From Co-op to CEO
Michael Britt ’83, ’90 was just 19 years old in 1979 when he arrived at the bridge engineering firm Modjeski and Masters in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, for his first co-op. He pulled into a spot thinking he was lucky to snag a good one.
Later, someone tracked him down to tell him he couldn’t park there; it was for the principals. Whoops.
But Britt clearly found his place. Last year, he was named CEO of the 125-year-old company, which has made its name designing and inspecting iconic bridges such as the I-74 Bridge on the Mississippi River and the world’s busiest, the George Washington Bridge.
Now, of course, Britt has his own reserved parking place, and he says he wouldn’t be there at all if not for the Drexel Co-op program.
"I've been at every different level."
After that first co-op, the Mechanicsburg native returned for three more with the bridge builder, his responsibilities and pay rising, the latter from $3.30 an hour to $7.50. During one early inspection, he held the “SLOW” traffic sign. Soon, Britt was traveling the country, walking up the cables of “glorious bridges,” including Philadelphia’s major spans like the Benjamin Franklin Bridge (designed by the original founder Ralph Modjeski) and several along the Mississippi River. In Iowa, he found a loose pin that connected tress members. During his final co-op, he supervised a soil-boring contractor.
Despite his first-day snafu, Britt was offered a full-time position after he graduated. In 1983, he took his first project as a structural engineer working on designs for several Susquehanna River bridges. Five years later, he moved to the Federal Highway Administration, first as assistant bridge engineer for Pennsylvania in Harrisburg and later as assistant regional engineer in Baltimore. He also earned a master’s in civil engineering.
In 1995, the government sent Britt to Japan for a year to study the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, then the world’s longest suspension bridge, and the Tatara Bridge, among the longest cable-stayed bridges.
Back stateside, Modjeski and Masters asked him to return as director of business development. Over two decades, he climbed the ranks to president in 2017, a preamble to taking the ultimate brass ring last year.
“It’s kind of daunting,” says the 59-year-old. “I just want to keep the torch lit. Make it better, if possible. I know a lot about the history. I understand the culture. I respect all that. I can relate to people at every different level, because I’ve been at every different level.”
Pictured above: Michael Britt was named CEO of Modjeski and Masters last year. The firm oversaw the design of Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin Bridge in 1919, the same year Drexel created the co-op program. The firm continues to maintain the bridge today.