November 30, 2022

Building Bridges « College News

By Sherry Di Bari

Civil Engineering Tech ’22 Peter (Pete) Brennan did something hands-on for his senior design project.

Brennan, a distance student from Old Dominion University and a full-time principal inspector for the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), served as the project manager for the construction phase of a bridge reconstruction project.

“It was my first project on my own as a manager,” he explained. “I was the only liaison between the contractor, the main contractor and the Ministry of Transport.”

“I thought it was more practical to work on something that people use every day, rather than a theoretical project,” he said.

The bridge, a 50-foot single-span box girder bridge in Greene County, Virginia, had been washed away by torrential flooding and needed to be rebuilt.

Brennan drove an hour from her home to the project each day.

“Every day I was there,” he said. “If they didn’t do anything, I had to go back to the office to try to catch up on the documentation. All the materials, track every ton of asphalt, every ton of stone. Everything related to the project, I had to follow up with invoices. It was a lot of work.

The project finished under budget and ahead of schedule.

This also led to another opportunity. “I went from there to a bridge on Route 29 in Warrenton that was much bigger,” Brennan explained. “A $25 million project.”

Brennan is no stranger to hard work. He spent six years as a combat engineer in the Marines. “Our job was to attach ourselves to infantry and break through buildings, look for mines, improvised explosive devices and stuff like that.” he explained. “Basically, we were glorified grunts.”

Upon completion of her service, Brennan began her college career in the Virginia Community College System then transferred the credits to ODU.

He had already worked at VDOT for a year or two before returning to school.

“I’ve always liked learning at my own pace and remote learning has been a good transition to that,” he said. “It’s perfect for the atypical student.”

Although Brennan never set foot on ODU’s Norfolk campus, he was still able to bond with faculty.

“Professor Jon Lester [senior lecturer in the Department of Engineering Technology] and Professor Escobales are by far my favorite teachers in the CET program,” he said.

“Those two teachers taught me so much,” Brennan said. “They certainly spoil their students with their dedication to this institution.”

Nestor Escobales, a senior lecturer in the Department of Engineering Technology, also praises Brennan.

“Peter has been an excellent student from the very beginning – despite being a working student,” Escobales said. “Peter is very goal-oriented, very organized and very disciplined.

“I’m confident this degree will help Peter achieve many goals in his professional career,” Escobales said. “I am very happy that he chose ODU to further his education and that I was able to play a role in his academic success.”

Brennan plans to continue her career with VDOT. “Everyone I’ve had the pleasure of working with has been very supportive to further my education and it’s really a sense of belonging for me here,” he said.

Brennan also has a side gig as a wedding officiant. He has performed five ceremonies so far. The last was his little sisters: he is one of five siblings.

“It’s good to see people happy,” he said. “I’ve seen enough bad and bad things. So it’s nice to see good things in life.”