From the earliest days of his storied engineering career, Edward Lobnitz has been using his positive spirit and good-natured charm to motivate himself and others to do great things and give back. That is the overriding sentiment expressed by numerous sources contacted by ENR Southeast for this profile about this year’s Legacy Award winner.
The “L” of Orlando-based engineering firm TLC Engineering for Architecture—formerly Tilden, Lobnitz, Cooper—the now-retired electrical engineer left a lasting impact on the firm he helped lead, on the Florida engineering industry and on the recipients of various charitable missions he’s undertaken. Over the course of his 40-plus-year career, Lobnitz not only established TLC’s engineering department, shortly after joining the firm in 1967, but went on to achieve a leadership role in the field of lightning protection and designed systems for both complex buildings and award-winning bridges.
Nominator Cheryl Maze, now a TLC principal, formerly worked for FIGG, the Tallahassee, Fla.-based bridge engineering firm. “When I was at FIGG, I recall Gene Figg saying that Ed literally wrote the book on lightning protection,” says Maze.
Michael Sheerin, CEO of TLC, assisted ENR Southeast in presenting this year’s Legacy Award to Lobnitz. Speaking at the November awards event in Orlando, Sheerin stated: “It is impossible to summarize the profound impact of this man on me, TLC and the world. He inspired people by his example, whether you worked for him or not.”
Noting Lobnitz’s generosity of spirit and his desire to always be of “extreme service” to clients, Sheerin added, “He will always be, to me, the heart of TLC.”
One of the biggest impacts from Lobnitz’s career involves the creation of the state of Florida’s codes and specifications for health care construction. During the early 1970s, Lobnitz estimates, he became an early influencer and thought leader on this topic as he and other like-minded individuals became intricately involved in the establishment of the state entity now known as the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA).
“Most of the other states didn’t have an approval process” for health care projects, he recalls. “They just looked at the drawings and let people do whatever they wanted to do …. But in Florida, we wanted the get the process working better.”
Through a contract with the state—AHCA hadn’t been created yet—the group went about establishing a review process for drawings and construction, and took the step of working in the field to ensure codes were met.
Lobnitz’s legacy continues to live on.
‘The Engineer With a Heart’
By all accounts, Lobnitz has inspired numerous people over the years. Count among those Jacob Nagib, director of planning, engineering and construction at Halifax Medical Center, Daytona Beach, Fla.. Formerly an engineer at TLC, Nagib worked closely with Lobnitz on roughly 40 health care projects, he estimates.
“Ed is a great human being, and everything he does, he does it with his heart,” Nagib says. “He’s an engineer, but he never forgets the human part of his work. When he does a health care project, he thinks of the patient: ‘What if I’m the one in that bed or on that operating table?’ This is predominantly Ed’s mind-set.”
Adds Nagib: “You really have to work closely with him to understand how caring and loving of a person he is. He’s the engineer with a heart.”
Calling Lobnitz a highly detailed “genius,” Nagib credits him for being a “big, big factor” in creating AHCA. Also noting that Lobnitz “put me under his wings” at TLC, Nagib credits his former mentor with helping him attain the position he holds today overseeing a major health care organization’s engineering and construction.
“I really can’t say I did that all by myself,” Nagib says. “He made me so interested in this work because I worked next to him.”
Since his retirement more than 10 years ago, Lobnitz has been able to increase his participation in Engineering Ministries International, or EMI. The group, which undertakes projects for ministry groups around the world, remains a big part of his life, he says.
“I can’t imagine not being a part of their ministry!” Lobnitz told ENR Southeast.
In fact, it was Lobnitz who brought EMI to the attention of a former TLC engineer, Kevin Keiter, who now works full-time as a project leader and mechanical engineer with the group.
“I knew of his involvement in EMI” while at TLC, Keiter says. “And I don’t know when I would’ve learned about it, if ever, if it had not been for Ed, because of his volunteering. I think a lot of him as a man.”
Regarding his leadership at TLC, Keiter echoed the comments of others, noting, “He was just a tremendous part of TLC’s culture overall, not just the projects. I always appreciated that about him.”
For all of these career accomplishments, and for the spirit of service he embodies, ENR Southeast is pleased to recognize Edward Lobnitz as this year’s Legacy Award winner.