Posted on January 8, 2024
Matthew Delano’s 43-year career with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District, essentially began when he entered the University of Georgia’s student employment office during his sophomore year of college.
He was in the middle of interviewing for a job when the administrative assistant walked in to drop a file on the administrator’s desk. The administrator opened the packet to read its contents, then asked Delano what he was studying in school.
“I told him I was studying geology as my major and he said, ‘well the reason I ask is because I just got this program from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,’” said Delano. “It was at that time he gave me the application, I filled it out, and we sent it back to the Corps.”
A representative from the Army Corps’ Savannah District, drove to Athens, Georgia, to interview Delano in the lobby of a hotel. He was hired on the spot into the District’s Cooperative Education Program with a start date of June 18, 1980.
As a co-op student, Delano continued pursuing his degree while employed as a field geologist for the Geotechnical and Hazardous, Toxic, Radioactive Waste Branch within the Engineering Division. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Geology in June 1984, and shortly after graduation, the District created a permanent position for him as a field coordinator in the same branch.
Delano worked his way up to junior geologist, then senior geologist as a technical manager, followed by section chief, and finally branch chief.
At a ceremony held Jan. 3, 2024, Delano retired as the lead for the same branch he started in 43 years ago.
“I love the folks in my branch, and I love the work we do, so I will miss all of that,” said Delano. “I would never quit if I don’t make myself retire. I just enjoy my work that much.”
Jason Lennane, a supervisory geologist for the Geotech and HTRW branch, is taking over for Delano.
“Matthew has taught me a lot over the years, but one of the things I admired about him was his willingness to reach further,” said Lennane. “He never settled for just ‘ok’, he wanted us to be the best and once we got to be the best, then we had to get better.”
Throughout his career, Delano completed technical training offered by the Corps through the proponent sponsored engineer corps training program. He also volunteered for commercial training in geology, hydrogeology and contaminant transport to enhance his expertise on environmental projects.
“We are big on professional and personal growth here and we encourage folks to take chances; to take opportunities,” said Delano. “Familiarity breeds complacency. Always look for a challenge. Don’t just rest on what you’ve done.”
Col. Ronald Sturgeon, the District’s commander, presented Delano with his Certificate of Retirement and a Department of the Army Meritorious Civilian Service Medal during the retirement ceremony.
Family and teammates gathered to celebrate Delano and his accomplishments. Many stood to share kind words about the impact he has had on the people, culture and mission of the branch.
“Matthew has been a good mentor to me, but most importantly, he has been a good friend,” said Steven Widincamp, supervisory geologist. “It’s a bittersweet day. You’re going to be missed dearly and I’m sure a lot of people in this room would say the same thing.”
While Delano has some home-renovation projects on his list after retirement, he and his wife are looking forward to spending time with family and visiting Iceland.
“It’s just a place that we’ve always wanted to go,” said Delano. “As a geologist, I’m just really enthused about the opportunities to see some of the continental rift in there and some active volcanoes, so we are really looking forward to doing that.”
Delano said that he always loved a challenge when it came to his work and it’s one thing he will miss, but he will certainly miss the people as well.
“I feel like I’ve trained and brought up folks in my branch in a way that they will be able to sustain our level of excellence and the respectful culture here,” said Delano. “They’ll carry on just fine. I’ve got all the confidence in the world.”