Two MSU alumni will be inducted into the Montana Professional Engineers Hall of Fame this year. The two recipients, Albert Kersich and John Morrison Jr. have been awarded honorary doctorates from MSU in 1993 and 1997, respectively. The award is given annually by the Montana Society of Engineers to leaders who show excellence in the engineering field. Kersich and Morrison will receive the awards on Nov. 6 at Montana Engineers Honors Banquet in Helena. Following their induction, the two will have plaques in their honor in Roberts Hall.
Kersich, a Red Lodge, Montana native, spent more than 50 years in the field of civil engineering and water resources. He helped design over 200 buildings, including multiple structures on the MSU and Great Falls College campuses. His most notable project was designing MSU’s Brick Breeden Fieldhouse in 1957. The dome-shaped roof of the fieldhouse is held up by what was the largest-spanning wooden beam structure in the world at the time.
In addition to his work at MSU, Kersich served as president of the engineering firm HKM Associates from 1970 to 1995. During his time there, he pioneered over 30 projects to modify dams in need of repair in Montana. His involvement in dam modification led Kersich to an interest in water resources and rights. Since his retirement from HKM, Kersich has worked as a water resource consultant specifically focusing on Native American access to clean water.
Known as an advocate for engineering licensing and education, Kersich served as a chairman of the Montana State Board of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors. Kersich was awarded an honorary doctorate from MSU in 1993 thanks to his dedication to designing and improving infrastructure at MSU and around the state.
Morrison Jr., a native of Helena, Montana, led one of the state’s largest civil engineering firms. The firm, Morrison-Maierle, was founded by Morrison Jr.’s father, John H. Morrison Sr., in 1945. Morrison Jr. began surveying work for the company at the age of 13. He earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from MSU in 1955. Following his graduation, he began his career at Morrison-Maierle where he served as CEO and president from 1973 to 1988.
During his career at the firm, Morrison Jr. spearheaded a change in focus from regional infrastructure projects to major overseas projects. Starting in 1973, the firm began designing and repairing roads and infrastructure in Vietnam that had been destroyed during the Vietnam War. Morrison Jr. spent over a year living in the region to assist with the efforts. In addition to work in Vietnam, Morrison Jr. and the Morrison-Maierle, firm spent 12 years in Zaire designing roads and rural water storage.
Morrison Jr. served on the advisory board for MSU’s Department of Civil Engineering and the Norm Asbjornson College of Engineering. He also served on the board of the MSU Alumni Association for more than 20 years. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from MSU in 1997 following his involvement with Morrison-Maierle and his commitment to the engineering program at MSU.
With the growing engineering community at MSU, it is important to remember past engineers who have paved the way for new students. As of 2018, the Norm Asbjornson College of Engineering boasted 3,390 students and 79 tenured faculty. The college offers 14 majors and 14 minors as well as world renowned research opportunities. The current state of the engineering program can be credited to past work from engineers like Kersich and Morrison Jr.