Excerpt from: Better To Give Than To Receive

…Three months after Hem arrived in Champaign-Urbana, he received a letter from the friend he met on the ship from Mumbai. She was living in Charlottesville, Virginia, and had been injured in a car accident. Unable to travel, she was hoping friends would come to visit. Her politically-connected family was quite well-off, and her letter detailed the arrangements she could provide, including diplomatic consideration and a hotel room in Charlottesville. Hem had already discovered the affordability and ease of traveling by Greyhound, and the trip sounded like the type of adventure he had left India to explore. It was a thirty-hour trip between the two cities. The bus stopped regularly and most rest stops remained nameless and unremarkable. All except Charleston, West Virginia. In the 1950s South, segregation was still mainstream. For the first time since his arrival in the U.S., Hem saw the ramifications of racism – there were two bathroom doors, one labeled “Whites,” another labeled “Blacks.” Hem wrinkled his brow. He had no idea which bathroom to use! He entered the “Whites” bathroom, and fortunately had no further incidents…. 

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…The Chicago Board of Trade retrofit project turned out to be a major long-term project and a turning point for ESD. The comprehensive redesign of both the mechanical and electrical engineering systems challenged Hem and his best engineers. The building remained fully occupied and fully functional during their work, forcing them to approach the implementation with creative solutions. The engineering systems were upgraded to state-of-the-art technology, including a heat recovery system that adequately recycled energy from lighting in the building’s interior. The redesign dramatically decreased the energy consumption of the building.

The project was a phenomenal success and established a critical relationship for ESD with Cushman & Wakefield. Years later, when the building was creating space for the newly established Chicago Board Options Exchange in 1974, ESD was a natural fit to handle the engineering of the massive trading floor. Instead of doing their work during the day like the Board of Trade project, they were tasked with completing all work during the off-hours.

The relationships and professional visibility that the projects created were invaluable to Hem. It solidified his relevance and permanence at the top of the pack within the Chicago and national engineering communities. While ESD pitched plenty of contracts that it did not win, overall, there were more successes than failures. The team took on increasingly complex challenges. The payoff was increasingly complex opportunities, and the firm continued to thrive into the 1970s and beyond…