Fred McLaren receives Outstanding Engineering Alumni Award


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Fred McLaren, who received bachelor’s degrees in both civil engineering and sanitary (environmental) engineering from Penn State in 1962, was recently named one of 12 recipients of the 2019 Outstanding Engineering Alumni Award.

The award, established in 1966, is the highest honor bestowed by the College of Engineering and recognizes graduates who have reached exceptional levels of professional achievement.

Growing up in the small town of Butler, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Pittsburgh, McLaren said he chose to pursue an engineering degree at Penn State because he was always fascinated with the civil works and water issues of our society.

“The world we live in is all built and operated by engineers,” McLaren said. “The roads, bridges, dams, water systems and sewer systems are the basic things that allow us to have what we have as a society.”

McLaren spent his summers in high school and a year in college working in the engineering department of the local steel mill. The mill was discharging its waste into the Connoquenessing Creek that ran through town, and McLaren became quite interested in the water treatment processes, or lack thereof, that the steel mills and other industries around Butler and Pittsburgh used.

“It just didn't seem correct to me,” McLaren said. “There was very little treatment. I was cutting bags of lime into the stream of waste in the steel mill, and it was then going into a pond and then into the creek.”

It was this uneasy feeling that fueled his decision to become a civil/sanitary engineer.

During college, McLaren focused on his studies and worked at the HUB to help fund his education, but he did find reprieve on the weekends with his fraternity brothers at Delta Chi.

“I enjoyed the fraternity life,” he said. “It was a nice break on Saturday afternoons and evenings.”

He said he also enjoyed spending time walking around campus and just being a part of the experience, knowing that if he succeeded, a fruitful career lay ahead.

McLaren was right; a prosperous career did await him.

He received five job offers upon graduation and accepted the one furthest from home – working on the construction of the Oroville Dam for the State of California. He gained first-hand experience with public health and pollution control systems working for the California State Health Department, then the Bureau of Sanitary Engineers, and finally for the State Water Resources Control Board. During these 12 years, McLaren was instrumental in the development of many of California’s water pollution control regulations.

Then, in 1976, McLaren founded the consulting firm Frederick R. McLaren Environmental Engineering, Inc. The company focused on large domestic and industrial water pollution problems, helping cities such as San Francisco and Sacramento set up proficient wastewater disposal systems. The company’s major work included cleanup of groundwaters affected by industrial waste and toxic chemicals throughout the United States.

In 1987, McLaren sold the firm to Swiss pharmaceutical company Sandoz Ltd., now Novartis. He worked for them for four years during which time McLaren Environmental Engineering Inc. merged with Hart Environmental Management Corp., based in New York City, to form McLaren/Hart Environmental Engineering Corp. At its peak, McLaren/Hart had about 700 engineers, geologists, toxicologists, soil scientists, and support staff, among its 13 offices in the United States and China.

In 1992, McLaren officially retired.

In retirement, McLaren dabbled as an expert witness and in high-level consulting work, but found this work to be unrewarding. He currently serves on the board of directors for REGENESIS, a soil and groundwater remediation company with offices throughout the United States and Europe. He is a registered civil engineer in California and Nevada and a registered geotechnical engineer in California. Mostly, however, McLaren likes to spend his retirement traveling, hunting, biking, skiing, and golfing.

With 35 years of professional experience under his belt, McLaren knows how to be a successful engineer. He emphasizes that the most important factor to success for an engineer is a sound engineering education from a well-respected school like Penn State.

“There is no substitute for that,” he said. “You can learn the people skills, communication skills or language skills while you're getting your education, but you absolutely need to have that sound technical education, and that is what Penn State gave me that allowed me to succeed.”

To give back to his hometown and to Penn State, McLaren and his wife, Dawn, have created the Fred and Dawn McLaren Scholarship fund, which helps Butler Senior High School students attend Penn State engineering programs. Four students have benefitted so far. There are also plans to establish an endowment in McLaren’s name.

McLaren and his wife reside near Lake Tahoe in California. Together they have five daughters and eight grandchildren.

The 12 Penn State engineering graduates will be honored at the annual Outstanding Engineering Alumni Awards ceremony on April 23 at the Nittany Lion Inn on the University Park campus.


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Jennifer Matthews 

Fred McLaren headshot

Alumnus Fred McLaren was named a 2019 Outstanding Engineering Alumni by the Penn State College of Engineering.

“You can learn the people skills, communication skills or language skills while you're getting your education, but you absolutely need to have that sound technical education, and that is what Penn State gave me that allowed me to succeed," Fred McLaren said.



The Penn State Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, established in 1881, is internationally recognized for excellence in the preparation of undergraduate and graduate engineers through the integration of education, research, and leadership.

Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering

212 Sackett Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802-1408

Phone: 814-863-3084