughout his impressive career.
“I began my career in the Memphis District as a Structural Engineer and worked alongside Phillip daily, for almost two years,” Engineering and Construction Division Chief Steve Williamson said. “In 1989, the District was just beginning the transition from drafting to Computer Aided Drafting and Design (CADD), as it was called in those days. Phillip willingly taught me the Corps’ drafting standards, and he also went on to help lead the conversion of those drafting standards to the first CADD drafting standards utilized in the Memphis District’s Structures Section of Engineering Division, along with Structural Engineers Mike Watson and Young Hsu. In addition to being a leader in this, then, drafting to CADD frontier, one other thing sticks out in my mind about Phillip over my entire career working as his coworker - that would be his kindness.”
“I worked with Mr. Phillip Pinkston for nearly 13 years, and it has been an honor,” said CAD/BIM Technician John Moore. “After a few years of talking to and working with Mr. P (Mr. P is what I call him), I deemed him my mentor, and I could not have picked a better person for guidance. Thanks, Mr. P, for all you did for me over the years, and you will be missed dearly.”
“Thank you, Phillip, for always taking the time to answer questions and helping me out any way you can,” Structural Engineer Adam Belew said. “I have enjoyed getting to know you over the last year. Best of luck to you and your family in this next chapter.”
“Phillip consistently brought a peaceful and welcoming spirit to the workplace which could not go unnoticed,” Structural Engineer Tarris Greer said. “His presence and leadership will always be gratefully remembered.”
“Phillip is one of the nicest, kindest people I’ve met,” Structural Engineering Section Chief Marneshia Richard said. “He has a calm, loving spirit that is always positive. I’ve enjoyed working with Phillip over the past 6+ years. He was an example of professionalism always. I wish him the best and hope he thoroughly enjoys his retirement.”
“Phillip was a great teammate that I really appreciated working with,” Structural Engineer Ryan Smith said. “He was very kind, knowledgeable, and would help you out if you were in a pinch on a project without hesitancy. I send him a huge congratulations on a 48-year career with the Corps, and wish him nothing but the best in his retirement.”
“Phillip was a key contributor to our team and personally helped me on special projects for Design Branch on a number of occasions,” Design Branch Chief Shane Callahan said. “He was patient sharing his knowledge while mentoring less-experienced employees, which ensures his contribution to our district will extend beyond his retirement.”
“Congratulations on your retirement,” Engineering Technician Shanon Fortolis said. “I’ll forever be grateful for all the things you taught me. You always stopped what you were doing to answer a question I had or to help me get to the bottom of an issue, and always with a smile on your face. Not only were you a mentor to me, but you are a friend. You will be missed!”
As we said, many appreciated Pinkston during his time with the Memphis District. And as Callahan said, his contributions will benefit the district for years to come.
Congratulations again to Phillip Pinkston. And many thanks for his dedicated service to our nation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers mission.