June 02, 2015
Alumni Spotlight: Jeffery Ball
When it comes to going the extra mile and dedication to his alma mater, it’s hard to beat Jeffery T. Ball.
As an undergraduate engineering major at SIU in late 1980s, Ball had the good fortune of living on the same residence hall floor as the Saluki men’s basketball team. When it came time to buy season tickets for the 1988 season, Ball wanted to be sure he had good seats to see his buddies play.
Engineers don’t like leaving things to chance. He wanted to make darn sure he had good seats.
“I stayed up all night in front of the SIU Arena the night before season tickets went on sale, to make sure I would get good seats,” said Ball, executive vice president of Hanson Professional Services Inc. of Springfield, and a member of the College of Engineering’s Industrial Advisory Board.
“I was buying tickets for about two dozen people. Tickets went on sale at around 8:30 that morning and I got there about 7 the night before. I didn’t see another person until about 8:29 the next morning when someone else got in line! I stayed there all night for nothing other than it being a funny story to tell years later.
“I did have awesome seats though,” he said with a laugh.
As a member of the Industrial Advisory Board, Ball still has “great seats” looking in on the program that gave him his start. And as a leader in his field, he has good vision on where the profession of engineering is heading.
Born, raised and currently living in the countryside just east of the state capital, Ball graduated from SIU in 1991 with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. He immediately began working for Hanson Professional Services as a civil/transportation engineer and worked his way up to management over the ensuing years.
His responsibilities now include steering the company toward growth, mentoring employees, and creating and maintaining positive relationships with clients. Often, he must find ways to navigate potentially controversial transportation projects, doing so with broad experience in planning, corridor assessment and system design.
It’s been an exciting, rewarding career that Ball says SIU prepared him to pursue.
“Once I began working at my first – and only – job after graduation, I immediately noticed that the course and lab work I had been exposed to at SIU was directly applicable to the work I was being asked to perform as an entry level engineer,” Ball said. “As a matter of fact, the Prime mini-computer that we used at SIU was identical to the one my company was using, so I was immediately considered a power-user because I happened to know all of the shortcut codes from my days at SIU.”
His days at SIU were filled with fun and comradery, owing to his fellow students, teachers and his fraternity, as well as the aforementioned friendship with the basketball team.
“I loved my time at SIU,” Ball said. “Most of my favorite memories revolve around activities with my fraternity, Theta Xi, or with the many good people I met in the engineering program. I also had the benefit of living on the same dorm floor as the SIU basketball team when they were once again becoming competitive in the late 80s.”
It was not all fun and games, however, and Ball put as much energy into his work as an engineering student as play. Favorite civil engineering faculty such as Associate Professor Bruce DeVantier, Professor Vijay Puri and Aslam Kassimali, professor and distinguished teacher, lit the way. Max Yen, a former faculty member, also played a large role in Ball’s student life, as they worked together in the Composite Materials Research Laboratory on aircraft braking system components.
“The best course I took was the senior design project,” Ball Said. “Working with the other disciplines was a valuable experience.”
Ball earned recognition as the Young Engineer of the Year from the Illinois Society of Professional Engineers in 1999. He was named Outstanding Chapter Member by the group in 2006 and named one of the “Forty Under 40” leaders by the Springfield Business Journal in 2008. He is a graduate of “Leadership Springfield,” serves on the Downtown Springfield Inc. Board of Trustees, is the immediate past-chair of the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Directors and is a board member of Ezra Ministries.
In his current position Ball is a senior vice president for infrastructure market principal, and member of the board of directors of Hanson Professional Services Inc. Hanson is a national, award-winning, employee-owned consulting firm providing engineering, planning and allied services. It employs about 400 – including engineers, architects, planners, land acquisition specialists, surveyors and scientists – in 23 offices nationwide. Hanson provides services for seven strategic markets: aviation; Department of Defense; energy and industry; government; infrastructure; railway; and telecommunications.
Ball said he relishes the opportunity to help prepare today’s students for an exciting and rewarding career after graduation.
“I am a firm believer in keeping the undergraduate education focused on the application of engineering,” Ball said. “I have seen graduates from other institutions struggle in the workplace because they were not grounded in how to apply what they learned in their theoretical undergraduate programs. Robust internship programs are also critical.
“There is no denying that the College of Engineering changed my life in a positive way,” he said. “If there is a way I can support the college in a way that helps it do the same for others, I would like to.”