Richard Blanco, who wrote and delivered the Inaugural poem "One Today" at the Jan. 21 second-term swearing-in of President Barack Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden, made history as the first Hispanic gay man and, at 44, the youngest person selected as the inaugural poet.
He also carries the distinction as the first civil engineer with a P.E. license in the role.
Blanco's predecessors have included noted poets Robert Frost and Maya Angelou. President John F. Kennedy was the first to designate an inaugural poet in 1961.
In naming Blanco for the honor, the Presidential Inaugural Committee said in a statement that his consulting firm career with design firm C3TS and Stantec, which acquired the Coral Gables, Fla., firm late last year, "helped Blanco think about the 'engineering' of language."
In a stanza from his poem, Blanco wrote: "Thank the work of our hands: weaving steel into bridges, finishing one more report for the boss on time, stitching another wound or uniform, the first brush stroke on a portrait, or the last floor on the Freedom Tower jutting into a sky that yields to our resilience."
Blanco, whose parents were Cuban immigrants, earned a civil engineering degree from Florida International University.
While a working engineer, he also earned a Master of Fine Arts degree at the university and has taught creative writing at several universities. Blanco also published three poetry collections, the latest last year.
Ramon Castella, formerly a C3TS principal and now Stantec vice president, knew Blanco when the inaugural poet was in high school and encouraged him to pursue an engineering degree rather than architecture. Castella co-founded the transportation engineer in 1988.
"I hired him part time in his senior year of college," he says. "He was always creative in his engineering, always thinking outside the box."
Castella notes that on a 2008 downtown Miami road job that Blanco designed, the engineer-poet created and delivered a poem at the project's groundbreaking, inspired by the area's history.
Blanco signed the poem as project manager and stamped it with his P.E. credentials, says Castella.
Blanco, who now lives in Maine, has been involved intermittently in work for both C3TS and Stantec that includes proposals, conceptual designs, permitting and reports, says Castella.
Even while engaged in non-engineering pursuits, he still exercises his technical chops as a member of the Bethel, Me., planning board and its ordinance review committee, according to a local publication.
Blanco could not be reached for comment the day after the inauguration, but in a Jan. 21 ABC-TV interview, he said he "always had a creative spirit that wasn't squashed." He added that maintaining his dual engineering and writing careers over the past two decades is related to "the way I'm wired."