By Kevin Gray
An avid scuba diver and successful businessman, Joseph Heaney ’85 draws comparisons between his two passions. Both start, he says, with a plan. Founder and principal of Walden Associates, Oyster Bay, N.Y., an environmental consulting firm, he has designed soil and groundwater remediation systems, water and wastewater treatment systems, and corrective action for failed storage tanks.
Heaney shares his knowledge and experience with the next generation of engineers. He has hosted up to three Lafayette externs each year since he graduated and regularly hires summer interns at Walden, including about 10 from Lafayette over the years.
“My externship at Walden was during my first winter in the United States,” says Yue “Luna” Yuan ’12, a mechanical engineering and policy studies major from China, “but it has continued to influence me. It opened my eyes to the world of engineering and the workplace, and I became more aware of the impact of industrial activities on the environment, which led to my strong interests in sustainability.”
Heaney mentors students because he says it is important to serve as a resource and he values learning from others.
“I interview or bring in young people who have the same educational degrees and goals that I have, and tell them the only difference between us is that I have experience,” he says. “I advise them to get that experience by choosing the best places to work and the best people to work for.”
Heaney founded Walden Associates in 1995. The firm provides environmental, engineering, and consulting services to manufacturers, facility managers, and state and local government.
“Running a service business requires the ability to talk to people. I learned and perfected valuable people skills by teaching scuba,” says Heaney, who has certified more than 500 students and logged more than 5,000 dives himself. “It was very rewarding to see people I taught gain and grow in our mutual interest.”
Heaney has been accruing valuable experience throughout his academic and professional careers. For example, prior to transferring to Lafayette, he spent a year at West Point.
“That experience was about starting out at the bottom, working our way up, and having respect for leaders,” Heaney explains. “The goal was to develop leadership skills.”
A civil engineering graduate, Heaney benefited from a strong faculty including mentors Edward Wetzel ’74, former assistant professor of civil engineering, and Ray Ferrara, former associate professor of civil engineering, and a “rigorous” curriculum that prepared him well. He holds a master’s degree in engineering from Manhattan College.
Besides hosting externs and interns, Heaney speaks each year to honors and advanced placement physics students at Oyster Bay High School to give them an overview of the field of engineering.
“There’s a whole world of engineering that students often are not exposed to when exploring career options,” he says. “There are plenty of talented students in the United States who would be outstanding engineers; they just need a little direction.”
“The thing I love most about what I do is that I learn new things all the time,” he says. “I started out learning about being an engineer, then about running a business. There are always new issues to address and people to meet. Because of that, the opportunities to learn never stop.”