Still and Engineer without borders
Randy Beck’s thirst for water projects began at Case and now draws a crowd of colleagues.
By John Canale
In the summer of 2008, Randy Beck ’09, MS ’10, found himself on a flight to the Dominican Republic with fellow students from Case Western Reserve University. Unlike a lot of the other passengers, Beck was not heading to tropical beaches or an all-inclusive resort. He was going to work.
That mission trip to a small mountain town on a Caribbean island would lead to another one to Cameroon the very next year. The experiences would spark a passion for service projects, help guide Beck through life, and lead him down his path as a civil engineer.
Today, Beck coordinates the building of water and wastewater treatment plants as a senior project manager for Shook Construction in Brecksville, Ohio. He also continues the volunteer work that began with Engineers Without Borders, leading colleagues to places where their engineering skills can be life-changing. Recently, he was named an ENR Midwest Top Young Professional by Engineering News-Record magazine, in recognition of his work delivering clean water at home and abroad.
The quest started simple enough, in one of Beck’s classes during his junior year at the Case School of Engineering. The student group was looking for recruits to take part in the program. After a brief and pointed presentation, Beck was sold on the adventure.
“To be quite honest, the EWB rep said ‘Here’s who we are, here’s what we do, and we’ll get you on a plane to another country soon,’” Beck recalled. “I had not traveled extensively at that point. So when I heard I get to travel, I get to help out, and use some of things I’d been studying, I said ‘Sign me up!’”
Soon, he was on his way to a remote village to help build and repair a water distribution system. The students started by building a small dam above the village with material assistance from a large hydro-electric project nearby. Since Beck was a junior, and the team included freshman and sophomores, he was looked upon as a leader.
“You realize you’re coming into you own and figuring things out,” Beck said. “It was a growing-up process and it really kicked off my love for building water systems. It became a no-brainer that I’d end up in the water business for my career.”
In 2017, the CEO of the Shook Construction company was looking to develop teams to help towns and villages in developing nations. It wasn’t long before Beck received a call and got involved. His experience was called upon to head up the project, make the contacts, and set up the various aspects that go into leading overseas service projects.
The target was Timusi, Bolivia, high in the Andes Mountains. But duty called at home.
“It lined up perfectly with the birth of our first child,” Beck said. “I was on the phone in the hospital, making sure the team landed in Bolivia.”
In April 2022, he missed a second trip, to Mozambique, because it coincided with the birth of his second child.
Since then, Beck has organized two service missions and spent a lot of time behind the scenes working out details and training new volunteers. Now he’s looking toward his next mission, tentatively scheduled for January or February of 2024. The team has narrowed its target to villages in Ecuador, Uganda, or Thailand.
Beck, a lifelong engineer without borders, has only to make sure no new children interrupt those plans.
John Canale is a freelance writer from Northeast Ohio. Have an interesting hobby or impactful vocation to share?
As a volunteer, Randy Beck is often working on water projects in communities with limited resources.
Randy Beck with school children in the Dominican Republic while he was a student at Case.