News: Women continue to impress
By Rhonda Apple
Pentagram Staff Writer
JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. - The contributions of women throughout history have been the center of attention through the month of March, which is designated as National Women’s History Month. This year’s theme is Women Inspiring Innovation Through Imagination: Celebrating Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
Two women on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall stand out among those in STEM careers – Myrtle Bowen and Suzanne Hren, of the Directorate of Public Works, Master Planning division.
Bowen, chief, master planning division, said her decision to major in architectural engineering was based on her interest in being able to design and build things. “I went to a highly technical high school — Enrico Fermi in [Enfield], Connecticut. We had a drafting course you could take, where you could actually build items using a radial arm saw, circular saw and all the other saws there,” she said.
Bowen credits her teacher and guidance counselor with helping choose a college with a good architectural engineering program, and the dean of that program for his help and assistance in developing engineers like herself.
The fact that not a lot of women were going into engineering career fields was not a factor in Bowen’s decision to major in architectural engineering. “I grew up knowing if there’s something I want to do, then I have the capability of doing it, and it’s not limited to gender,” she said.
Bowen began her engineering career in government service at Pope Air Force Base, N.C. Her significant work there includes an electronic gate that separated Fort Bragg [Army base] from Pope Air Force Base and designing a static Air Force display which highlighted the aircraft used there, as well as the landscape for the park area where the display is located. “The beauty of the engineering field from an architectural engineering perspective is working with a project from conception to completion. Knowing I made an imprint is meaningful,” Bowen said.
Although Bowen has been project manager for a myriad of projects on JBM-HH, she is proud of one in particular. “One of my major projects is The Old Guard maintenance facility, which is located down in the industrial area of JBM-HH,” she said. “To be a part of the design and the actual construction of that signature building gives me a sense of pride; knowing, like the Wright Brothers, I’ve had an impact on the installation as a whole.”
Working as a liaison with the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, the National Capitol Planning Commission, the Virginia State Historic Preservation Office and D.C. Historic Preservation Office, Bowen said “this is a historical base, and to maintain the character, intent and mission falls within the requirements of the Master Planning division.
“My biggest responsibility has to do with the designation of new construction and the placement of new buildings that would take place here,” she added.
Bowen is a lieutenant colonel with the U.S. Air Force Air National Guard, where she serves as the 113th Air Wing chaplain, at Joint Base Andrews. She also is senior pastor, at Galbraith African Methodist Episcopal Zion church, in Washington, D.C.
Hren, architect/master planner, also developed an interest in architecture and engineering in high school, through her love of historical buildings. “I was at the National Cathedral School in Washington, and they were [continuing] construction on the National Cathedral at that time. Around the cathedral’s grounds were stone yards for the stone masons, with all the stones numbered and they proceeded to build the towers while I was in school,” recalled Hren. “They had their masons out there from Italy … stone carvers, marble workers, and stained glass window experts. It was fascinating and I really wanted to learn how to put together a building, because it creates such a beautiful space for people. I wanted to improve spaces for people — and provide nice, new spaces or improve dilapidated buildings for people. Spaces should be uplifting, inspiring, healthy and good places to work.”
She attended McGill University in Montreal, Canada, studying architectural engineering, then transferred to Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, N.Y., where she graduated with a Bachelor of Architecture degree. Hren trained at a number of architectural firms in the private sector before taking her professional licensing exams.
Hren began her federal service career on JBM-HH in 2008. “I like the historic buildings here. They have a lot of character and are well built, have very good construction technology, a lot of attention to detail — with big beams, wooden floors, high ceilings and windows,” she explained.
Hren is especially fond of the stamped tin ceilings which were found during the renovation of Bldg. 249. “I was the architect/project manager for Fort Myer [portion of JBM-HH] during that project from the planning and starting phase until completion,” she said.
Another project Hren is particularly proud of is the renovation of Grant Hall, Bldg. 20, on the Fort McNair portion of JBM-HH. “There was a complete upgrade and renovation of that building, including the third floor where the Lincoln [assassination] conspiracy [trial room] was,” said Hren, who also was the JBM-HH DPW project representative for the building’s renovation.
She also has worked on the design of the Radner Heights electricity substation on JBM-HH and exterior upgrades to drainage and parking at the Inter-American Defense College on the Fort McNair portion of JBM-HH.
What Hren loves most about her job on JBM-HH “is the planning for the installation and seeing how we can make the installation run better and more efficiently and more pleasant for everyone involved, whether they are visiting or working here.”
Working in a career which has traditionally been male-dominated, Hren remembers being one of about three female students from her high school who chose to study architecture. “In college, of 100 engineering students, I was one of four women at McGill,” she said.
Hren said she felt it was very important that women be represented in architectural and engineering professions. “Women are so impacted by the designs of buildings. Either they live in them or work in them. They have travel and transportation provided by them, such as airports,” she said. “In the past, buildings haven’t necessarily been designed for women … and women should really be involved in at least coming up with design solutions that impact them.
“I think women in this field also need to be more accessible in mentoring other women,” said Hren of the challenges and advancement of female architects. Her advice for women considering careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, including architecture, is “try to have good mentors … there’s a lot of opportunity, but you must be patient, try to find an area where you have a gift … try to make a difference.”