Drexel Engineering alumnus William Thomsen, PE, MS engineering management ’85, has been elected as the 2021 Delaware Valley Engineer of the Year by the Engineers’ Club of Philadelphia.
The award recognizes a standout local engineer who emulates the qualities and talents that define professional excellence, civic duty, society leadership, and community stewardship.
Thomsen is President and CEO of Urban Engineers of New York and Senior Vice president and COO of National Services for Urban Engineers, Inc. The two companies provide planning, design, environmental, and construction support services for major projects across the country. Thomsen holds more than 30 years of experience at Urban and manages the company’s presence in New York State while overseeing its national operations. He specializes in projects that concern track, catenary, signal, and communications for transit systems.
“It’s a career highlight to be recognized with this award, and I’m happy to accept it as a representative of my firm,” Thomsen says. “Urban Engineers has deep ties with the Delaware Valley, and it’s truly an honor to have those connections acknowledged.”
Thomsen earned his bachelor’s degree in civil and environmental engineering from Clarkson University and a master’s in engineering management from Drexel. He worked on his degree at night while working full time at Urban, completing work on the high-speed rail line that services Philadelphia International Airport.
“I knew early on in my education at Drexel that what I learned there would live with me and help me throughout my career,” Thomsen recalls. “Drexel’s comprehensive, broadly rounded approach to education gave me an ability to step back and see projects as a whole rather than only see the item or problem in front of me.”
After beginning his career with Conrail, Thomsen joined Urban Engineers’ office in Philadelphia, working on landmark projects in the city, including the Center City Commuter Connection, which connects Suburban Station and Jefferson Station. The firm contributed to the Second Avenue Subway, the largest expansion to the New York subway system in five decades, and to One World Trade Center, for which Urban provided material integrity inspections.
“Working on [One World Trade] was one of those career-defining projects,” Thomsen says. “One of the people I worked with there was a member of the FDNY on the day the towers came down. It was a blessing to work on something that meant so much to so many people.”
Thomsen has served as the past president of the American Society of Civil Engineers Philadelphia chapter and as a member of the executive committee for the American Public Transportation Association. He also maintains a regular connection with Drexel, contributing to meetings of the Construction Management Advisory Council, along with Urban colleague and executive committee vice chair Joseph McAtee, BS ’76. Urban employs a number of Drexel alumni, including President and CEO Kenneth Fulmer, ’92, ’00, a member of Drexel’s Board of Trustees.
“Drexel and Urban have a long relationship together,” Thomsen says. “Every year, without fail, our best co-ops come from Drexel. Many continue on to work with us full time. I’m proud to be just one part of the success between us.”