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Engineer Memoirs



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Engineer Memoirs by William, E. Potter
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William E. Potter's career exemplifies how management and engineering skills learned in the Army Corps of Engineers provide the basis for professional success in both military and civilian life. Indeed, Potter's career is not one, but several. His military career began as a young cadet at West Point, from where he graduated in 1928. After an assignment on the Nicaragua survey team, he furthered his education by earning a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The first assignment in which he had genuine management responsibilities was in the Pittsburgh Engineer District, where he was assigned in 1933. Beginning in the mud and water around Montgomery Dam on the Ohio River, then as a project engineer supervising the construction of Tygart Dam in West Virginia, he learned first-hand how to manage people and material in order to insure the successful completion of a major project. During World War II, Potter served in a number of responsible administrative posts. He was battalion Operations Branch, G-4 Section. After the war, Potter first became Kansas City District Engineer and then the Alaska District Engineer. In 1949, he was assigned to the office of the Chief of Engineers and for the next two years was in overall charge of the Corps' civil works activities. In July 1952, Potter became Division Engineer of the Missouri River Division. He was in charge of implementing the Corps' military and civil works activities throughout the Missouri basin. One part of his responsibilities involved supervising the construction of several dams on the Missouri as provided for in the Pick-Sloan plan, the basic planning document for water resources development in the Missouri River watershed. Perhaps the most memorable period of General Potter's career began in June 1956, when he was appointed Governor of the Panama Canal Zone. For four years, Potter oversaw the administration of the Zone as well as the maintenance and operation of the Canal itself. In previous positions, he had developed the ability to work well with both politicians and the general public. This ability was put to the test in the Canal Zone. He was governor commander of the 25th Armored Engineer Battalion and Engineer of the Sixth Armored Division. In Europe, he served in a number of important positions in Headquarters, U.S. Army, including Chief of the Plans and at a time when Panamanians were agitating for increased control of the Canal, and Potter found himself front-page news in both Panama and the United States. Major General Potter retired from the Army in 1960. At this time he started another career. From 1960 to 1965, he was executive vice-president of the New York World's Fair, working closely with Robert Moses in developing and overseeing fair operations. In 1965, he continued his association with enterprises that both educate and entertain when he joined Walt Disney Productions, eventually becoming senior vice-president of Walt Disney World Company. In that capacity, he was instrumental in establishing Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. In 1973, Potter retired again, although as a private consultant he continued to be actively involved in engineering projects around the world. Potter's multi-faceted career illustrates in microcosm the way in which the skills of the military and civilian engineer overlap.
Release date NZ
May 1st, 2005
Country of Publication
United States
University Press of the Pacific
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