AS FRENCH ESSAYIST JOSEPH JOUBERT WROTE, “TO TEACH IS TO LEARN TWICE.” Anthony DiGioia Jr. is a living example of these words. Not only has the 74-year-old civil engineer co-founded several successful companies — including Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.-based GAI Consultants and DiGioia, Gray & Associates — but this father of eight and grandfather of 19 also has instructed and mentored countless individuals over the past five decades. In addition, DiGioia has inspired three of his children to follow in his footsteps.
“I admit I'm biased,” he laughed. “I believe everyone should get a degree in engineering — civil, electrical or what have you — before they pursue a career. The way I see it, engineering teaches people the art of problem solving.”
Apparently, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Sons David and Anthony III (who is also an orthopedic surgeon) both hold degrees in civil engineering, while Matthew graduated with a B.S. in aerospace engineering.
Like his mathematically and scientifically oriented offspring, DiGioia fostered an interest in “putting things together,” since his early school days in Pittsburgh.
“I always enjoyed watching things like bridges and buildings being built,” he recalled. “One of my brother's friends was studying civil engineering. He indicated this was a good career choice for me, but warned I wouldn't make much money. However, he assured me it was rewarding in other respects.”
With two prestigious universities just a streetcar ride from his home, DiGioia decided to attend Carnegie Technical Institute (renamed Carnegie Mellon University in 1967). He graduated with a degree in civil engineering in 1956 and went on to attain his master's degree and Ph.D. in 1957 and 1960, respectively. While in graduate school, DiGioia, along with several of his Carnegie classmates and faculty members, including Professor Elio D'Appolonia, founded D'Appolonia & Associates, a consulting engineering firm.
“About a year later, I left to fulfill my ROTC obligation as a second lieutenant,” he recalled. “I went to work for the Corps of Engineers, teaching at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, in the engineering school as part of my active duty.”
Upon completing his ROTC requirement, DiGioia rejoined D'Appolonia & Associates. In the mid-1960s, the company split into two corporations, and DiGioia became president and principal of what was then called General Analytics Inc. The company rechristened itself GAI Consultants in 1970.
“We decided to call the company GAI Consultants because we wanted to expand into highways, bridges, site development and such,” he explained. “Over time, we grew the business to around 450 employees.”
Moreover, GAI was one of the founding practices of the Association of Soil and Foundation. As part of an ownership transition plan, DiGioia and his partners eventually sold the firm to the company's employees.
“After this was completed, my associate and friend Dick Gray and I talked about what we wanted to do next,” he said. “We decided to do some avid practicing — just the two of us working together without having to worry about other people.”
Thus, DiGioia Gray was born. But as the saying goes, leopards seldom change their spots. In 2007, DiGioia Gray began expanding. Today, the firm employs 20 people, focusing mainly on the design of electrical transmission lines.
“We also work for the Electric Power Research Institute doing applied research with foundations for transmission lines,” DiGioia said.
In addition to his consulting business, DiGioia belongs to numerous professional organizations, including the American Society of Civil Engineers, IEEE, the Society of American Military Engineers and CIGRÉ. He also teaches at the University of Wisconsin in the continuing education program and serves on the advisory council for the civil environmental engineering department at Carnegie Mellon.
“Once in a while, I help out as an advisor on a course or as an advisor to a student,” he added. “I view mentoring as a personal and social responsibility.”
To prove he not only talks the talk but also walks the walk, DiGioia is president of the local Engineers Society of Western Pennsylvania. One of the group's priorities is to develop programs to attract young people into engineering and science.
“Many teachers don't understand that engineering is a blend of multiple science and math courses,” he said. “I tell students that it's a tough curriculum, but don't get discouraged. The discipline of learning how to solve problems is just unbelievable.”
When he isn't working, teaching and mentoring, DiGioia enjoys golfing, photography and spending time with his wife, Carole, and their ever-multiplying brood.
“I'd like to see my family continue to develop and enjoy their lives,” he said. “I want my employees to do likewise. And I'd like us all to contribute to the health and welfare of the country while we're at it.”