Linda Bridwell’s career as a civil engineer took root as a child—in the backyard sandbox and on family vacations. “As a little girl I spent a lot of time in the sandbox building roads,” she says. “My dad was an engineer. On vacations he liked to take us on side trips to see new bridges and roads.”
The extra sightseeing paid off for the whole family. Not only did Bridwell and two of her sisters pursue a career similar to their father’s, but Bridwell also was honored with the Robert M. Gillim Professional Recognition Award from the Kentucky chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers earlier this year. She’s the first woman to receive the lifetime achievement award in its 45-year history. Her father received it 20 years earlier.
“I joked that I wasn’t old enough to receive the award,” the 44-year-old Bridwell says. Her crowning achievement—to date—has been a new water treatment plant outside Carrollton, Ky. The $163 million facility, which took 20 years to get regulatory approval, supplies up to 20 million gallons of water a day to the Lexington area. “Dad says he would have shown us more bridges and roads if he had known we were all going to be engineers,” she says.
Bridwell has no regrets on her career choice, although she considered switching to finance after earning her MBA from Xavier in 2000. “Engineering is a pretty fun profession for anyone,” she says. “It’s especially fun for girls. There is a lot of flexibility and opportunities, if you have the abilities.” She’s been trying to plant the seeds in her own daughter’s mind but, so far, the 5-year-old remains set on becoming a veterinarian. “Katie recently asked me what engineers do, and I told her we play in the dirt all day. She said, ‘I don’t want to get dirty, Mom.’ I’ll keep working on her.”