The future meets the past|61 recognized for service at District’s Founders’ Day

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 23, 2009

Employees of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Vicksburg District looked to both the past and future, complete with a “visit” from the organization’s founding father, at the fifth annual Founders’ Day.

“It really is a true honor to be able to reach back and have someone you can see that has gone through some of our challenges that we have today,” said the District’s commander, Col. Michael Wehr, during Tuesday’s reception, themed The Future Meets the Past, during which 61 people were recognized.

Making an appearance was Capt. William Henry Harrison Benyaurd, who in 1873 founded a U.S. Army Engineer office in Monroe. Eleven years later, the Vicksburg office opened.

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“I did Benyaurd in another kind of context before, two years ago. I’ve studied him previously,” said Daniel A. Johnson, whose re-enactment of Benyaurd came complete with period clothing, a cigar and body movements. Johnson, who is assistant chief of the District’s Planning, Programs and Project Management Division, has logged 35 years of Corps service.

Benyaurd died from pneumonia in 1900 and was buried at West Point, the U.S. Military Academy where he studied. The MV Benyaurd, one of the most powerful vessels in the Army Corps of Engineers, was named for him on June 22, 1979.

Following the entertainment, awards were presented.

Thomas L. Hengst and Pat R. Upton received the Commander’s Award for Civilian Service.

Hengst earned the award during his time as the senior project manager for the Mississippi Delta Headwaters Project in the Planning, Programs and Project Management Division from September 2000 to March 2009.

“It was a total team effort to make it happen,” said Hengst, who worked with about 20 people on the project.

He is the chief of flood control and hydropower in the Operations Division, where he is responsible for the operation and maintenance of the levee and flood-damage-reduction systems in Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi.

“I’m doing the same thing, but from an operational standpoint,” said Hengst, who has been with the Corps for 15 years.

He and his wife, Pam, live in Rolling Fork, and they have three children and two grandchildren.

Upton, who has 30 years of Corps service, received the Commander’s Award for her work as a staff accountant in the finance and accounting branch.

“I’ve enjoyed my career and all the challenges we’ve had,” she said.

Upton’s branch was also recognized for qualifying and receiving an audited opinion on their financial statements for the fiscal year 2008. “This is something the Corps has been trying to achieve for almost 20 years now,” she said.

Also recognized were Lanny R. Robinson for the E. Manning Seltzer Award, which recognizes an attorney who’s contributed to the Corps; William Mathews and Ken Chennault for the Chief Counsel Honorary Award; Kenneth D. Parrish Jr., chief of construction services; William T. Shows, a senior project manager; two people with 40 years of service; 11 with 35; 18 with 30; 13 with 25; and 11 with 20. New employees were also introduced.

From its office on East Clay Street, the District oversees the work of several field offices in Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas, as well as the four flood control reservoirs in North Mississippi, three in Arkansas and one in Louisiana.

The District’s missions include navigation, flood damage and control, hydropower, recreation, emergency management, water supply, environmental stewardship and overseas contingency operations.


Contact Manivanh Chanprasith at