World-renowned engineer pays tribute to parents who valued education

World-renowned Galway engineer Aine Brazil has said that increased access to education is key to reducing global poverty levels after receiving a leadership award from Irish aid agency Concern Worldwide.

The Salthill native, highly-acclaimed for the design and construction of many New York City high-rise offices and residential buildings, also credited the encouragement she got from Salerno Secondary School on Threadneedle Road and from her parents for the incredible success she has had in her career.

The NUI Galway graduate was recently celebrated at the 2018 Women of Concern event in New York City where Aine has lived and worked since 1982.

Speaking afterwards, the leading structural engineer, who is Vice Chairperson of engineering firm Thornton Tomasetti, said she was thrilled to be honoured by Concern.

“I was growing up in Galway and was 12 in 1968 when the famine in Biafra became the first major televised disaster with images of starving children. Concern was founded that year.

“Working in New York City I have been provided with opportunities throughout my life and career, and it is easy to forget the circumstances in which so many poor women and families find themselves throughout the world.

“Opportunity is the key. Opportunity makes the difference. We who have been lucky in our lives have the power to create opportunity for those who have been less fortunate.”

Iconic buildings

High on the list of Aine’s many accomplishments in her over 40-year career is the role she played in leading the structural engineering teams for the almost seven million square foot Hudson Yards Development on the west side of Manhattan and the new LaGuardia Central Terminal Building.

The immense recognition Aine has had for her contribution to New York’s skyline has been acknowledged as far back as 1999, when she was named as one of the city’s one hundred most influential women in business by Crain’s New York Business magazine.

Aine, who is a fellow of Engineers Ireland and who was recently elected a member of the Washington DC based National Academy of Engineering (one of the highest professional distinctions awarded to engineers ), won the International Engineer of the Year Award in 2014.

Other accolades include the 2006 ‘Woman of the Year’ by WX, a New York association promoting the advancement of women in commercial real estate.

The Galwegian was involved with the New York City Mayoral Commissions concerning building code issues and worked with a resilience building task force set up after Hurricane Sandy devastated parts of the US coast in 2012.

Tribute to parents and teachers

Aine hailed her teachers at Salerno Secondary School, in addition to her parents, Maire McDonagh, from Carraroe, and Pat Brazil from Limerick, for encouraging her to pursue her career.

“I went to Salerno secondary School in Salthill and I credit the teachers there, especially Mrs Eileen Scanlon who gave up her Saturday mornings to teach the honours maths curriculum to three girls, in addition to my parents, for the encouragement and support that allowed me to pursue an engineering degree in college,” she said.

“I have been on the US Board of the NUI Galway Foundation for the last ten years and last year my husband John Whelan and I established an annual four-year scholarship in my mother Maire Brazil’s name for girls who want to pursue a degree in Civil Engineering at NUI Galway.

“I am also proud to have been awarded an honorary PhD in Engineering in 2015 by NUIG.”

Aine said neither of her parents had the opportunity to get much formal education before starting work, but that both were very intelligent and selfless people who “valued education above all and made it their priority to provide the opportunity to their four children – sending all of them through college.”

After graduating from NUI Galway (then University College Galway ) in 1977, Aine moved to London before going to Dublin and finally to New York in 1982.

Aine Brazil joins past ‘Women of Concern’ honorees who include award-winning actress Toni Collette, Pulitzer Prize winning author Amy Ellis Nutt, former President and CEO of PBS Pat Mitchel and prominent Irish-American philanthropist and Chairman Emeritus of the American Ireland Funds Loretta Brennan Glucksman.

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