Engineer with expansive civil, structural, and mining career dies at 85

Peter Eric Jahn, a civil, structural, and mining engineer with top firms as well as an international aid worker, has died. He was 85.

Jahn

Jahn, P.E., M.ASCE, launched a nearly half-century career in the early 1960s at Ammann & Whitney. There he participated in two major construction projects, the Throgs Neck Bridge and the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge. The young engineer took on the dangerous work of inspecting construction, including the spinning of cable and ensuring that concrete anchorages were setting correctly. These checks were often performed in icy, wintry weather, and late at night. The Verrazzano Narrows was the world’s longest suspension span bridge when it opened in 1964.

When Rwanda became an independent country, Jahn helped install its first water treatment plant as part of a mission for the United States Agency for International Development. In Saudi Arabia, he supported construction of a critical telecommunications building.

His travels only became more frequent beginning in 1965 when he joined Ralph M. Parsons Engineering Corporation, who recognized his ore-processing knowledge and skill. As project manager and program director, he worked in the design, procurement, and construction of major mining projects across the United States, Mexico, Canada, and Iran.

He later provided expertise on major chemical demilitarization projects on Johnson Atoll in the Pacific, making safe the munitions that had been stored in the U.S., Germany, and China. This was done in coordination with a parallel Russian demilitarization project.

Jahn was especially appreciated by the students and young engineers with whom he mentored and provided opportunities when the industry was in difficult economic times.

He held degrees from Lehigh University and Polytechnic University of Brooklyn, where he studied at night. He and his wife Brenda helped many to advance in their careers through their work with Toastmasters International.

An ASCE Life Member who joined the Society in 1958, Jahn served as chair of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration Southern California Section in the 1970s and again in 2011. For work that included being the section’s representative on the Los Angeles Council of Engineers and Scientists, he was recognized by SME in 2012 as Local Section Hero.

His love of adventure kept him sailing on trips around the world with his family or close sailing friends. He captained sailing vessels in Tonga, Belize, Mexico, Greece, Croatia, and the Caribbean.

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