New ASME President Reflects on Role

Aug 8, 2019

by John Falcioni

Richard Laudenat is the 138th President of the ASME, for 2019-2020. Laudenat is an expert in the area of energy generation. Before retiring in 2015, he worked at GDF Suez (now ENGIE) as plant manager for the operation of 30 electric generators at 10 plants throughout Connecticut. Prior, he worked at Bartlett Group Holdings Inc.; E.S. Boulos Co.; and Northeast Utilities. Laudenat earned a master’s in mechanical engineering and an MBA from Hartford Graduate Center. He is a Professional Engineer and an ASME Fellow.

Q. What has been your lifelong motivation as an engineer?
RL: I fit the mold as the typical “build it and then figure out why it does not work” stereotype. I grew up in a rural town in Connecticut with its roots in tobacco and dairy farming. Options for part-time work were limited, and I found myself working on a dairy farm and then a farm tractor supply dealership. I had lots of opportunities to put broken parts back into operation and the next step—to engineering—was a natural progression for me.

Q. You are a recognized leader in the energy sector. How did you become so involved in this industry?
RL: I was very fortunate to have as mentors some of the founding fathers of nuclear power in New England and they instilled in me the value of ASME Membership—the lifelong learning responsibility and the obligation to give back each and every year of my career, while at the same time maintaining a work-life balance. Being active in the power industry provided a career-long opportunity to learn and grow from some of the best and brightest minds in the industry.

Q. What has been your proudest moment as an engineer?
RL: I have been blessed with a number of key moments, but thinking back perhaps the most vivid memory was the first time one of my new gas turbine installations synchronized to the grid on the first time.

Q. You’ve spoken of your commitment to support diversity and inclusion, and to inspire a new generation of engineers. Why do you feel so strongly about these areas?
RL: I have seen first-hand the value of a diverse and inclusive workforce and the power that it brings to the individuals and the organization collectively. It is the right thing to do for your employees and it is the right thing to do for the company.

In my term we are focusing on programs that focus on engineering careers. There are many organizations that focus on STEM or STEAM, but we are finding that so little of the money going into these programs focus on the “E,” the engineering piece.

Editors’ Pick: Building the Case for a Diversified Workforce

Q. How do you see ASME’s role globally?
RL: The ASME is in a unique position as a neutral convener and as a trusted and respected technology leader globally. We have an obligation to ensure that our voice is heard globally at the government level, the research level, and the standards and certification level. That’s just the start.

Q. What are three goals you have as ASME President?
RL: First and foremost we need to focus on our mission and using our strategy to make the hard choices on what we do, how we fund our operations, and what our social impact is. Second, we need to reengage with the profession at a much higher level of relevance than we ever have before. ASME’s value proposition must become strong and vibrant. Finally, we need to walk the talk on early career involvement. We need to change the culture within ASME to provide leadership opportunities for our younger members in a fundamentally different way than we are doing now.

Q. Tell me something about yourself that you want people to know about you.
RL: I wear my heart on my sleeve and what you see is what you get from me. I ran for this position on the basis that we need to change the conversation. Just because we did it this way in the past does not mean it’s the right approach for today.

John Falcioni is Editor-in-Chief of Mechanical Engineering magazine.